An ethical framework is critical for good practice in the provision of volunteer training, volunteer support, emotional support, community outreach, information and access to resources in LifeLine Shanghai.
This framework unifies and replaces all earlier ethical codes for staff, trainers, supervisors, volunteers and Board of Directors of LifeLine Shanghai and is also applicable to counselling research, the use of active listening skills and the management of these services within LifeLine Shanghai.
This Code of Ethics serves as the framework for all practice of LifeLine Shanghai.
• The term “practitioner” is used generically to refer to anyone with responsibility for the provision of volunteer training, volunteer support, emotional support, community outreach, information and access to resources. “Practitioner” includes anyone undertaking the role(s) of volunteer, trainer, educator, supervisor, researcher, manager of any of these services.
• The term “client” is used as a generic term to refer to the recipient of any of these services. The client may be an individual, couple, family, group, organization or other specifiable social unit.
• Values • Ethical principles of education and support • Personal moral qualities
Ethical principles are well suited to and are often used for considering whether particular decisions or actions are justified. Regard should also be given, however, to the practitioner’s personal qualities and their ethical significance in the support or education relationship. The provision of culturally sensitive and appropriate services is also a fundamental ethical concern. Cultural factors are often more easily understood and responded to in terms of values. Therefore, professional values are becoming an increasingly significant way of expressing ethical commitment.
LifeLine Shanghai follows the Carl Rogers person-centred approach to support. We take the view that every individual has the internal resources that he/she needs for personal growth. In order for personal growth to take place, three conditions must be present: unconditional positive regard, empathy, and congruence. Through warmth, empathy, dedication, respect, acceptance and genuineness (WEDRAG), the practitioner is able to provide these three conditions.
The fundamental values of education and support include commitment to:
• Ensuring the integrity of practitioner-client relationships
• Enhancing the quality of knowledge and its application
• Alleviating personal distress and suffering
• Fostering a sense of self that is meaningful to the person(s) concerned
• Increasing personal effectiveness
• Enhancing the quality of relationships between people
• Appreciating the variety of human experience and culture
• Striving for the fair and adequate provision of services
Ethical Principles of Education and Support
Principles direct attention to important ethical responsibilities. Each principle is described below and is followed by examples of good practice that have been developed in response to that principle.
Ethical decisions that are strongly supported by one or more of these principles without any contradiction from others may be regarded as reasonably well founded. However, practitioners will encounter circumstances in which it is impossible to reconcile all the applicable principles and choosing between principles may be required.
A practitioner’s obligation is to consider all the relevant circumstances with as much care as is reasonably possible and to be appropriately accountable for decisions made.
Honouring the trust placed in the practitioner. Being trustworthy is regarded as fundamental to understanding and resolving ethical issues.
Practitioners who adopt this principle:
• act in accordance with the trust placed in them;
• regard confidentiality as an obligation arising from the client’s trust;
• restrict any disclosure of confidential information about clients to furthering the purposes for which it was originally disclosed according to applicable laws.
• do not act in such an infamous or disgraceful way that the public’s trust in the organization and its mission might be significantly undermined if they were accurately informed about all the circumstances of the case.
o Criminal convictions, findings in civil proceedings, and hearings by professional bodies could be included here.
o Another example could be allegations in public of fraudulent and other types of criminal behaviour against other practitioners or office bearers and staff which could amount to defamation of character if unproven and could seriously harm the reputation or professional standing of the person accused. This would automatically reflect on the reputation of LifeLine Shanghai in the eyes of the public and other stakeholders.
Respect for the client’s right to be self-governing. The principle of autonomy opposes the manipulation of clients against their will, even for beneficial social ends. This principle emphasizes the importance of the client’s commitment to participating, usually on a voluntary basis, in education and support.
Practitioners who respect their clients’ autonomy:
• ensure accuracy in any advertising or information given in advance of services offered;
• protect privacy;
• protect confidentiality;
A commitment to promoting the client’s well-being. The principle of beneficence means acting in the best interests of the client based on professional assessment and knowledge. It directs attention to working strictly within one’s limits of competence and providing services on the basis of adequate training or experience. Ensuring that the client’s best interests are achieved requires systematic monitoring of practice and outcomes by the best available means. It is considered important that research and systematic reflection inform practice. There is an obligation to use regular and on-going supervision to enhance the quality of the services provided and to commit to updating practice by continuing development.
An obligation to act in the best interests of a client may become paramount when working with clients whose capacity for autonomy is diminished because of:
• lack of understanding
• lack of expert knowledge regarding the situation
• extreme distress
• serious disturbance
• other significant personal constraints
A commitment to avoiding harm to the client.
• avoiding sexual, financial, emotional or any other form of client exploitation;
• avoiding incompetence or malpractice;
• not providing services when unfit to do so due to illness, personal circumstances or intoxication,
• not providing services that to the best of the practitioner’s knowledge and expertise is not up to the standard that LifeLine Shanghai sets.
The practitioner has an ethical responsibility to strive to mitigate any harm caused to a client even when the harm is unavoidable or unintended. Practitioners have a personal responsibility to challenge, where appropriate, the incompetence or malpractice of others; and to contribute to any investigation and/or adjudication concerning practice which falls below that of a reasonably competent practitioner and/or risks bringing discredit upon the Association.
The fair and impartial treatment of all clients and the provision of adequate services, accessible and appropriate to the needs of potential clients.
The principle of justice requires:
• Being just and fair to all clients and respecting their human rights and dignity.
• Considering conscientiously any legal requirements and obligations, and remaining alert to potential conflicts between legal and ethical obligations.
• A commitment to fairness requires the ability to appreciate differences between people and to be committed to equality opportunity, and avoiding discrimination against people or contrary to their legitimate personal or social characteristics.
Fostering the practitioner’s self-knowledge and care for self. The principle of self-respect means that:
• The practitioner appropriately applies all the above principles as entitlements for self. This includes seeking counselling or therapy and other opportunities for personal development as required.
• There is an ethical responsibility to use supervision for appropriate personal and professional support and development, and to seek training and other opportunities for continuing development.
PERSONAL MORAL QUALITIES
The practitioner’s personal moral qualities are of the utmost importance to clients. Many of the personal qualities considered important in the provision of services have an ethical or moral component and are therefore considered as virtues or good personal qualities. It is inappropriate to prescribe that all practitioners possess these qualities, since it is fundamental that these personal qualities are deeply rooted in the person concerned and developed out of personal commitment rather than through the requirement of an external authority.
Personal qualities to which counsellors and trainers are strongly encouraged to aspire include:
• Warmth: Approachable, friendly.
• Acceptance: The ability to understand and respect another person unconditionally.
• Empathy: The ability to communicate understanding of another person’s experience from that person’s perspective.
• Sincerity: A personal commitment to consistency between what is professed and what is done.
• Integrity: Commitment to being moral in dealings with others, personal straightforwardness, honesty and coherence.
• Resilience: The capacity to work with the client’s concerns without being personally diminished.
• Respect: Showing appropriate esteem to others and their understanding of themselves.
• Humility: The ability to assess accurately and acknowledge one’s own strengths and weaknesses.
• Competence: The effective deployment of the skills and knowledge needed to do what is required.
• Fairness: The consistent application of appropriate criteria to inform decisions and actions.
• Wisdom: Possession of sound judgment that informs practice.
• Courage: The capacity to act in spite of known fears, risks and uncertainty.
GUIDANCE ON GOOD PRACTICE
LifeLine Shanghai is committed to sustaining and advancing good practice. This guidance on the essential elements of good practice has been written to take into account the changing circumstances in which LifeLine support and training services are now being delivered, these being:
• changes in the range of issues and levels of need presented by clients
• the growth in levels of expertise available from practitioners with the expansion in the availability of training and consultative support/supervision
• the accumulated experience of LifeLine Shanghai since March 2004
The diversity of settings within which services are delivered has also been carefully considered, for example the trainer in the community or workplace, the Telephone Volunteer, etc. LifeLine work is offered by telephone and face-to-face training, which include education and awareness work. Some practitioners are moving between these different settings and modes of delivery during the course of their work and are therefore required to consider what constitutes good practice in different settings. All practitioners encounter the challenge of responding to the diversity of their clients and finding ways of working effectively with them. This statement therefore responds to the complexity of delivering services in contemporary society by directing attention to essential issues that practitioners ought to consider and resolve in the specific circumstances of their work. All clients are entitled to good standards of practice and care from their practitioners in training and support work. Good standards of practice and care require professional competence; good relationships with clients and colleagues; and a commitment to and observance of professional ethics.
Good Quality of Care
• Good quality of care requires competently delivered services that meet the client’s needs by practitioners who are appropriately supported and accountable.
• Practitioners should give careful consideration to the limitations of their training and experience and work within these limits, taking advantage of available professional support.
• Good practice involves clarifying and agreeing on the rights and responsibilities of both the practitioner and client at appropriate points in their working relationship.
• Practitioners are encouraged to keep appropriate records of their work with clients unless there are adequate reasons for not keeping any records. All records should be accurate, respectful of clients and colleagues and protected from unauthorized disclosure.
• Clients are entitled to competently delivered services that are periodically reviewed by the practitioner.
Maintaining Competent Practice
• All volunteers, trainers and supervisors are required to have regular and on-going formal supervision/consultative support for their work. Managers, researchers and providers of active listening skills are strongly encouraged to review their need for professional and personal support and to obtain appropriate services for themselves.
• Regularly monitoring and reviewing one’s work is essential to maintaining good practice. It is important to be open to, and conscientious in considering, feedback from colleagues, appraisals and assessments. Responding constructively to feedback helps to advance practice.
• A commitment to good practice requires practitioners to keep up to date with the latest knowledge and respond to changing circumstances. They should consider carefully their own need for continuing professional development and engage in appropriate educational activities.
• The practice of peer education, support and counselling depends on gaining and honouring the trust of clients.
• Keeping trust requires:
o attentiveness to the quality of listening and respect offered to clients
o culturally appropriate ways of communicating that are courteous and clear
o respect for privacy and dignity
o careful attention to client consent and confidentiality.
• Clients should be adequately informed about the nature of the services being offered.
• Working with young people requires specific ethical awareness and competence. The practitioner is required to consider and assess the balance between young peoples’ dependence on adults and care givers and their progressive development towards acting independently.
• Respecting client confidentiality is a fundamental requirement for keeping trust. The professional management of confidentiality concerns the protection of personally identifiable and sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure. Disclosure may be authorized by client consent or the law. Any disclosures should be undertaken in ways that best protect the client’s trust. Practitioners should be willing to be accountable to their clients and to their profession for their management of confidentiality in general and particularly for any disclosures made without their client’s consent.
• Practitioners must not abuse their clients’ trust in order to gain sexual, emotional, financial or any other kind of personal advantage. Sexual relations with clients are prohibited. “Sexual relations” include intercourse, any other type of sexual activity or sexualised behaviour.
• Practitioners should not allow their professional relationships with clients to be prejudiced by any personal views they may hold about lifestyle, gender, age, disability, race, sexual orientation, beliefs or culture.
• Practitioners should be clear about any commitment to be available to clients and colleagues and honour these commitments.
Teaching and Training
• Trainers should acquire the skills, attitudes and knowledge required to be competent teachers and facilitators of learning.
• Practitioners are required to be fair, accurate and honest in their assessments of their students.
• Supervisors and managers have a responsibility to maintain and enhance good practice by practitioners, to protect clients from poor practice and to acquire the attitudes, skills and knowledge required by their roles.
• LifeLine Shanghai is committed to fostering research that will inform and develop practice. All practitioners are encouraged to support research undertaken on behalf of the profession and to participate actively in research work.
• All research should be undertaken with rigorous attention to the quality and integrity both of the research itself and of the dissemination of the results of the research.
• The rights of all research participants should be carefully considered and protected. The minimum rights include the right to freely given and informed consent, and the right to withdraw at any point.
• The research methods used should comply with the standards of good practice and must not adversely affect clients.
Fitness to Practice
• Practitioners have a responsibility to monitor and maintain their fitness to practice at a level that enables them to provide an effective service. If their effectiveness becomes impaired for any reason, including health or personal circumstances, they should seek the advice of their supervisor, experienced colleagues or line manager and, if necessary, withdraw from practice until their fitness to practice returns.
• Practitioners should respond promptly and appropriately to any complaints received from their clients. An appropriate response in agency-based services would take account of any agency policy and procedures.
• Practitioners should endeavour to remedy any harm they may have caused to their clients and to prevent any further harm. An apology may be the appropriate response.
• Practitioners should discuss, with their supervisor, manager or other experienced practitioner(s), the circumstances in which they may have harmed a client in order to ensure that the appropriate steps have been taken to mitigate any harm and to prevent any repetition.
• Clients should be informed about the existence of the LifeLine Shanghai Disciplinary Procedures. If requested to do so, practitioners should inform their clients about how they may obtain further information concerning these procedures.
Providing Clients with Adequate Information
• Practitioners are responsible for clarifying the terms on which their services are being offered.
• All information about services should be honest, accurate, avoid unjustifiable claims, and be consistent with maintaining the good standing of the organization.
• Particular care should be taken over the integrity of presenting qualifications, accreditation and professional standing.
Care of Self as a Practitioner
Attending to the practitioner’s well-being is essential to sustaining good practice.
• Practitioners have a responsibility to themselves to ensure that their work does not become detrimental to their health or well-being by ensuring that the way that they undertake their work is as safe as possible and that they seek appropriate support and services as the need arises.
• Practitioners are entitled to be treated with proper consideration and respect that is consistent with this Code of Ethics.