Ethical dilemmas in counseling | HS6020 – Personal Values and Professional Ethics | Argosy University

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Ethical Dilemmas in Counseling

Human service administrators ought to be extra careful especially in the delivery of services to their customers. In most of the situations, the professionals experience dilemmas which are tied between their ethical, professional and legal aspects, not knowing the best approach and lane to use. If no appropriate decision is made in this process, many service providers are sued by their clients. This is usually the case when offering counselling services. Counselors are pinned down with professional, ethical, legal and social guidelines which should always be obeyed in the provision of services. Despite, they are in return required to offer satisfactory results in all situations to their clients.

In most cases, service providers in counselling agencies have been sued due to the incompetence to deal with such situation as in the case of inappropriate sexual behaviors, violation of the confidentiality of the clients, improper treatment as well as the wrong diagnosis (American Counseling Association, 2005). In the article documented by the American Psychologists Association, it is indicated that counsellors do not participate in forms of sexual aggravation, inappropriate verbal behaviors, violation of confidentiality as well as in the non-verbal unwelcome cues (Hülsheger, Alberts, Feinholdt, & Lang, 2013). 

If what documented by Hulsheger et al., (2013) is what to go with, it follows that the counsellors are not expected to have more than one type of relationship with their clients, which in most cases is usually impossible. The description of relationship deters service professionals from having any form of relationship with the client’s friends, close relatives and significant others. 

The other challenge is directly attributed to the informed consent and privacy (Fitting, 1986). In this context, counsellors are only required to assemble, collect and document only that information which is important. Collection of unnecessary information is deemed a violation of the client’s privacy rights. As the APA describes, the counsellor can only do this if he/she has received the client’s informed consent, which is provided in writing. As part of the recommendations and precautions to service providers, the APA expects that all counsellors should only collect personal information if related to the therapy under treatment (Prilleltensky, I., Dokecki, Frieden, & Wang, 2007). Most of the time, this ethical guideline become a barrier to effective administration of the counseling program.

Through the delivery of services related to counseling customers directly, the American Counseling Association advocates for the identification of these possible ethical dilemmas while at the same time monitoring on ethical sensitivity (American Counseling Association, 2005). Without this ability, it has always been difficult to resolve such situations whenever they arise. In this context, it demonstrates that a service provider that does not observe ethical sensitivity is prone to making unethical decisions. Ethical sensitivity primarily involves the analysis of a personal social and economic background and how they affect the process of making decisions and acquisition of ethical values (Prilleltensky, Dokecki, Frieden, & Wang, 2007). This process is important because it enables counsellors to identify and examine the possible ethical dilemmas of their decisions in addition to identifying what is appropriate.

Finally, in the dealing of ethical dilemmas in the provision of counselling to clients, counsellors should always prioritize the process of debating on the availability of solutions to the scenario (Pope, & Vetter, 1992). This means that counsellors should be able to weigh between the available options which are more relevant to the issues under consideration. As Sadeghi, Fischer & House (2003) argues, the deliberation process in attempts to solve these ethical dilemmas should involve the consideration of the legal aspects at stake. For example, whether the State’s law allows the counsellor to break the confidentiality law described by the American Counseling Association or whether the client’s well-being and general life are at risk. If any of these situations stands, then the law can be bent to allow the counsellor to disclose the client’s personal information. 

Generally, as described in the context above, the process of providing direct counselling services to clients is usually full of many dilemmas which should be dealt with cautiously, failure to which one can easily be sued. Most of the potential dilemmas are inappropriate sexual behavior, improper treatment and violation of confidentiality as described by the ACA. Mostly, ethical and legal aspects inclined in the profession are usually the guidelines for such operations. Even though these boundaries of the relationship between the parties exist, the counsellors are required to produce optimum results in the end. To curb these issues, service providers should always ensure that they obtain the client’s Informed Consent and privacy when collecting necessary information. Additionally, they are advised to identify possible dilemmas likely to occur and make decisions based on the available options. In their general operations, they should always ensure that they rely on their professional standards, advice from supervisors and observe regulations. Ethical principles to the problem should also be observed before arriving at any final decision. In specific perspectives, counsellors should always focus on respecting autonomy, fidelity, justice, beneficence and non-harm to their clients often when providing counseling. 

                                          References

American Counseling Association. (2005). ACA code of ethics: As approved by the ACA Governing Council, 2005. American Counseling Association.

Fitting, M. D. (1986). Ethical dilemmas in counselling elderly adults. Journal of Counseling & Development64(5), 325-327.

Hülsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J., Feinholdt, A., & Lang, J. W. (2013). Benefits of mindfulness at work: the role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology98(2), 310.

Pope, K. S., & Vetter, V. A. (1992). Ethical dilemmas encountered by members of the American Psychological Association: A national survey. American Psychologist47(3), 397.

Prilleltensky, I., Dokecki, P., Frieden, G., & Wang, V. O. (2007). Counselling for wellness and justice: Foundations and ethical dilemmas. 

Sadeghi, M., Fischer, J. M., & House, S. G. (2003). Ethical dilemmas in multicultural counselling. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development31(3), 179-191.

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