Ethical issues are now just as much of a concern as they were thirty years or more ago. (Qian, Gao, Yao & Rodriguez) Ethics are a clear set of principles dealing with what is considered appropriate behavior in-group and individual counseling. These standards were created not only to protect clients, but also to protect counselors. As a counselor, a fine line can easily be crossed if the counselor and/or the client do not follow and understand basic rules that are in place regarding ethical interactions between clients and counselors. It is evident that no matter what area of counseling one chooses to go into, there are always concerns and issues with ethical boundaries, and what is and is not acceptable. (Justice & Garland) Every Human interaction involves the interpretation of roles and interpersonal boundaries. These roles dictate what behavior is appropriate and inappropriate professionally and personally. In the current essay, I will discuss two areas of ethical concern that are pertinent to me. The two areas that will be discussed relate to ethical issues with dual relationships with clients, and confidentiality. This essay consists of a review of pertinent articles that address these issues in an attempt to give insight into these issues as well as effective ways of dealing with them.
Calley reiterates that professional ethics are beliefs about behavior and conduct that guide professional practices. In the counseling profession, ethical standards are required to protect clients, guide professional behavior, ensure the autonomy of professionals, increase the status of the profession, enhance the client's and the community's trust in the profession, and articulate collegial conduct between professionals. Ethical codes provide a framework for interpreting specific forms of conduct to regulate the ethical behaviors of the membership of professional organizations, thereby providing guidance to the profession. Furthermore, as individuals commit to upholding ethical standards of practice as a requirement for membership in professional organizations, ethical codes serve as a binding force for the profession, uniting professionals around appropriate conduct.
Ethical decision-making is an ongoing process reports Moleski & Kiselica in their research. The article goes on to discuss that there are no easy shortcut when dealing with ethics and clients. There is a constant need to balance one's life experiences and values with professional codes of ethics. This further affirms that counselors need to have a firm grasp on ethical codes and the consequences that come along with not following them closely. Full knowledge allows a counselor to be able to set clear and concise boundaries. The article does explain that though guidelines are given, perfect answers are not provided for the proper behavior in every situation that a counselor may face. Therefore, sound judgment is necessary to insure the proper handling of each situation. The researchers further reiterate that some of the most challenging ethical issues stem from dual relationships. (Kocet) A code of ethics for most professional organizations is designed to articulate the standards of practice for a group of people. This article explains that a code of ethics is a way to express the collective values of a profession. This code of ethics is also seen as a living document that can assist an individual to know proper protocol and procedures.
There are two central components of a code of ethics for counselors (Kocet): First, a code outlines the prescribed or mandatory professional behaviors by which counselors are expected to govern their conduct, and, second, a code contains aspirational components, which encourage active ethical reflection that fosters clarification of the fundamental ethical beliefs of the profession. No code of ethics can encompass every potential ethical dilemma faced by a professional; however, a code of ethics can serve as a blueprint for laying the foundation necessary to promote the competency and efficacy of counselors. The Code is revised approximately every 7 to 10 years and provides an opportunity for the counseling profession to examine current practices and issues faced by professionals in the roles and settings in which counselors most frequently work (such as mental health agencies, schools, research, clinical practice, supervision, and counselor education). A central focus of the professional code of ethics is to help guide professional practice with clients, students, supervisees, colleagues, and research participants. A code of ethics is designed to protect the well-being of those served by counselors, as well as to advance the work of the profession.
(Younggren & Gottlieb) Professional practice abounds with the potential for multiple relationships, and the circumstances under which these types of relationships occur are quite varied. Although psychologists frequently choose to enter into these types of relationship, many may actually be unavoidable, and in some situations, one can even conceptualize the avoidance of the dual relationship not only as unethical but also as potentially destructive to treatment itself. To avoid all contact with patients in this situation would require the practitioner to lead the life of a virtual hermit. To make matters worse, this type of unusual conduct could raise questions in the minds of other members of the community as to why the practitioner acts in such a manner. A socially isolated practitioner will attract few patients and arguably will serve them less well by failing to integrate himself or herself into the community. Such examples have forced the profession to accept the logical position that not all multiple relationships are unethical per se.
In one of the first articles, that I read it was best explained by saying that, (Shiau) dual relationships are complex and common issues found in the counseling profession. These issues will be experienced regardless of the role that one plays in the counseling field i.e. counseling, educator, supervisor, and practitioners. (Justice & Garland) Social workers also struggle on a regular basis with what is and is not ethical with clients. Regardless, at some point in your career, this inevitable situation will come about and has to be handled accordingly. Researchers continue to express that ethical issues that encircle dual relationships have continued to generate controversy, and are of considerable concern for those counselors in the mental health field (Hollander, Bauer, Herlihy & McCollum). These dual relationships are a violation of the therapeutic boundaries, and consist of a counselor having a relationship with a client outside of the counseling that is being sought after. Counselors, have an obligation to avoid dual relationships, these dual relationships can impair the professional judgment of the counselor, and may be detrimental to the mental well-being of the client.
(Moleski & Kiselica) Dual relationships occur anytime a counselor blends professional and non-professional relationships with a client. The research indicates that usually when there are multiple relationships between a counselor and client, the additional relationship is classified either as sexual or non-sexual. Sexual dual relationships are viewed as abusive; these relationships can be obvious i.e. sexual contact, kissing etc. Or less obvious i.e. sexual gazes and seductiveness. Dual relationships can come about in two ways: by choice and by chance. When dual relationships are formed because of a conscious choice made by the counselor, he or she must examine the potential positive and negative consequences that the secondary relationship might have for the primary counseling relationship. The counselor should choose to enter into the dual relationship only when it is clear that such a relationship is in the client's best interests. However, in some circumstances, the counselor has little choice about engaging in a dual relationship.
Calley discusses that much of the counseling literature has provided a foundation upon which to teach and assist those entering the field to acquire an understanding of ethics. However, application of ethics has been largely limited to general counseling practice rather than to working with specific populations within specific public systems. Additionally, there is little literature that directly addresses making ethical standards explicit in specific counseling practices, such as the child welfare and the criminal justice systems. As counselor may find himself or herself working in a continuously expanding range of work settings, challenges related to the application of specific standards of the Code (ACA, 2005) may increase; therefore, tools that promote a more focused contextual understanding of ethics are needed.
Hollander, Bauer, Herlihy & McCollum conducted research that focused on dual relationships and substance abuse counselors. The research begins by explaining that data suggests that substance abuse counselors are the most at risk and are most often faced with the ethical issue of dual relationships. In the study conducted a random sampling of Board Certified Counselors (BCSACs) throughout 31 states that responded to a request regarding ethical criteria and adherence. 387 surveys were returned and utilized in this study; A demographic questionnaire and a survey "The multiple Relationship Survey for Substance Abuse Counselors (MRSSAC). The questionnaire was given to all participants in an attempt to gather information regarding their beliefs and multiple relationships. Validity of the questionnaire was examined through content and construct validity, this was determined through a review conducted by three experts in substance abuse counseling.
Results of the research (Hollander, Bauer, Herlihy & McCollum) indicated that educations…