Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Application of Ethical Codes

          The code that resonated with me most was in the American Counseling Association's (ACA)  (2010) Code of Ethics.  I appreciated the depth to which the ACA described and defined the level of teaching and the supervisory role for new mental health counselors.  The issue of adequate supervision was evident in Pressures From All Sides: A Rehabilitation Counselor's Dilemma, in the ACA handbook (Herlihy & Corey, 2006) wherein the supervisor encouraged the supervisee to regard the company that was being represented by the counselors, rather than keep the client as the primary interest. 

          Section F.1.a. Client Welfare in the ACA (2010) code defines and describes the "rules of engagement" between supervisors and supervisees.  It clearly states that supervisors must always adhere to the ACA Code of Ethics.  Not only in supervisory practice, but in the basic definitions afforded by both codes of ethics, we must do no harm and always function in the best interest of the client.  Regarding and honoring the needs of others (whether individuals or group entities) before the needs of the client is clearly unethical.  By placing the needs of others before those of the client, the counselor is not applying ethical principles of working in the client's best interest, but also may be creating potentially harmful circumstances for the client.  
          When the supervising counselor told the supervisee to regard the interests of the insurance company, he was disregarding the primary interest of the client as well as dishonestly encouraging business with another business entity, in essence, working in their favor to receive additional business. Additionally, the supervisor's recommendations added further conflict to an already difficult situation for Kate (the new counselor.)

          Additionally, the AMHCA Code of Ethics (2010) Section III Commitment to Students, Supervisees and Employee Relationships, states, "the primary obligation of supervisors is to monitor services provided by supervisees to ensure client welfare" (p. 14).  The supervisor did not seem to be representing the best interests of Kate's client (Herlihy & Corey, 2006).

          The importance of Section F.3.a (ACA, 2005) and supervisory roles was evident in The Case of the Well-Meaning Feminist (Herlihy & Corey, 2006).  There is evidence that Allison's supervisor hasn't provided enough training in multicultural competence.  Allison has imposed her personal needs and expectations on her clients (Herlihy & Corey, 2006).  Although I, like Allison, would have a natural tendency to create a stronger sense of autonomy in her client, although with a better understanding of the client's cultural context, and a more articulate perspective of my own expectations, I would have counseled otherwise.

          I believe the supervisory role is pivotal in a new counselor's development.  In both the above cases, better training and recommendations made by the supervisors would have led to more positive outcomes for the new counselors as well as the clients.  Supervisors should be held to higher ethical standards than other mental health counselors.  Their supervision is foundational in our seminal experience as a counselor.

American Counseling Association (ACA). (2005). 2005 ACA code of ethics [White Paper].            Retrieved from the ACA website: c4-46cf-848c-f98489937dda

American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA). (2010). 2010 AMHCA code of ethics [White Paper]. Retrieved from the AMHCA website: _Code_of_Ethics_2010_w_pagination.pdf

Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2006). ACA ethical standards casebook (6th ed.). Alexandria, VA:        American Counseling Association.

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