Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Law


Peter Jenkins

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  • Professional Skills for Counsellors Series

    The Professional Skills for Counsellors series, edited by Colin Feltham, covers the practical, technical and professional skills and knowledge which trainee and practising counsellors need to improve their competence in key areas of therapeutic practice.

    Titles in the series include:

    Counselling by Telephone

    Maxine Rosenfield

    Medical and Psychiatric Issues for Counsellors

    Brian Daines, Linda Gask and Tim Usherwood

    Time-Limited Counselling

    Colin Feltham

    Personal and Professional Development for Counsellors

    Paul Wilkins

    Client Assessment

    edited by Stephen Palmer and Gladeana McMahon

    Counselling Difficult Clients

    Kingsley Norton and Gill McGauley

    Learning and Writing in Counselling

    Mhairi MacMillan and Dot Clark

    Long-Term Counselling

    Geraldine Shipton and Eileen Smith

    Referral and Termination Issues for Counsellors

    Anne Leigh

    Counselling and Psychotherapy in Private Practice

    Roger Thistle

    The Management of Counselling and Psychotherapy Agencies

    Colin Lago and Duncan Kitchin

    Group Counselling

    Keith Tudor

    Understanding the Counselling Relationship

    edited by Colin Feltham

    Practitioner Research in Counselling

    John McLeod

    Anti-discriminatory Counselling Practice

    edited by Colin Lago and Barbara Smith

    Counselling Through the Life-Course

    Léonie Sugarman

    Contracts in Counselling & Psychotherapy, second edition

    edited by Charlotte Sills


    View Copyright Page


    When I began to read this book I was struck by the notion that we, as psychotherapists and counsellors, are in a struggle. Our struggle is how to be in and of the world but to hold a space that is unique. This uniqueness is based on the relationship between the client/patient and a world that the therapist creates through individual or group work. Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Law presents a way of viewing that relationship in a contemporary context where there is a demand to bring the practice of our profession into a system of accountability that can seem counter intuitive to the intimacy of being alone with another in the consulting room. Regardless of the regulation of the profession, we are subject to the same laws as our colleagues and clients/patients. This book takes us through the specialised considerations in the work we undertake.

    We are all subject to the same rules of social organisation but are constantly seeking The Cromwell Press Ltd, Trowbridge, Wiltshirea way of being an individual in society. I am reminded of Robert Bellah's statement,

    We are hesitant to articulate our sense that we need one another as much as we need to stand alone, for fear that if we did we should lose our independence altogether. The tensions of our lives would be even greater if we did not, in fact, engage in practices that constantly limit the effects of an isolating individualism, even though we cannot articulate those practices as well as we can the quest for autonomy.

    (Robert N. Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart).

    As a psychotherapist or counsellor we are often the subject of ‘isolating individualism’ and perhaps it is the law that reminds us that we need each other and that to meet that need we have to sacrifice some of our independence.

    Our ability to create a space where we can explore relationship and independence requires a process of learning not only about theory, but about ourselves through a therapy that is congruent with our chosen way of practising the art and science of psychotherapy. It is our own therapy that gives us a sense of the journey being made alone and its requirement for a protected space. This is the point at which theory can become dogma and lead us to believe we have a right to protect ourselves rather than focusing on protecting the space we create.

    It is true that the protected space needed by counselling and psychotherapy requires co-operation from our social systems as well as the individuals who engage in the provision and use of it. We also have a right to know that we are engaging in a most intimate and powerful relationship that is safe. I say we because most counsellors/psychotherapists are or have been and continue to be users of counselling and/or psychotherapy as our continued growth, as well as the providers of these services. There is an inherent risk of exploitation in an intimate situation in which one party has a primacy of thought. In life safety is never guaranteed, but we can manage the risk by making sure the rules are known or knowable for all those involved in a process.

    One of the accusations made against the resistance of the professions to state regulation is the notion of protectionism — that we have a vested interest in protecting our own regardless of what wrongs are done. This has been impacted by several high profile cases that are based in the world of medical ethics which tend to dominate the government's perception of most relationships that involve healing and the power of the practitioner.

    Whatever the perception, the reality is that there is a system in which we operate in which there has to be a client/patient, a counsellor/psychotherapist and an overarching system that governs the expectations in the relationship. At the outer edge of this system is the law. We are all subject to the laws that govern our behaviour, especially in a professional context where we have the power to influence and change the perceptions and behaviour of our clients/patients.

    The journey in this book begins by developing the connection between what we do and the ethical landscape on which we base our ‘moral authority’. We are given ways of understanding our foundation in the modern context of the law and how it has operated in cases that we can encounter in our practice.

    Throughout this book we are given real world situations in which we operate as counsellors and psychotherapists where the judgments of the courts have been exercised. The chapter headings raise situations and concerns that we often avoid due to the level of anxiety they produce. We are then taken in to the world of the legal system and given case studies that show where the starkness of the law is contrasted with the outcomes that give the added dimension of how we are likely to be treated should our work come under scrutiny.

    The book concludes with the topic on the ‘Statutory Regulation of Therapists’ which is a very lively topic that connects with the publication in February 2007 of the Department of Health's White Paper, Trust, Assurance and Safety — The Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century. I would commend that this final chapter be read by anyone that wishes to understand the history and issues to do with Statutory Regulation.

    JamesAntrican Chair, UKCP


    Many people have helped me in various ways to produce this book. I would like to acknowledge, in particular, support, advice and information from James Antrican, Professor Tim Bond, Roger Casemore, Jill Collins, Karen Cromarty, Debbie Daniels, Lynne Gabriel, Barry Gower, Nicky Hart, Dr Anne Hayman, Rick Hughes, Michael Jacobs, Vincent Keter, Andrew Kinder, Susan McGinnis, Janette Newton, Sue Parkes, Maggie Pettifer, Dr Filiz Polat, Philip Pollecoff, Val Potter, Pat Siddons, James Sinclair-Taylor, Julie Stone, Gudrun Stummer, Keith Tudor, Professor Sue Wheeler, Tim Woodhouse and Ray Woolfe.

    My current colleagues in the Directorate of Counselling and Psychotherapy, at the University of Salford, including Liz Coldridge, Andy Hill, Vee Howard-Jones, Parveen Marrington-Mir and Jane Hunt, are also thanked for their interest and support. Staff at Sage Publications have been consistently helpful and supportive throughout, including Alison Poyner, Claire Reeve and Louise Wise, as has the series editor, Colin Feltham. Finally, my thanks are due to my family, near and far, but especially Jane, Lisa, Rachel and Xavier.

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    Table of Cases

    Note: Law references follow a format which may be unfamiliar to most therapists. Case reports are written in the following way:

    R v Emery (1993), Criminal Appeals Reports (Sentencing) 14 394–400; Bolam v Friern HMC [1957] 2 All ER 118

    The first case is a criminal case. The second case, probably more relevant to therapists, is a civil case, with the full report available in Volume 2 of the All England Law Reports (All ER) for 1957, starting at page 118. Where a number of judges comment on a case, the style of quotation will be ‘per Lord Ackner at 569’, rather than the usual Harvard system (such as Egan, 2006: 214). Other abbreviations include TLR (Times Law Reports) or refer to the court involved, e.g. HL for House of Lords, CA for Court of Appeal.

    Most public reference libraries will have Acts of Parliament, and either the All England Law Reports, or Weekly Law Reports (WLR), together with CD-ROM or internet access to newspaper reports and relevant government publications referred to in this text. Many key recent case reports are available via the web, on and Acts of Parliament from 1998 are available via On-line computer access to unreported cases can be made via Lexis, but this will only be available to paying subscribers, such as law firms or university law departments. Journals which carry up-to-date commentary on the law include Childright, Community Care and New Law Journal.

    A-G v Guardian Newspapers (No 2) [1988] 2 All ER 545.102
    Adam v Ward [1917] AC 309, 33 TLR.33
    Alfred Crompton Amusement Machines v Customs and Excise [1974] AC 405.106
    Anderson v Bank of British Columbia (1876) 2 Ch. D. 644.104
    Axon, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Health and Anor [2006] EWHC 37 (Admin).20, 162–3, 170, 176
    Ms B v An NHS Hospital Trust [2002] EWHC 429 (Fam).
    Bolam v Friern HMC [1957] 2 All ER 118.11, 18, 20, 78, 80, 83, 87
    Bolitho v City and Hackney Health Authority [1997] 3 WLR, 1151, [1997] 4 All ER 771 HL.20, 65, 83–4
    Campbell v MGN Ltd [2002] EWCA Civ 1373 (CA) reversing [2002] EWHC 328; [2002] EMLR 30.20, 111–12
    Campbell v Tameside Council CA [1982] 2 QB 1065.146
    Cassidy v Ministry of Health [1951] 2 KB 343.35, 81
    Charlton v Forrest Printing Ink Co Ltd [1980] IRLR 331.36
    Clarkson v Gilbert and Others (2000) (CA) TLR July.59
    D v NSPCC [1978] AC 171, re M. (a Minor).110
    Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562 (HL).25, 36
    Duncan v Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Committee [1986] 1 NZLR.118
    Durant v Financial Services Authority[2003] EWCA Civ 1746.133–4
    Francome v Mirror Group [1984] 1 WLR. 895, [1984] 2 All ER 408.107
    Fraser v Evans [1969] 1 QB 349, [1969] 3 WLR 1172, [1969] 1 All ER 8.107
    Gartside v Outram (1856) 26 J Ch 113.107
    Gaskin v Liverpool C.C. [1980] 1 WLR 1549; Gaskin v UK ECHR 2/1988/146/200, [1990] 1 FLR 167.20, 51, 131, 140, 163
    Gillick v West Norfolk Area Health Authority [1986] AC 112, [1985] 3 All ER 402, [1985] 3 WLR 830, [1986] 1 FLR 224.4, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 116, 151–7, 162–3, 168–74, 176
    Greaves and Co (Contractors) Ltd v Baynham Meikle & Partners [1975] 1 WLR 1095, [1975] 3 All ER 99.29
    Hatton v Sutherland [2002] 2 All ER 1.38–9
    Hedley Byrne & Co v Heller & Partners Ltd [1964] AC 465 (HL).88
    HL v UK (2004) ECHR 45508/99.17, 20, 48–9, 51
    Home Office v British Broadcasting Corporation (1997) High Court, Chancery 3 March (unreported)139
    Houston (applicant) (1996) 32 BMLR 93.172
    Hunter v Mann [1974] QB 767.106
    The Ikarian Reefer [1993] 2 Lloyd's Rep 68.65
    Lillie and Reed v Newcastle City Council and Barker, Jones, Saradjian and Wardell [2002] EWHC 1600 (QB).33–4
    Lion Laboratories v Evans [1984] 3 WLR 539, [1984] 2 All ER 417, [1985] 1 QB 526.110
    Maynard v West Midlands Regional Health Authority [1984] 1 WLR 634, [1985] 1 All ER 635.20, 80, 83–4
    McKenzie v McKenzie [1970] 3 All ER 1034, 3 WLR 472.59, 61, 63
    McTaggart v McTaggart [1949] P. 94.105
    Nettleship v Western [1971] 3 All ER 581 CA, [1971] 2 QB 691.83–4
    Nuttall v Nuttall and Twyman (1964) Sol Jo 108 605.106, 148
    Palmer v Tees Health Authority [1998] 45 BMLR 88.124
    Phelps v Hillingdon LBC [1997] 3 FCR 621, [2000] 4 All ER 504.79, 85
    Pretty v Director of Public Prosecution and Secretary of State for Home Department [2001] EWHC Admin 788.125
    R v C. 14 Cr App R(S) 562 14 January 1993.116, 160
    R v Cardiff Crown Court, Ex parte Kellam (1993) TLR 3 May.142
    R v Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, ex parte Blood [1997] 2 All ER 687.20, 183
    R v Liaqat Hussain Reading Crown Court 13 June 1996.165
    R v Registrar General ex parte Smith [1991] CA 1 FLR 255.180
    Re R [1991] 4 All ER 177 CA.170–1
    Re W [1992] 3 WLR 758 CA.67, 170–1
    S v W [1995] FLR 862.69
    Seager v Copydex [1967] 2 All ER 415.101
    Sidaway v Bethlem Royal Hospital Governors [1985] AC 871, [1985] 1 All ER 643, [1985] 2 WLR 480.87
    Smith v Smith [1957] 1 WLR 802.105
    Stubbings v Webb [1993] AC 498, S v W [1995] FLR 862.69
    W v Egdell [1990] Ch 359, [1990] 1 All ER 835.18, 67, 107–8, 122
    Walker v Northumberland County Council [1995] 1 All ER 737.36–8
    Werner v Landau, TLR 8/3/1961, 23/11/1961, Sol Jo (1961) 105, 1008.18, 20, 71, 79–82, 86
    Whitehouse v Jordan [1981] WLR 246, 1 All ER 267.83
    Wilsher v Essex Area Health Authority [1988] 2 WLR 557 (HL).83
    X v Y [1988] 3 WLR 776, [1988] All ER 648.20, 102, 110, 113
    Yuen Kun-Keu v Att-Gen of Hong Kong [1988] AC 175.109
    R v Bird (1999) 185 Sask R 102, affirmed (2000) SKCA 72.136
    Anclote Manor Foundation v Wilkinson, 263 So. 2d 256 (Fla. App. 1972).76
    Brady et al. v Hopper (1983) 83-JM-451 District Ct, Colo.91
    Cosgrove v Lawrence 520 A2d 844 (N.J. Super. A.D. 1986).90
    Currie v US (1986); 644 FSup 1074 (MD NC).91
    Doe v Roe and Roe (1977); 400 NY p2d 668.76
    Hammer v Rosen (1959) 7 NY 2d 376; 165 NE 2d 756; 198 NYS 2d 65.77
    Jaffee v Redmond (95–266), 518 U.S. 1 (1996).18, 20, 103–4
    Lipari v Sears, Roebuck and Co. (1980) (July 17); 77-0-458 (D.Neb).91
    Mazza v Huffaker (1983); 300 SE2d 833 (NC).77
    McIntosh v Milano (1979); 403 A2d 500 (NJ App).91
    Nicholson v Han 12 Mich. App. 35, 162 NW 2d 313 (1968).77
    Osheroff v Chestnut Lodge (1985) 62 Md App. 519, 490 A.2d 720 (Md. Ct. App.).85–6, 100
    Peck v Counseling Service of Addison County Inc. (1985) No 83–062 (Vt Sup Ct).91–2
    Petersen v Washington (1983); 671 P2d 230.91
    Ramona v Isabella, Rose, M.D., and Western Medical Centre, Anaheim (1994) C61898 Calif Sup Crt Napa County.63, 71, 92–3
    Rowe v Bennett 514 A.2d 802 (Me. 1986).77
    Roy v Hartogs (1975); 366 NYS 297, 300–301.77
    Tarasoff v Regents of the University of California 118 Cal. Rptr. 129, 135 (Sup Ct. Cal. 1974); 113 Cal. Rptr 14, 551 P. 2d 334 (Sup. Ct. Cal. 1976). 13, 68, 99, 122,20, 91, 107, 120–2, 124, 128
    Zipkin v Freeman (1969); 436 SW2d 793.77

    Table of Statutes

    Access to Personal Files Act 1987140
    Administration of Justice Act 1970140, 146
    Adoption Act 1976177, 179
    Adoption and Children Act 2002179
    Age of Legal Capacity Act 1991172, 174
    Broadcasting Act 199034
    Care Standards Act 2003179
    Children Act 1975155, 177
    Children Act 198923, 151–2, 156–7, 159–60, 167, 170, 174–6
    Children Act 20044, 22, 117, 161
    Computer Misuse Act 199034
    Consumer Credit Act 1974111
    Consumer Protection Act 198722, 31
    Contempt of Court Act 1981111
    Coroners Act 198857
    Crime and Disorder Act 1998109
    Criminal Justice Act 199126, 164
    Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001142
    Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967109
    Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996134, 141, 143
    Data Protection Act 19984, 10, 23, 31, 34, 111, 129–34, 138–9, 149, 163
    Defamation Act 199631, 34, 69
    Disability Discrimination Act 199541
    Disability Discrimination Act 200541
    Drug Trafficking Act 1994116
    Education Act 2002168
    Employment Rights Act 1996109, 119
    Equal Pay Act 197041
    Family Law Reform Act 1969170
    Freedom of Information Act 2000134, 150
    Health Act 1999190
    Health and Safety at Work Act 197436
    Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990181
    Human Rights Act 199811, 4649, 51, 92, 111, 138, 163
    Latent Damage Act 198669
    Limitation Act 198069
    Malicious Communications Act 198826
    Medical Act 198367
    Mental Health Act 19838, 22, 489, 57, 62,
    Misuse of Drugs Act 1971143
    Osteopaths Act 1993189
    Police Act 199740, 142
    Police and Criminal Evidence Act 198457, 63, 117, 134, 1402
    Proceeds of Crime Act 2002116
    Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960186, 189
    Protection from Harassment Act 1997267, 39
    Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998109, 118, 120, 167
    Public Order Act 198626
    Race Relations Act 197641
    Race Relations (Amendment) Act 200041
    Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 19743940, 111
    Road Traffic Act 1988106
    Sale of Goods Act 189327
    Sex Discrimination Act 197541
    Sex Discrimination Act 198641
    Sexual Offences Act 20031612
    Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 200141
    Suicide Act 1961125
    Supply of Goods and Services Act 198212, 20, 2930
    Supreme Court Act 1981134, 141, 143
    Telecommunications Act 198426, 34
    Terrorism Act 200020, 115
    Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 20012001 115

    Tables of Boxes

    1.1Relative differences in culture between counselling and the law6
    1.2Relationship of ethical principles to legal concepts9
    1.3Mapping ethical approaches to therapy and the law13
    1.4Mapping positions related to ethical behaviour17
    1.5Ethical attributes and their application in legal decision-making20
    2.1Comparison of features of civil and criminal law24
    2.2Using contracts with clients28
    2.3Elements of a model contract for fee-based therapy30
    2.4Statutory duties of employer36
    2.5Checklist for employer liability39
    2.6Guidelines for professional practice43
    3.1Human Rights Act 199848
    3.2Structure of the English legal system50
    3.3Professional guidelines54
    3.4Professional guidelines for giving evidence in court55
    3.5Qualities of an expert witness64
    3.6Role of the expert witness65
    3.7Differences between an expert witness and a lawyer66
    3.8Time limits for bringing legal actions70
    3.9Damages for non-physical injury72
    4.1Cases of therapist professional negligence in the USA76
    4.2Defining the standard of care in negligence cases84
    4.3Elements of a therapist's duty of care84
    4.5Professional, organisational and legal elements of the supervisory relationship90
    4.6Third party legal action against therapists in the USA91
    4.7Guidelines for professional practice in working with recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse93
    4.8Action to take in the case of potential complaint or litigation by a client95
    4.9Guidelines for professional practice concerning professional negligence litigation99
    5.1Confidentiality and the public interest103
    5.2Confidentiality and privilege104
    5.3Privilege and couple counselling105
    5.4Legitimate breaches of confidentiality109
    5.5Dimensions of personal privacy111
    5.6Confidentiality and contract112
    5.7Reporting suspected child abuse117
    5.8A duty to warn?122
    5.9Main emergency provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983124
    5.10Guidelines for professional practice regarding confidentiality126
    5.11Therapists and confidentiality127
    6.1Professional Codes of Practice and Recording130
    6.2Principles of data processing: Data Protection Act 1998131
    6.3Access to records under the Data Protection Act 1998132
    6.4Access to records134
    6.5Limitations of therapy records as evidence137
    6.6Potential components of therapy records136
    6.7Health records137
    6.8Access to confidential therapy records by police or courts141
    6.9Guidelines for professional practice regarding data protection and access to client records149
    7.1Children's independent rights to therapy152
    7.2The ‘Fraser guidelines’153
    7.3Assessing competence to consent by children and young people154
    7.4UN Convention 1989157
    7.5Working with young people158
    7.6Confidentiality at Central Youth Counselling Service159
    7.7Medical and psychiatric treatment of children170
    7.8Case law after Gillick171
    7.9Summary of young people's rights and parental consent to informal admission, psychiatric treatment and discharge under the Mental Health Act 1983173
    7.10Guidelines for professional practice in therapy with children and young people174
    8.1Potential positive and negative consequences of counsellor regulation in the USA185
    8.2Development towards statutory regulation by therapists186
    8.3Department of Health ‘mapping’ of counselling and psychotherapy190

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