Ethical Issues in Counseling

Ethical responsibility is an essential part of counselor’s work. Ethical aspect in some cases becomes the subject of controversy and raises important questions of work ethics. There is no definite ethic code for the counselor. Different situation require different approaches. The first code of ethics for the counselors was adopted by the American Personnel and Guidance Association in 1961. The next time the code was edited in 1974 and after that editions take place every 7 years. The latest version of code of ethics discusses such important aspects as the counseling relationship,  confidentiality, relationship between counselors, relations between patients and counselors, professional responsibility of the counselor, teaching and training, different aspects of research work and ethical issues. In addition, the code of ethics possesses important function as it underlines ethical responsibility of the counselors.

Different ethical rules applied for different situations can be divided to actions counselors want to perform and the actions they have to perform. According to this division   aspiration ethics and mandatory ethics may be distinguished. Aspiration ethics describes the set of ethical rules which are applied to actions which counselors want to perform. Mandatory ethics describes actions they haveу to perform.

Mandatory ethics describes minimal set of ethical rules counselors have to follow while aspiration one describes broader set of ethical rules counselors want to follow.

There are people who dedicate their lives to the study of ethics. Professional ethics are specialists who are concerned with moral issues and with the use of ethical knowledge in everyday life. Professional ethics distinguish ethical norms and regulations and also check up how these norms are applied in practice. The help of professional ethics is very valuable when doubtful moral and ethical issues arise. Ethical responsibility is a part of each professional activity, but there are professions where ethical responsibility is bigger than in others. The list of such professions is not set up yet but definitely people who deal with medicine and healing, as well as people who deal with teaching and scientific research have great ethical responsibilities.

Ethics has big influence in almost all spheres of human life. Usually moral values are acquired in the childhood and influence all further life of an individual. That is the reason why it has big influence in the decision making. “Without the emphasis on ethics, organizations can miss the opportunity to reinforce responsibility for their internal and external environment. This failure can lead to an outcry of negative public opinion, or even worse, legal issues” (Chemielwski). Ethical success can and should be measured witting institutions and organization. This issue becomes especially important in the modern society.

There is a branch of ethics, which studies ethical behavior in the workplace. Ethical behavior in the workplace is a kind of behavior, which can be defined as right or wrong. It can be also called organizational behavior. Behavior, which contradicts social norms and moral principles can be defined as unethical. Everyday employers and employees have to take many ethical decisions even if they do not realize it. Deciding the amount money workers will receive and choosing strategy of dealing with business partners can also become ethical decisions.

Different people can make different judgments about the same situation. Their judgments will be conditioned by their ethical principles.

Moral values influence all human perception and, thus they influence decisions people make. It is important to remember that people acquire different ethical values because these values are conditioned by the ethical values developed in the childhood. In this way people from different social backgrounds can have different sets of values and all these value systems come in conflict at the work place and this should be taken into account in the process of ethical decision making. Ethical values represent a significant component of personality. Individual values define the ways of cultural development and create social norms and standards.

There are several views on ethical behavior, which define the basis of moral or ethical behavior. Utilitarian ethics here is confronted to the individualism as these two ethical systems present opposing set of values. Utilitarian view on ethical behavior is based on the assumption that ethical behavior is defined as a behavior, which provides the greatest benefit for the biggest number of people. For business ethical decision making this assumption means that the needs of the small group of people can be sacrificed for the common good. One person can be dismissed or one department can be closed if this brings good to all other members of the organization. Individual approach to ethical decision making makes individual interests the highest treasure. This view insists on the necessity to count with the rights of each individual taken separately but not an organization as a whole. Rights of fair treatment, privacy and freedoms of thought and speech are fundamental rights in individual ethic.

Ethical issues are very important in the profession of the counselor. In many cases people of this profession find themselves in difficult ethical situations and the code of ethics can be very helpful in these cases.

There are several basic principles which should be followed by all counselors. These principles include nonmaleficence, beneficence, fidelity, justice and autonomy. The principle of nonmaleficence includes core idea of counseling. According to this principle counselor should try not to make any harm by any means. All actions of the counselor should be performed in accordance to this principle.  The principle of beneficence becomes natural continuation of the previous principle. According to this principle in addition to the principle of nonmaleficence counselor should have a desire to help the client and to do something good for him or her.

Respect of personal ethics must be the core ethical principle of each counselor. The principle of autonomy implies strict division between counselor’s own system of values and beliefs and values system of his clients. Each counselor should be aware that he possess his own system of beliefs, values, judgments and behaviors and here his task is not to force the clients to follow his system. Clients also posses their own values and they may differ from the one of the counselor’s. Ethical and social background is also an important factor which should be considered by all counselors. They all should mind social, ethical and cultural factors which influence their clients and keep in mind them during the process of counseling.

In some cases counselors have to make complicated ethical choices when trying to help their patients. This means that they become involved in ethical dilemmas. In these cases counselors have to make choices between different ethical systems. For example in the case when the client suffers because of bad attitude from the side of other people and the counselor has an attempt to influence these people a kind of ethical dilemma arises. From the one side counselor is guided by the principle of beneficence and wants to give his patient quick and quality help. From the others side making interference into the surrounding of the patient the principle of autonomy and confidentiality may suffer.  Here arises dilemma. From the one side counselor knows how to correct the situation by influencing people from client’s surrounding but from the other side can not do this because of other set of ethical principles which contradicts this kind of invasion. This kind of ethical dilemma appears quite often in the cases when same counselor works with the members of one family or people who know each other quite well. In this case the counselor may possess different opinions concerning the same issue but he can not cross the borders and share information he gets from different sources. Confidentiality often becomes a reason for the serious ethical conflict of the counselor.  In some cases clients share private and important information with their counselors and counselors have to keep it private by any means but there are cases when counselors feel strong moral obligation to share this information with some others specialists. Here again appears the kind of ethical dilemma. From the one side the principle of confidentiality prohibits counselors to share private information of their clients but from the other side this information may be vitally important for providing good and safety of other people and her counselor has to resolve ethical dilemma.

Work ethic is an important part of counselor’s work. Ethical norms and regulations should be considered during the work with clients. Since counselors work with human psychics they should mind the seriousness of ethical aspect of their actions.

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