Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ethics and Supervision

Qualities of an Ethical Supervisor

The Association for Counselors Education and Supervision (ACES) (1993) lists several characteristics and competencies of effective supervisors. They must monitor client welfare, encourage supervisees' compliance with ethical and legal standards, monitor the supervisees’ performance and professional development, and evaluate supervisees (ACES, 1993). To adequately perform in a supervisory role, counselors must have an articulate understanding of ethical codes and decision making to inspire a firm knowledge of these codes and models within the supervisee.

Remley and Herlihy (2010) describe ethical supervisors as those who value and respect their clients as well as their supervisees, give fair and accurate feedback to their supervisees, and are committed to the best practice ideals set forth by legal mandates and the ethical codes of the profession. Furthermore, they are self and culturally aware and achieve credibility by acting honestly, consistently, and ethically. They should have "theoretical and pedagogical foundations for their work and aim to be fair, accurate, and honest in their assessments of counselors-in-training" (American Counseling Association (ACA), 2005, p. 13).

Ethical supervisors should have the appropriate training in supervision prior to engaging in supervising counselors. They must engage in and inspire ethical behavior and decision- making and work toward developing similar behavior in supervisees. They should review supervisee's work via audio or videotape, meet with supervisees regularly, and provide them with ongoing feedback (ACES, 1993). When supervisees fall short of expectations for certification, licensure, or training program, the supervisor should provide the supervisee with written as well as verbal notification so the supervisee has an opportunity to resolve any inadequacy or impairment.

The Importance of Ethical Supervisors

Ethical supervisors are a crucial component in counselor development and for the preservation of the profession’s ethical standards. Supervisors are held accountable for the ethical and professional actions of the supervisee, and provide gatekeeping for the profession. "Supervision provides feedback about performance, offers guidance, supports alternate views about client dynamic and interventions, refines supervisee identity, and serves as a base for learning" (Crespi & Dube, 2005, p. 120). In their supervisory role, supervisors function as models for ethical and professional behavior (Remley & Herlihy, 2010). The ACA Ethical Codes (2005) devotes an entire section to counselor education and supervision (Herlihy & Corey, 2006). Because supervisors serve as gatekeepers to the counseling profession, they must adequately and ethically evaluate supervisee's performance, and must "exercise sound ethical judgment when establishing boundaries with supervisees within and outside of the supervisory relationship" (Herlihy & Corey, 2006).

Unethical Supervisors: Appropriate Actions

Upon discovering a supervisor's ethical violation, counselors-in-training have the same obligation as counselors to adhere to the standards of the ACA Code of Ethics (Herlihy & Corey, 2006). Standard H.2.b. of the ACA (2005) Ethical Codes advises counselors to attempt an informal resolution to ethical dilemmas, when doing so does not violate confidentiality rights. If the supervisor is not responsive to an informal resolution, the counselor-in-training should seek help from the supervisor's manager or supervisor, a department head, or other individual in a supervisory or managerial role. In any work environment, it is important to follow specific protocol for reporting grievances. If counselors-in-training find no resolution for the grievance after following protocol, they can file a formal complaint with the ACA Ethics Committee. In circumstances in which substantial harm has occurred, has the potential to occur, or when the ethical issue is not appropriate for informal resolution, the counselor in training should seek the help of a local or state ethical committees, licensing boards or institutional authorities (ACA, 2005).

Although the power differential between counselors in training and their supervisors makes it difficult to confront supervisors, the ACA Ethics Committee can help with regard to ethical violations and offer support and valuable information for the resolution of such issues (Herlihy & Corey, 2006). As with any ethical dilemma, counselors-in-training should not hesitate to seek help from colleagues, peers, and other professionals, and when necessary, file a formal complaint with the Ethics Committee. Counselors-in-training are conscientious when filing formal ethics complaints and do not "initiate, participate in, or encourage the filing of ethics complaints that are made with reckless disregard or willful ignorance of facts that would disprove the allegation (ACA, 2005, p. 19).


Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES). (1993). Ethical guidelines for counseling supervisors [White Paper]. Retrieved from the ACES website:

Crespi, T. D., & Dube, J. M. B. (2005). Clinical supervision in school psychology: Challenges, considerations, and ethical and legal issues for clinical supervisors. Clinical Supervisor, 24(1/2), 115-135.

Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2006). ACA Ethical Standards Casebook (Sixth ed.). Alexandria, VA, USA: American Counseling Association.

Remley, T. P., Jr., & Herlihy, B. (2010). Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Pearson Education

Because I have recently been contacted by university instructors regarding their student's plagiarism of my work, I feel compelled to remind readers that using someone else's work is common (and good) practice, but please don't forget to give credit where credit is due.  If you use portions of my work, please reference it.  This blogsite comes up in plagiarism programs such as Turnitin, so for your own protection, please don't plagiarize!  This warning is, of course, for the very few individuals who have no interest in authentic scholarship.  Sadly, I must include this notice with every post.  

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