About Professional Ethics
Ethics is a branch of philosopy (also called “moral philosopy”) that develops the concepts of right and wrong for professionals. This study of ethics involves systematizing, defending, and recommending those said concepts and if applied to an institution, then everyone involved is required to follow a strict code of ethics or and are therefore accountable to it should they consciously breach it. The American Counseling Association (ACA) has said that professional values are a way of living out ethical principles. They also have a professional code of ethics that they expect every practicing counselor or therapist to adhere to.
The Importance of Professional Ethics in Counseling
If people were allowed to do just about whatever they want, then we would have a chaotic world around us. Murder and stealing would be commonplace. Deception and lies would be the trade of practically anyone and trust will become scarce. Every normal human being should have ethical principles that is influenced by his/her family, culture, self-developed morality based on empathy and the drive to build and preserve their reputation and character. Without these things a person is worth approximately a pile of cow dung that nobody wants. If you want to become a therapist or counselor, then you must have ethical standards that will make you a trustworthy person.
According to the ACA’s code of conduct the counselor must establish a trusting relationship between him and the client and that it must not, in any way, harm the client’s life. The problem with any relationship – whether personal or professional – is that there are circumstances where it can turn into an intimate romantic relationship, especially with the level of trust that’s been established between therapist and client. Imagine after 6 months of therapy the counselor and client fell in love and then 2 months later broke up, what would happen to the already psychologically wounded client then?
In counseling the client’s welfare is placed at the highest priority and getting intimate with the client is potentially disastrous. Although the ACA is okay with the counselor developing a romantic relationship with a previous client provided that a 5-year gap has passed from the time of the therapy.
Counselor-client confidentiality is one of the major pillars of not only counseling, but almost every other profession in the world today. If the therapist were to divulge any information that the client has shared to him/her, then the client will his or her physical, psychological and social well-being. The only time the counselor is allowed to not adhere to the confidentiality agreement between him and his client is when the client intends to harm themselves or harm others. If the therapist also discovers during their exchange of communications that child or elder abuse has happened or is currently happening to the client, then the counselor is required by law ot report it. Other than that breaking confidentiality will incur harm to the client which is against the ethical code of conduct of the ACA.
Another ethical standard that the ACA requires counselor to adhere to is to ensure that counselors advocate to promote change that improves the quality of life for not only their clients, but the public, as well. There is a saying that goes, “you cannot give from an empty cup” and counselors often give positive thoughts and emotions to patients who have suffered so much negativity in their lives. Naturally if the hypothetical cup can drain and become empty, then the assumption follows that counselors too will feel an emotional drain and emptiness with their work. Therefore they must exercise self-care and do other health-benefiting activities like sports and meditation to replenish the energy in themselves.
All people who want to become a professional counselor or therapist are required by US law to undergo university training and earn a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree in the field of psychology and have a federal and state-approved license. The states also require professional counselors to undergo continuing education and training at least annually.