Ethical Challenges and Boundary Issues
Mental health counseling is a practice that a counselor pride themselves on and the client in the process. As rewarding as the profession is, the concept of the practice can lend to the development of dual relationships. These relationships can be legitimate and nonsexual encounters, many which will be inadvertent and unplanned, yet they still may yield ethical dilemmas and challenges. For counselors ethical dilemmas related to the counseling profession are all too common and complex. The complex nature is multifaceted and rarely does everything line up correctly and easily. Understanding the ramifications of these ethical challenges and boundary issues can prevent harm to the counselor and the client and counseling practice.
Challenges Related to Boundary Issues
In each of these case studies there are boundary issues to consider and the implication of ethical challenges and dilemmas to resolve. In case number one the counselor has encountered a situation where she does not have the credentials to perform the kind of counseling the couple is seeking. The counselor’s first obligation is to abide by the ACA Code of Ethics as it relates to Professional Competence. Counselors practice only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience (ACA, 2014, Standard C.2.a).
In the second case the boundary issue that occurs is the up and coming counselor has not fully reflected on the types of clients she may encounter. It was the assumption of the counselor that the individual who was seeking counseling was a heterosexual and when this was not the case the counselor did not know how to respond. The counselor should refer to the ACA Code of Ethics as it relates to Continuing Education. Counselors recognize the need for continuing education to acquire and maintain a reasonable level of awareness of current scientific and professional information in their fields of activity (ACA, 2014, Standard C.2.f).
In the third case study the counselor and the client shared similar religious beliefs; however, the counselor has to understand how to professionally and clinically advise the client without crossing the boundary of being a spiritual advisor. The counselor should consider and refer to the ACA Code of Ethics as it relates to Boundaries of Competence. Whereas multicultural counseling competency is required across all counseling specialties, counselors gain knowledge, personal awareness, sensitivity, dispositions, and skills pertinent to being a culturally competent counselor in working with a diverse client population (ACA, 2014, Standard C.2.a).
Ethical Decision-Making Model
The ethical decision-making model that is best utilized in the case studies is A Practitioner’s Guide to Ethical Dcecision Making. This particular paradigm allows for the counselor to apply the seven steps to decision-making and five guiding principles. While the model cannot address every aspect of the ethical dilemmas in the case studies, it does provide a foundation of clarifying the issues involved. As a counselor when we look at the dilemma it is critical to examine the situation and determine how to best handle any challenges that may arise. In cases that are more complex it is helpful to take a look at the steps and work through them, and determine which of the steps or moral principles may be conflicting (Forester-Miller and Davis, 1996).
Addressing Ethical Challenges
In review of the referenced cases the ethical decision-making model can be applied by examining and understanding where the actual challenge lies. The first step in addressing each of the challenges is the application of the seven steps in the model. Counselors must be clear as objective as possible when