During therapy

What should NOT happen in therapy?

What a therapist should NOT do
The following list is taken from several key sources, notably the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP). Your therapist should not: 

  • Engage in any form of sexual relationship with you
  • Exploit the relationship they have with you for any sexual, emotional, financial or any other gain
  • Break the client – therapist boundary
  • Harm youThe therapist verbally attacked my character and told me I was being over the top. The next week, she said that she was sorry for what she had said while also blaming me for provoking her outburst!
  • Treat you differently because of your gender, colour, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, social status, economic status, religion, lifestyle, beliefs, social class
  • Break confidentiality except in specific circumstances 
  • Imply they have qualifications that they do not
  • Practice beyond the scope of their competence
    • Practice without supervisionI do not believe my counsellor was being supervised. Supervision would have helped my therapist to work ethically as she would have had a level of self-awareness.
    • Practice without your consent
    • Mislead you about the type of therapy you’re having 

    At its most fundamental, therapy involves on ongoing professional relationship between a client, or group of clients (i.e. in a group setting), and a therapist, or therapists. In a group, of course, relationships also exist between group members. The early stages of developing the ongoing professional relationship between client and therapist usually involve agreeing some basic issues such as the time, duration, and location of meetings, any relevant fees, cancellation and contact arrangements

    Most therapists will be members of professional organisations or interest groups that provide specific guidance to therapists of the standards of conduct that are expected. Therapists who are proved to have breached these standards can be subjected to disciplinary proceedings and have their membership, accreditation, or other professional registration removed. As things currently stand in the UK there is no requirement for anyone calling him or herself a psychotherapist to have obtained a specific qualification or be registered. 

    There may be times when the work of therapy is difficult and arouses emotions that are painful. That should not be taken to mean that therapy is necessarily painful, it may be for some. In some circumstances you may notice some of your emotions, symptoms, thoughts, feelings or problems becoming more intense during your therapy. However, as one client who experienced harmful therapy has indicated ‘The pain of therapy is distinguishable from the pain of growth’. If you’re feeling worse as a consequence of your therapist’s behaviour please see Signs of harm – when to say you feel worse.

    Questions to ask yourself

    • Is my therapist involving me in all aspects of therapy?
    • Is my therapist behaving in a way that is unethical, abusive or illegal?
    • Is my therapy harming me? 

    If you have any concerns about your therapist’s behaviour or competence, or the effect that therapy is having on you please see: