American Counseling Association
American Counseling Association Code of Ethics Excerpt
Section A. The Counseling Relationship
A.3. Clients Served by Others
When counselors learn that their clients are in a professional relationship with other mental health professionals, they request release from clients to inform the other professionals and strive to establish positive and collaborative professional relationships
A.5.c.Sexual and/or Romantic Relationships With Former Clients. Sexual and/or romantic counselor–client interactions or relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members are prohibited for a period of 5 years following the last professional contact. This prohibition applies to both in-person and electronic interactions or relationships. Counselors, before engaging in sexual and/or romantic interactions or relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members, demonstrate forethought and document (in written form) whether the interaction or relationship can be viewed as exploitive in any way and/or whether there is still potential to harm the former client; in cases of potential exploitation and/or harm, the counselor avoids entering into such an interaction or relationship.
A.5.e. Personal Virtual Relationships With Current Clients. Counselors are prohibited from engaging in a personal virtual relationship with individuals with whom they have a current counseling relationship (e.g., through social and other media).
A.6.d. Role Changes in the Professional Relationship. When counselors change a role from the original or most recent contracted relationship, they obtain informed consent from the client and explain the client’s right to refuse services related to the change. Examples of role changes include, but are not limited to
1. changing from individual to relationship or family counseling, or vice versa;
2. changing from an evaluative role to a therapeutic role, or vice versa; and
3. changing from a counselor to a mediator role, or vice versa.
Clients must be fully informed of any anticipated consequences (e.g., financial, legal, personal, therapeutic) of counselor role changes.
A.6.e.Nonprofessional Interactions or Relationships (Other Than Sexual or Romantic Interactions or Relationships). Counselors avoid entering into non-professional relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members when the interaction is potentially harmful to the client. This applies to both in-person and electronic interactions or relationships.
A.7.a.Advocacy. When appropriate, counselors advocate at individual, group, institutional, and societal levels to address potential barriers and obstacles that inhibit access and/or the growth and development of clients.
A.7.b. Confidentiality and Advocacy. Counselors obtain client consent prior to engaging in advocacy efforts on behalf of an identifiable client to improve the provision of services and to work toward removal of systemic barriers or obstacles that inhibit client access, growth, and development.
A.8. Multiple Clients. When a counselor agrees to provide counseling services to two or more persons who have a relationship, the counselor clarifies at the outset which person or persons are clients and the nature of the relationships the counselor will have with each involved person. If it becomes apparent that the counselor may be called upon to perform potentially conflicting roles, the counselor will clarify, adjust, or withdraw from roles appropriately
A.9. Group Work
A.9.b. Protecting Clients
In a group setting, counselors take reasonable precautions to protect clients from physical, emotional, or psychological trauma.
A.10.c. Establishing Fees
In establishing fees for professional counseling services, counselors consider the financial status of clients and locality. If a counselor’s usual fees create undue hardship for the client, the counselor may adjust fees, when legally permissible, or assist the client in locating comparable, affordable services.
A.10.f. Receiving Gifts. Counselors understand the challenges of accepting gifts from clients and recognize that in some cultures, small gifts are a token of respect and gratitude. When determining whether to accept a gift from clients, counselors take into account the therapeutic relationship, the monetary value of the gift, the client’s motivation for giving the gift, and the counselor’s motivation for wanting to accept or decline the gift.
A.11. Termination and Referral
A.11.a. Competence WithinTermination and Referral.
If counselors lack the competence to be of professional assistance to clients, they avoid entering or continuing counseling relationships. Counselors are knowledgeable about culturally and clinically appropriate referral resources and suggest these alternatives. If clients decline the suggested referrals, counselors discontinue the relationship.
A.11.c. Appropriate Termination. Counselors terminate a counseling relationship when it becomes reasonably apparent that the client no longer needs assistance, is not likely to benefit, or is being harmed by continued counseling. Counselors may terminate counseling when in jeopardy of harm by the client or by another person with whom the client has a relationship, or when clients do not pay fees as agreed upon. Counselors provide pretermination counseling and recommend other service providers when necessary.
A.11.d. Appropriate Transfer of Services
When counselors transfer or refer clients to other practitioners, they ensure that appropriate clinical and administrative processes are completed and open communication is maintained with both clients and practitioners.
A.12. Abandonment and Client Neglect, Counselors do not abandon or neglect clients in counseling. Counselors assist in making appropriate arrangements for the continuation of treatment, when necessary, during interruptions such as vacations, illness, and following termination.
-American Counseling Association. (2014). ACA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/docs/ethics/2014-aca-code-of-ethics.pdf?sfvrsn=4
Evolution of Social Work Ethics by Mary Rankin, J.D.
The change in a social worker’s approach to ethical concerns is one of the most significant advances in our profession. Early in the 20th century, a social worker’s concern for ethics centered on the morality of the client, not the ethics of the profession or its practitioners. Over the next couple of decades, the emphasis on the client’s ethics began to weaken as social workers began developing new perspectives and methods that eventually would be fundamental to the profession, all in an effort to distinguish social work’s approach from other allied health professions.
The first attempt at creating a code of ethics was made in 1919, and by the 1940s and 1950s, social workers began to focus on the morality, values, and ethics of the profession, rather than the ethics and morality of the patient. As a result of the turbulent social times of the 1960s and 1970s, social workers began directing significant efforts towards the issues of social justice, social reform, and civil rights.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the focus shifted from abstract debates about ethical terms and conceptually complex moral arguments to more practical and immediate ethical problems. For example, a significant portion of the literature from the time period focuses on decision-making strategies for complex or difficult ethical dilemmas. More recently, the profession has worked to develop a new and comprehensive Code of Ethics to outline the profession’s core values, provide guidance on dealing with ethical issues and dilemmas, and also to describe and define ethical misconduct. Today, ethics in social work is focused primarily on helping social workers identify and analyze ethical dilemmas, apply appropriate decision-making strategies, manage ethics related risks, and confront ethical misconduct within the profession.
The following contains thee key Legal issues for mental health professionals: Tarasoff - Duty to Warn, Duty to Protect; and Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse
Tarasoff - Duty to Warn, Duty to Protect
Most states have laws that either require or permit mental health professionals to disclose information about patients who may become violent often referred to as the duty to warn and/or duty to protect. These laws stem from two decisions in Tarasoff v. The Regents of the University of California. Together, the Tarasoff decisions impose liability on all mental health professionals to protect victims from violent acts. Specifically, the first Tarasoff case imposed a duty to verbally warn an intended victim victim of foreseeable danger, and the second Tarasoff case implies a duty to protect the intended victim against possible danger (e.g., alert police, warn the victim, etc.).
Domestic Violence – Confidentiality and the Duty to Warn
Stemming from the decisions in Tarasoff v. The Regents of the University of California, many states have imposed liability on mental health professionals to protect victims from violent acts, often referred to as the duty to warn and duty to protect. This liability extends to potential victims of domestic violence. When working with a client who has a history of domestic violence, a social worker should conduct a risk assessment to determine if whether there is a potential for harm, and take all necessary steps to diffuse a potentially violent situation.
Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse
All states have laws that identify individuals who are obligated to report suspected child abuse, including social workers these individuals are often referred to as "mandatory reporters." The requirements vary from state to state, but typically, a report must be made when the reporter (in his or her official capacity) suspects or has reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected. Most states operate a toll-free hotline to receive reports of abuse and typically the reporter may choose to remain anonymous (there are limitations and exceptions that vary by state so please review your state’s laws).
- Barker, R. L. (1998). Milestones in the Development of Social Work and Social Welfare. Washington, DC: NASW Press.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
What three functions cannot be performed by the counselor without proper training or supervision?
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