If you’re a trained mental health professional or considering becoming one, then you might be eager to get out there and offer your services to those in need. In fact, you might already be doing this. However, while you’re busy making a difference in the lives of others, it’s important to make sure you’re protected along the way. 

A counselling contract is one of the most important legal documents you’ll need as a counsellor. A counselling contract doesn’t just protect you, it secures the interest of your clients as well  – setting the tone for your relationship. 

Keep reading to learn more about counselling contracts. 

What Is A Counselling Contract?

A counselling contract is a legal agreement between you and your client. This document outlines your client’s rights and responsibilities, ensuring there is no miscommunication between the two of you. Since both you and your client will have expectations, it’s crucial to ensure you are on the same page before beginning your first session. 

What Key Details Should Be Included In A Counselling Contract?

There’s no standard template for counselling contracts in Australia. This means you’re free to include what you want within your counselling contract – as long as it’s within reason, of course. 

As such, your counselling contracts can be customised to fit the needs of your counselling business, the kind of clients you’ll be having and the type of counselling services you will be providing. 

We’ve listed a few key things to include in your counselling contracts below. 

Confidentiality Agreement And Exceptions

As a counsellor, confidentiality is an important requirement. Clients need to know their right to privacy is secured and they can speak freely in confidence. Addressing confidentiality in your counselling contracts lets clients know they have a right to privacy as well as any exceptions there may be to that right. 

Payment Terms

Clearly stating your payment terms is a necessary way to secure your revenue. In your counselling agreement, clients should be informed on matters such as what payment methods are available, when they need to pay for a session, the cost of your services and anything else that’s important.

Session Duration

This might seem like a minor detail however, it’s important to state how long each session is for. Not all counselling sessions are the same, some counsellors may offer longer services while others prefer shorter ones. It’s important to state exactly how long your sessions are. 

Scope Of Practice

Naturally, there will be limits to the scope of services you offer your clients. It’s important to clearly state exactly what services you can provide your clients so they don’t come out of their session disappointed. 


As a counsellor, it’s necessary to legally protect yourself by adding limits to your liabilities. This is crucial or else you could end up in trouble for something that was out of your control. Clearly stating the limits to your liabilities gives you much needed legal protection to safely practise as a counsellor. 

Termination Clause

There may be instances where you need to let a client go. Putting termination clauses in your contacts allows you to exercise this right and ensures your clients aren’t completely blindsided by their dismissal, as you’ve already laid out the instances they would be terminated under. 

Who Regulates Counselling Practices And Sets The Guidelines?

Aside from covering how your services will work, it’s important your counselling contracts also reflect the professional standards expected of counsellors. 

In Australia, there’s no federal legislation that regulates counsellors. Instead, counsellors should look to professional bodies such as the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) for ethical guidelines. 

What Is PACFA? 

PACFA is considered to be a peak body for Australian counsellors and psychotherapists. When Counsellors become a member of PACFA, they gain access benefits such as resources, training and professional support. 

Role And Advocacy of PACFA

PACFA advocates for better recognition of counsellors and psychotherapists across Australia. They also promote the National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers which has been introduced by some states (NSW, VIC, SA, QLD) while others are yet to acknowledge it (ACT, NT, WA, TAS). 

Regardless of state acknowledgement, as a counsellor you might want to ensure the codes of practice are in line with your counselling contracts. Clients tend to feel much more positive about counsellors that demonstrate an interest in ethical codes. 

Aside from the code, it’s also important to keep in mind there are other laws and regulations you will need to follow as a counsellor, such as the Privacy Act or Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Despite there being little to no laws directed related to counselling, you could still find yourself in trouble for breaching other laws. 

Is A Detailed Counselling Contract Really That Essential? 

Yes, it is essential to have a detailed counselling contract. A well drafted contract doesn’t just protect you and your clients, it also helps maintain professional standards, promoting ethical practices. Moreover, good counselling contracts can actually help you provide better services as a counsellor, as you will have a written record, prompting continuity and consistency.

However, it’s never a good idea to simply ‘wing it’ when it comes to your counselling contracts. You want mistake free, legally binding contracts that fully disclose the parties involved. It’s wise to ask for a legal expert to help draft your counselling contracts if you want it done right. 

Common Pitfalls in Drafting Counselling Contracts

Often, counsellors underestimate the importance of professionally drafted contracts. They make the mistake of seeking online templates or trying to draft the contract themselves. This compromises on the quality and effectiveness of the contracts, ultimately failing to protect the relevant parties. Some of the most common pitfalls in counselling contracts include:  

  • Lack of clarity
  • Not specifying services
  • Missing important details 
  • Poor confidentiality clauses
  • Non-compliance with regulations
  • Ignoring professional standards
  • No dispute resolution clauses 

How We Can Help Create A Legally Sound Counselling Contract?

The best way to avoid the common pitfalls and create a legally sound counselling contract is to get it professionally drafted by a legal expert. It’s a worthy investment, as you will likely be using the same contract (but varying in personal details for each client).  

A legal expert knows how to avoid mistakes that could make your contract weak. Counselling contracts need to properly address the scope of services, manage client expectations, promote ethical practices, protect your liabilities, secure your revenue streams and more. 

This doesn’t mean your counselling contract should be a large, overwhelming document your clients will struggle to read. On the contrary, when counselling contracts are done correctly they are concise, clear and easy to read even for non-lawyers.  

Contract Services

So, where do you get counselling contracts from anyways? 

Finding a legal expert to draft you a well written, legally sound counselling contract can be a bit of a hassle. As a counsellor, chasing up lawyers is the last thing you want to be adding to your do-to list. 

Which is why it helps to have your lawyers accessible online. Our legal experts are available at your convenience and happy to draft strong counselling contracts whenever you’re ready. 

The Smallest Details Make The Difference. Let Us Assist!

We can’t stress enough the importance of having legally sound counselling contracts drafted by a legal professional. Remember, even the most miniscule details can throw your contracts off or taint them with uncertainty. 

It’s important to have expert guidance so you can end up with a counselling contract that works in the best interest of both you and your clients.  

To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • A counselling contract is essential for protecting both the counsellor and the client, setting clear expectations and responsibilities
  • Key elements in a counselling contract include confidentiality agreements, payment terms, session duration, scope of practice, limitations of liability, and termination clauses 
  • PACFA advocates for better recognition and promotes the National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers, which should be reflected in counselling contracts 
  • A well-drafted contract ensures compliance with laws such as the Privacy Act and Australian Consumer Law, promoting ethical practices 
  • Common pitfalls in drafting counselling contracts include lack of clarity, incomplete details, poor confidentiality clauses, and non-compliance with regulations 
  • It’s crucial to have counselling contracts professionally drafted by legal experts to avoid mistakes and ensure they are clear, concise, and legally sound 

If you would like a consultation on counselling contracts, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations chat.

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