Ethics in Coaching

Ethics in Coaching

The Best You

By Gillian Jones

A recent article in Coaching at Work (Jul/Aug 2012) titled ‘Gay Cure’ psychotherapist loses malpractice appeal against BACP explained how a counsellor, Lesley Pilkington, agreed to ‘cure’ a gay ‘client’ of his homosexuality.

She lost her appeal to be reinstated by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), which upheld its ruling of last year that she was guilty of malpractice. An interesting case in which personal beliefs were in direct conflict with her professional conduct and in this example, personal beliefs won out with a profound effect on her professional career. In this particular example, the person receiving treatment was an undercover journalist and gay rights campaigner, but what about her other ‘clients’ – what effect has her ‘gay cure’ had on them.

While I appreciate there are significant differences between counselling and coaching, this article got me to thinking that similar dilemmas could easily occur within the coaching relationship. What if you are coaching someone who is being bullied in a workplace situation as a result of their sexuality and your personal beliefs get in the way?

Focusing on the outcomes that are right for the person being coached is a fundamental element of developing the coaching relationship, but there could be occasions when your belief system and the core of your values is challenged. It is impossible as a coach to be aligned with every possible value of every person you are coaching but we need to think about this very carefully. Ethical dilemmas can occur at every crossroads of coaching, sometimes as you are asked to take on an assignment and sometimes once the assignment has begun. It can be difficult to turn a client down if they ask you to take a position that you feel challenges your ethical boundaries but this could lead to many further problems along the line. Outlining your rights and responsibilities as a coach within the contracting is vital up front…. if you have these boundaries in place then at least you have a platform to refer back to if requests are made to you. Often coaches can find that the information their client gives you hits a chord of values that you may need to keep in check – it is not our place as coaches to judge someone just because their beliefs are different to yours but if you really feel that the conflict is too strong then you need to consider whether you want to continue with the assignment. With regards to the above situation it has to be on the top of every coach, counsellors or mentors checklist that we are not here to change a person, their values or beliefs but simply to work with them as an enabler, to help them achieve their goals where appropriate or to find alternative behaviours that get them a better outcome.

I’m interested in hearing your views on this subject – have you had a similar dilemma? If you found this article interesting – consider attending our ILM Level 5 Coaching and Mentoring Course for more thought provoking discussions – click here for further details and to book.

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