Jurisdiction: Providing therapy to clients outside the UK

I was surprised when I was contacted from Spain by someone who was looking for counselling. Subsequently, one of my clients has moved to South Asia and is wanting to continue with our sessions. Previously, during training, I had been made aware of the reality of counselling people outside of the UK (where I am based), but I never expected it to be relevant in my practice.


I recently attended a networking meeting with other counsellors and the discussion was all about jurisdiction. The discussion was diffuse and full of very diverse opinions; there were lots of different opinions on the subject and no clear, definitive answer.

It was slightly unnerving to sense that many of us in the profession feel like a rabbit in headlights with this issue - confused and overwhelmed. It was also concerning to feel that some counsellors wanted to have the research done for them or to follow someone's lead i.e. “So and so said this, so this is what I will do!”   

Perhaps most disconcerting were those who shared dismissive attitudes. It was as if some counsellors were not bothered about the issue.

Despite the confusion amongst the profession, I was glad to hear a different range of opinions on the subject. It enabled me to hear good advice and to follow up on suggestions about where to find further guidance. The joys of networking I feel.

As a member of the BACP, it is the 'go-to' place for guidance, in this case about jurisdiction. One participant in the networking meeting directed me to a relevant BACP article. 

For me, as a counsellor, I have to balance the best interests of the client as well as my own as a counsellor. Protecting myself should it be necessary (I hope not) and protecting the client by ensuring I am allowed to counsel, with my qualifications, in their country of residence.

So, what to do?

The BACP guides to good practice do not specifically address the issue. They suggest contacting the regulatory body in that country and also that a counsellor consults the relevant country’s legal framework. I've now done this and am waiting to hear from the respective bodies.

This is what a client is entitled to and deserves when they come for counselling.

Whether I am able to continue counselling this client or not, they will be kept up to date about the steps I am taking to ensure their wellbeing. It will be a process where the client is front and centre of my thinking and my efforts. For a session fee, it feels like a lot of effort but I feel strongly that, in this instance, the client is right to expect I do due diligence. 

Seven days later, I've still not had a reply from the relevant embassy, and no clear guidance from the BACP, which is slightly frustrating. Frustrating because, should the client contact me, I will have to talk about not knowing how to proceed. This has always been a situation where I have felt vulnerable and uncomfortable.

Now I am reflecting on the jurisdiction issue and am comforted that I know more than I did before. Comforted that, should the situation arise again, I will have more knowledge, which can only be a good thing.

A useful bit of knowledge came from relating this situation to another close friend who is also a counsellor. They suggested that I include a section in my contract that states that UK law will apply. If you're a counsellor considering this same issue, that could be a simple and elegant solution to an unexpected situation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Chelmsford CM1
Written by Steve Fayers, Counsellor / Therapist | Certified Trauma Therapist
Chelmsford CM1

I am a person, a counsellor, a parent, a flawed human being who has struggled with life. Struggled with addiction.
I would rather struggle than give in and accept a life that does not meet my needs and wants.
I am trying to be the best person I can be.
"I will not go quietly into that goodnight " (paraphrased Dylan Thomas)

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