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Counselor Ethics and Responsibilities Case Study

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Updated: Nov 11th, 2019

Counselor values

Counseling is a profession that inculcates the approach to the needs of the clients, presenting issues and the character of the individual. A counselor’s approach is distinct grounded on belief systems and personal values.

Counseling is a career that requires personal values as an essential part of the development of the individual and society. As such, counselors are able to influence society in which they live through the guidance of their clients in situations that have a striking life changing effect. The first section of this short essay considers specific application of a counselor’s values in specific cases.

The first scenario that I am going to consider is a case where a couple is engaged in extra-marital affairs. They are seeking my help to strengthen their marriage in spite of being committed to an open marriage. One of the fundamental values that I work under is the belief in saving marriages, as well as the restoration of relationships. To me, marriages are more than mere “contract” or “piece of paper”. They are the basis for a healthy family (ACA, 2005).

By saving a marriage, I do not imply that I simply wish to keep two people together physically. My intention is for the spouses to have a rejuvenated purpose, link, worth, and joy together. I would, therefore, counsel the clients to seek consider re-committing themselves to their marriage since their current scenario is only harming them. This will lead to a purpose driven life characterized by greater freedom, and true independence.

The second scenario is a case where a client with terminal cancer wants to commit suicide, but is hesitant to inform her family. I believe in the sacredness and dignity of life, that all people have significance and , and that no individual is without true worth in spite of of their condition. As such, I will counsel the client to consider her decision to commit suicide wisely given the fact that life is sacred, and individuals have a purpose in life regardless of their age and health condition (ACA, 2005).

Client rights

In addition to the values and principles that counselors are supposed to have in their profession, they are also obliged to give their clients rights and freedoms before and after the counseling session is initiated. One of the basic rights of a client is the right to confidentiality. The client should be provided with a clarification of the confines of this right.

Another right of a client is the right to obtain clear information about their case records in order to follow their progress (ACA, 2005). In addition, clients have a right to take part in the ongoing counseling plans. They also have a right of refusing any recommended service and advice on the repercussions of such refusal.

In my profession, I will incorporate these rights by ensuring that the information that a client provides is held confident except in special cases under which case I will explain the reasons I have to disclose the information. I will also make their casebooks available through out the counseling sessions, as well as not forcing them to participate in any recommended service.

Responsibility to warn and protect

The duty to protect refers to a counselors’ responsibility to protect intended victims of a client or others who may be at risk of harm. The duty to warn is the counselor’s responsibility to inform an endangered person when the counselor believes a client poses a serious danger to an identifiable, potential victim (Piazza & Baruth, 2009).

The two responsibilities entail breaching confidentiality. This occurs when a counselor has a dangerous client and requires extreme care. The factors that should be considered in such cases include taking steps to protect an identifiable victim from harm. This may be in form of informing a third party, notifying police, and assessing the risk for violence. The latter included client attitudes that support violence, client capacity to carry out violence and having means to complete the violent act.

Other factors to consider include the degree of client compliance with recommendations to reduce the risk and the intention to carry out the violence (Cottone & Tarvydas, 2007). For instance in a scenario where the client expresses an intent to harm self or others, or property, the counselor has a duty to protect others at the expense of breaching client confidentiality.

In a case where a the client discloses acts, either in the past or present, of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, or even the counselor has reasonable suspicion that such acts occurred or are occurring, a counselor may invoke his or her duty to warn. The ethical issues in both cases involve breaching the client’s right to confidentiality.

Client record keeping

Record keeping in counseling benefits both the client and the counselor. Counseling records contain treatment procedures, services offered, and client development. Record keeping documents the planning and implementation of an appropriate course of services allowing the counselor to monitor his or her work (Piazza & Baruth, 2009).

Appropriate records can also aid protect both the client and the counselor in case of legal or ethical proceedings. The components of a clinical record that are important for protecting the client’s rights to a standard of care is the section that details the services provided by the counselor. This component is also important to the counselor in order to avoid liability as it spells out cases where confidential information may be disclosed.

Topic of choice – suicidal clients

Working with suicidal clients is not an ethical challenge but also stressful part of counseling. I have chosen this topic because such clients are threat third parties and my career as far as confidentiality is concerned. For instance, in a scenario where a client seeks my advice on whether to commit suicide or not and yet is threatening to do so if I do not offer a solution.

In such cases, it is recommended that a counselor should identify the problem, and apply the ACA Code of Ethics (ACA, 2005). In addition, he or she should establish the nature and scope of the predicament, produce latent courses of action, reflect on the potential repercussions of all options, and lastly, assess the course of action before executing it.


American Counseling Association. (2005). Code of ethics and standards of practice. Alexandria, VA: ACA.

Cottone, R. R., & Tarvydas, V. M. (2007). Counseling ethics and decision making (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Piazza, N. J., & Baruth, N.E. (2009). Client record guidelines. Journal of Counseling and Development, 68, 313-316.

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