Ethics and Issues in Counseling
Ethics and Issues in Counseling
a) Ethics are a list of conduct or principles drawn with the purpose of providing a guideline to what defines professional practice (Corey, 2009) while values are the basis of one’s thoughts or ideals in which decisions are generated (Manthei, 1997). Certain institutions derive their own core values to help provide a guide to “proper” behaviors. In simple terms, ethics are like “rules” within a society, culture or institution while values are like “policeman” in our mind, helping us determine between desirable and non-desirable behaviors while keeping in mind these “rules” that governs them (Dolgoff, Loewenberg & Harrington, 2008).
The professional code of ethics is a guide designed to determine what constitutes professionalism in which governs the institution in the best interest of the values of the profession (Corey, 2009). It not only serves as a clarification to existing and future members of the institution or association governing it, but also helps supports the mission and vision of the institution or association.
Its objective is to provide guidelines to practitioners, clarify the professional stand of institutions and organizations governing these practitioners, and at the same time protecting the rights of clients (consumers) (Corey, Corey & Callanan, 2003). The Professional Code of Ethics also helps to bound practitioners ethically so that they do not try to impose their own values onto others and behave as moral authorities.
While the Professional Code of Ethics may be written as clear as possible and as comprehensive as possible, in reality there are person’s feelings, values, as well as emotions involved, which are absent during the compilation (Betan, 1997). The ACA Code of Ethics (2005) states “Counselors terminate a counseling relationship when it becomes reasonably apparent that the client no longer needs assistance, is not likely to benefit, or is being harmed by continued counseling.” The practitioner would be caught in a conflict when his agency deems the client fit to be discharged but he feels otherwise (Betan, 1997).
Ethical guides may not be easily integrated into one of vast cultural diversity like that of Singapore as most of the Professional Code of Ethics were formulated within that of a Western context. As such, cultural, socioeconomic as well as linguistic differences may have been neglected in the process (Betan, 1997); while the code may hold autonomy of client at high regards, the cultural stand of the client may not be so. Confidentiality itself also poses a great arguing standpoint especially in a multicultural context whereby there are traditions as well as cultural rules to adhere to (Welfel, 2012).
Another important point to not neglect while considering the limitations of the Professional Code of Ethics is its congruency towards the local state laws (Betan, 1997). For instance, one state regulation for consumption of alcohol may differ that from another. In putting ethics into consideration, practitioners should also be aware of their own local state laws.
b) Two values that I value as important in life are honesty and being just, ie to try my best to make sure I give or receive equal treatments. Being a straightforward person, I believe in being honest at all times and to take responsibility for your own actions. I believe in giving others a benefit of doubt, unless I have concrete evidence that he/she is telling a lie. I uphold the value of equality; to treat others the way you would like to be treated. Thus, I try my very best not to be bias and constantly remind myself to stay in a neutral stand when others are involved.
Because I believe strongly in always giving others the benefit of doubt, I would not doubt on the credibility of my clients’ words even though they might sound absurd. By doing so, it gains trust from clients and help in rapport building with clients. On the flip side, if the client is not a willing client, he might manipulate the trust I have and may try to lie and mislead me.
Due to my eagerness to be non-bias and be fair and just as much as I can, I may end up trying to argue and inevitably try to prove myself when some clients at times show biasness towards me due to my experience and age. This could hinder my work with them as I might try to convince them that they are being bias and indirectly in one way or another, try to argue or indirectly try hard to prove myself. This may come across to some as being argumentative, especially when I always have something to retort back whenever they say something negative, thus spoiling the therapeutic relationship. Of course, being non-bias is important in the counseling relationship as it helps one to not be judgmental and to always maintain a partial perspective.
The 6 moral principles forming the basis of functioning at the highest level of ethical profession as summarized by Corey et al. (2003, p.16) are autonomy, veracity, justice, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and fidelity.
Autonomy refers to the rights or freedom to decide and make independent decisions or choices in one’s own accord within a social and cultural context. Thus, the respect for such autonomy brings about an acceptance that others have a right to choose and act in accordance to his own wishes, unless they hinder the rights of others (Altmaier & Hansen, 2011); practitioners aim at encouraging independence in client and discourage client’s dependency on him.
Veracity or truthfulness refers to the practitioner being obliged to be truthful with his clients (Corey et al., 2003). The guideline in the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association (2002) states, “Psychologists do not make false, deceptive, or fraudulent statements…” (para. 5.01b) since trust is very important in building up a good therapeutic relationship with clients.
Justice means to be fair by providing equal treatment to all regardless of culture, religion, race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability or age, as they are entitled to equal access and treatment (Corey et al, 2003).
To be nonmaleficence means to not cause harm, including actions that might pose a risk to harm another (Altmaier & Hansen, 2011). Practitioners are responsible for their clients to ensure that their risks for exploitation or might result in potential harm are brought down to a minimal (Corey et al, 2003).
Beneficence refers to promoting the good and the wellbeing of clients and of others, to help clients grow and develop in their cultural context as well as doing good in their social context (Corey et al, 2003). In short, practitioners are responsible towards contributing to the welfare and growth of another being (Altmaier & Hansen, 2011).
Lastly but not least, fidelity means to be truthful in making honest and realistic commitments and honoring these commitments (Corey et al, 2003). It is very important to build a trusting relationship between the practitioners and the people whom they work with and thus practitioners are responsible to make sure they honor fidelity at least on their end (Altmairt & Hansen, 2011).
a) The 8 essential personal attributes of an effective counselor are emotional intelligence (EQ), warmth and care, unconditional positive attitude (regard), genuineness and authenticity, patience, analytical ability, person-centered and nurturing style of communication and lastly, clear and specific communication.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to be able to distinguish and have self-awareness of one’s own as well as others’ emotions and feelings, and to be able to use this and guide one’s behavior and thinking, hence encourages development of emotional closeness with the client (Coetzee & Jacobs, 2006).
Warmth and care is important in the therapeutic relationship in rapport building as it helps show client that the practitioner is genuinely concern (Coetzee & Jacobs, 2006). When warmth and care is present, practitioner is more aware of client’s cognitive and emotional needs and the relationship will be more accepting towards each other (Coetzee & Jacobs, 2006).
Unconditional positive attitude (regard) is important because it challenges client’s beliefs that if they do not behave in a certain way, others would not accept them. Client had to be sure that his counselor would still see him in the same way after the ‘awful truth’ is made known (Dryden, 1999).
The role of genuineness simply means to be yourself; to be sincere, transparent and not putting on a false front (Palmer & Milner, 2006). This role of being genuine and authentic is one that is most challenging, as it requires one to have very high level of self-awareness (Palmer & Milner, 2006). It is important for counselors to have this quality due to the high level of trust needed in order to build effective therapeutic relationship with clients.
Patience is an important attribute as different types of clients requires different amount of time to build the trust with practitioners and to be able to open up. While some clients do not have difficulty expressing themselves, some of them do find great difficulty in doing so and would then require much more patience and time from the counselor.
Analytical ability is important in listening as it helps the counselor to be able to analyze his own emotions as well as facial expressions while listening to the client (Singh, 2007). In terms of case study, analytical ability is also important to the counselor in helping him to analyze and decipher the bulk of information being presented to him (Singh, 2007).
Person-centeredness style of communication refers to the ability to communicate to accept another as a complete unique individual (Wood, 2009). That is to say, counselors do not form pre-conceptualized ideas on how the person is like and not make assumptions during the conversation with client. Nurturing communication occurs when parties involved in the conversation relate to each other in a caretaking manner; indicating to each other that the relationship is being valued (Wood, 2009).
Last but not least, clear and specific communication is very important in ensuring that the counseling session is being communicated in the way that it is meant to, without allowing either parties involved to have any misunderstandings after the session.
b) If I were to choose 3 attributes that I think are important for myself to undergo the necessary personal transformation, it would be patience, analytical ability and unconditional positive regard.
I think that I sometimes lack patience in a counseling session and tend to unknowingly try to rush the conversation by interrupting and not giving client enough time to think about what was being said or asked. Also at times, client may need time for reflection, resulting in pauses during the conversation. While I understand the importance of having such ‘quiet moments’ in a counseling session, I tend to be impatient and would unknowingly try to say something to fill up these ‘uneasy moments of silence’.
Analytical ability is something, which I feel I am lacked of. I find myself ‘lost’ in long lengthy conversations at times and unable to ‘process’ huge amounts of information shared. I tend to be more straight-forth in my facial expressions too, and I hope to be more cautious in this area, thus being able to give information being shared more thoughts instead of just deciphering it from the surface level.
To be able to achieve complete unconditional positive regard in a conversation is I feel, requires that of a high cognitive level. As every single individual comes from a different background and different culture and social environment, unconditional positive regards is important if counselors want to build on having a therapeutic relationship with client. Without it, clients would not want to return for further therapies or might refrain from sharing certain important information, which could be helpful in the therapeutic process.
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