Regional Ethics Process

Description of the processes leading to a referral to a Regional Ethics Team

Initial Assessment

1. On receiving a concern or complaint the Ethics Convenor and Secretary of the NZAC Ethics Committee will decide whether the behaviour described is potentially prejudicial to the interests of the Association, professional misconduct, or behaviour which is unbecoming a Member or Provisional member.

• If not, the complainant will be informed and a copy of the complaint will be sent to the Member or provisional member explaining that the Association is taking no further action.
• If so, they will invite the Member or Provisional member to respond in writing to the complaint.

2. After receiving the response from the Member or Provisional member, the Initial Assessment Group may :

• Decide that there is no case to answer:
Both the complainant and respondent will be informed that there will be no further action by the Committee

• Decide that more information is required or that the matter might be resolved by correspondence.
Letter/s will be sent seeking further information and requesting a further written response from the Member or Provisional member. This correspondence may bring the matter to a close or it may lead to either of the following steps:

• Decide that the behaviour complained about seems to fall short of NZAC’s professional standards and/ or has caused distress for the complainant but does not meet the criteria for a formal hearing, (see below) and instead warrants an educational or restorative response.

The Initial Assessment Group through the Ethics Secretary will refer the matter to the Regional Ethics Team Coordinator of the region where the complainant and Member or Provisional member are based. (If there is a conflict of interest for the Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator in that region the matter will be referred to the Coordinator in an adjacent region.)

• Decide that there is prima facie evidence of conduct which meets the criteria for a formal hearing procedure and which may, if the complaint is upheld, lead to a disciplinary response:

Criteria for choosing a formal hearing procedure

The behaviour complained about:

Is prohibited behaviour or fails to meet required standards of behaviour described in the NZAC Code of Ethics, and

Is behaviour which falls short of that expected of a reasonably competent practitioner, and

Brings the profession of counselling into disrepute,

And which, in the opinion of the Initial Assessment Group, is unlikely to be remedied except through the imposition of sanctions as defined in the Association’s Complaints Procedure.

The Convenor of the Ethics Committee will select a Panel to prepare charges and conduct a formal hearing

Regional Ethics Process

The regional ethics process has been designed to enable NZAC to:

Formulate an understanding of the circumstances that led to the complaint being made.
Identify any ways that the counsellor may have contributed to the situation,
and if this is found to be the case,
Propose restorative and/or educational actions to minimise the likelihood of such events recurring.

At any point during this process, the complaint may be referred back to the Initial Assessment Group for further deliberation about the suitability of the Regional Ethics Process to deal with this matter.

1. Administration

The Regional Coordinator will receive a copy of the documentation (the written complaint and the written response) and will select two regional ethics team members, who do not have a conflict of interest with either of the parties, to facilitate a resolution of the complaint. The Coordinator may be one of the two team members. To ensure there is no conflict of interest, it may be necessary to refer the matter to the Coordinator of an adjacent region to select team members.

One of the team members will be designated the Case Manager and take responsibility for the administration of the process at the local level, including liaison with the Ethics Secretary.

2. Preparation

The Regional Team will discuss the case and formulate initial questions which will form the basis of interviews with the Complainant and the Respondent.

3. Meeting with Complainant

The two team members will arrange to meet with the complainant first. They may choose to bring a support person. There will be no electronic recording of the discussion. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the team members to hear the complainant’s account of what happened, to learn more about the circumstances that led to the complaint and to discuss expectations and possible outcomes.

4. Meeting with the Member or Provisional member

The two team members will meet with the Member or Provisional Member and their current supervisor to discuss the concerns raised by the complaint. There will be no electronic recording of the discussion. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the team members to hear the Member Provisional memberaccount of what happened, to learn more about the circumstances that led to the complaint, and, where appropriate, to invite reflection and review.

From this the RET will formulate optimal outcomes and discuss these with the Respondent and their supervisor.

5. Possible Outcomes

• No further action
• Identifying any restorative or educational steps the Regional Ethics Team requires the Member or Provisional member to take e.g., acknowledgment, further education or training, specialist consultation or additional supervision
• Referring the matter back to the Initial Assessment Group and recommending alternative course of action e.g., further investigation or a formal Hearing

The matter will be closed when the regional ethics team members are satisfied that the matter is resolved. Information about the outcome or progress towards the outcome will be sent by one month from the time of the meetings.

Both parties will be informed about the outcome and when the matter is closed. Formal correspondence may be drafted by the regional team members but will be sent and received by the Secretary of the National Ethics Committee.

The complaint, the response and any formal correspondence relating to the substance of the complaint and any following action will be kept on the file kept by the Secretary of the National Ethics Committee. The Regional Coordinator is responsible for sending any written material created during the process, such as a letter of acknowledgement, or the decision about action to the National Ethics Secretary for recording purposes. The Regional team members will destroy all copies in their possession once the matter is closed.

The Case Manager will complete an Evaluation Form which identifies any aspects of the process which will contribute to future processes and Team training.