Ethical Decision-Making Models in Counseling

Counselors can use different models whenever making ethical decisions. The role of such models is to “bring clarity and order to the decision-making process” (Remley & Herlihy, 2015, p. 14). The undeniable fact is that arriving at ethical decisions can be quite challenging due to the dilemmas involved. To record positive outcomes, the decision-making process should occur “internally or intrapsychically” (Remley & Herlihy, 2015, p. 15). This paper begins by comparing and contrasting two models for ethical decision-making. The models are then applied systematically to a specific case study. The discussion also identifies the major practices, action plans, and initiatives capable of addressing various ethical concerns affecting different clients.

Two Ethical Decision-Making Models

Comparing and Contrasting the Models

The selected ethical decision-making frameworks include social constructivist and intercultural models. To begin with, the social constructivist model is an intellectual approach that originated from health practice (Remley & Herlihy, 2015). The model directs counselors to focus on “a social consensual interpretation of reality” (Remley & Herlihy, 2015, p. 15). To come up with ethical decisions, the process should be interactive. This means that the counselor does not have to act individually during the decision-making process. The model goes further to indicate that the process should be characterized by arbitration and negotiation. During the decision-making process, the counselor must focus on the existing cultural and social factors. By so doing, they will be in a position to determine the most acceptable ethical practice or behavior (Remley & Herlihy, 2015).

The intercultural model, on the other hand, focuses on a lifelong process whereby the counselor targets the diverse needs of different subjects or clients (Luke, Goodrich, & Gilbride, 2013). The model argues that intercultural competence is something that does not occur instantaneously. The counselor should, therefore, acquire new skills and dexterities to function optimally in a diverse environment. Throughout the process, the counselors should bridge the existing differences, form desirable relationships with their clients, and control their biases. The main objective should be to overcome the differences and come up with the most desirable behaviors or practices.

This discussion shows conclusively that the models are different but focus on the same goal. The constructivist approach embraces the idea of arbitration to arrive at an acceptable ethical behavior. The intercultural model encourages counselors to begin by avoiding their values and biases (Sheperis, Henning, & Kocet, 2016). By so doing, they will find it easier to become a critical part of the decision-making process (Luke et al., 2013). The counselors then bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds using their cultural competencies. The similarity is that the two models focus on the most desirable ethical behaviors or decisions. Counselors can, therefore, use these models to make desirable ethical decisions.

Effectiveness of the Models

As mentioned earlier, the two models offer powerful incentives and strategies that can help counselors resolve a wide range of ethical and legal dilemmas. Both models encourage continuous participation and collaboration. The models also embrace the idea of multidisciplinary teams. This means that different professionals and actors will be involved throughout the ethical decision-making process (Luke et al., 2013). The effectiveness of the models explains why they are useful in addressing both ethical and legal problems.

Additionally, counselors can find these models useful whenever addressing ethical or legal problems affecting clients (or students) from diverse backgrounds. For instance, the intercultural model begins by accepting the fact that clients usually come from different backgrounds (Remley & Herlihy, 2015). The next step allows counselors to present their cultural competences. They find it easier to address the existing differences and focus on the best solution. When dealing with students, counselors can attract different players such as educationists and parents. This process will make it easier for counselors to analyze the targeted problem.

The constructivist model also empowers and guides counselors to address the ethical issues affecting their clients. The first stage associated with the model is analyzing reality through social consensual interpretation. This means that the realities of the society will be considered through the decision-making process. An interactive approach will ensure individuals from diverse backgrounds are brought together, guided, and empowered to mitigate the problem. The social gaps and differences will be addressed in an attempt to find the most desirable ethical solution (Sheperis et al., 2016). It is agreeable that the intercultural model appears to be the best bet. However, the two theories can guide counselors to resolve ethical or legal dilemmas, especially when working with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Applying the Decision-Making Models to the Selected Case

The counselor should always be “an inextricable part of the ethical decision-making process” (Remley & Herlihy, 2015, p. 15). These two models can be adequately applied to a given case in an attempt to come up with ethical solutions or decisions. This is the case because many models follow similar steps. Decision-making should also be treated as a linear progression whose unique goal is to resolve an ethical or legal dilemma. The actions presented below will, therefore, be completed in each step of the decision-making process.

Identifying and Defining the Problem

The provided case presents both a legal and ethical dilemma. It is quite evident that Marty has been abused by his classmates. Additionally, he has a speech impairment that makes it hard for other children to understand his problems (Evans, Levitt, & Henning, 2012). He has become withdrawn and depressed. Some boys in the school have threatened and bullied him. He does not want his teachers, classmates, and parents to know what has been happening to him. The boys have also threatened to hurt his little sister if he tells anyone about the abuses. His notebooks have been ripped up while his lunch money has been taken by the boys. The facts of the case also show conclusively that Marty had also been sexually abused at his previous school. This case should be tackled using a powerful ethical problem-solving strategy (Sheperis et al., 2016). Since the matter truly involves ethics, it will be appropriate to involve the right people and experts to find the best solution.

Analyzing the Ethics and Principles

Several moral questions and principles apply to Marty’s case. The first one is that his classmates have been discriminating against him because his speech is impaired. Respect for autonomy is evident in this case. The counselor might decide not to disclose the information to Marty’s classmates and teachers. Marty might refuse to cooperate throughout the process if the information is shared with his parents. Informing Marty’s parents will definitely “violate the principle of no harm” (Sheperis et al., 2016, p. 63). The principle of beneficence is applicable in the case because the ultimate goal of the process is to ensure the other learners are not abused. To act by these ethical concerns and principles, the counselor should inform Marty that the important thing is stopping the abuse (Evans et al., 2012). Using the ethic of care, the counselor should consider the age of the victim and focus on the best strategies to find the best solution. As a counselor, it will be appropriate to tune in to my emotional responses and feelings (Remley & Herlihy, 2015). My emotions regarding the case will inform my moral judgment.

Consulting with Experts and Colleagues

Before making relevant decisions, it will be appropriate to interact with the right legal experts. This is the case Marty indicates was sexually abused while he was in his previous school. The experts will present useful insights that can support my defense. It is agreeable that a legal solution would be appropriate for this problem. I will also inform the child’s parents and teachers about the ethical dilemma (Luke et al., 2013). I will also advise them not to disclose the issue before initiating the decision-making process.

Involving the Client

It is important to note that I will work with my client throughout the decision-making process. My obligation will be to empower, encourage, and mentor the client. I will monitor him frequently. I will also become his closest friend. This approach will make him more secure and confident (Evans et al., 2012). I will encourage Marty to report every kind of problem for me. This kind of involvement will play a positive role in getting the best solution to the problem.

Identifying Desired Outcomes

Two outcomes will be expected from the intervention. The first one is informing the right authorities about the sexual abuse in Marty’s former school. This approach will ensure the malpractice does not happen again. The second outcome is addressing the problem existing in the learning institution. The learners will also be involved throughout the process to understand the dangers of molesting their classmates. The boys will be empowered and guided to support Marty because he has a learning disability (Reamer, 2013). When such an objective is achieved, the boys will be ready to support Marty. Positive relationships will also emerge in the institution. The second implication is that Marty will feel empowered and protected. Consequently, he will find it easier to pursue his learning goals. The teachers will collaborate with him and meet his educational needs.

Choosing and Acting on the Best Choice

After completing the above processes, the final step will be to act on the most desirable choice. I will use the above ethical decision-making models to address the ethical dilemma affecting Marty. The interactive aspect of the models will be used to bring together the key players such as the victim, the boys, Marty’s parents, and the teachers. This strategy will ensure the decision-making is not biased. Informing the concerned parties about the problem will simplify the decision-making process. The concepts of arbitration and negotiation will ensure the process focuses on safeguarding Marty’s rights. The teachers will present their insights to discipline the schoolboys. The issue of culture also emerges from this case (Kalpana, 2014). The victim has African descent. The use of culturally competent strategies will guide the involved actors to promote collaboration. The boys should be guided to appreciate their racial backgrounds and respect one another. These measures will encourage the learners to help and guide Marty. These examples show how I will demonstrate cultural and development sensitivity.

Personal Values and Beliefs

My personal beliefs and values can impact the understanding of Marty’s situation. Remley and Herlihy (2015) indicate that “emotion informs judgment” (16). It is also agreeable that personal beliefs dictate a person’s emotions. People’s rights should be taken seriously by others. The first value is respecting others. This value will guide me to make adequate decisions that can address Marty’s challenges. Integrity is the second value that defines my counseling philosophy. I believe that human autonomy and welfare must be taken seriously (Evans et al., 2012). I will embrace these beliefs and values throughout the decision-making process. I will inform my colleagues about their beliefs and encourage them to focus on the child’s welfare.

Two unique strategies will be developed to address the influence of my personal beliefs and values. This is the case because a counselor’s values might have detrimental impacts on the decision-making process. The first strategy will be to focus on the steps outlined by the constructivist model. This means that different professionals will be involved throughout the process (Kalpana, 2014). The approach will minimize personal bias. The unique steps of the model will ensure the best values and beliefs are used to inform the decision-making process. The second strategy will entail the use of continuous collaboration (Reamer, 2013). This strategy will result in an evidence-based decision-making process capable of supporting Marty’s learning needs.


Evans, A., Levitt, D., & Henning, S. (2012). The application of ethical decision-making and self-awareness in the counselor education classroom. Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 4(2), 41-52.

Kalpana, T. (2014). A constructivist perspective on teaching and learning: A conceptual framework. International Research Journal of Social Sciences, 3(1), 27-29.

Luke, M., Goodrich, K., & Gilbride, D. (2013). Testing the intercultural model of ethical decision making with counselor trainees. Counseling and Values, 52(3), 222-234.

Reamer, G. (2013). Social work values and ethics. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Remley, T., & Herlihy, B. (2015). Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Sheperis, S., Henning, L., & Kocet, M. (2016). Ethical decision making for the 21st century counselor. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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