Discussion: ethical implications counselor

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Discussion: ethical implications counselor

Discussion: ethical implications counselor

Discussion: ethical implications counselor

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Should a counselor remain value-objective about controversial issues presented by a client (such as abortion, suicide, adultery, drug use, domestic violence, child abuse, etc.)? Some counselors might argue that they should not express their values or criticize their clients for these behaviors, while others would say that expressing moral judgment is appropriate.

 

Consider the information above and chapter 3 of the textbook. Write a  paper addressing the following:

  1. Analyze the ethical implications of a counselor expressing their values to a client.
  2. Identify actions a counselor might take when confronted with clients they find difficult to treat due to differences in values/beliefs regarding one or more of the following issues: abortion, suicide, adultery, drug use, domestic violence, child abuse
  3. Identify factors that might lead a counselor to consider referring a client with any controversial issues to another counselor.
  4. Describe steps a counselor should take if referral is not an option.

As a mental health counselor, you will hear intimate details of clients’ lives that may spark ethical concerns. There will be times when you are ethically and legally mandated to breach confidentiality and report certain types of situations such as suspected child abuse

At their initial visits, clients must receive detailed information about their ethical and legal rights to confidentiality and data privacy. Clients should be assured that they can open up and talk in confidence with certain exceptions to confidentiality such as disclosure of suicide plans. Both the mental health counselor and the client must understand that revealing certain secrets, such as intent to inflict immediate harm to self or others, requires reporting and intervention.

However, there may also be gray areas in which counselors face ethical dilemmas about breaching confidentiality when such statements are implied or thinly veiled. Consultation with other professionals is advisable when there is doubt.

Interpersonal Boundaries

Clients often feel closely connected to their counselors and may consider them friends. To show their gratitude, they may send flowers, gifts or invitations to special events such as graduations or weddings. Late night phone calls to the counselor’s home can occur when the client is inebriated, having a panic attack or just wants to talk. Romantic or sexual feelings toward the counselor may be expressed. Professional ethical codes developed by the American Psychological Association offer guidance on such matters.

Mental health counselors must establish and maintain appropriate professional boundaries and define the relationships as such. In general, small gifts of nominal value may be accepted if appropriate and not romantically suggestive. Ethical standards and sexual exploitation laws in many states strictly prohibit intimate dating relationships between a therapist and a client because of the power differential. Unethical behavior between a colleague and client must be reported even though it may strain your working relationship.

Boundaries of Professional Competency

Mental health counselors are ethically bound to counsel and conduct research only in areas within the bounds of their competency, credentials and level of education. They must be appropriately trained to understand how factors such as race, cultural beliefs, gender identity, disability and national origin influence a client’s needs and desired treatment goals. A client may mention a previous diagnosis that a new mental health counselor has not yet encountered, such as multiple personality disorder.

Mental health counselors face ethical issues in honestly assessing their level of skill and competency. They must have integrity and an ethical core to recognize when they should make a referral because their knowledge in an area is insufficient and may cause harm.

Personal Problems and Conflicts

Mental health counselors are not immune from having their own personal difficulties. If a mental health counselor is experiencing emotional problems due to a pending divorce, chemical use relapse or severe depression, there is an ethical obligation to seek consultation. If personal issues affect stability, objectivity, judgment or focus, the counselor may need to take a leave while undergoing therapy.

Similarly, mental health therapists must make ethical decisions about whether their personal knowledge or connection to a particular client may require referral to another therapist due to a role conflict. For example, a mental health therapist should not counsel a next-door neighbor. Such dilemmas may be common when practicing in a small town where few therapists are available.

References (4)

Resources (1)

About the Author

Mary Dowd holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master’s in counseling and student affairs from Minnesota State Mankato. Helping students succeed has been her passion while serving in many areas of student affairs and adjunct teaching. Currently she is a dean of students at a large, public university. Dr. Dpwd’s writing experience includes published research, training materials and hundreds of practical online articles.

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