Liberty University Online
Counselor Professional Identity, Function, & Ethics
Dr. Linda Simon
March 31, 2013
When the lines of codes of ethics are blurred, everyone involved is at risk. This paper discusses the similarities and differences between code of ethics presented by the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Association of Christian Counseling (AACC). With regard to areas that pertain to conflict of interest, sexual intimacies and termination it is important that to examine the ethical dilemmas that can arise concerning the duty of the counselor to the client. Neglecting responsibility and claiming ignorance to ethical standards set forth in any given profession is inexcusable. When in the business of helping others, being fully aware of boundaries not only protects the client from exploitation, but also serves as a safeguard for the counselor. Ethical dilemmas are a constant in life, regardless of the profession. It is in how those gray areas are navigated using the codes that end up being the deciding factor for the overall outcome.
There are many hurting people in today’s society who are seeking to change. With broken hearts and deceived minds, the trust required to initiate the process of change is not easily earned. Trust is gained through reciprocal disclosures and meaningful interactions. Identifying common interests and life experiences is a necessary step to developing the foundation that establishing a trustworthy counselor-client relationship requires in order for real change to be facilitated. For some, finding those commonalities and knowing what and how much to disclose with clients can become risky business. Due to the nature of the counselor-client relationship and the role it plays in facilitating lasting change, it is important to become familiar with the potential ethical limits. Setting professional boundaries is a crucial part in the development of the counselor-client relationship, especially concerning clients of the opposite sex. For this reason, the focus of this paper is on the similarities and differences between two ethical codes, with special regard to the impact they can have in the areas of Conflict of Interest, Sexual Intimacies and Termination.
General Similarities and Differences
In the helping profession, ethical dilemmas are bound to present themselves over the course of any particular counselor-client relationship. In light of this reality, the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) have both set forth codes of ethics in order to assist professionals in protecting the best interests of clients. Ethical codes offer the guidelines and direction needed in decision-making when facing ethical dilemmas to the vast range of individuals working within the helping field. Both the ACA and the AACC begin by declaring the mission and purpose of the codes. Although they embody similar content, offering brief introductions for each covered, it is important to remark on a few notable differences.
In its entirety, the ACA code of ethics leaves ample room for interpretation by being rather vague in many of the areas addressed. The AACC, in turn, goes into more detailed explanations, offering more clear and concise parameters for handling ethical concerns. Considering the impact the counselor-client relationship has in the overall effectiveness of counseling, keeping the best interests of the client is central to navigating through these murky territories when they arise. Hence, any segment not specifically defined within a code of ethics could be cause for concern.
Conflict of Interest (Dual Role)
As defined by the AACC, “Dual relationships involve the breakdown of proper professional or ministerial boundaries” (American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC], 2004, p. 8). When these established boundaries are