The counseling practitioners are facing several ethical dilemmas, confusion, and uncertainties demanding the application of various ethical standards and codes to resolve the issues in counseling coherently. Kaplan et al. (2017) documented that ethical principles are required to protect the clients, guide their behavior, foster autonomy of the practitioners, enhance the community’s and clients’ perception of the field. In addition, they increase the status view of the field as well as enhance the collegial conduct among the professionals. The American Counseling Association (ACA) is committed to the growth and development of the counseling career in a practice setting. The vision of ACA is to promote access to counseling, development of counselors, advocate for their careers, and ensure ethical, culturally inclusive, and oriented practices, which protect the counseling service provision.
Moreover, the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) is subscribed to rigorous education, training, and clinical practices for mental health counselors. It establishes and promotes the implementation of the highest professional standard ads, pledges to abide by principles in the code of ethics, and assists the members in making sound ethical decisions (Canady, 2019). AMHCA defines ethical behaviors and members’ best practices, supports the mission of achieving sound mental health and educates its members, students, and the public on the ethical standards of mental health professionals.
Additionally, ASGW Best Practice Guidelines provide fundamental requirements for the counselors, documenting the ethical standards intended to guarantee the protection of the counseling profession, and providing consistent principles for professional counselors. The ethical principles and code of ethics protect the professionals, the clients, and consultants; ACA, AMHCA, and ASGW Best Practices address various ethical issues in counseling (Kaplan et al., 2017). Thus, the code of standards and ethics provides a framework for ethical practices and protects both the counselors and clients within the profession. This paper will summarize major ethical issues on the code of ethics: ACA, AMHCA, and ethical concerns highlighted in ASGW Best Practices Guidelines 2007 Revisions.
Major Ethical Issues on the Code of Ethics
Counseling and Professional Relationships
According to ACA, a counselor must wait for five years from the date of the counselor-clientele relationship before engaging in any form of romantic or sexual relationship with the client or their family and the client’s romantic partner. In addition, AMHCA and ASGW Best Practice Guidelines suggest that the counselor should avoid non-professional relationships with the clientele or the clients’ family or partners within the period of counseling (Thomas & Pender, 2008). The possible onset of romantic or non-professional relationships affects the outcome of the counseling process. For clients to feel comfortable expressing themselves, the relationship between the client and the counselor needs to be built on the foundation of trust. The counselors need to provide a safe and confidential environment and focus on empathetic, understanding, and respectful relationship that encourages free expression. According to Kaplan et al. (2017), Homrich and Henderson (2018), a poor counselor-clientele relationship leads to the development of a behavior pattern; both client and counselor develop partiality and judgmental mindset limiting the goal of counseling. Clients respond to poor relationships by non-disclosure of information, delay in responding to assessment questions, and communication breakdown. Thus, professionals need to maintain comfortable relationships, use open-ended question techniques to seek responses, and maintain their professional and counseling boundaries for better results. Relationships need to be based on therapeutic codes rather than social contact standards. It must follow practice, guidelines, and eliminate potential relationship inhibitors.
Confidentiality, Privileged Communication, and Privacy
Counselors need to be respectful of the different views of the clients and family and account for how the information provided is shared. They need to take precautions to ensure high levels of confidentiality when using technology, such as computers, electronic mail, and voicemail. Technological gadgets usage in the profession has both advantages and disadvantages. The counselors must focus on achieving the practical aspect of using technological applications and minimizing disadvantages surrounding misuse of clients’ information, unauthorized access, and circulation of confidential patients’ information without consent. Further, they need to maintain high levels of confidentiality regarding the deceased clients consistent with the legal requirements and policies of the profession. Professionals must heighten awareness and sensitivity to cultural meaning and implication of confidentiality and privacy; their disclosure statements should reflect the nature, purpose, goals, professional role, and responsibility. Finally, they need to notify the parents or legal guardians of the confidentiality aspect of the counseling connection to establish a working relationship to achieve better results and efficiently serve the clients.
Professional Responsibility and Role of Counsellor
According to the ACA, AMHCA, and ASGW Best Practice Guidelines, professionals should work in a confidential setting to help the clients overcome their problems and make appropriate changes in their lives. Counselors need to be alerted to the sign of personal impairments among the patients and refrain from the provision of services if the disability could increase the level of harm to the client. During the counseling process, assisting supervisors should recognize the disability and provide immediate assistance, intervention, and consultation to enhance the clients’ outcomes. The professionals must be accountable for their working group relationships, actions, and practices. The practitioners’ knowledge, skills, and techniques are appropriate at every stage of counseling. Thomas and Pender (2008) elaborated that group workers must develop and articulate a conceptual framework to guide the practice and rationalize various techniques that meet the criteria spelled in the ASGW Training Standards. In the event of death, incapacitation, and termination of the practice, the counselor should create a proper and efficient plan for transferring the details of the client and file. Similarly, professionals need to use the techniques, apply procedures, modalities, which have been proven scientifically, and their empirical foundation is based on the theories. Group workers, psychotherapists, counselors, and psycho-educationalists must apply data drive and evidence-based intervention in designing therapeutic interventions. Also, they much allow apply them in communications and implementation of various models to the therapeutic conditions: physical, emotional, and psychological trauma.
Relationships with Other Professionals
The code of ethics emphasizes that counselors must be knowledgeable about their colleagues who support the process and develop a positive working relationship. They must adopt a communication strategy, which enhances the transmission of information, sharing of ideas, and client-oriented interventions to attain results. They must maintain high levels of respect for the approaches to counseling, traditions, and practices, which are mandatory and applicable to the professional groups. Finally, ACA, AMHCA ASGW guidelines state that counselors need to focus on the development and strengthen their relations with interdisciplinary colleagues for better results. They must collaborate and assist their members to develop interventional goals, evaluate formal and informal client sessions, implement diverse approaches to define interactions, and eliminate barriers to effective counseling results. Essentially, they need to recognize the quality of interactions with other colleagues to improve the status of the services provided to the clients. Thus, maintaining a positive relationship, focused communication systems, and a memorandum of understanding with other professionals enhance the service delivery to the clients.
Preparation, Evaluation, Assessment, and Interpretation
Ethical standards elaborated that the counselors should select a suitable place and schedule the time suitable for the client. They need to consider the client’s cultural, social, and personal factors and attributes when conducting the assessment. They should be aware of the social and historical prejudices hindering the pathology process leading to the misdiagnosis of specific individuals and groups. In addition, they need to generate and develop objective findings, which are supported by scientific techniques and information during forensic evaluations. Thomas and Pender (2008) stated that in conducting clients’ assessments, group workers consider their knowledge based on cultural and background prejudiced values, beliefs, and theoretical orientations affecting the clients. Thus, practitioners will consider all the diverse aspects during the evolutional, assessment, and interpretational process.
Supervision, Training, and Teaching
Professional growth and development are essential factors in the counseling field; it is a continuous ongoing process through the career phases (Thomas & Pender, 2008). Continued career growth ensures that counselors remain up to date with current knowledge in the field, build their capacity, skills, competencies, and experience to conduct counseling sessions successfully for clients with diverse needs. During the teaching and learning processes, counselors need to maintain professional relationships with the students, keeping distance and boundaries to avoid potential misconceptions of the profession. Counselors should ensure accuracy, honesty, and fairness during the training sessions and assessments. Fundamentally, they need to evaluate educational process outcomes: results of ongoing programs, suggest improvements, and offer their contributions amounting to better and more effective programs in meeting the mission, vision, and goals of the counseling profession.
Resolution of Ethical Issues and Ethical Surveillance
Counselors should follow ethical guidelines and professional codes of conduct in solving the conflict and alleviate the potential discordances. In addition, they need to follow the legal requirements and guidelines in seeking the solution to the conflict if it may not be resolved through the application of an ethical clause. Further, they should refer the point of contention to national certification bodies and committees or license boards or relevant information to look for a coherent solution. In essence, professionals should pay attention to the moral standards and make sure that the solution to the conflicting situations follows ACA, ASGW, and AMHCA standards and codes.
Counseling is based on professional relationships that empower the diverse category of clients, families, and groups in accomplishing mental, wellness, educational, and career goals. The American Counselling Association (ACA) operates within a set guiding framework that ensures that clients and professionals attain their multiple capacities, drive value as individual professional counselors. In addition, the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) focuses on attaining the highest educational standards for councilors, training, and value-oriented clinical practices. Simultaneously, ASGW supports the ethical standards of effective groups by the publication of the principle of planning, performing, and processing groups in the profession. It highlights the best practices that need to be demonstrated within the boundaries of the major ethical issues: counseling and professional relationships, confidentiality, privileged communication, and privacy. Added, professional responsibility, evaluation, assessment and interpretations, supervision, training and teaching, and resolution of ethical issues.
Canady, V. A. (2019). AMHCA launches new credentialing, CE office for clinical MH counselors. Mental Health Weekly, 29(25), 1-3. Web.
Homrich, A. M., & Henderson, K. L. (2018). Gatekeeping in the mental health professions. American Counseling Association. Web.
Kaplan, D. M., Francis, P. C., Hermann, M. A., Baca, J. V., Goodnough, G. E., Hodges, S.,… & Wade, M. E. (2017). New concepts in the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Journal of Counseling & Development, 95(1), 110-120. Web.
Thomas, R. V., & Pender, D. A. (2008). Association for specialists in group work: Best practice guidelines 2007 revisions. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 33(2), 111- 117. Web.