A ‘counselling contract’ (or a ‘counselling agreement’) is a mutual agreement between the counsellor and the client in which the outline of the therapeutic working alliance is presented.

A counselling contract ensures that the counselling process will be performed in a good, safe and professional manner and highlights the responsibilities of the counsellor towards clients, as well as the responsibilities of the client towards the counsellor. A counselling contract is also a transparent basis for informed consent.

It is suggested that counselling contracts are, where appropriate, presented in writing in order to ensure clarity (see NCS Code of Ethics, Point 9). Presented as a written document can also provide the necessary space for legal intervention should the terms not be met.

Usually, a counsellor will verbally present the major points of the counselling contract before sessions commence to ensure their client is happy with the terms of the work that is be carried out. This initial verbal presentation enables the clients to ask questions and clarify any points within the contract on which they are not clear. The counsellor may then present the discussed details via a written document that will be signed by both the counsellor and client.

The counselling contract does not need to be a lengthy document. It is usually a single page (maximum two pages) in length and contains a list of items that are important for creating a safe, confidential and professional counselling service.

There are no set requirements for a counselling contract but a good ‘rule of thumb’ is to include details about the following:

• Nature of counselling work – this is a very brief (one small introductory paragraph about way you work. (i.e. – note any particular modalities used; that you hold regular progression reviews; that you work to an agreed ending to counseling work; that client ‘may feel worse before feel better’ etc.…)

• Number of sessions initially agreed to undertake.

• Where and when sessions will be held (e.g. weekly intervals at ‘address’)

• Session fees and payment terms

• Cancellation/session rescheduling terms

• Information about confidentiality (including details about when confidentiality may need to be breached and to whom this breach may be directed)

• Details about why counselling may not be able to continue (other than as a result of agreed session conclusion) - i.e. any contraindications that may result in conflicts of interest or that may affect ethical boundaries. (ref: NCS Code of Ethics https://www.nationalcounsellingsociety.org/about-us/code-of-ethics/.)

• Brief details about record keeping/note taking and method’s taken to protect confidential data.

• Details about relevant society memberships and information about independent complaints processes

You may also wish to include brief details about relevant qualifications and the name of your Public Liability insurer.

It is important to use clear, concise and non-jargon language. It is also useful to keep some parts of the contractual template flexible in order to allow you to mold your contract to suit a variety of clients. This is usually with regards to session timings/number of sessions etc.

If you are working with children, young people or vulnerable adults where informed consent may need to be sought from a parent, primary carer or relevant third party, be mindful to add a section to the contract that enables you to capture names, signatures and dates for such consent. Please read further information with regards to working with such clients via the NCS Safeguarding Policy.

Further information about Working Ethically can be found in the following online workshop:

https://www.counsellingcpd.org/product/ethical-practice/.

This short online course is free of charge to all NCS members until the 31st May 2018 (£15 thereafter) and will give you 4 hours of CPD.

Please check the members area of the website under ‘Benefits’ for further details:

https://www.nationalcounsellingsociety.org/members/information/benefits/.

The cost to non-members is £15.

This course is well worth doing even if it just refreshes the extensive knowledge you may already have on this topic.

References & Further reading:

• National Counselling Society (NCS) Code of Ethics

• GDPR - https://www.nationalcounsellingsociety.org/blog/general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr-and-data-protection/.

• National Counselling Society (NCS) Safeguarding Policy

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