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The American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics suggests that counselors must undertake a “cautiously deliberated ethical decision-making procedures” (p. 4) when they experience complex ethical dilemmas.
The ethical standard further requires that counselors must be able to identify and apply all valid ethical decision-making models. The ACA code is the only standard, among profession standards, that insists on the significance of knowing and applying ethical decision-making models.
The aim of this paper is to compare two ethical decision-making models and use one method to solve an ethical dilemma presented in a case study. Family counseling is an area that presents complex ethical dilemmas for professionals.
In this report, the critical-evaluation model and the virtue ethics model are compared. The steps characteristic to each model is summarized. Subsequently, the critical-evaluation model solves the ethical dilemma presented in the case study.
Comparing Critical-Evaluation Model to Virtue Ethics Model
The critical-evaluation was developed by Kitchener in 1984 in accordance with the standards of independence, justice, beneficence, non-malfeasance, veracity and fidelity (Carnes-Holt, K. & Bratton, 2014). The critical-evaluation model for decision-making requires a counselor to apply eight steps before making a decision.
When confronted with an ethical dilemma, the counselor must first identify the moral, ethical, and legal aspects of the situation. Also, the counselor identifies potential stakeholders, issues, stakeholders’ roles, and the challenging standards characteristic to the situation. Subsequently, the counselor shall reviews the ethical principles of counseling against personal morals and idea of the dilemma.
At the fourth stage, the critical-evaluation model requires the counselor to identify the applicable laws and standards within the jurisdiction of practice. After satisfying the four stages, the counselor can engage in the counseling process following ACA principles. The sixth step for the counselor to take is to consider the possible solutions, and the requirement of all stakeholders.
At the seventh stage, the counselor shall list possible penalties of various decisions for each party involved. Lastly, the counselor decides the best option to apply (McMahon, Mason & Daluga-Guenther, 2014).
From the steps presented by the critical-evaluation model focus on the importance of ensuring standard procedures during counseling tries to prevent the counselor from taking a decision that does not conform to the ACA principles.
The virtue ethics decision-making model is a counseling approach that guides majority of the professional codes. Aside from some provisions in some standards, only a few sections of the document, are related to virtue ethics. The virtue-ethics model of decision-making entails the professional to look within and create an opportunity for a reflective course of action.
Reflection during ethical decision-making process invites expressive experiences of kindness and empathy. Emotion in decision-making, which is a valid element of an ethically good intention, is not a group of laws but is an infusion of human interaction, emotion, and sympathy with the areas of personal circumstances.
Unlike the critical-evolution model of decision-making, which is performed by conformity to standards and counseling principles, a decision-making procedure based on virtue ethics focuses on responding to specific personal questions. Infusing virtue ethics into the decision-making process require the counselor to be buried into the process.
While the success of the critical-evaluation model depends on the counselor’s ability to apply a process that conforms to standards, the virtue ethics decision-making process depends on the counselor’s ability to create a connection between personality and the situation. The counselor assumes the emotions and feelings of the client and provides counseling according to the perceived feelings.
Both methods are effective for the ethical decision making (Flynn & Olson, 2014) since they are the basis for the development of other ethical decision-making models. The critical-evaluation and virtue ethics decision-making models are the foundations for other decision making models.
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While researchers have analyzed the efficiency of the methods, no decision-making model has been proved to supersede another. Therefore, it is the duty of the counselor to implement and justify the practicality of resolving an ethical problem through a selected procedure.
Using the Critical-Evaluation Model for the Case Study
The previous section highlights the differences between the critical-evaluation model and the virtue ethics model of ethical decision-making in counseling. This section applies the critical-evaluation model for an immigrant couple accused of child abuse and neglect.
For the current ethical dilemma, the counselor shall identify the moral, ethical, and legal aspects of the situation. The moral, ethical and legal aspects in this case are the child abuse and neglect. The presence of cultural diversity may reduce the intensity of the moral issues.
The stakeholders in the case are the parents and their two children. According to ethical, moral, and legal provisions of the jurisdiction, the parents are neglectful and abusive of their children.
The counselor shall review the ethical principles of counseling against personal morals and idea of the dilemma. Considering the difference in culture, ideology, and beliefs, the counselor shall create a balance by discussing the moral standards of the jurisdiction with the client. The counselor should avoid being judgmental towards the stakeholders instead discuss cultural diversity and the role it plays in the current situation.
At the fourth stage, the critical-evaluation model requires the counselor to identify the applicable laws and standards within the jurisdiction of practice. According to the laws, the counselor must disclose the current scenario to the appropriate authorities.
According to the jurisdictional laws, the parents have neglected their children and must be reported to the appropriate authority. Before counseling, the counselor informs the client of the need to disclose the current situation to the appropriate authorities.
The sixth step for the counselor to take is to consider the possible solutions, and the requirement of all stakeholders. Counseling principles requires that the counselor takes a decision that is legal but does not discourage the client from continuing the counseling sessions. To achieve this, the counselor shall inform the client of the need to disclose the situation to the authority.
However, the counselor will inform the client the disclosure is necessary to prevent future legal implications and not to incriminate the client. Counseling will begin when the counselor perceives that the client is physically and psychologically willing to continue the counseling sessions.
Understanding the significance of laws and standards on the situation will reduce the complexity of the ethical dilemma and improve my decision-making speed. In November 2013, the Children’s Bureau recently enacted a “Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect Report” alongside fifty-state laws. The document provides and interests obligatory reporting legislation.
The laws require members of specific occupation to disclose the identity of any client suspected of child neglect or abuse. The document also explains standards for disclosure, restricted interactions, and full disclosure of reporter’s personality (Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect State Statute Overview, 2015).
As stipulated by this provision, the counselor will disclose the activities of the parents to the appropriate authorities. Although the principles of the virtue ethics model may contradict this cause of action, the critical-evaluation model requires that counselors conform to all standards and legitimacies before considering empathy. This course of action will be taken before the second counseling session.
The clients may explain their concern about the effect of the situation on the immigration however, the counselor must understand that the critical-evaluation model requires counselors consider legal obligations over emotion and empathy.
Cultural diversity between the counselor and the client may increase the complexity of the ethical dilemma in the scenario. The critical-evaluation model of ethical decision-making requires that the counselor conforms to professional methods of interacting with the multicultural clients.
To mitigate the effects of the ethical dilemma caused by multicultural interaction, the counselor shall follow steps developed by ACA standards of counseling. In the first step, the counselor will discuss with the client and identify the problem.
The characteristic Western method of seeking responses by asking direct questions is not common with other cultures. The counselor will use nonverbal communication, such as eye contact and body language. Oral communication will be done by the counselor through open-ended question. Immigrants view this method communication as too invasive and impolite.
The counselor shall acknowledge and respond to cultural variations to establish the trust required for the parents to continue the counseling sessions. An effective tool the counselor may use to engage the immigrant parents is an open acknowledgement of the clients’ cultural differences. The counselor shall openly inform the immigrant parents he knows of their cultural difference and will relate to them politely and gently.
However, the counselor shall be careful to not to undermine the parents’ belief that the counselor will provide professional assistance and apply the best course of action.
Another method of interaction with the multicultural clients is by showing wiliness to understand their culture, their ideologies, problem resolution method, and belief system. When counselors learn about clients’ realities, it allows them to take culturally sensitive decisions.
Reflection contributes to making a counselor culturally competent (Flynn & Olson, 2014). To achieve this, the counselor must first understand their perception and ideology of the world. Through reflection, counselors can uncover their emotions, prejudices, and stereotypical perception of the multicultural clients (Stambaugh & Ford, 2015).
The counselor shall apply reflection by being open-minded and enthusiastic to learn about culturally diverse communities. However, the counselor must understand that attaining awareness is a continuous process attainable by permitting new information to contribute to their professional development.
Beliefs and values affect the way clients understand situations and the choices they make responding to the ethical and legal issues that may arise when working with the multicultural family. Respect for the client is one of the most significant characteristics of professional counseling (Rosin, 2015).
Notwithstanding the clients’ socioeconomic status or general behavior, the purpose of every counseling session is to help the client and treat them as valuable people. Counselors suggest that every individual possesses positive attitudes and the success of a counseling session depends on the counselor’s ability to relate to that positive spot (Leibert & Dunne-Bryant, 2015).
It is the responsibility of the counselor to improve the esteem of all the members of the family. The counselor will improve the worth of the clients by interacting with them fondly and smiling often from the first counseling session with all subsequent sessions.
For example, the counselor shall not make the parents feel guilty for the leaving their children to walk home from school but will focus on appreciating the parents’ positive academic intentions for their children. The counselor can take advantage of the cultural diversity he shares with the clients.
For example, instead of explaining that the parents were wrong by making their children walk, the counselor can joke about the difference in strength between Western children and immigrant children.
Personal values and beliefs also influence the success of multicultural counseling schedules. The counselor must understand it is disrespectful to force personal values and beliefs on clients (Rosin, 2015). The counselor must accept the clients’ perceptions of life. When counselors impose their beliefs and values on the client, the clients react by rebuffing the values and losing interest in the counseling program.
The clients have shown that they are not willing to continue the counseling program. If they cannot withdraw from the program because of their immigration status concerns, they may withdraw psychologically, and become apathetic to receive the recommendations of the counselor. Forcing values on the client is a sign of judgment.
To avoid this, the counselor will sensitively discuss the difference in values and emphasize that notwithstanding the ideology or values, the bottom-line is to promote the safety of the children.
Ironically, when therapists acknowledge the client for their personality notwithstanding their ideologies, eventually, the ideologies of the client incline towards the counselor’s ideology, because the counselor becomes the client’s mentor. However, the counselor may become confused about his responsibility to the client. A counselor unsure about their roles must contact his superior.
The counselor shall understand that the most important role is to address a client’s counseling needs. Confidentiality is an important characteristic of every counseling process. However, the ethical dilemma faced by the counselor in the current situation requires that the counselor discloses information to the appropriate authorities.
Although the counselor must remain aware of their legal and ethical obligations to their clients, their first responsibility is to their company. Thus, the primary responsibility of the counselor is to provide counseling that conforms to all the standards and stipulations that guide their jurisdiction. Failure to disclose the current situation will put the counselor’s company at legal risk.
To prevent any legal issues, the counselor must discuss with the client, without imposing ideologies, the need to disclose the current situation to the appropriate authority. In doing this, the counselor shall encourage the client to continue the subsequent counseling sessions.
For example, the counselor shall inform the client the counseling sessions are not designed to show that the client guilty of crime but it exposes the client to the orientation characteristic to the Western system. This will prevent the counselor from imposing beliefs and values on the client and will encourage the family to continue the counseling sessions.
The paper presented a comparative analysis of two ethical decision-making models and used one method to proffer solutions to an ethical dilemma in a case study. After comparing the critical-evaluation model with the virtue ethics model, the critical-evaluation model was used to determine a course of action for the current case study.
The role of the counselor in implementing the critical evaluation decision-making model was analyzed. When confronted with ethical dilemmas, counselors must balance legal requirements with the influences of cultural diversity and ideological differences.
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