Counselling and the Law

Despite the relative paucity of case law directly bearing on counselling and psychotherapy in the United Kingdom, significant work exists on the importance of the law for the field and on the specific legal obligations of practitioners. Some entries also address the US legal context or that of other countries, while some focus on the issue of regulation in the field.

Counselling and the Law

Cohen, K. (1992) 'Some Legal Issues in Counselling and Psychotherapy', British Journal of Guidance and Counselling 20(1):10-26.

This is one of the first articles specifically bringing a discussion of British law to the counselling field.

Jenkins, P. (1997) Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Law. London: Sage.

To my knowledge, this is the first book-length treatment of British law specifically applied to the counselling field. In the absence of extensive case law on counselling or psychotherapy, Jenkins diligently extracts from medical case law the relevant lessons for those working in counselling. The book covers the general legal and ethical context of counselling and psychotherapy; professional negligence; confidentiality, privilege and disclosure; damages and therapists' involvement with the courts; special issues relating to children and young people; complaints systems; and trends toward statutory regulation. Although the book makes no particular claims about addressing the US legal system in depth, comparisons and contrasts with recent developments in the US are noted throughout. Jenkins (2002) is a newer follow-up edited volume.

Jenkins, P., ed. (2002) Legal Issues in Counselling and Psychotherapy. London: Sage.

This volume, edited by the author of Jenkins (1997), covers some of the same topics addressed by the earlier monograph but includes the latest contributions from leading authorities in both law and therapy, plus an account from a client who successfully took legal action against her therapist.

Mowbray, R. (1995) The Case Against Psychotherapy Registration. London: Trans Marginal.

Although it's hard to avoid the impression that Mowbray has one or two personal axes to grind, largely centred on his positive views about the human potential movement, the content of this book must be taken very seriously. The exceptionally well researched and competently argued book makes a solid contribution to the red-hot debate over accreditation, registration and other means of regulating the psychotherapy and counselling fields. Mowbray's perspective on the politics, the power struggles, and the arguments -- both sound and flawed -- employed in the debate is well informed, passionate and unabashed. In my view, this book puts the ball squarely in the court of proponents of regulation and professionalization: and there are quite a few arguments to answer. Significant material is included on the regulatory situation in other countries.

Sills, C., ed. (1997) Contracts in Counselling. London: Sage.

To my knowledge, this is the first collection to focus specifically on the legal and ethical considerations of contracts in counselling. The twelve contributors cover different types of contracts both for counselling and for supervision as well as contracting within specific theoretical approaches. For understanding contracts within the context of practising as a counsellor, the book is indispensable.


This page was last reviewed by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Thursday, 3 November 2022.