People are raised in different cultural setups. They learn different practices or customs for which they define their own values. Thus, their definition of ethical behavior or appropriate behavior, and personal opinions are influenced by their present or previous cultural setups or both. This is clearly illustrated when people debate on social concepts such as abortion, suicide, drug use, domestic violence and child abuse
Counselors are expected to be very ethical in rendering their services. However, it is very difficult to define what is right or wrong without inclusion of values. For instance, consider a case of abortion. A client may assume a prochoice approach whereas a counselor assumes a prolife approach.
These diametric perspectives can be a source of conflict between a client and counselor especially if a client feels during a counseling session. In such a case, a counselor is coerced to adopt value neutrality.
A counselor should be objective in handling his or her clients. Thus, value neutrality should be avoided because it jeopardizes the objectivity of the counselor.
Moreover, most known values, depending on the circumstances, are relative and are subjected to change i.e. an acceptable value can become an unethical or despicable behavior when certain circumstances change (Dolgoff, Loewenberg, & Harrington, 2011).
For example, a counselor should clearly state that domestic violence is wrong irrespective of the spouse’s cultural background or personality. This can be the only way to end such a vice.
Critics of the above approach argue that, a counselor should not express their values. This is because all situations are not equal and any form of opinion is likely to lead to unprecedented negative consequences. In addition, in the process of opinion expression, a counselor might be biased in a problem approach or may be subjected to stereotyping.
For instance, a case of child abuse over child discipline, whereby a parent uses a belt to hit or discipline a child, would be handled accurately with a nonjudgmental approach. Otherwise a parent may opt to immediately cease disclosing any other useful information to the counselor based on the counselor’s opinions.
A counselor needs to know when to be objective and when to subjective. He or she has to be attentive enough to the client’s perspective and ask questions if necessary. Based on the presented facts, the counselor would decide which method is best to handle a client (Kuhse & Singer, 2006).
Counselors will refer clients to other counselors whenever they feel inadequate to help a client or when they have offered assistance to the client but the client shows no improvement. For example, cases of drug and substance abuse, a psychologist may refer a patient to a psychiatrist.
There are cases in which referral is an option. Such cases would require involvement of family members or close in assisting the clients. A counselor must use his or her skills to obtain this type of information from the client.
In conclusion, there is no single means of handling all counseling clients. However, a combination of methods can be deployed for any isolated case. Value neutrality should only be used where it’s necessary, otherwise it should be avoided.
Dolgoff, R., Loewenberg, F., & Harrington, D. (2011). Ethical Decisions for Social Work Practice. New York: Cengage Learning.
Kuhse, H., & Singer, P. (2006). Bioethics: An Anthology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.