Counselor Ethics and Responsibilities 

Counselors are bound by professional ethics when providing counseling services to their clients. Some of the ethical principles they are required to conform to include beneficence, autonomy, nonmaleficence, justice, and fidelity (American Counseling Association, 2014). Moreover, counselors also face psychological challenges in the course of providing care to clients and they require self-care and counseling to alleviate these problems. This paper will address various issues that are concerned with ethics in counseling to create knowledge on the professional responsibilities that counselors should perform in practice to safeguard the welfare of their clients. 

Part One

Section 1: Client Rights

1) Describe how you will incorporate the following five principles of ethical practice in order to maintain your clients’ rights.

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a) Autonomy 

This principle requires counselors to allow clients to make decisions regarding the course of the counseling services they receive (Pedersen et al., 2014). Counselors should incorporate the patient’s views and decisions when developing a counseling intervention or program to empower patients to be active participants in their healing process. They should provide the available counseling or therapy options to the patient, who will ultimately choose the best option that suits his/her needs. Counselors should provide the necessary information for clients to make effective decisions regarding their treatment plan. 

b) Nonmaleficence 

This principle requires counselors to avoid harming the client in the course of providing counseling services (Pedersen et al., 2014). To achieve this, they need to assess the client’s needs and develop a counseling approach that will suit these needs. They also need to observe professional ethics in counseling, including principles such as confidentiality and protect the identities and information provided by clients. Moreover, counselors should protect clients from self-harm by contacting law enforcers and other healthcare practitioners if they believe that the client may harm him/herself or other people. 

c) Beneficence 

This principle requires counselors to undertake actions that benefit and promote the welfare of the client in the course of proving counseling services (Pedersen et al., 2014). To accomplish this, they should assess the cultural needs of their patients to ensure they develop a counseling intervention that is consistent with the beliefs and value system that the client subscribes. Counselors should also work with a multidisciplinary team such as physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists to provide a treatment plan that encompasses the entire needs of the client. 

d) Justice

The principle requires counselors to offer counseling services to clients based on their needs, irrespective of their ability to pay for such services (Pedersen et al., 2014). To attain this goal, counselors may reach out to government and non-government organizations that promote and advocate for equal access to healthcare services, to assist clients who may be facing financial difficulties and cannot afford counseling services. 

e) Fidelity

This principle requires counselors to adhere to ethical principles and act in good faith when counseling their clients (Bacal Carlton, 2011). To attain this goal, they should ensure they have the necessary qualifications and training needed to meet the needs of a diverse client community. They should also control their personal prejudices that may affect their objectivity when attending to clients. Moreover, they should adhere to professionalism and the code of conduct that they swore an oath to when counseling clients at all times. 

2) Discuss the informed consent process and how it protects client rights including:

Informed consent in counseling entails informing the client on the benefits, risks, and expected outcomes of a therapeutic approach that are engaged in. It affects some of the issues discussed below:

a) Billing

The counselor should inform the client about the costs of counseling sessions. He/she should be transparent and open and communicate issues such as the coverage available for mental care services, including the amount of deductibles and co-pay options (American Counseling Association, 2019). Informed consent on billing helps the client to make effective decisions regarding their counseling sessions. 

b) Right to Privacy

The counselor should protect the information he/she receives from the client in the course of counseling sessions (Gelso et al., 2014). Counselors are expected to safeguard their ethical duty to confidentiality in their relationships with clients and inform the client that issues that are discussed will be private. Moreover, the counselor has a duty to inform the client on exceptions of the privacy rule such as in case the client is a threat to him/herself or other people. In such a situation, the counselor is allowed to contact law enforcers to protect the client and the public. Moreover, courts may also authorize the sharing of private information between clients and counselors. 

c) HIPAA compliance

The counselor has a duty to enforce the HIPAA compliance to protect the client records from unauthorized access. He/she should inform the client of the network, physical, and process security interventions that protect the client’s data. Moreover, informed consent on HIPAA compliance will encourage clients to open up and build a trusting relationship with their counselors. 

d) Compliance with credentialing board requirements for incorporating informed consent into practice

Counselors are expected to attain certification and credentials that are approved by the Professional Counselor Licensure Boards among other state or federal requirements (Ponterotto et al., 2010). In many cases, counselors should have a master’s degree, minimum experience hours, and a certain supervisor period. Counselors should communicate this information to potential clients so that the clients are well-informed of the counselor’s qualifications and they can have confidence in the counselor’s abilities. 

Section 2: Responsibility to Warn and Protect

Identify the factors that you will consider in order to determine your “duty to warn” and “duty to protect” responsibilities as a counselor. 

As a counselor, I have the duty to warn and duty to protect my clients and the public from any threats that my clients may pose to them (Ponterotto et al., 2010). I also have a responsibility to protect the client from any form of self-harm. In such a situation, I am expected to work with law enforcers and other healthcare practitioners in mitigating the threat that the client presents to him/herself and the public. 

The first factor that I will consider in performing this responsibility is whether the client poses a significant and imminent threat to him/herself and the public. If I can confidently deduce that the client poses any immediate danger to him/herself or the public, I have a duty to inform law enforcers and health practitioners who can help protect the client and the public. (Gelso et al., 2014). This may involve taking the client into custody or committing him/her to a controlled mental healthcare facility. 

The second factor that I will consider is whether there are any orders by a court of law to breach my confidentiality clause, in order to warn and protect the client or the public (Gielen et al., 2014). In cases where there are court orders or warrants to serve my private communication with the client – as part of an on-going investigation or during a court trial, I will cooperate with law enforcement agencies by sharing my counseling notes, recordings, and any other material that is concerned with the orders provided. This will enable me to play my duty to warn and to protect. 

The third factor I will consider is whether it is in the best interest of the client to breach confidentiality, especially when counseling children and minors (Gielen et al., 2014). If during my client interactions I determine that it is in the child’s best interest to breach confidentiality, then I may involve Children’s Protection Services without the consent of the child or his/her guardian. This may happen if the child is facing abuse from his/her guardian or is neglected. I will be playing my responsibility of warning and protecting my client. 

Section 3: Client Record-Keeping

Discuss the role of client record keeping in protecting the following:

  1. A client’s right to a professional standard of care

One of the professional responsibilities of a counselor is to keep accurate records of counseling sessions to help the counselor monitor the client’s progress, to report client risk to third parties, and to make referrals in case the client needs further counseling services such as mental healthcare services (American Psychological Association, 2019). It is, therefore, imperative for counselors to keep timely and accurate records to ensure that the client accesses a professional standard of care. Based on the importance of keeping records that have been discussed, record keeping ensures that the client outcome is enhanced by improving the quality of care given by counselors and facilitating assistance from a multidisciplinary team for clients who require further care. 

  1. The counselor from liability

Accurate and timely records can help counselors to protect themselves from legal liability that may arise in the course of providing treatment to clients (Ponterotto et al., 2010). This is because the record can be used as evidence in court cases where the counselor has been sued by the client or is being held responsible for negligence or other illegal actions. For instance, if a counselor believes that a client is a threat to him/herself or society and breaches confidentiality, then he/she can use the records to exonerate him/herself from legal liability by proving that the breach was necessary and is supported by the law. 

Part Two:

Section 4: Self-care

After reading the introduction of Section C “Professional Responsibility” in the ACA Code of Ethics discuss the following:

  1. What does the ACA Code of Ethics say about self-care?

The American Counseling Association (2014) explains that even though counseling can be rewarding and important, it is stressful. It is important for counselors to use self-care as a tool that will help them to address effectively stressful situations to improve their overall health and wellbeing. Self-care is also beneficial to clients as it helps counselors to maintain optimal output without suffering burnout, which may affect their effectiveness as counselors.  

  1. How do you plan on maintaining a healthy balance between your professional and personal life?

I plan to create a strict schedule that will encompass my work hours and dedicate time to my personal life. This is essential in attaining work/life balance and minimizing the impacts that stress may have on my abilities as a counselor. I will ensure that I schedule my clients in a manner that will leave time for me to concentrate on my personal life, such as scheduling time during weekends to bond with my family and friends and engage in activities outside my working environment. 

  1. What healthy self-care activities have you engaged in in the past or present?

I have previously engaged in meditation as a strategy to help me relieve stress, and I also workout frequently to maintain my physical and psychological health. I plan to continue with these activities throughout my life. Additionally, I have also embraced traveling and other outdoor activities that help me rejuvenate and relax my mind. I will continue doing these activities in the future. 

  1. What healthy self-care activities have you considered but haven’t yet implemented?

I have considered embracing healthy eating as an effective self-care activity that will bring numerous physical and psychological benefits to me. I have been procrastinating but plan to change my overall approach towards food and embrace healthy and organic foods that have tremendous nutritional benefits. I have also considered improving my time management skills to maintain work/life balance, and I plan to read books and talk to my mentors to understand how they have successfully managed to navigate this challenge. 

  1. What are some red-flags suggesting that you may need to address personal issues to avoid personal impairment?

Some of the red flags I have experienced include constant fatigue, stress, and burnout. This happens after attending counseling clients for a long duration of time. These signs point to my poor time-management skills and the need to implement effective self-care strategies. Constant fatigue is an indicator that my stress levels have begun affecting my physical state, and unless I take active measures to implement self-care, then I may suffer from stress-related physical ailments in the future.  

  1. How do you feel about counselors being counseled?  Some programs require it.  Do you agree with that concept? 

I agree with the concept of counselors being counseled. This is because counselors are also human beings who are psychologically affected by their client sessions. When a client, for instance, discusses a traumatic experience he/she faced, then the counselor is also affected psychologically. Moreover, counseling has a huge toll on the psychological wellbeing of counselors. It is, therefore, important for counselors to receive counseling so that they are empowered with knowledge on how to address the psychological issues they experience in the course of their work. Counseling will also be beneficial to clients since counselors will perform their services at an optimal level once they address the psychological issues they face. 

Section 5: Advocacy

Go to the American Counseling Association (Government Affairs > Take Action) ( to find a way to advocate for the counselors and the counseling profession at the governmental level.  Summarize how you can get involved 

One of the campaigns that require support is the ‘Mental Health Services for Students Act”, which seeks to provide on-site mental health services to students in schools across the nation (American Counseling Association, 2019). I would be interested in advocating for this cause since I am aware of the numerous psychological issues that students face within their schools and in the home environment. I can get involved by documenting research on how stress affects students from published peer-reviewed journals. I can also document statistics on mental health disorders facing students across America. Then I will send these documentations to representatives through the link provided on the site, with a personal letter encouraging them to support the law. I will cite my personal experiences facing psychological issues as a student and the importance of on-site counseling centers in all schools. 

Section 6: Counselor Values

1) Select two of the following issues you feel strongest about from the following: 

2) Describe your personal values and attitudes towards the selected issues as well as how you would counsel the client in each situation you selected. HINT: Make sure you reference ethical codes from ACA, NBCC, or NAADAC.

  1. Abortion. (A 19-year-old rape victim wants an abortion, but her parents are vehemently opposed to abortion on religious grounds and have stated that they will no longer consider her their daughter if she proceeds. The young woman is firm in her plans, but wants your help in changing her parents’ attitudes.)

I have selected this case since I strongly empathize with rape victims and I have interacted with some in the past. My personal value regarding rape is that it is a crime and that the perpetrator should face the full force of the law. Moreover, victims need counseling and therapy to regain their self-worth and attain healing. I also have strong feelings regarding abortion and I believe that all humans have the right to life and it should not be taken away under any circumstances unless the mother’s life is at risk.  

However, as a counselor, I am guided by professional ethics as opposed to personal feelings. In this case, I will need to apply the principles of nonmaleficence, confidentiality, beneficence, and autonomy. Nonmaleficence and beneficence require me to act in good faith while not harming my client while autonomy gives the client the right to make decisions regarding the counseling approach to protect their needs. Confidentiality protects interactions between counselors and clients (American Counseling Association, 2014). 

In these circumstances, I have to act in the best interest of the girl and her family. I will advise the girl not to perform abortion since it will place her life and that of the unborn child at risk. I will advise her to seek further counseling or therapy sessions to help her overcome the trauma she suffered from rape and achieve healing. If she does not want to keep the baby, I will advise her to place it up for adoption. I will also seek an audience with and advice her parents to support their child and not to disown her since she needs their emotional and social support to overcome the trauma of rape. Moreover, I will acknowledge that the client is an adult and has autonomy over the decision on whether to carry out an abortion or not. Depending on the state laws regarding abortion, if it is illegal and I am convinced that the girl will proceed with it, I will have to breach confidentiality and inform law enforcers to safeguard my responsibility of ‘to protect’ and ‘to warn’.

  1. Assisted suicide. (Eleanor, an 87-year-old with terminal cancer, has decided to end her life but is undecided about how to discuss this with her family, or if she should discuss it with them at all. She seeks your guidance in this decision, but is not interested in revisiting her decision to end her life.)

I chose this case since I have interacted with terminally ill patients in the past and I deeply empathize with the situation they face. Many of them experience pain, suffering, and view death as their only refuge. Moreover, I am passionate about human life and I believe that it should not be taken away, regardless of the circumstances. In this situation, I will also need to apply professional ethics to guide me in the counseling session with the client. The ethical principles that are applicable in this case, include nonmaleficence, confidentiality, beneficence, and autonomy (American Counseling Association, 2014).

As a professional counselor, I have to act in the best interests of this client and protect her from harm. I will encourage the client to discuss the issue with her family so that they can empathize with the situation she is facing in her life. I will also encourage her to seek medical intervention since there are advances in cancer research that may help her prolong her life. I will urge her not to take her life since I have sworn an oath to protect the lives of my clients. Moreover, if the patient still considers suicide as an option, I will breach confidentiality and alert the authorities to prevent her from self-harm, in line with my duty ‘to warn’ and ‘to protect’. 


This paper has addressed various issues relating to ethics in counseling and the professional responsibility of counselors towards their clients. It is important for them to uphold their professional code of conduct and ethics in order to improve client outcomes and protect themselves from legal liability. It is equally imperative that counselors implement self-care strategies that will minimize their stress levels and help them attain work/life balance.


American Counseling Association. (2014). Code of ethics. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (2019). Record keeping for practitioners. Retrieved 


American Counseling Association. (2019). The ethics of billing. Retrieved from

American Counseling Association. (2019). Take Action. Retrieved from

Bacal, H. & Carlton, L. (2011). The Power of Specificity in Psychotherapy: When Therapy 

Works—And When It Doesn’t. Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson.

Gelso, C. J., Williams, E.N. & Fretz, B. (2014). Counseling Psychology (3rd ed.). 

Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Gielen, U. P., Fish, J. M., & Draguns, J. G. (2014). Handbook of culture, therapy, and 

healing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Pedersen, P. B., Draguns, J. G., Lonner, W. J., & Trimble, J. E. (2014). Counseling across 

cultures. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ponterotto, J. G., Casas, J. M., Suzuki, L. A., & Alexander, C. M. (2010). Handbook of

multicultural counseling (3rd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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