Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice


Sri Lanka National Association of Counsellors(Srilnac) is a professional organization whose members are committed to the enhancement of the worth, dignity, potential and uniqueness of each individual. The deepest desire of a human being is to develop oneself, complete oneself, to make oneself a harmonious whole. Only wholeness and harmony can bring fulfillment to his or her life. Integral and harmonious development is the result of a complex interaction between the individual and his/her environment, particularly the personal environment of relationships to other human persons. This harmonious interaction presupposes the maturity of the person, his/her ability to be self-disciplined and free, be responsible and self-determined, to give and take, to be selfless and self-fulfilling. To achieve this degree of development, he/she needs help from the community. The Association in its own way, hopes to meet this need of the person in the community. Counsellors are committed to increasing knowledge of human behavior and of peoples understanding of themselves and others and to the utilization of such knowledge for the promotion of human welfare.

Need for a Code of Ethics

The main reason for a code of ethics includes informing professional counselors and counselors-in-training of their ethical guidelines, professional obligations, and responsibilities to their clients. It serves as a guide for the ethical practices of all the present and future members, regardless of the different populations they work with.

Sri Lanka National Association of Counsellors has identified the standard of conduct necessary to maintain and regulate the high standards of integrity and leadership among its members.

Whatever the theoretical approach taken by the Counsellor, the counselling relationship is usually characterized by inequalities of knowledge and power. To protect the client, and ensure that counsellors remain alert to possible misuse of their greater knowledge and power, they accept the necessity for a code of professional ethics.

Therefore, the Code encourages optimum levels of practice, establishing and maintaining ethical standards, and informing and protecting those who seek and use the services of counsellors. In joining the Association, Members agree to adhere to the provisions of the Code. The Code applies to Members' professional activities, and any behavior that might impinge on those.

The Association also has procedures that can lead to the expulsion of members for breaches of its Code of Ethics and practice. Like all other citizens, counsellors are subject to the law of the country, and their practice must conform to the law.

Code in detail


  1. Every human being has dignity and worth and has a value irrespective of origin, ethnicity, sex, age, beliefs, social and economic status or contribution to society.
  2. Each individual has the right to make his /her own choices and the right of self-fulfillment to the degree that it does not encroach upon the same right of others.
  3. The trained and competent counsellor has the responsibility of assisting individuals and groups in their development and resolution of personal and inter-personal conflicts.
  4. The counselor has a primary obligation to be of service, which must take precedence over self-interest, aims or views.

Code of Ethics

Section A: General

Every member of Sri Lanka National Association of Counsellors shall:

  1. Have the responsibility both to the individual who is served and to the Institution or Agency within which the service may be offered, to maintain high standards of conduct.
  2. Seek and understand the worth of each individual and the factors that condition behavior relative to the matrix in which it occurs, and the service required.
  3. When delivering professional services, accept only those positions for which they are professionally qualified.
  4. Uphold and advance the values, knowledge and methodology of the profession of Counselling, refraining from any behavior which may damage the functioning of the profession.
  5. In establishing fees for professional counseling services, consider the financial status of clients and locality. If the established fee structure is inappropriate for a client, assistance needs to be provided to find services of acceptable cost. (The counselor must be knowledgeable about referral resources so that satisfactory referrals can be initiated)

Section B: Counselling relationship

Counsellors honour and promote the fundamental rights, dignity and worth of clients. They respect clients' rights to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination and autonomy, consistent with the counsellors’ other professional obligations and with the law.

More specifically, Counsellors shall:

B.1. Respect the rights and dignity of the client. They are required to treat their clients as persons of intrinsic worth with a right to determine their own priorities, respect their dignity and give due regard to their moral and cultural values. They take care not to intrude inappropriately on clients' privacy. As far as possible, they ensure that clients understand and consent to whatever professional action they propose.

B.2. Not allow their service to clients to be diminished by factors such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, race, ethnicity, age, national origin, party politics, social standing or class.

B.3. Recognize and respect the individual goals, responsibilities and differences of clients, and as far as it is within the scope, shall assist clients to the responsibility for personal actions while helping all clients with equal willingness and work in ways that promote clients' autonomy.

B.4. Help the client to achieve self -fulfilment and maximum potential within the limits of the equal rights of others, the service being based upon helping the client to understand and use the counsellor-client relationship in furtherance of the client’s legitimate desires and interest.

B.5. Be aware of the intimacy of the counseling relationship, and maintain respect for the client and avoid engaging in activities that seek to meet the personal needs of the counsellors at the expense of the client.

B.6. Have a responsibility to establish good rapport with clients at the outset of counselling, the existence of any other therapeutic or helping relationships in which the client is involved and to consider whether counselling is appropriate. They should gain the client’s permission before conferring in anyway with other professional workers.

B.7. Convey due respect for prevailing community mores, social customs and cultural expectations.


B.8. Counsellors have a primary obligation to respect the confidentiality of information obtained from persons in the course of their work. They recognize and maintain the client’s right to a relationship of mutual trust, to privacy and confidentiality and responsible use of information.

B.9. They treat as confidential all information obtained in the course of their work.

B.10. Not use or release any information other than with the prior informed knowledge and consent of the client, except where the client cannot be responsible or others may be seriously jeopardized.

B.11. When presenting personal information obtained during the course of professional work in writing, research, lectures, or other public forums, either obtain adequate prior consent to do so from the client, or adequately disguise all identifying information.

B.12. When collecting data and sharing information, do so only when related to the professional service function to be performed, with the client informed as to its necessity and use.

B.13. When ordered to disclose confidential client information by court or governmental agency, they shall release only the required information. Any release of information shall be appropriately documented in accordance with guidelines.

B.14. Make provisions for maintaining confidentiality in the storage and disposal of records. They shall dispose of records in a manner that protects client confidentiality.

B.15. Shall retain client’s records for a minimum of five years unless the governing laws require additional time. After the required retention period, the records can be disposed of appropriately.

Section C: Responsibility

In providing services, the counsellors maintain the highest standards of their profession. They accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions and make every effort to ensure that their services are used appropriately. In their professional activities, counsellors are required to act in a trustworthy and reputable manner towards clients and the community. They are aware of their professional responsibilities, and at all times take positive action to fulfill these responsibilities.

More specifically, the Counsellors shall:

1. Responsibility to clients:

C.1. Take all reasonable steps to ensure that the client suffers neither physical nor psychological harm during counselling sessions.

C.2. Set and monitor appropriate boundaries during the Counsellor/client relationship, and make these explicit to the client.

C.3. Work with clients to reach a recognized ending, when clients have received the help they sought or when it is appropriate that counselling is no longer helping or when clients wish to end.

C.4. Refer clients to other appropriately qualified practitioners or other professionals when it is appropriate to do so.

C.5. When referring a client, maintain support and responsibility for caring until contact has commenced with the person to whom referral was made.

C.6. Give reasonable notice, and make reasonably certain that discontinuation will cause no harm to the client, before discontinuing services.

C.7. Contribute where appropriate to the co-ordination of client services to avoid duplication or working at cross purposes. To facilitate this process, counsellors shall maintain adequate records and communicate with other service providers.

2. Responsibility to profession and colleagues

C.8. Review and evaluate the effectiveness of their professional activities.

C.9. Uphold the professional standards of practice, and work for the advancement of the profession.

C.10. Defend the profession against unjust criticism, and work to increase confidence in the necessity for professional practice.

C.11. Behave in professional activities in such a way as not to undermine public confidence in the profession.

C.12. Exercise appropriate respect towards colleagues. In situations of conflicts or misunderstandings resolve these difficulties befitting the dignity of their profession.

C 13. Take an active role in resolving conflicts of interest between themselves and third parties (for example, colleagues, employers, employing agencies) where there are implications for the client.

C.14. Clarify all public statements or actions whether on an individual basis or as a representative of the SRILNAC whenever the situation demands.

C.15. Shall not provide references if they have reasonable belief that the individual counselor is not qualified, is not able to provide competent professional services or presents a risk of harm to others.

Section D: Competence

Maintaining a high standard of competence is a responsibility shared by all counsellors in the interest of the public and the profession as a whole. They are required to monitor and develop their professional skills and ethical awareness on an ongoing basis. They recognize that their expertise and capacity for work are limited, and take care not to exceed the limits. They recognize the boundaries of their competence and the limitations of their expertise. They provide only those services and use only those techniques for which they are qualified by training and experience. Competence indicates that they recognize when they are unable to offer a professional service.

More specifically, Counsellors shall:

D.1. Accept the obligation to study and understand the provisions of this Code of Ethics and Practice.

D.2. Accurately represent their competence, education, training and experience and claim as evidence only those Degrees, / Diplomas obtained from Institutions that are approved by the Association.

D.3. Offer or carry out only those professional activities for which they have established their competence to practice.

D.4. Recognize the boundaries of their competence, and take care not to exceed these.

D.5. Refrain offering a service when their functioning is impaired due to personal or emotional difficulties, illness, disability, alcohol, drugs or any other cause.

D.6. Monitor and develop their professional competence by constantly updating their skills through seminars, Courses and other available opportunities.

Section E: Integrity

Counsellors seek to promote integrity in the practice of their profession. They recognize their professional limitations and ensure that they receive appropriate support and supervision from colleagues. In their professional activities, they are honest, fair and respectful of others. They clarify for relevant parties the roles which they are performing and attempt to function appropriately in accordance with these roles.

Counsellors take steps to manage personal stress, maintain their own mental health, and ensure that their work is professionally supervised. They are required to be honest and accurate about their qualifications and the effectiveness of the services which they offer. They treat others in a fair, open and straightforward manner, honour professional commitments, and act to clarify any confusion about their role or responsibilities. They do not use the professional relationship to exploit clients and they deal appropriately with personal conflicts of interest. They take action against harmful or unethical behaviour in colleagues.

More specifically, Counsellors shall:

E.1. Engage in self-care activities which help to avoid conditions (for example, burnout, and addictions) which could result in impaired judgment and interfere with their ability to benefit their clients.

E.2. Monitor their personal functioning and seek help when their personal resources are sufficiently depleted to require such action.

E.3. Neither claim nor imply professional qualifications exceeding those possessed and be responsible for correcting any misrepresentation of these qualifications by others.

E.4. Make a clear contract with the client which includes issues such as availability, fees, and cancelled appointments. They shall ensure that the contract is agreed upon before work commences. Any subsequent revisions of the contract shall be agreed upon with the client before they take effect.

E.5. When advertising, avoid misrepresentation or exaggeration about services offered.

E.6. Be acutely aware of the power dynamics of the counsellor/client relationship and not exploit clients in any way, either during the relationship or after its conclusion.

E.7. Be acutely aware of the problematic nature of dual relationships (for example, with trainees, business associates, employees or clients), and recognize that it is not always possible to avoid them (e.g. when offering services in a small community, or engaging in training). Where it is possible, counsellors shall avoid such relationships; where it is not, they shall take appropriate steps to safeguard the interests of those involved.

E.8. Where possible, avoid conflicts of interest that may affect their relationship with the client, and where it is not possible, shall make these conflicts of interest explicit to the client.

E.9. Offer the same standard of service whether the work is paid or voluntary.

Section F: Relations with colleagues:

F.1. Respect the training and performance of colleagues and other professionals extending all necessary cooperation that will enhance effective services.

F.2. Respect differences of opinion and practice of colleagues and other professionals, expressing constructive criticism where necessary through appropriate channels in a responsible manner. Remonstrate privately with a colleague if that colleague appears to be engaging in unethical behavior. Where this action does not resolve the issue, they shall bring the matter confidentially and without malice to the attention of the Association’s Executive Committee.

F.3. Promote and share opportunities for knowledge, experience and ideas with all colleagues, other professionals and volunteers for the purpose of mutual improvement and validation.

F.4. Bring violations of client interest or professional ethics and standards to the attention of appropriate bodies and defend colleagues against unjust actions.

F.5. Not undermine any colleague’s relationship with clients by making unjustifiable or ill-judged comments.

F.6. Always be polite and respect when dealing with difficult situations with colleagues, being models of communication to the members.

Section G: Supervision

The purpose of supervision is the growth and enhanced effectiveness of the counsellor. Today professionally appropriate supervision is emerging as a highly effective means of nurturing counselors’ professional development. New challenges in society and increased understanding of the complexity of professional development dictate the need for increased attention to and use of effective supervision practices. It involves a cycle of feedback, practice, and additional feedback.

Since clients are the primary focus in the counselling process, the purpose of supervision is to afford a degree of protection to the client and also to the Organization or the Agency that the Counsellor is employed. It ensures that risks are not being taken and clients are not being abused. It also contributes to the counsellors personal and professional wellbeing with respect to the profession.

As counsellor training in Sri Lanka is not regulated according to a set standard, the risks of amateur counsellors engaging in counselling without proper practical training can pose a threat to an unsuspecting client.

Supervision is essential to how counsellors sustain good practice throughout their working life. Supervision provides them with regular and ongoing opportunities to reflect in depth about all aspects of their practice in order to work as effectively, safely and ethically as possible. Supervision also sustains the personal resourcefulness required to undertake the work.

Considering the above factors, it is recommended that they seek supervision regularly in their counselling practice with experienced Counsellors.

Therefore, they shall:

a. Supervisees:

G.1. Obtain professional supervision regularly in proportion to the amount of their experience with clients.

G.2.The beginning Counsellors assume the same responsibilities as experienced counselors when they encounter the same complex problems posed by today’s clients and face similar ethical dilemmas. Such problems require the consultative and educative assistance of a competent counselor supervisor.

G.3. Make a conscious effort to develop their counselling skills by making use of the opportunities offered for case consultation

G.4. Take reasonable steps to consult with other counselors or related professionals when they have questions regarding their ethical obligations or professional practice.

b. Supervisors.

G.5. Supervisors have an ethical and legal responsibility to monitor the quality of care that is being delivered to the supervisee’s clients. In order to enhance the professional functioning of the supervisee and assure quality of care, the supervisor constantly provides feedback regarding supervisee performance

G.6. Supervision requires additional skills and knowledge to those used for providing services directly to clients. Therefore, supervisors require adequate levels of expertise acquired through training and/or experience. Supervisors will also ensure that they work with appropriate professional support and their own supervision.

G.7. All supervisors will model high levels of good practice for the work they supervise, particularly with regard to expected levels of competence and professionalism, relationship building, the management of personal boundaries, any dual relationships, conflicts of interest and avoiding exploitation.

G.8. All communications concerning clients made in the context of supervision will be consistent with confidentiality agreements with the clients concerned and compatible with any applicable agency policy.

Section H. Distance Counselling, Technology, and Social Media

In their use of social media and related technology in their personal lives, counsellors monitor the style and content of their communication for ethical congruity and professionalism. They attend to privacy/security features, continue to honour client confidentiality, demonstrate respect for and valuing of all individuals, and represent themselves with integrity.

More specifically, counsellors shall:

H.1. Be knowledgeable about the laws governing distance counseling and social media.

H.2. Only utilize distance counseling after gaining competence through training and supervised experience in this specialty area.

H.3. Inform clients about the limits of confidentiality and potential Internet interruptions due to the nature of technology.

H.4. Understand the benefits and drawbacks related to distance counseling.

H.5. Avoid disclosing confidential information through social media.

H.6. Utilize informed consent to explain the boundaries of social media.

H.7. Take reasonable care to separate and maintain a distinction between personal and professional presence on social media where this could result in harmful dual relationships with clients.

Section I: Research and Publications

The decision to undertake research rests upon the considered judgment by the individual Counsellor about how best to contribute to psychological science and human welfare. They investigate with respect and concern for the dignity and welfare of the people who participate, and with cognizance with of academic regulations and professional standards governing the conduct of research with humans.

More specifically, the counsellors shall:

I.1. When undertaking research, make a careful evaluation of its ethical acceptability.

I.2. Adhere to applicable legal and professional guidelines on research with a human subject.

I.3. Researchers will be rigorously attentive to the quality and integrity of the research process, the knowledge claims arising from the research and how the results are disseminated.

I.4. Consider that ultimate responsibility for ethical research lies with the principal researcher. He/she is also responsible for the ethical treatment of research participants by all those who collaborate in the project.

I.5. Must abide by the basic elements of informed consent:

  1. Sufficient explanation of the procedures to be followed, including an identification of those which are experimental.
  2. Description of the attendant discomforts and risks.
  3. Description of the benefits to be expected.
  4. Instructions that subjects are free to withdraw their consent and to discontinue participation in the project or activity at any time.

I.6. Will use the supervision and any other available professional resources to support and challenge how they respond to situations of ethical dilemmas. Give careful consideration to the best approaches to ethical problem solving.

Section J. Advertising

J.1. If necessary Counselors advertise or represent their services to the public by identifying their credentials in an accurate manner that is not false, misleading, deceptive, or fraudulent. They may only advertise the highest degree earned which is in counseling or a closely related field from an approved Institution or University.

J.2. Those who conduct workshops or training events related to the field should ensure that the advertisements concerning these events are accurate and disclose adequate information for consumers to make informed choices.

J.3. Counselors make reasonable efforts to ensure that statements made by others about them, or the profession of counseling are accurate.

J.4. Counselors who use testimonials do not solicit them from clients or other persons who, because of their particular circumstances, may be vulnerable to undue influence.

Section K. Relations with other Agencies/Organizations

K.1. Work or co-operate with those agencies and organizations whose policies, procedures, and operations are directed towards adequate service delivery and encouragement of professional practice, consistent with the Code of Ethics and the Constitution of the Association (Srilnac)


  1. Initial draft of Code of Ethics by Rev (Dr) Fr Mervyn Fernando.
  2. Code of Ethics and Practice: British Association for Counselling.
  3. Ethical standards: American Association for Counselling and Development.
  4. Ethical Standards for School Counsellors: American School Counsellor Association.
  5. National Board for Certified Counsellors (NBCC) code of ethics.
  6. British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.