Counseling is the provision of guidance and assistance in a professional way that will help the affected people in resolving either physical or psychological problems. A counselor, on the other hand, is a trained and a professional who guides the affected people on how to deal with both psychological and physical problems (American Counseling Association, 2016, p. 90). The counselor obtains counseling skills and techniques that help them to listen to their clients empathetically.
To make a counseling session easy, the counselor should, therefore, give the person in need of counseling full attention as a sign of valuing them as worthwhile and important individuals (Martz & Kaplan, 2014, p. 152). However, counselors’ experience a lot of ethical issues when handling their clients when trying to work within the professional context of a therapeutic relationship. The experience encountered by counselors brings about bias to the counselor, making a counseling session unstable.
The American Counselling Association (ACA) and the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counsellors (NAADAC) advocate for ethical codes that counselors should give their clients. The ACA’s mission is to enhance the qualities of the counseling offered by offering counselors with regular training. In addition, ACA promotes the development of professional counselors who have advanced in their relevant professions, thus, promoting respect for diversity and dignity for human beings (Corey, Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 2015, p. 56). NAADAC represents the professional interests of the counselors, health care professionals and drug addict educators. Counselors are also empowered to excel in advocacy, professional development, and workforce development. The code of ethics insists on the delivery of desired and proper treatment to clients undergoing counseling sessions. First, when a counselor maintains the ethical standards when doing counseling, the client welfare is improved since the counselor develops professional action that supports the client, thus, improving their lives and giving them freedom and independence in life.
Secondly, when counselors perform their counseling duties professionally the client’s self-determination is greatly improved. In addition, ethical counseling greatly helps in maintaining dual relationships between the counselor and the client. The dual relationship helps the two parties to work together towards achieving a treatment goal, thus, nurturing a relationship that ensures fairness and protection to both parties. In this case, counselors who are professional and ethical prevent harm to their client, thus, helping the client to overcome their problems (Harris, Randolph, & Gordon, 2016, p. 99). Prevention of harm ensures that all the decisions made by both the client and the counselor contain ethical implication and cannot harm the client either legally, spiritually, financially, physically, or psychologically.
Counselors are usually faced with issues that are challenging and controversial in their line of duty, making it hard for them to make the right decisions. Issues like suicide, abortions, domestic violence, abuse of drugs, as well as, indifference in cultural beliefs. It is, therefore, the duty of a counselor to foster a healthy relationship with integrity, trust, and respect to ensure the welfare of the client is well taken care of (Carkhuff, 2017, p. 205). Sometimes the counselor is faced with dilemmas making it hard to influence positive beliefs and values in the clients. However, counselors should always seek guidance from the ACA code of ethics for easy maintenance of professionalism. The major guidelines provided by ACA include avoiding enforcing their personal attitudes, values, behaviors, and beliefs onto their clients. In addition, it is necessary for the counselor to apply open-mindedness and objectivity to be able to help the client without conflict of interest.
When a counselor is bringing up crucial topics like suicide, drug abuse, abortion, child abuse, cultural indifference, and domestic violence, emotional discomfort is created. For example, abortion is a very touchy topic that is perceived with lots of negativity in the society. The society judges the abortion victims and stigmatizes them by considering them unfit in society. Therefore, any time a counselor is handling an abortion case they must ensure that self-control is maintained in upholding their personal beliefs and values and not affecting the client’s wellbeing (Carkhuff, 2017, p. 210). The counselor should majorly focus on respecting the client’s dignity, as well as, promoting their welfare. Whenever a counselor fails to uphold the values of a client, the development of a therapeutic relationship is hindered, thus, making a client regress and eventually withdraw from the counseling session.
Counselors should, therefore, be professional anytime they deal with clients from different cultures, beliefs, and worldviews. Counselors’ should also understand that effective communication is the cornerstone of every counseling session. It is also the counselor’s duty to give total support to the client by creating a good rapport. Lastly, the counselor should not condone the idea of counseling, due to differences created by the values and beliefs of a client.
Some of the legislation and government policies related to clinical mental health counseling are under the state and federal government. Federal governments establish a standard that is expanded upon by the state government. The federal regulations and laws provide oversight across the state. In addition, the federal government protects the rights of patients undergoing mental health disorders. It is also noted that the federal government offers funding streams to the mental health services that fall under Medicare and Medicaid. Additionally, the federal government creates opportunities for counselors and mental health specialists to understand the causes and possible treatments for their clients. The state government, on the other hand, makes the decisions that govern the systems in mental health. In addition, state governments make mental health regulations available, which explain why they vary from one state to another. The state government also makes follow up on the protection legislation outlined by the federal government. Besides, the state government funds the state hospitals and supports the federal government where necessary.
In accordance with the ACA code of ethics, counselors should only refer their clients when lack of competency arises if a client requires more professional assistance. In addition, a counselor can refer a client who is experiencing difficulties outside their knowledge base. For instance, a counselor can be handling a client with loss of appetite, which may require a nutritionist to give detailed counseling. Besides, a counselor might offer a type of therapy that does not suit a client making the counselor refer the patient to a different counselor with a different and beneficial approach. When a counselor feels that his or her safety is not guaranteed, they might be forced to refer the client to agency settings where safety is an assurance. Lastly, when a counselor is undergoing emotional stress like divorce or death of a close relative they might refer clients to someone else, as they solve their underlying problems.
The key reason for a referral is to ensure the interest of the client is met without putting into consideration the comfort of the counselor. Counselors should only focus on promoting and facilitating the growth of the client by ensuring all the needs of a client are met. A client is sometimes referred to a hospital when medical help is needed. In addition, when a client undergoes several sessions without any change, the counselor looks for another professional counselor to supplement the previous counseling (Martz & Kaplan, 2014, p. 155). The ACA code of ethics, however, state that referrals are the last resort a counselor should think of. Thus, counselors are responsible for eliminating the client’s discomfort before making a referral.
Counselors can manage discomfort through supervision, consultation, and continuous training. The counselor also applies the bracketing concept where they should set aside the personal values that do not coincide with the legitimate goals in counseling a client. The counseling profession is slowly evolving and changed positively, thus, helping clients who are not capable of getting themselves out of a mess. The client majorly depends on the guidance they get from counselors to control the conditions that get out of hand comfortably. Counselors should also be in a position to work with a wide range of clients they come across by identifying whether they require counseling. According to Shallcorss (2018, p. 139), counselors should avoid being judgmental and should not condemn their clients. Shallcorss continues, ‘We’re asking them to not use their systems to judge or evaluate the person in front of them but to try and understand and work with that person from his or her worldview and system. We’re seeking to understand and work within the worldview of the client, regardless of what our worldview is.”
In order to refer a client to other counselors, it is necessary for the client to define the criteria definition of the client in accordance to ACA and NAADAC. Thereafter, the counselor will determine the mental status of the client by taking him through a mental status examination that will help in determining the approaches to use when handling the client. In addition, the counselor should collect data on the client’s recovery journey making it easy to analyze the situation. Lastly, it is necessary to determine whether the asset program is appropriate for the client.
It is the responsibility of counselors to ensure that they create a good rapport with their clients when taking them through a counseling session. When counselors empathize with clients they earn trust from their clients making it easy for them to open up. When the clients open up, the healing session becomes easy since the counselor gets all the information he/she requires from them. However, counselors should not be biased when handling their clients in relation to their culture and beliefs. A referral in any counseling session should be avoided to avoid mistrust and withdrawal of the clients. Therefore, a counselor should always ensure that they fully eliminate the client’s discomfort before making a referral
American Counseling Association (2016). ACA Code of Ethics. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Carkhuff, R. (2017). Toward effective counseling and psychotherapy: Training and practice. Routledge.
Corey, G., Corey, M. S., Corey, C. & Callanan, P. (2015). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (9th ed.). Stamford; USA: Cengage Learning.
Harris, K. A., Randolph, B.E., & Gordon, T.D., (2016). What do clients want? Assessing spiritual needs in counseling. A literature review. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 3(4), 250-275.doi:10.1037/scp0000108. pg 56-140
Martz, E., & Kaplan, D., (2014). New Responsibilities When Making Referrals. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/ethics/ethics_ocober-2014.pdf.
Shallcorss, L. (2018). Putting clients ahead of personal values. Counseling Today. Retrieved from http://ct.counseling.org/2018/11/putting-clients-ahead-of-personal-values
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