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Ethics and Technology: Counselor Competence Case Study

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Updated: Jan 22nd, 2021

Online mental health counseling

Any person deserves mental health counseling including online one. If I decide to provide online mental health counseling, I will act according to current APA Ethics Code. The problem of confidentiality and record-keeping concerning a man who is struggling with his attraction to teenage-girls is crucial. According to APA Ethic Code, “counselors can discuss confidential information only in settings in which they can reasonably ensure client privacy” and they are “responsible for understanding and adhering to state, federal, agency, or institutional policies or applicable guidelines regarding confidentiality in their research practices” (King, 2012, p. 102). However, “text-based counseling can technically leave behind a written transcript of the entire counseling session, whether by instant messaging log or send and received emails” (Rummell & Joyce, 2010, p. 488). Therefore, I will discuss with the patient all the security issues and set rules to avoid possible problems.

First of all, I will inform the client about “encryption methods being used to help ensure the security of client/councilor/supervision communication” (Heinlen, Welfel, Richmond, & Rak, 2003, p. 65). For example, according to Heinlen et al., (2003), “the most common encryption method used was “Secure Socket Layer” with “Pretty Good Privacy” (p. 65). Hence, I will use the most secured encryption method possible and inform the client about it. Moreover, I will set up coding words for me and the patient to use for emails or other written communication to make sure the patient and I are sure we are communicating with the right person.

Counselor Competence

According to Remley and Herlihy (2014), a counseling profession is in identity crisis because it is subjective and vague. However, the core competences of counseling are the following: providing health care service, avoiding harm and corresponding to ethical standards of ACA, APA, AAMFT, and NASW. In other words, ethical standards contain professional roles and functions of counseling (Herlihy & Corey, 2015).

In particular, I will develop multicultural competence because “multicultural counseling competency is required across all counseling specialties”, and counselors should “gain knowledge, personal awareness, sensitivity, dispositions, and skills pertinent to being a culturally competent counselor in working with a diverse client population” (ACA Code of Ethics, 2014, p. 8). For example, when counseling, I will focus on the fact that “self-identity involves the lifelong task of searching and includes the synthesis of numerous childhood sociocultural experiences” (King, 2012, p. 36).

In case of experiencing issues of burnout, impairment, or personal distress I will consult with my colleagues and seek for professional help. According to ACA Code of Ethics (2014), for example, “counselors monitor themselves for signs of impairment from their own physical, mental, or emotional problems and refrain from offering or providing professional services when impaired” (p. 9). I think it is not professional and not possible to treat yourself, so remedial actions should be taken by competent specialists.

If I get a request for friendship on social media, for example, Facebook or Twitter from my patient, I will ask the patient to discuss this issue during the next session. During the session I will explain the norms of confidentiality and emphasize the lack of security provided by social networks. Moreover, I will explain to the patient that any relationship outside sessions can impair my objectivity and therefore effectiveness of the treatment. So, I cannot risk my patients’ health by accepting any friendship requests on social media from patients.

Referrals should be handled according to ACA. In case “counselors lack the competence to be of professional assistance to clients, they avoid entering or continuing counseling relationships” (ACA Code of Ethics, 2014, p. 6). Hence, I will reflect on my knowledge, and in case there are some cultural and clinical hazards for taking a patient, I will suggest the alternatives.


(2014). Web.

Heinlen, K. T., Welfel, E. R., Richmond, E. N., & Rak, C. F. (2003). The scope of WebCounseling: A survey of services and compliance with NBCC standards for the ethical practice of WebCounseling. Journal of Counseling and Development, 81(1), 61-69.

Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2015). ACA ethical standards casebook (7th ed.). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

King, J. H. (2012). How ethical codes define counselor professional identity (Dissertation, Capella University, Minneapolis, MN). Web.

Remley, T. P. & Herlihy, B. P. (2014). Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Rummell, C., & Joyce, R. (2010). “So wat do u want to wrk on 2day?” The ethical implications of online counseling. Ethics and Behavior, 20(6), 382-496.

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