The code of ethics and the counseling relationship

The code of ethics as it pertains to the counseling relationship
is meant to define and guide the therapeutic relationship. Clinicians work hard
to create and sustain a relationship with their clients based on trust. It is
important to obtain informed consent from clients when entering any type of
counseling relationship. The code of ethics aims to ensure clinician
respect  client’s confidentiality and
privacy rights. The importance of informing the client of counseling
expectations including rules, sessions, group work, and cost is stressed. It is
also important to be cognizant of clients cultural backgrounds and belief
systems. “The primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity
and promote the welfare of clients. Counselors create, safeguard, and maintain
documentation necessary for rendering professional services (ACA 2014)”. ” Counselors
recognize that support networks hold various meanings in the lives of clients
and consider enlisting the support, understanding, and involvement of others
(ACA 2014)”.

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While counselors like other individuals hold their own beliefs
and values it is important to respect the boundaries, beliefs and values of our
clients. “Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values,
attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients,
trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are
at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s
values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in
nature. (ACA 2014).”

Confidentiality

Counselors are responsible for educating clients on the concept
of confidentiality,  and informing
clients about the limitations of confidentiality regarding what situations
information must be disclosed and in what situations. Clinicians should also discuss
if and how client information could or must be shared with others and aintain
and store records in a way that maintains confidentiality standards. “Counselors
protect the confidential information of prospective and current clients.
Counselors disclose information only with appropriate consent or with sound
legal or ethical justification. To the extent possible, clients are informed
before confidential information is disclosed and are involved in the disclosure
decision-making process. When circumstances require the disclosure of
confidential information, only essential information is revealed. (ACA 2014).”

Professional responsibility

Clinicians must be compliant with the ACA Code of Ethics. It is
important to stay within one’s own scope of practice.  Practice counseling based on scientific
foundations, and proven methods or framework. 
It is also recommended that clinicians engage in self-care activities so
they can work effectively with clients and minimize risk of burnout.

Consultation and referrals

Clinicians should develop relationships with colleagues whose
scope of practice is different than their own and be respectful of those who
have different theoretical approaches. It is important to only provide
consultation within one’s scope of practice. Counselors are tasked with
providing appropriate consultation or referrals when requested or necessary.

Assessment and interpretation

Counselors must understand the use of evaluations and assessments
as an important part of information gathering and to assist in conducting
clients’ treatment planning. Clinicians must diagnose clients and interpret
assessments accurately and in a culturally sensitive manner.

Resolving ethical dilemmas

            Counselors
must behave in a manner that is both ethical and legal and recognize when there
is a conflict between ethics codes and laws. Counselors should be able to
utilize and document an ethical decision-making process when faced with an
ethical dilemma .It is important to seek supervision or legal consultation when
necessary.

Mental health law

“According
to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are certain types of mental
health laws, and each state is different. Comprehensive parity provides equal coverage to individuals for
mental health issues and substance abuse or addiction. A limited parity means that a plan limits equal coverage based
on diagnosed mental health conditions or restricts coverage to a set limit,
either financially or in terms of care duration. A broad-based parity law, on the other hand, is a mix between
the two. While some limitations to coverage may apply, the coverage itself is
encompassing of all mental health conditions. There are a few types of mandates
in regards to coverage offerings. These may help you better understand MHPAEA
and other parity-related laws. A mandated
offering requires an insurance plan to include an option on mental
health, in which coverage benefits will be equal to other care. If the plan
already offers mental health care treatment, a mandate if offered law states that coverage will be equal to
other medical care. And, on the other end of the spectrum, a minimum mandated benefit law does not
stress the equality between types of health care coverage. Like mandated care,
benefits also fall into the same category. Minimum benefit if offered works similarly to the above mandated
benefit only there is not specifically a mandate. If a plan offers health
coverage, the minimum benefit need only apply. And such, a minimum benefit is just that – a
minimum benefit. (U.S 2018).”  One
limitation of mental health laws are that they vary state to state, and that
not all counties have laws governing mental health services and practices.

Risk management

Risk management
is an important and integral part in the counseling profession. “The purpose of
risk management is to identify potential problems before they occur, allowing
the worker and agency to make choices to avoid, minimize, or mitigate potential
harm. Although avoiding harm to clients, workers, and others may be a valid
ethical goal, at least part of the rationale for risk management is to avoid
the legal consequences of causing harm—for instance, being sued for
malpractice, having to pay compensation, losing one’s license to practice, or
putting the agency’s legal status at risk. By pre-empting and managing risks,
workers and agencies can make strategic choices about which types of risks to
accept and which to avoid. Some agencies have designated officials whose role
is to help the agency manage risk. Other agencies leave it up to practitioners
and their supervisors to manage risks.(Barksy 2015).”