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Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counseling

Question:

Disuss about the Threats to Good Practice in Counseling.

The development of human services has gained great importance in the modern world and is projected to even increase in the near future at a rapid rate as compared to other professionals. It is a field that seeks to meet human needs through a system of the interdisciplinary knowledge base that cuts across the disciplines of counseling, social work, youth work as well as psychotherapy. The field focused on providing prevention mechanisms to social problems or human psychological problems affecting individuals or society at large, remediation of the problems as well as maintaining a commitment to improving the overall standards and quality of life amongst a given population as pointed out by Nuttgens and Chang (2013, p. 284). Such initiative calls for ethical frameworks for good practice in the field. However, there has been a threat among the professionals engaged in offering human services. This study will, therefore, seek to establish and provide an understanding of the threats or challenges to good practice in human services in the field of counseling and how the personal ethical framework can assist a counselor to avoid such bad practices.

In order to understand the threats to good practice in counseling, it is equally important to understand the ethical framework for good practice in counseling. This refers to the ethical code of conduct for counselors, trainers as well as the supervisors within the counseling field. The ethical framework also governs or it’s applicable to counseling research, the management of counseling services as well as in the regulation of the use of counseling skills by counseling professionals (Bond & Mitchels, 2014, p.6). The ethical frameworks are categorized into values, principles as well as to personal moral qualities. It is the understanding of these ethical frameworks that provide a basis for the understanding of the threats to good practice in the counseling field.

The values in counseling help in ensuring that the clients are comfortable and in a safe social environment to express themselves. They include respecting human dignity as well as their rights, ensuring that counselors are working constantly with clients to alleviate suffering and distress as well as maintaining a professional counselor client relationship (Lustgarten 2015, pg].154). It is also required that counselors should appreciate diversity in their client's experience and culture as well as ensuring that their clients are safe. Any action against these values is termed as a threat to good practice in the field of counseling and may be termed as professional misconduct.

Values in Counseling

On the other hand, the understanding of ethical principles is also important to the understanding of the common threats to the good practice of counseling human services. The principles are used to emphasize on the counselor's responsibilities and making them accountable for their decisions. Such principles include fidelity which helps the counselors to understand and resolve incongruence resulting from their clients. There is also a principle of autonomy which ensures that counselors respect as well as develop their client’s abilities to be self-directing in their decisions (Knox et al. 2015, p. 2114). Other principles include the principles of self-respect, justice which ensures that the appropriate legal requirements and obligations are taken care in event of a threat to good practice as well as beneficence which ensures that counselors and other professionals in the line of counseling human services department or profession act in the best interest of their clients. Lastly are the morals which dictate the code of conduct for the health professionals and include empathy, sincerity, humility, competence, and resilience.

Counseling services are very important and have a wide applicability in different areas of social life and therefore counselors play a vital role in improving the quality of life for the people in a given society. However, the success of the service provider depends on various values, principles and moral standards as discussed above from both the clients as well as the counselors (Johnson & Jackson Williams 2015, p. 442). The success of a good practice in counseling is however faced with a number of threats including; results resulting from lack of privacy and confidentiality, lack of client consent to perform or make certain counseling decisions, lack of competence in handling client problems, substitute decision making or even threats from professional misconducts.

Lack of privacy and confidentiality has been one of the major threats to good practice in counseling. For effective counseling services provision and building the right relationship than the clients, as well as the counselors, need to trust each other. If the client is not sure of the security or how safe the environment they are operating are then may not be in a position to share their problems, experiences as well as concerns to the counselors. Privacy and confidentiality are paramount and helps the clients to grow trust towards their counselors (Johnson & Jackson Williams, 2015, p. 440). Many incidences have been reported where client’s files have been found into the hands of unintended persons or unauthorized persons and resulting to cold relationships between the counselors and their clients as well as building an environment of mistrusts. Counselors are therefore supposed to provide the client with an intake form outlining the areas of confidentiality and any exceptions to it. The form should be signed before a counseling relationship starts. All the clients’ files should also be kept in a safe only accessible to the authorized persons.

Ethical Principles in Counseling

Another threat to good practice in counseling is the lack of informed consent. It is a legal requirement for the counselors to have an informed consent from their clients before undertaking any decisions or actions pertaining to the counseling services being provided (Corey, 2015, p. 2). The client's consent can take many forms as to either expressed or presumed consent, explicit or implicit, written, verbal or non-verbal consent among other forms. But whichever the form of consent given it remains that it is important for the counselors to have an informed consent. Lack of informed consent has found to result in conflicts and disagreements between the counselors and their clients and some have even led to legal action being taken against either of the parties in an event where a counselor or clients act against the wishes of the other (Bradbury et al. 2015, p. 485).

It is also important to understand the threats to good practice resulting from substituted decisions. This occurs when individuals seek support from others when faced with significant decision making instances. In most cases, these relationships are not defined in terms of agreements and therefore in event of a misunderstanding between the counselors and their clients, it becomes very difficult to establish who made a certain decision and may lead to lack of understanding and mistrust between the parties involved (Standing, 2017, p. 4). Although the law supports the idea of supportive decision-making, there must be an agreement showing that the client or the counselor decided to change or substitute his or her prior decision and the circumstances resulting in the decisions.


Lack of competency in conducting guidance and counseling has also been a major threat to good practice in counseling. It is the competency standards of a counselor that determine the value worth of pursuing counseling services (Morgan et al. 2014, p. 491). Competency is, therefore, an important component in guidance and counseling and involves marshaling of knowledge, attitudes, and skills and in most case it is usually informed by an intellectual grasp of the nature of counseling and the social context of the counselor’s client and the values worth pursuing (Stacey et al. 2015, p. 14). Lack of competency standards among counselors have affected the professional growth of counseling services as clients will only contract counselors who are competent enough to handle their problems or concerns.

Lastly, professional misconducts have also been a major threat to good practice in counseling. Every profession is guided by a certain code of conducts and certain ethical frameworks. As analyzed in the introductory part of the paper, the values, morals, and principles guiding the provision of counseling services form the most integral part in counseling (Welfel, 2015, p. 3). This is because they form to guide the code of conduct for both the counselors toward their clients as well as for the clients towards their counselors. Professional misconducts in counseling may have great impacts on the parties and especially to the clients since most of the clients approach or seek counseling services to solve their problems of remedy an ongoing situation and therefore in event of breach of the code of conducts the clients are psychologically affected. Some of the professional misconducts include lack of commitment by the counselor to solving the clients problems, lack of respect to the clients human rights as well as their dignity, acting contrary to the legal framework guiding the activities or services of counseling, lack of sincerity when conducting counseling as well as lack of maintaining privacy and confidentiality of clients records among others. Therefore these issues must be addressed appropriately and the relevant strategies should be adopted as well as developing mechanisms to address the future occurrences of these threats.

Threats to Good Practice in Counseling

According to Duffy and Passmore (2010), the term ethics is not easy to define at its lowest of the highest level in counseling. It consists of universal rules and principles underlying the laws of behavior. It is a set of values or norms held by a group or individual as acceptable standards of behavior (Duffy & Passmore 2010, p. 140). Every professional in different chosen areas of work has certain values and beliefs that are considered ethical or acceptable within the line of action. However, Nuttgens and Chang (2013) denote that some of these beliefs are often modified with the aim of making a comfortable working environment for the benefits of the workers as well as the society as a whole. As a result, Place (2010) denotes that it is essential to be aware of personal values and the impact the values often have on the profession. Therefore, it is essential to develop a personal framework that can assist an individual to avoid bad or unethical practices in their line of work, counseling for this case.

In counseling, Place (2010) point out that clients are often protected by standards, legislations, and codes of ethics. As a result, counselors and counseling organizations are required to develop procedures and policies that act as the guidelines for counseling. For instance, clients have the right to privacy, confidentiality, informed choice, complaining about services being received, and the right to informed choices. They also have the right to enjoy the treatment of dignity and respect in a manner that meets their cultural, social, and physical needs as pointed out by Duffy and Passmore (2010, p. 89). The same study denotes that clients have the rights of accessing all the information held about them in the process of being served by counselors and be informed about the policy, procedures, service, rules, and expectations of service. It is thus essential to develop a personal ethical framework that will help a counselor avoid any bad practice that might negatively impact their profession and destroy their relationships with their clients.


In a systematic study, Nuttgens and Chang (2013) denote that ethical challenges are often characterized by ‘what if’ as well as situations where there seems to be absent in a clear solution to the problem. Given the complexity of such ethical issues in counseling, the personal ethical framework is often adopted to help a counselor in resolving the issues professionally and appropriately while considering the rights of the clients. Every professional guideline and ethical codes are best on respect and care for the clients. Therefore, a professional ethical framework to be clear on the guidelines of the profession as it will give him the familiarity and guidance on all the relevant legislation. A professional ethical framework also allows an individual to explore every side of an ethical dilemma while examining the consequences of any decision or action made.

Lack of Privacy and Confidentiality

In a systematic study, Place (2010) denotes that a personal ethical framework helps a professional to employ the agency code of conduct that is reflected in the procedures and policies of the framework. In other words, it helps a counselor to demonstrate effective and proper commitment to moral standards of the acceptable professional behaviors that need to be upheld at all times when serving a client. As a result, it is essential to examine and explore the most common ethical dilemmas within the counseling profession and widely consult with colleagues to effectively adopt an ethical framework that is relevant to the duty of the counselor.

Ethical practice in counseling profession involves adherence to a strict set of guidelines that are designed to ensure client and patient satisfaction and safety with the aim of maximizing the overall results of the therapy process as pointed out by Nuttgens and Chang (2013, p. 284). The same study denotes that these guidelines are vital whether the process of counseling therapy between acquaintances and friends or under professional jurisdiction. Adopting a personal ethical framework in this important as it helps in outlining the importance of ethics in the process. The framework hence helps a counselor in examining the practical skills that need to be developed and used by counselors with the aim of maintaining a safe and fair boundary.  Arczynski and Morrow (2017) point out that personal ethical framework help in shaping the counseling practice into a monitored, effective, and safe treatment. Due to the vulnerability of those given therapies as well as the trust in place between the counselor and the client, there is a need of taking an extra care onto their mental and physical well-being. In such cases, the ethical framework is adopted with the aim of helping the clients understand the treatment involved while allowing the counselor to discuss vital issues such as cost and time of counseling.

According to Place (2010), responsibility and ownership to ethical practice are often taken to be an individual professional process. In other words, even though the ethical framework is vital to all therapy and counseling, the skills and practices adopted by the professional within the counseling therapy are often put in place at the counselors’ discretion depending on the needs of the individual clients. The framework thus helps in protecting confidentiality. In a systematic study, Duffy and Passmore (2010) point out that counselor is at times asked to provide information regarding their clients to spouses, employers, insurance companies, and administrators among other. Even though such requests can be well-intentioned, the counselors are required to be very careful in balancing the disclosure with the required ethical obligations to protect the confidentiality of their clients.

Lack of Informed Consent

Since the public puts their trust in the confidentiality and promises of the counselors, it is vital for the counselors to be clear on whether or why they have to release the information as pointed out by Nuttgens and Chang (2013, p. 284). The framework hence helps the counselor to ask questions such as in there a law mandating the disclosure? Is there a law permitting me to disclose the issue? On what basis should I make the disclosure? Has the client I represent consented the disclosure? In such cases, Gordon, Jacobs, and Wright (2016) denote that the APA Code Act stipulates that psychologists are only required to disclose the minimum information in providing the needed services, obtaining appropriate consultations, protecting the clients and others from any harm, and obtaining payment for services. In such cases, a personal ethical framework is adopted to clarify the limits of confidentiality, ensure a safe storage of any confidential information, to understand the state and federal laws, as well as to obey the mandatory reporting laws as pointed out by Arczynski and Morrow (2017, p. 192).


Ethical practice in counseling profession involves adherence to a strict set of guidelines that are designed to ensure client and patient satisfaction and safety with the aim of maximizing the overall results of the therapy process as pointed out by Nuttgens and Chang (2013, p. 284). The same study denotes that these guidelines are vital whether the process of counseling therapy between acquaintances and friends or under professional jurisdiction. Arczynski and Morrow (2017) point out that personal ethical framework help in shaping the counseling practice into a monitored, effective, and safe treatment.

Conclusion

Even though the development of human services has gained great importance in the modern world, it is still projected to increase in the near future at a rapid rate as compared to other professionals. It hence means that it is a field that seeks to meet human needs through a system of the interdisciplinary knowledge cutting across the disciplines of counseling, social work, youth work as well as psychotherapy. As a result, adopting a personal ethical framework in this field is important as it helps in outlining the importance of ethics in the process within the counseling profession. The framework hence helps a counselor in examining the practical skills that need to be developed and used by counselors with the aim of maintaining a safe and fair boundary.  Due to the vulnerability of those given therapies as well as the trust in place between the counselor and the client, there is a need of taking an extra care onto their mental and physical well-being. In such cases, the ethical framework is adopted with the aim of helping the clients understand the treatment involved while allowing the counselor to discuss vital issues such as cost and time of counseling

Substituted Decisions

List of References

Arczynski, A, & Morrow, S 2017, 'The complexities of power in feminist multicultural psychotherapy supervision', Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 64, 2, pp. 192-205, PsycARTICLES, EBSCOhost, viewed 19 August 2017.

Bond, T. and Mitchels, B., 2014.Confidentiality & Record Keeping in Counselling& Psychotherapy.SAGE.

Bradbury, A.R., Patrick-Miller, L., Long, J., Powers, J., Stopfer, J., 2015.Development of a tiered and binned genetic counseling model for informed consent in the era of multiplex testing for cancer susceptibility. Genetics in medicine: official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics, 17(6), p.485.

Corey, G., 2015. Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy.Nelson Education.

Gordon, B, Jacobs, J, & Wright, P 2016, 'Social and Emotional Learning Through a Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility Based After-School Program for Disengaged Middle-School Boys', Journal Of Teaching In Physical Education, 35, 4, pp. 358-369, SPORTDiscus with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 19 August 2017.

Johnson, A. and Jackson Williams, D., 2015. White racial identity, color-blind racial attitudes, and multicultural counseling competence.Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21(3), p.440.

Knox, K., Kelly, F., Mey, A., Hattingh, L., Fowler, J.L. and Wheeler, A.J., 2015.Australian mental health consumers' and carers' experiences of community pharmacy service.Health Expectations, 18(6), pp.2107-2120.

Lustgarten, S.D., 2015. Emerging ethical threats to client privacy in cloud communication and data storage. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 46(3), p.154.

McLeod, J., 2014. Doing research in counselling and psychotherapy. Sage

Morgan, L.W., Greenwaldt, M.E. and Gosselin, K.P., 2014.School Counselors' Perceptions of Competency in Career Counseling.Professional Counselor, 4(5), pp.481-496.

Nuttgens, S, & Chang, J 2013, 'Moral Distress Within the Supervisory Relationship: Implications for Practice and Research', Counselor Education & Supervision, 52, 4, pp. 284-296, Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost, viewed 19 August 2017.

Place, KR 2010, 'A Qualitative Examination of Public Relations Practitioner Ethical Decision Making and the Deontological Theory of Ethical Issues Management', Journal Of Mass Media Ethics, 25, 3, pp. 226-245, Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 19 August 2017.
Duffy, M, & Passmore, J 2010, 'Ethics in coaching: An ethical decision making framework for coaching psychologists', International Coaching Psychology Review, 5, 2, pp. 140-151, SPORTDiscus with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 19 August 2017.

Proctor, G.M., 2014. Values and ethics in counselling and psychotherapy.Sage.

Stacey, D., Légaré, F., Col, N.F., Bennett, C.L., Barry, M.J., Eden, K.B., Holmes?Rovner, M., Llewellyn?Thomas, H., Lyddiatt, A., Thomson, R. and Trevena, L., 2014. Decision aids for people facing health treatment or screening decisions. The Cochrane Library.

Standing, M., 2017.Clinical Judgement and Decision Making in Nursing.Learning Matters.

Welfel, E.R., 2015. Ethics in counseling & psychotherapy.Cengage Learning.

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