Counselor Ethical Boundaries and Practices


Counselors are often compelled to exercise due diligence in clearly determining the dual boundaries and association between them and their clients. Therefore, being a good counselor demands a comprehensive appreciation of the significance of ethics in determining professional relationships. Ethics does not merely protect the rights and well-being of the client, but also the counselor as well. It is, therefore, relatively challenging for a counselor to continue maintaining cordial and professional associations during therapy sessions. However, it is vital for mental health professionals to strive in predicting and reorganizing the potential advantages or pitfalls correlated with dual associations. Such efforts can be integral in optimizing the effectiveness of service delivery. The paper, therefore, seeks to explore different areas relating to counselor ethical boundaries and practice.

Boundary Issues and Dual Relationships

It is vital for counselors to consider ethical concerns to blend well their professional and non-professional associations. The set boundaries are vital in protecting both parties. A  counselor is often in a notable position of power when offering therapy services to the client and failure to recognize the existence of professional boundary could potentially culminate in the counselor taking advantage of the client. Strict adherence to the initial ACA code of ethics is, therefore, important in clearly determining a dual relationship or boundary crossing. The ACA code of ethics is elaborately detailed in outlining activities that are deemed unethical in a dual relationship. For instance, ACA code A. states that sexual or romantic associations are not expected between a counselor and his or her client (Reamer, 2017). Counselors can offer their professional services to neither their family members nor their romantic partners. The code of ethics equally reveals that a counselor cannot provide counseling services to persons with whom they have previously engaged in romantic or sexual associations. 

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In instances where the complexity of emergent situations is not clearly defined within the code guidelines, counselors have the option of consulting their supervisors or their trusted professional colleagues (Herlihy & Corey, 2015). The primary method of identifying potential conflict of interest is to establish that the decision being made does not adversely affect the client or the counselor.

Counselors can be exposed to a wide range of situations in which they would be required to exercise due diligence when offering their professional services. For instance, a counselor can receive a request from a former lover or former sexual partner to offer counseling services. The previously sentimental relationship between the counselor and such a client is bound to compromise the quality of services rendered. To avoid breaching the ACC act that discourages sentimental association between counselors and their clients, it would be ideal to refer such a client to other counselors. On the other hand, a therapist can encounter a client who is too touchy and intimate, thus, be indulged in a sentimental association. In light of the emotional and mental vulnerability of such clients, it would be ideal for the counselor to note that he/she is at risk of losing his/her counseling permit by indulging in a romantic association with a client (Reamer, 2017). In other instances, a counselor may easily be susceptible to emotional weakness and develop exceeding levels of affection towards a client due to their personality or emotional story. It is vital for the counselor to be careful and identify such emotional weaknesses promptly to militate against potential adverse impacts on the professional services offered. Another scenario that may arise is when a counselor is approached by a close friend or relative to get therapeutic services. In such instances, it is appropriate for the counselor to refer such a client to other service providers (Reamer, 2017). Such a measure would avert potential conflict of interest or emotional limitation.

Professional Collaboration in Counseling: Working with a Multidisciplinary Team

It is ideal for counselors, as well as, other stakeholders to work collaboratively in ensuring the delivery of optimal client cares. There is a wide range of situations in which the client’s well-being and safety can be ensured. It is, therefore, necessary for collaborative professionals to communicate effectively with each other. For instance, if a counselor encounters a client who is afflicted with addiction to alcohol and severe depression, it would be ideal for the counselor to offer therapy services for the depression but work in collaboration with other experts to alleviate alcoholism (Harris, 2017). Optimal and seamless communication between the two specialists is integral in securing the safety and overall wellbeing of the patient. Meaningful decisions and engagements can be realized through multidisciplinary professionals’ collaboration in assisting a client. It is not enough to merely dictate to the client what activities they will undergo during the treatment period but rather engage them actively throughout the entire treatment process (Brady, Amoon, & Keefe-Cooperman, 2017). It is vital to appreciate that mutual engagements between all parties involved in the client’s treatment are integral in ensuring ideal services are provided.

The multidisciplinary team will include the counselor, alcoholism therapy provider, a physician, a primary care provider such as a nurse and the patient. The counselor will be primarily involved in providing therapy to the patient to mitigate depression. It is vital to understand that focusing on the area of treatment when offering professional services will limit the occurrence of conflicts between involved parties. The alcoholism therapist will be involved in assisting the patient in overcoming his/her alcoholism (Caraka, Nindiy, & Fuad, 2016). The alcoholism physician will be involved in giving the patient-relevant medication to prevent cases of relapse and assist the patient to beat his/her alcoholism. By being afflicted by depression and alcoholism, the patient’s state of health would have significantly deteriorated, thus, warranting the attention of a doctor. The medical practitioner would be involved in issuing relevant medication and recommending ideal practices such as regular exercises and good dieting to optimize the patient’s health (Caraka, Nindiy, & Fuad, 2016). In cases where the patient cannot sufficiently fend for himself or herself, it is ideal to have a primary care provider such as a nurse. The nurse will give the patient prescribed medication, oversee over their diet, and exercise activities. The patient should equally play an active role in ensuring the overall health is secured. The patient must be encouraged to be actively involved in fostering their health by avoiding activities that predispose them to depression and avoid taking alcohol. All the stakeholders involved must collaboratively work together to uphold the wellbeing of the patient.

Relationships with Supervisors and Colleagues

Clinical supervisors play an integral role in training counselors. Clinical supervisors are actively involved in the training of counselors relevant to the contents of supervised experience. The experience enhances the ability of supervisors to deliver ethical and effective services. It is necessary that supervisors must harness their skills, knowledge, and training in their respective fields. Supervisors operate in multiple roles such as advisors, consultants, teachers, and mentors (Munoz, Landon, & Corbin-Lewis, 2018). They are, therefore, ethically vulnerable because of the multifaceted nature of their level of influence and roles, as well as, the power at their disposal. Supervisors are, therefore, expected to exercise optimal ethical standards by demonstrating their ability and enthusiasm in adherence.

Adhering to professional ethics in the process of supervision often pose unique challenges. The ethical violations that can occur in the course of a therapeutic engagement can be associated with the supervisory association. From dual relationships to performance evaluations, supervisory relationships can be significantly fraught with inappropriate, potentially litigious, and inappropriate situations. The unethical actions of a counselor in the course of dispensing therapeutic services to a client may compromise the effectiveness of the services rendered (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2016). On the other hand, the unethical tendencies of supervisors can have far-reaching consequences as whole generations of trained counselors may adopt the same unethical approaches and implement them in handling their clients. While the counselor can be legally liable for ethical breaches in counselor-client relationships, the supervisor is often accountable for ethical breaches that arise in the courses of supervisor –counselor relationships.

Counselors may occasionally take note of unethical tendencies in their colleagues. One such tendency may include developing romantic relationships with clients, thus, breaching the ACA code of ethics. Such serious breaches can potentially culminate in the reprimanding of the offender. Disgruntled counselors risk being prosecuted in court for their misdemeanor. In other instances, offenders risk the suspension of their licenses or being banned from the counseling practice altogether.

Development of Your Thinking about Ethics

Knowledge on ethical practices in counseling profession makes it easy to avoid causing any harm not only to the client but also to the counselor. The learning experience exposed me to insightful information on the significance of sharing information concerning possible threats that clients might pose to others or to themselves. In instances that the client confesses to having a suicidal thought, it is important to report such information to relevant authority such as family members or even the police (Kaplan et al., 2017). A counselor would be challenged by conflicting situations as the revelation of such information could potentially breach their requirement of abiding by confidentiality. Failure to make reports concerning potential harm by a mentally disturbed client is tantamount to a criminal offense. In any given specialty that a counselor is involved in, it is vital to balance optimally expertise relating to the emergent problem and balancing the client’s identity, as well as, strengths and needs relevant to a group or a society within which the individual operates. The courses have increased my familiarity with the role of ethics, as well as, the integral role it plays in sustaining the delicate balance between the client and the counselor (Kaplan et al., 2017). The balance should, however, be extended to other counselors, as well as, other supervisors. Each of the individual relationships results in a chain that is both well-defined and strong. I have also learned that I will encounter instances when it is challenging to identify the differences between unethical and ethical practices when offering counseling services. Several strong support systems exist to assist such challenging instances. I have learned to fully take advantage of my community of counselors to seek assistance whenever need be. The counseling profession is not only focused on offering assistance but also seeking assistance.


Persons commencing the counseling career must be elaborately aware of the ethical guidelines put in place by the state where they are practicing and the ACC. A counselor risks breaking the professional boundary established with a client as their level of mutual trust and understanding gradually grows over time. It is, therefore, vital to exercise restriction and due diligence in addressing a potential breach of ethical requirements. The codes of ethics have been put in place to safeguard the interests of counselors, as well as, clients. Ethical boundaries and guidelines are integral in sensitizing counselors to monitor how they relate with clients. While the boundaries may fluctuate from time to time, special care should be taken to ensure the safety of the client is secured, as they are more prone to harm. Counselors must objectively identify the cases they can address, as well as, those they cannot optimally address and, thus, work with other relevant parties to ensure ideal care is delivered. The ethical guidelines available not only stipulate how counselors interact with clients but also other professionals. Ethical practice in counseling is, therefore, vital in optimizing service delivery and preventing potential cases of conflict.


Brady-Amoon, P., & Keefe-Cooperman, K. (2017). Psychology, counseling psychology, and professional counseling: Shared roots, challenges, and opportunities.

Capuzzi, D., & Stauffer, M. D. (2016). Counseling and psychotherapy: Theories and interventions. John Wiley & Sons.

Caraka, P. B., Nindiya, E. S., & Fuad, A. R. (2016). Improving Quality Of Education Through Collaboration System In The Perspective Of Comprehensive Guidance And Counseling.

Harris, S. (2017). Systemic Dual-Developmental Supervision: An Approach for Psychotherapy Practitioners and Supervisors. The Family Journal25(1), 84-90.

Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2015). Boundary issues in perspective. Boundary issues in counseling: Multiple roles and responsibilities, 1-32.

Kaplan, D. M., Francis, P. C., Hermann, M. A., Baca, J. V., Goodnough, G. E., Hodges, S., … & Wade, M. E. (2017). New concepts in the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Journal of Counseling & Development95(1), 110-120.

Munoz, K., Landon, T., & Corbin-Lewis, K. (2018). Teaching counseling skills in audiology graduate programs: Clinical supervisors’ perceptions and practices. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology29(10), 917-927.

Reamer, F. G. (2017). The challenge of multiple relationships in total institutions. Multiple relationships in psychotherapy and counseling: Unavoidable, common, and mandatory dual relations in therapy, 141-151.

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