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Counselor Ethics: Decision-Making Practice Versus Theory Term Paper

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Updated: May 16th, 2020

Locating ethical codes

There are several ethical codes that a counselor can consult with. The American Mental Health Counselors Association (2010) has revised its AMHCA Code of Ethics. The National Board for Certified Counselors (2012) has published the NBCC Code of Ethics. A new ethical code by the American Counseling Association (ACA) Governing Council (2014) named “2014 ACA Code of Ethics” was issued one year ago. All these codes are available on the official websites of the named organizations. Since it is important to timely revise the set of ethical rules, it appears logical to abide by the most recent code, that of the ACA. The association seems to recognize the significance of updating information and it encourages the readers of the Code to check the website for new information on the topic.

The attention paid to the ethical issues of counseling demonstrates their significance. As shown in the research of Rust, Raskin and Hill (2013), it is necessary to ensure that counselors have respect to the ethical guidelines accepted in the modern society. Certain severe cases of disregard to ethical codes (for example, getting involved in a sexual relationship with a client) can lead to a counselor being dismissed for failing to meet professional competence requirements (Rust et al., 2013).

Locating Florida laws

It does not appear difficult to locate the state laws which regulate the practice of counseling. The laws of Florida are available on the Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature (2015). The section named “The 2013 Florida Statutes: Clinical, Counseling and Psychotherapy Statuses” is devoted to most counseling issues. The site is continuously updated to ensure that it provides relevant information for the citizens of the state.

The site of the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling of Florida has a section named Licensed Mental Health Counselor (2015). It contains convenient links to the pages of the Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature that are concerned with all the topics that may be useful for a counselor, even those which are not included in the section devoted specifically to counseling.

Particular Issues: Applying the Laws and Codes

Ethical decision-making has attracted attention of scientists, even though, according to Levitt, Farry and Mazzarella (2015), more research should be devoted to the topic. As the studies of Levitt et al. (2015) or Kocet and Herlihy (2014) suggest, counselor’s personal views, values, and perception of ethics may affect their decisions in a negative way. Still, according to the authors, counselors take into account clients’ well-being and intend to choose just, sound options. The mentioned ethical codes may facilitate this process.

First Issue

As it has been mentioned, sexual misconduct is a severe violation of counselors’ ethical codes. According to the Florida laws, it is considered a felony of the third or the second degree depending on the number of violations (Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature, 2015). However, in case a professional relationship was not terminated for the sake of starting a romantic one the latter may be considered legal. According to ACA Code of Ethics, it is possible to engage in a relationship with a former client in case a period of five years has passed since the time of the last professional contact (American Counseling Association Governing Council, 2014, p. 5).

Therefore, if a former client contacts his or her counselor in order to start a romantic relationship before this (for example, after a period of three years as suggested by the assignment), accepting it would not be regarded as a felony but as a violation of ethical code. A counselor must reject the client’s advances, explaining that the professional ethics does not allow this.

Second Issue

Receiving a gift as a token of gratitude is not a violation of Florida laws since it is clearly not a bribe. Indeed, refusing a gift may offend the clients, especially in case their culture demands expressing respect in such a way. ACA Code of Ethics encourages counselors to take into account the specific aspects of every situation and make a decision that is most beneficial for the client. It seems rational to reject the gift of money and explain that it is against our professional ethics unless that would deeply offend the clients.

Third Issue

Both the ACA Code of Ethics and the section 491.0147 of Florida regulations of professions and occupations suggest that it is possible to disclose confidential information in case a third party can be harmed elsewise. Therefore, it is not only legal but ethical to disclose the information about an HIV-positive patient who leads active sexual life to the parties concerned. It seems reasonable to attempt to convince the client to inform his or her partners, but in case of refusal it would be extremely unethical not to disclose this information.

Conclusion

It appears that in many cases ethical decision-making is a complex process. While laws and ethical codes provide guidelines, it is the counselors who have to make a decision. Taking into account all the aspects of every particular situation seems to be a key to succeeding.

References

American Counseling Association Governing Council. (2014). . Web.

American Mental Health Counselors Association. (2010). AMHCA Code of Ethics. Web.

Kocet, M., & Herlihy, B. (2014). Addressing Value-Based Conflicts Within the Counseling Relationship: A Decision-Making Model. Journal Of Counseling & Development, 92(2), 180-186. Web.

Levitt, D., Farry, T., & Mazzarella, J. (2015). Counselor Ethical Reasoning: Decision-Making Practice Versus Theory. Counseling And Values, 60(1), 84-99. Web.

. (2015). Web.

National Board for Certified Counselors. (2012). NBCC Code of Ethics. Web.

Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature. (2015). . Web.

Rust, J., Raskin, J., & Hill, M. (2013). Problems of Professional Competence Among Counselor Trainees: Programmatic Issues and Guidelines. Counselor Education And Supervision, 52(1), 30-42. Web.

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