Sunday, March 25, 2012

Justice and Beneficence

          Justice and beneficence are two foundational issues in counseling ethics and legal issues.  Although these two are mandatory components of ethical functioning at any level, they must be self-evident for counselors, and certainly essential and fundamental in practice (Herlihy & Corey, 2006). 
          Herlihy and Corey (2006) define justice as "our commitment to fairness" (p. 9) that includes several issues involved within counseling practice such as the counselors personal ethics, fees structures, and the implementation of appropriate fairness in the counseling relationship.  Forester-Miller and Davis (1996) claim justice does not mean the same treatment for all clients, but when differences exist, there must be reasonable rationale for the difference in treatment, and it must be appropriate within the counselor/client relationship and appropriate and in the client's best interest.
Justice in best practices must take into account the client's current and past cultural environment, and especially when it is different from the counselor's.  Fairness includes respecting clients' cultural values and refraining from the imposition of one's personal beliefs when those beliefs are inappropriate.  For example, when counseling an individual whose beliefs are based on a collectivist culture, encouraging the client to take a prominent position or to create a distinct social persona would be an affront to his or her family and society.  Such counsel would likely not be in the client's best interest. 
          Beneficence is "promoting good, (or) mental health and wellness" (Herlihy & Corey, 2006, p. 9).  Forester-Miller & Davis (1996) include a description of responsibility in counselor behavior as well as developing an ability to navigate the counselor/client relationship "proactively" (para. 3).  This includes always counseling in the best interest of the client, not according to personal beliefs. 
Beneficence, in best practice, demands counselors maintain an awareness of the client's unique circumstances.  The continuing demographic changes in this country presents an opportunity to understand and gain competence in various cultural differences to promote appropriate mental health and wellness effectively (Remley & Herlihy, 2001).  Certainly human behavior cannot be adequately judged, or for that matter, changed, without considering the cultural context within which the behavior takes place (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991).  
          It would not be culturally competent to counsel an 18-year-old male entrenched in an inner city drug culture to get an education to get ahead in the world.  Although we can promote forward change in clients, we have to embrace reasonable expectations and a realistic plan according to the full scope of the client's circumstances (Remley & Herlihy, 2001).  In best practices, counselors must consider the foundational contexts, cultural and otherwise, to work within the boundaries of the client's best interest.  In any event, the challenging nature of ethical decision making necessitates reliance on the foundational ethical values embraced by the profession (Jennings, Sovereign, Bottorff, Mussell & Vye, 2005).    

Forester-Miller, H., & Davis, T. (1996). Practitioner's Guide. American Counseling Association. Retrieved March 3, 2012, from

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

Jennings, L., Sovereign, A., Bottorff, N., Mussell, M. P., & Vye, C. (2005, January). Nine ethical values of master therapists. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 27(1), 32–47.

Remley, T. P., & Herlihy, B. (2001). Chapter 3, Professional practice in a multicultural society. In Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling (pp. 57-78). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Solomon, S., Greenberg, J., & Pyszczynski, T. (1991). Advances in experimental social psychology. San Diego: Academic Press.

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