Personal Ethics: Counseling Perspectives Abstract: This paper will discuss the personalization of counseling ethics for myself as I work toward and become a licensed professional counselor. I will use the five ethical principles considered fundamental to the ethics of counseling. The five principles are: autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice, and fidelity. I will discuss how these principles will guide and inform my practice as a licensed professional counselor. I will define each term from a counseling perspective and how each one will contribute to my own personal ethical code of practice as a counselor.
I will then discuss how they apply to the ACA code of ethics and discuss Biblical reflection and integration. I will then show how I will make it my own personal counseling ethic and how it will be integrated into my counseling methods, techniques and practice. Autonomy; Autonomy means the independence and right of the individual to make his own decisions, (Dictionary. com). From a counseling perspective autonomy means that the client has the right to decide what they need and want in therapy and to freely express that right through various avenues as they enter therapy.
One primary way a patient can remain autonomous and in control of what he or she will allow in a counseling relationship is in the agreement to confidentiality form(s) they sign upon entering into a counseling agreement. As a patient reads an intake form given to them by their counselor and/or counseling organization at which they are considering receiving counseling is by signing or refusing to sign documents they either agree with or don’t agree with.
Some counselors and/or counseling organizations may not be allowed to take on a client, (legally, morally, ethically), if the client, through exercising their right of autonomy, refuses to sign documents or agreements which the counselor and/or counseling agency has to abide by because of legal issues or the agencies policies and procedures. Just as a client has a right to autonomy, so does the counselor and/or counseling agency, i. e. if they decide a client isn’t a “good fit,” either because they seem unwilling to sign documents that the agency needs for them to sign, or because the counselor or agency aren’t qualified to counsel a certain individual/couple/family, they may decide the client would have a better experience either with another counselor or agency. In order for this to be an ethical process for a client a counselor and/or agency decides not to take on, they should have ready lists of referrals that relate to the type of counseling the client may need.
If the client is a good fit, the counselor and/or agency needs to, in good faith, seek to update the client in face-to-face settings where they perceive things are “at,” and they need to adjust the methods of treatment, counseling, and/or types of methods which aren’t as helpful in order to preserve the integrity of both the client and the organization. This enables a client to make choices relevant to their clinical treatment as things progress. In the counseling arena, this is what autonomy looks like for a client. From the ACA Code of Ethics, A. . a. : Informed Consent talks about the fact that clients are autonomous in the fact that they can choose what they will give consent to in the counseling relationship, meaning that, ethically, they have the right to decide what they will or won’t allow as far as the role they will allow the counselor to take as well as their willingness to participate. This also means that the counselor explains things such as limits of confidentiality and their own personal or agencies policies and procedures regarding informed consent. A4b. alks about personal values of the counselor, in this context, autonomy for the client means that the therapist can’t impose their own values on the client and the client has the right to freely express themselves, within appropriate guidelines, (usually laid out in the policies and procedures and informed consent), thus maintaining their own autonomy. Section B1. Of the ACA Code talks about respecting client rights, i. e. their autonomy regarding the right to privacy and being free to expect that this right will be honored by the counselor, i. e. : the client has the right to choose what to share even within the private counseling session.
A. 1. c. of the code talks about counseling plans made with the counselor and reviewed on a regular basis. This preserves autonomy by allowing the client to choose, with the therapist’s help, what is most beneficial in their counseling relationship. A. 2. b. of the code talks about the types of information the counselor will need to know regarding services provided, then from this knowledge the client has the right to choose whether or not to pursue counseling with a particular counselor, including the right to know limitations of any procedure or treatment method.
Biblical Reflection and Integration: In the case of Biblical reflection and integration, there are a number of places where scripture reflects the idea of autonomy. There is the passage in John, chapter 3 where Jesus tells Nicodemus “you must be born again,” thus showing that, Jesus can tell a person what they need to do to see the Kingdom of heaven, but, He can’t make that decision for a person. John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, and other similar verses talk about the freedom to believe and the fact that salvation is a gift, but, it’s not a gift personal to you unless you decide to receive it.
Even submitting to God’s authority and will is an autonomous decision, no one can make that choice for anyone else! Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane wrestled greatly with this, but, ultimately, He chose to submit to the Father and say “not My will, but Yours be done,” (Luke 14). Personal Counseling Ethics: The place autonomy will have in my practice is that I will be sure that, within legal limits, I will fully disclose to clients what their rights are. I will explain how they can choose and assume certain things will and will not happen in the therapeutic relationship.
I will give as many facts as I can about expected outcomes. I will let them know I am a Christian, practicing from a Christian world view and that personally it’s very important to me. I will allow clients to tell me if they’re uncomfortable with that, and give them the right to say so. I will follow-up with answering any question(s) they may have about the therapeutic relationship if they indicate that they’re uncomfortable with overt scriptural, Christian world view type of comments and procedures.
I will be honest and let them know I’ll still be “me,” but, I’ll also allow them to let me know when they are uncomfortable with my “style. ” Last but not least, in regards to autonomy, I will make sure that the client knows that we will review the counseling plan on a regular basis, and, if they feel it needs to be re-visited, even when it’s not planned, that we will do that, and I will be willing and happy to work out any disagreements together with them, not work t out on my own and then tell the client” what we’re going to do. Beneficence: In a counseling context, beneficence means doing everything within the therapeutic relationship in a very professional way, but also in a way that is kind, supportive and beneficial to the client. In a counseling context, I also believe that it means that you always act in the best interests of the client, but, only with their full knowledge and consent.
A counselor cannot practice beneficence in counseling if he or she is looking out for the “best interests of the client” without the client having full-knowledge of and consenting to those “best interests. ” Conversely, a client can’t treat his or her counselor any way they choose and expect it not to have consequences. For example, if a male client is always making sexual innuendos toward his female therapist, he must understand that there are limits to confidentiality and beneficence if he continues to choose to behave in this manner.
The therapist has the right to, and, in fact, needs to report to authorities, superiors, whomever she is obligated to report to in order to be treated fairly. There is an imbalance of power in a counseling relationship, so, the therapist would first need to do “due diligence” in exploring why she thinks the client may be acting this way and figure out if it’s directed specifically to them, or, if it’s projection of someone else onto them.
If the counselor does need to report, the client, of course, should have already been informed of limits of confidentiality, and duty to warn, and have signed those documents so that the counseling relationship remains beneficial and supportive moving forward, even if it’s in the best interest of both the client and counselor for the client to continue with a different counselor. In the ACA Code of Ethics, A. 4. a. talks about avoiding harm, meaning that counselors act in such a way as to avoid harming their clients, also to minimize or remedy unavoidable or unanticipated harm.
A. 1. c. speaks of client and counselor creating a counseling plan together, which means that the client is aware of the goals and intent of the counseling, as well as (somewhat), how they will get there. Also, the counseling plan is revisited and revaluated often. A. 4. b. talks about the counselor not imposing their values on a client, especially when its inconsistent with counseling goals. This is also where a counselor would want to make sure they’re respecting the diversity of their clients.