Counselors must act within legal and ethical parameters. These parameters are defined by laws, litigation precedents, official policies, and ethical standards of practice. Counseling essentially is a self-regulating profession because most practices are not governed by laws. Counselors use ethical codes to guide their conduct and practice.
Most counselors adhere to the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. Ethical codes are voluntarily self-imposed behavioral guidelines to which members subscribe. Violations of ACA ethical codes can result in expulsion from membership in ACA. Many states have adopted the ACA Code of Ethics for licensed counselors, meaning that viola- tions of the code can be violations of the law.
Important Legal and Ethical Concepts and Responsibilities: Autonomy - clients have the right to make their own decisions. Beneficence - counselors should work for the good of the clients. Nonmaleficence - counselors should do no harm. Justice - clients have the right to be treated fairly.
Scope of Practice - Counselors limit their practice to those techniques, clients, and concerns for which they have been adequately trained and are qualified to perform. Many licensure laws require counselors to disclose their scope of practice to potential clients. Confidentiality - Clients have the right to expect that what they share in counseling will not be shared with others.
Informed Consent - Clients voluntarily agree to counseling only after being informed about the services counselors offer. It includes coverage of benefits, possible harm, and limitations. If clients are minors, then parents or legal guardians must consent. Duty to Warn - If a client presents imminent danger to herself or himself or others, the counselor must contact responsible parties to prevent harm.
Dual Relationship - A dual relationship exists when the counselor simultaneously tries to maintain with a client a counseling relationship and another type of relationship, such as spouse, relative, business partner, teacher or supervisor, or sexual partner. Dual relationships are potentially harmful to clients because the counselor cannot remain objective and the client does not have autonomy. Malpractice - The techniques the counselor uses causes real harm to the client.
Privileged Communications - Many state laws state that counselors cannot disclose what is said in counseling without prior permission of the client. There are exceptions in the case of child abuse, court orders, or suspected harm to the client or others. Abandonment - This situation exists when a counselor ceases to provide necessary counseling services to a client and fails to provide for alternative services through a referral.
Defamation - A counselor who divulges information that causes damage to someone's reputation might be sued for defamation. If the defamatory statements are written, it is libel; if spoken, they are slander. Bartering - This is the act of trading goods or services, rather than money, for provision of counseling services. Bartering is strongly discouraged as a method of payment for counseling services rendered.
ACA (then APGA) first adopted its own ethical standards in 1959. Prior to that, members subscribed to ethical standards of other asso- ciations, primarily the American Psychological Association (APA). The current ACA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice were adopted in April, 1995. There are two components: the Code of Ethics and the Standards of Practice.
The ACA Standards of Practice contain general principles for the effective and ethical practice of various aspects of the counseling profession. The ACA Code of Ethics contains specific points of attention for ethical counseling practice.
Both the Standards of Practice and the Code of Ethics are divided into the following sections: A. The Counseling Relationship B. Confidentiality C. Professional Responsibility D. Relationships with Other Professionals E. Evaluation, Assessments, and Interpretation F. Teaching, Training, and Supervision G. Research and Publication H. Resolving Ethical Issues
It is important to remember that the ACA Standards of Practice are ideals to which each counselor should aspire. Evaluation of actual counselor behaviors rela- tive to the Standards of Practice are often made in reference to specific ethical standards. Because the Standards of Practice represent the “best thinking” in the counseling profession about how counselors are to conduct their counseling-related activities, they are presented here in their entirety.
American Counseling Association Standards of Practice Section A: The Counseling Relationship SP-1 Nondiscrimination - Counselors respect diversity and must not discriminate against clients because of age, color, culture, disability, ethnic group, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, or socioeconomic status.
SP-2 Disclosure to Clients - Counselors must adequately inform clients, preferably in writing, regarding the counseling process and counseling relationship at or before the time it begins and throughout the relationship. SP-3 Dual Relationships - Counselors must make every effort to avoid dual relationships with clients that could impair their professional judgment or increase the risk of harm to clients. When a dual relationship cannot be avoided, counselors must take appropriate steps to ensure that judgment is not impaired and that no exploitation occurs.
SP-4 Sexual Intimacies with Clients - Counselors must not engage in any type of sexual intimacies with current clients and must not engage in sex- ual intimacies with former clients within a min- imum of two years after terminating the coun- seling relationship. Counselors who engage in such relationship after two years following termination have the responsibility to thoroughly examine and document that such relations did not have an exploitative nature.
SP-5 Protecting Clients During Group Work - Counselors must take steps to protect clients from physical or psychological trauma resulting from interactions during group work. SP-6 Advance Understanding of Fees - Counselors must explain to clients, prior to their entering the counseling relationship, financial arrangements related to professional services.
SP-7 Termination - Counselors must assist in making appropriate arrangements for the continuation of treatment of clients, when necessary, following termination of counseling relationships. SP-8 Inability to Assist Clients - Counselors must avoid entering or immediately terminating a counseling relationship if it is determined that they are unable to be of professional assistance to a client. The counselor may assist in making an appropriate referral for the client.
Section B: Confidentiality SP-9 Confidentiality Requirement - Counselors must keep information related to counseling services confidential unless disclosure is in the best interest of clients, is required for the welfare of others, or is required by law. When disclosure is required, only information that is essential is revealed and the client is informed of such disclosure. SP-10 Confidentiality Requirements for Subordinates - Counselors must take measures to ensure that privacy and confidentiality of clients are maintained by subordinates.
SP-11 Confidentiality in Group Work - Counselors must clearly communicate to group members that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed in group work. SP-12 Confidentiality in Family Counseling - Counselors must not disclose information about one family member in counseling to another family member without prior consent.
SP-13 Confidentiality of Records - Counselors must maintain appropriate confidentiality in creating, storing, accessing, transferring, and disposing of counseling records. SP-14 Permission to Record or Observe - Counselors must obtain prior consent from clients in order to electronically record or observe sessions.
SP-15 Disclosure or Transfer of Records - Counselors must obtain client consent to disclose or transfer records to third parties, unless exceptions listed in SP-9 exist. SP-16 Data Disguise Required - Counselors must disguise the identity of the client when using data for training, research, or publication.
Section C: Professional Responsibility SP-17 Boundaries of Competence - Counselors must practice only within the boundaries of their competence. SP-18 Continuing Education - Counselors must engage in continuing education to maintain their professional competence.
SP-19 Impairment of Professionals - Counselors must refrain from offering professional services when their personal problems or conflicts may cause harm to a client or others. SP-20 Accurate Advertising - Counselors must accurately represent their credentials and services when advertising.
SP-21 Recruiting Through Employment - Counselors must not use their place of employment or institutional affiliation to recruit clients for their private practices. SP-22 Credentials Claimed - Counselors must claim or imply only professional credentials possessed and must correct any known misrepresentations of their credentials by others.
SP-23 Sexual Harassment - Counselors must not engage in sexual harassment. SP-24 Unjustified Gains - Counselors must not use their professional positions to seek or receive unjustified personal gains, sexual favors, unfair advantage, or unearned goods or services.
SP-25 Clients Served by Others - With the consent of the client, counselors must inform other mental health professionals serving the same client that a counseling relationship between the counselor and client exists. SP-26 Negative Employment Conditions - Counselors must alert their employers to institutional policy or conditions that may be potentially disruptive or damaging to the counselor's professional responsibilities, or that may limit their effectiveness or deny clients' rights.
SP-27 Personnel Selection and Assignment - Counselors must select competent staff and must assign responsibilities compatible with staff skills and experiences. SP-28 Exploitive Relationships with Subordinates - Counselors must not engage in exploitive relationships with individuals over whom they have supervisory, evaluative, or instructional control or authority.
Section D: Relationship With Other Professionals SP-29 Accepting Fees from Agency Clients - Counselors must not accept fees or other remuneration for consultation with persons entitled to such services through the counselor's employing agency or institution. SP-30 Referral Fees - Counselors must not accept referral fees.
Section E: Evaluation, Assessment, and Interpretation SP-31 Limits of Competence - Counselors must perform only testing and assessment services for which they are competent. Counselors must not allow the use of psychological assessment techniques by unqualified persons under their supervision. SP-32 Appropriate Use of Assessment Instruments - Counselors must use assessment instruments in the manner for which they were intended.
SP-33 Assessment Explanations to Clients - Counselors must provide explanations to clients prior to assessment about the nature and purposes of assessment and the specific uses of results. SP-34 Recipients of Test Results - Counselors must ensure that accurate and appropriate interpretations accompany any release of testing and assessment information.
SP-35 Obsolete Tests and Outdated Test Results - Counselors must not base their assessment or intervention decisions or recommendations solely on outdated data or test results.
Section F: Teaching, Training, and Supervision SP-36 Sexual Relationships with Students or Supervisees - Counselors must not engage in sexual relationships with their students and supervisees. SP-37 Credit for Contributions to Research - Counselors must give credit to students or supervisees for their contributions to research and scholarly projects.
SP-38 Supervision Preparation - Counselors who offer clinical supervision services must be trained and prepared in supervision methods and techniques. SP-39 Evaluation Information - Counselors must clearly state to students and supervisees, in advance of training, the levels of competency expected, appraisal methods, and timing of evaluations. Counselors must provide students and supervisees with periodic performance appraisal and evaluation feedback throughout the training program.
SP-40 Peer Relationships in Training - Counselors must make every effort to ensure that the rights of peers are not violated when students and supervisees are assigned to lead counseling groups or provide clinical supervision. SP-41 Limitations of Students and Supervisees - Counselors must assist students and supervisees in securing remedial assistance, when needed, and must dismiss from the training program students and supervisees who are unable to provide competent service due to academic or personal limitations.
SP-42 Self-Growth Experiences - Counselors who conduct experiences for students or supervisees that include self-growth or self disclosure must inform participants of counselors' ethical obligations to the profession and must not grade participants based on their nonacademic performance. SP-43 Standards for Students and Supervisees - Students and supervisees preparing to become counselors must adhere to the Code of Ethics and the Standards of Practice of counselors.
Section G: Research and Publication SP-44 Precautions to Avoid Injury in Research - Counselors must avoid causing physical, social, or psychological harm or injury to subjects in research. SP-45 Confidentiality of Research Information - Counselors must keep confidential information obtained about research participants.
SP-46 Information Affecting Research Outcome - Counselors must report all variables and conditions known to the investigator that may have affected research data or outcomes. SP-47 Accurate Research Results - Counselors must not distort or misrepresent research data, nor fabricate or intentionally bias research results.
SP-48 Publication Contributors - Counselors must give appropriate credit to those who have contributed to research. Section II: Resolving Ethical Issues SP-49 Ethical Behavior Expected - Counselors must take appropriate action when they possess reasonable cause that raises doubts as to whether other counselors or mental health professionals are acting in an ethical manner.
SP-50 Unwarranted Complaints - Counselors must not mitigate, participate in, or encourage the filing of ethics complaints that are unwarranted or intended to harm a mental health professional other than to protect clients or the public. SP-51 Cooperation with Ethics Committees - Counselors must cooperate with investigations, proceedings, and requirements of the ACA Ethics Committee or ethics committees of other duly constituted associations or boards having jurisdiction over those charged with a violation.
Codes of ethics and standards of practice are necessary, but not sufficient to answer all ethical questions and prescribe ethical behavior. Counselors are confronted with situations in which several legal or ethical standards might apply or even conflict with each other. When deciding on a course of action, often they must be knowledgeable of both applicable laws and broad ethical principles.
State and national organizations (e.g., NBCC) and agencies establish minimum training and experiential standards for individuals seeking licensure or certification. In addition, some organizations, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), set standards for programs that prepare and train counselors.
The Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) adopted voluntary prepa- ration guidelines for master's-level programs in 1963. The American School Counselor Association adopted guidelines for training school counselors in 1967, and the American College Personnel Association (formerly a division of ACA) adopted guidelines for training student personnel workers in 1968.
In 1971, ACES formed the Commission on Standards and Accreditation, which developed the Standards for Preparation of Counselors and Other Personnel Services Specialists in 1973. In 1977, ACES adopted Guidelines for Doctoral the Preparation in Counselor Education.
These guidelines were revised in 1979 and adopted by ACA in 1980. In 1981, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) was formed as a non- profit accrediting body.
Historically, professional preparation and training of counselors has focused on identifying characteristics of effective counselors and specific skills training. Today, preparation programs recognize the importance of both.
Counselors are trained at the master's or doctoral level. Counselor preparation programs select applicants based upon both academic and personal suitability. Typically, master's-level programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum grade point average and submit letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant's good character. Many programs interview applicants to ascertain their interpersonal skills. Most master's programs require a minimum of 36 semester hours of coursework.
There are several other organizations that offer accreditation to programs that prepare other types of counselors, such as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) and the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). In addition, some divisions of the American Counseling Association (ACA) have adopted voluntary training standards for counselors for their respective specialty areas.
Programs accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) require a minimum of 48 semester hours (72 quarter hours) for master's degrees in counseling, although some specialties require 60 semester hours. Often, applicants are required to submit a Graduate Record Examination score and letters of recommendation. Some programs require that applicants have a year or more of work experience as a counselor, and most doctoral programs interview candidates prior to acceptance.
Human Growth and Development Social and Cultural Foundations Helping Relationships Group Work Career and Lifestyle Development Appraisal Research and Program Evaluation Professional Orientation CACREP requires curricular experiences in each of the following eight “common core” areas:
CACREP program accreditation also requires a minimum of 100 clock hours of supervised counseling practicum and 600 clock hours of supervised internship at the master's level. Some specialty areas require more hours of supervised practice. In addition, CACREP specifies standards for the institution, program objectives, faculty and staff, organization and administration, and program evaluations.
Doctoral-level counselor preparation programs typically require a master's degree in counseling. Doctoral programs prepare counselors for counseling and supervision in agencies, institutions, or private practice, and they prepare counselor educators and supervisors to work as faculty in colleges and universities.
Doctoral training typically takes 2 to 3 years of full-time study(4 - 6 part time) and includes advanced coursework, advanced practica and internship, and preparation and defense of a dissertation. CACREP accredited doctoral programs require advanced coursework in specified areas, including counseling, group work, consultation, research methodology, appraisal, diversity, counselor education, supervision, and ethical and legal issues.
The main purpose of professional credentialing is to protect the public and assure that professionals are properly trained and qualified. Professions are regulated by registration, certification, licensure, and accreditation.
A Registry is a voluntary listing of individuals using a professional title. Requirements for registration include a minimal level of education and experience and payment of a fee. It does not restrict the use of the title. Registration without certification or licensure affords little protection to the public. In some countries, registration is similar to licensure.
Certification sets minimum levels of education and experience, but also restricts use of the title. It does not restrict the practice of counseling so that unqualified persons could claim to perform counseling but call themselves certified counselors. School counselor certification does restrict use of the title and of the practice of school counseling. All states and the District of Columbia have certification standards for school counselors.
The most widely recognized national certification body for counselors in the U.S. is the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). National Certified Counselors (NCCs) must hold a graduate degree that includes specified coursework in counseling, have completed supervised experience in counseling, and pass either the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE), or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).
NBCC also offers the following specialty certifications: Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) Master Addictions Counselor (MAC)
NCCs must complete 100 contact clock hours of approved continuing education every five years to be recertified. Licensure is established by state law and restricts the use of the title. Similar to certification, licensure requires minimum levels of education and experience, and in some states, restricts aspects of the practice of counseling.
Nearly all states have counselor licensure. Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) typically must hold at least a master's degree, have supervised experience, and pass an examination such as the NCE. LPCs must submit evidence of continuing education units (CEUs) in order to renew their license.
Accreditation sets educational preparation standards for a profession. The Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) has standards covering the training institution, program objectives and curriculum, clinical instruction, faculty and staff, and organization and administration.
To receive accreditation, a counselor preparation program submits a self-study documenting how it meets each of the specific CACREP standards. A team of trained reviewers visits the program for 3 - 4 days and submits a report to the CACREP board, which issues the accreditation decision.
CACREP accredits the following entry-level (master's) programs: Community Counseling (with possible specializations in Career Counseling or Gerontological Counseling) Marriage and Family Counseling Mental Health Counseling School Counseling Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education (with possible specializations in College Counseling or Professional Practice)
In addition, CACREP accredits doctoral-level programs in Counselor Education and Supervision. The emergence of certification, licensure, and accreditation for counselors has been vital in establishing counseling as a profession and distinguishing it from other helping professions.
Older professions, such as social work and psychology, are widely recognized by the public and have earned the right to provide services and receive reimbursement by government agencies and insurance companies. In order to compete with these professions, counselors must earn these rights through licensure, the inclusion of counselors and counseling services in government policies, and by educating insurance companies of their ability to provide cost-effective services.
The helping professions are highly competitive. Psychiatrists, psychologists, family therapists, and social workers all compete with counselors for clients, legal recognition, and reimburse- ment from insurance companies. School counselors also compete with school social workers and others to provide services.
Counselors can advocate on behalf of their profession and their clientele by: Becoming certified and licensed Obeying professional standards of ethical conduct Practicing within their boundary of training and expertise Becoming active members of national, state, and local counseling associations
Promoting mental health and counseling to the public Educating the public about counseling qualifications and services Educating insurance companies and health maintenance organizations Organizing other counselors in lobbying efforts
Lobbying government representatives on issues affecting mental health and counseling Encouraging fellow counselors to join professional organizations and to obtain appropriate profes- sional credentials
This concludes Part 2 of the presentation on PROFESSIONAL ORIENTATION