Counselor Education & Supervision – Patrice Hinton Oswalt was thrilled when she opened her email to receive a much-anticipated client graduation Evite. However, choosing to accept or decline the invitation was not an easy decision.
Oswalt is acutely aware that communicating with a client outside of the counseling office can have ethical implications. But she also knows that the ethically “correct” answer can only be reached by weighing the best interests of her client. So when the client came in for her next session, Oswalt, a career counselor in private practice in Birmingham, Ala., opened the discussion by presenting the situation. She asked the woman to think about what it would be like to have her counselor present at the exam.
Counselor Education & Supervision
The client has been coming to Oswalt for a year and a half. During that time, the client was working full-time while completing a bachelor’s degree. She sought out Oswalt primarily about work matters, but the two also discussed matters related to her husband’s client relationship. If Oswalt attended a client’s graduation, there was a possibility she would meet her husband and the woman’s family. Could it bring up questions about the client’s consulting work that the client doesn’t want to deal with on their exam day?
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“I wanted her to think about it in a 360-degree way, as a whole, not just to seize the moment to invite everyone,” said Oswalt, who is a member of the American Counseling Association. After reviewing the situation, the client decided it would be best if Oswalt did not participate in the test.
Having a strong moral compass is critical to being a good counselor, said Oswalt, who, in addition to managing his own affairs, works two days a week as the assistant director of career services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “I can’t be unethical and be an effective counselor at the same time,” she said. “The counseling relationship is based on trust – clients trust that they can be vulnerable and that their counselor will not take advantage of that openness. To earn this trust as counselors, we must be trustworthy. , to prove our value and our integrity. These are standards of conduct that are directly linked to the ethics of our profession. Outside of the consulting relationship, our Code of Ethics [ACA Code of Ethics] gives us a clear professional identity, shapes how the public perceives us, and provides guidelines for the ethics of our profession. We must use our code of ethics to increase our ability to analyze issues to facilitate our ability to move into ethical aion – to make them part of our be professionals [and] be prepared to deal with ethical dilemmas before they even arise. Most of us are trained to ‘do the right thing.’ Let’s do it’. Ethics helps us ‘do the right thing’.”
Oswalt’s graduation invitation is just one example of the ethical dilemmas consultants face every day. To help counselors anticipate common ethical challenges and learn how best to address them, Counseling Today invited Oswalt and four other ACA members with expertise in counseling ethics to provide a vision.
Acknowledging that multiple relationships (called “non-professional interactions or relationships” in the ethics code) are sometimes unavoidable and acceptable when conducted ethically, Oswalt applauded. “I like that the door has been opened a little bit. It’s a realistic approach to the counseling relationship,” said Oswalt, who presented “Hot Topics in Counselor Ethics” at the ACA Annual Conference & Expo in New Orleans in March. In the past, Oswalt says, even if you were the only consultant in town, you may have felt compelled to close your office doors to someone you knew on a personal level to avoid potential boundary issues. it became especially the advisers who lived and worked in the rural areas, who could not be separated from the social life.
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Jeffrey Barnett, a professor at Loyola University in Maryland’s Department of Psychology, said the belief used to be that counselors should never have many relationships because any contact with clients outside of the counseling office was will directly have negative consequences. “But the bottom line is that there’s a big difference between crossing the line and violating the line,” said Barnett, who co-authored the Ethics Desk Reference for Counselors, published by ACA, with W. Brad Johnson.
A few relationships are now ethically acceptable, Barnett says, such as counseling with your child’s teacher if no other counselors are available in the area. “Sometimes it’s us or nothing,” he explained. Rather than recommending each and every different relationship, focus on 2005
States that “counselor-client relationships that are not professional … should be avoided, except when the interaction is beneficial to the client.” Standard A.5.d He goes on to say that “the consultant should document in case files, prior to the interaction (when possible), the reasons for the interaction, the potential benefits and the expected consequences. of the client or former client and other individuals significantly involved in the transaction. or a former client.” The standard also provides examples of beneficial interactions outside of the counseling office, which “include, but are not limited to, attending a formal event (eg, a wedding/engagement party). -take or graduate); the purchase of a service or product provided by a customer or former customer (except for unlimited merchandise); hospital visits for a family member; reciprocal membership of a professional association, organization or society.”
An important parameter to consider when considering crossing the threshold is the risk of objective impairment, Barnett said. “If it’s a conflict of interest situation or if I can’t be objective, it’s probably not a good idea,” he said. Returning to the example of counseling your child’s teacher, Barnett recommends separating the roles—don’t ask about the teacher’s frustrations at the parent-teacher conference and don’t ask about your child’s homework in the counseling session.
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If an advisor ethically chooses to cross the line with the consumer, Barnett says having a good consent policy in place is critical. “Informed consent pre-empts the employment agreement between the two parties,” he said. “Many clients may not know what their rights are, what constitutes appropriate professional behavior and inappropriate behavior. Part of [informed consent] is to educate the client. We also have to clarify our responsibilities and our duty.”
Or to use an ethical decision-making model, such as that designed by Holly Forester-Miller and Thomas Davis, before proceeding.
Some heterosexual relationships, of course, remain clear moral violations. Ted Remley, director of the counseling program at Old Dominion University and former executive director of the ACA, has served on four licensing boards over a 20-year period. During that time, he saw more than a few counselors have their licenses revoked for giving praise after engaging in sexual relations with clients. Although sexual relations with clients are clear violations of boundaries, they happen more often than people let on, Remley said.
Gary Goodnough, co-chair of the ACA Ethics Committee and professor of counseling education at Plymouth State University, agreed that sexual abuse, whether between a professor and a student or a counselor and a client, is always a hot topic in ethics. But he said that these boundary violations are rare and result from counselors who are not familiar with ethical guidelines. “I think it has to do with the unmet needs that counselors have that lead people to act to meet their needs at the expense of others,” Goodnough said.
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Like Goodnough, Remley believes that sexual misconduct occurs when counselors allow their needs to enter the counseling setting. While inappropriate relationships can take many other forms, such as a counselor going on vacation with a client or hosting clients at the counselor’s home, Remley points to sexual misconduct as the ultimate problem. Part of the solution, he said, lies in counselor education programs that address these ethical issues and prepare students to deal with them. He added that reward advisors need to process their feelings when they are socially or sexually attracted to clients by advising their peers.
“Because client engagement is such an uncomfortable topic in our profession, it’s not often discussed in preparation programs,” says Remley. “Furthermore, counselors are often reluctant to admit that they are cheating on clients. Counselors need to create a professional environment where this topic is welcomed and discussed honestly so that abuse does not occur in the future.” customers.”
Goodnough suggests that counselor educators have some responsibility when it comes to being on the lookout for red flags in student behavior. Students are enrolled in counseling programs for at least two years, which is long enough, Goodnough says, for professors to identify students with personal problems or unmet needs that could lead to serious disciplinary violations down the line. come to the street. Faculty members should monitor students and assess their sensitivity to ethical and legal issues, he added. If a problem occurs, a remedial plan can be made for the student. If the student still cannot meet the goals, he or she may be dismissed from the program.
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