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Respond by Day 5 to a colleague who discussed a case study that you did not, and propose some measures that counselors might employ to prevent engaging in ethical violations in the case study. Propose a professional standard or method that you might apply in your counseling practice.
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Mary Ann is a college student who is strongly rooted in her religion. She has a close family and is also very close to her small, Evangelical church family. She is struggling with depression, low self- esteem and a low opinion of herself because of a prior rape and subsequent abortion; she has kept this a secret from everyone who knows and loves her because of statements made by her pastor and her church. She fears that if they know the truth, given their stance on premarital sex and abortion, they will reject her. Her counselor, believing her religious views to be a large part of her problem, introduces her to alternate interpretations of the Bible, which she feels was inappropriate.
The Ethical Dilemma
The primary ethical dilemma here is that the counselor violated standard A.1.c in the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics, which shares that counselors should work with their clients to develop a plan for treatment (Herlihy & Corey, 2015). The counselor did not work with his client, and in fact, attempted to treat an issue other than the one she identified as her presenting issue, which was depression.
Why Its an Ethical Dilemma and Who is Affected
The counselor believed that her religious beliefs were contributing to her depression, so he sought to introduce alternative interpretations in an effort to alleviate her guilt and avoid confessing what happened to her family and church. It is possible that he thought he was upholding standard A.1.a in the ACA Code of Ethics by promoting the welfare of his client (Herlihy & Corey, 2015). Nevertheless, the client disagreed and felt violated and unheard. In addition to the client, the counselor, and his supervisor were all directly affected by this dilemma. Further, if this has tainted her view of the counseling profession, counselors as a whole will also be residually affected. If the counselor did not fully understand the impact of her religion on her behavior and acted anyway, he may have violated standard C.2.a in the ACA Code of Ethics by acting outside of his area of competence (Herlihy & Corey, 2015).
If I were counseling Mary Ann, I would have focused on the issue she presented with and sought to find ways to help her within the confines of her beliefs. If I did not feel able to navigate these issues in light of her religious views, then I would have either sought consultation or referred her to another counselor who could better assist. In either case, there would have been no dilemma, because my focus would have been only on the reason she came depression. Given these options, I think that focusing on her presenting issue within the confines of her religious view would have been the best course of action, because it would have met the need that she came to have addressed.
American Counseling Association (ACA). (2014).?2014 ACA code of ethics?[White Paper].?Retrieved from?http://www.counseling.org/docs/ethics/2014-aca-code-of-ethics.pdf?sfvrsn=4
Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2015).?ACA ethical standards casebook?(7th ed.). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Mary Ann is a college student who has been seeing a counselor by the name of Marcus for depression and lack of motivation to get better grades in her college courses. During the course of their sessions, Mary Ann shared that she was raped as a teenager, had a secret abortion, never told anyone about those things, and fears that she will no longer be accepted by her fellow church members should they ever find out about any of it. She used to have dreams of working in the church, getting married, and having children, but now she fears that none of that is possible and that she is going to hell when she dies because of the abortion. Marcus believed that Mary Anns religious beliefs were the main source of her depression. Because of that, he suggested that Mary Ann look at different versions of the Bible and maybe even check out different churches who did not condemn her to hell for having an abortion. Mary Ann said that she would think about those suggestions, but never returned to Marcus counseling sessions A little while later, Marcus was told by his supervisor that Mary Ann sent him a letter stating that Marcuss actions were inappropriate because he suggested that she should make changes to her faith, when she sought him out to treat her depression (Herlihy & Corey, 2015).
In the process of Marcus trying to do what he felt would relieve some of the pressure from Mary Ann, he violated Standard A.1.c. of the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. It states that counselors and clients will work together to formulate a reasonable counseling plan that is congruent with the clients abilities, circumstance, temperament, and developmental level. Counselors also regularly check in with clients to review the effectiveness of the plan (ACA, 2014). Had Marcus gathered more details from Mary Ann and included her in the treatment planning, he would have realized that changes to her religious beliefs were out of the question.
Marcus also violated Standard A.4.b of the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. Herlihy & Corey (2015) states Counselors are aware ofand avoid imposingtheir own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. (p.5). Marcus seemed to either not be very culturally sensitive to Mary Anns religious views or unaware that he was projecting his personal beliefs onto her.
One consequence that may result from these ethical violations is that Mary Ann may lose trust in the counseling process, which may hinder her from finding ways to deal with her depression. Another is that Marcuss supervisor may lose trust in his ability to counsel clients who have issues involving religion and may begin to supervise him more closely.
To safeguard against coming up with a treatment plan that is not in line with the client’s wishes, I would make it a point to ask the client to share with me the results that they hope to see from the treatment plan and be sure to include them in the creation of the plan.
To safeguard against imposing my personal views and beliefs onto the client, I would seek consultation and/or supervision for subjects that I was not very knowledgeable about. I would also refer Mary Ann to someone more knowledgeable in her faith, or I would seek to gain a better understanding of her religious beliefs and values.
American Counseling Association (ACA). (2014). 2014 ACA code of ethics [White Paper]. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/docs/ethics/2014-aca-code-of-ethics.pdf?sfvrsn=4
Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2015). ACA ethical standards casebook (7th ed.). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.