Good Example Of Professional And Communication Ethics Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Counselor, Client, Relationships, Ethics, Profession, Professionalism, Counseling, Behavior

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/10/17

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There are many different types of unprofessional conduct a counselor may knowingly, or unknowingly become a part of the duration of their professional career. However, there is a point of “reflection” in which the counselor behavior has to be learned from. This paper will discuss the types of unprofessional conduct, or actions a counselor might commit. In addition, this paper will discuss those potential consequences when engaging in such behaviors, which would not just affect the counselor personally, but how the bad decisions by becoming involved into inappropriate behaviors would impact his or her overall future within the workplace, co-workers, clients, supervisors, or ethics board. This paper will be broken down into four different parts. The first part will explain what reflection is, and examples of unprofessional conduct by counseling professionals. It would also discuss briefly on the ethics administrated by the ACA (American Counseling Association) and communication ethics. The second part will discuss the four categories of unprofessional behavior. The third part will discuss the consequences of unethical behavior. The final part will discuss the future behaviors within the counselor’s external environment such as clients/patients, supervisors, etc and how it would affect them.
“Reflection has been defined as ‘‘a thought, idea, or opinion formed, or a remark made, as a result of meditation. ’’We define reflection in counseling to include consideration of the larger context, the meaning, and the implications of an experience or action. In learning theory, reflection integrates a concept or a combination of skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values with the learners’ cognitive framework. So, reflection allows assimilation and reordering or reworking of concepts, skills, knowledge, and/or values into pre-existing knowledge structures. A good role model is the opposite of a bad role model. Bad role models do not like their work, make their dissatisfaction known, and have negative interactions with clients/patients. Good role models embody the opposite qualities of enthusiasm for learning, high degrees of skills and knowledge, and, importantly, emphasizing the psychological and social aspects of medical care. Good role models, wishing to teach reflection should then establish a reflective atmosphere with their learners” (Branch & Paranjape, 2002, para. 2). And not just creating a reflective atmosphere for clients, but establishing boundaries as well. “At the beginning of each counseling session, the counselor has to explain a tentative framework from which the client and the therapist would work from and this is necessary to define professional boundaries in the counseling relationship. The term that was signed outlines what each person’s responsibilities are and governs the amount of contact. Contracts are an acknowledgment of a client’s consent to treatment after understanding procedures used, risks, benefits, and information of relevant alternatives. In discussing the contract terms, it will not only mention any charges, but be about breaking or terminating the relationship. Supervision is expected for all counselors and therapists to engage regularly and is to protect the counselor from poor practice, ensuring compliance with relevant legal and ethical guidelines while monitoring the professional development and welfare of the supervisee. It is important to note that all counselors should experience being a client first” (Krawford, 2012, p. 4).
Throughout the career of a counseling professional, there will be a high probability of the counselor acting in an unprofessional manner, and will not reflect on their actions before it occurs. It is bound to happen since counselors are humans, and humans will make mistakes. There are instances where a counselor may feel that they are “above authority”, become too comfortable in their positions, failure to accordingly read the code of ethics that were sworn upon during the beginning of employment, involved in an complex, yet inappropriate manner with a client, or discussing a client’s personal business with co-workers in the public waiting area are all examples of unprofessional behavior. “A.1.a . The primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and promote the welfare of clients. A.5.a. Sexual and/or romantic counselor client interactions or relationships with current clients, their romantic partners, or their family members are prohibited. This prohibition applies to both in person and electronic interactions or relationships. A.5.b. Counselors are prohibited from engaging in counseling relationships with persons with whom they have had a previous sexual and/or romantic relationship. A.5.c Sexual and/or romantic counselor–client interactions or relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members are prohibited for a period of 5 years following the last professional contact. This prohibition applies to both in-person and electronic interactions or relationships. Counselors, before engaging in sexual and/or romantic interactions or relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members, demonstrate forethought and document (in written form) whether the interaction or relationship can be viewed as exploitive in any way and/or whether there is still potential to harm the former client; in cases of potential exploitation and/or harm, the counselor avoids entering into such an interaction or relationship. A.6.a Counselors consider the risks and benefits of accepting as clients those with whom they have had a previous relationship. These potential clients may include individuals with whom the counselor has had a casual, distant, or past relationship. Examples include mutual or past membership in a professional association, organization, or community. When counselors accept these clients, they take appropriate professional precautions such as informed consent, consultation, supervision, and documentation to ensure that judgment is not impaired and no exploitation occurs. A.6.b Counselors consider the risks and benefits of extending current counseling relationships beyond conventional parameters. Examples include attending a client’s formal ceremony (e.g., a wedding/commitment ceremony or graduation), purchasing a service or product provided by a client (excepting unrestricted bartering), and visiting a client’s ill family member in the hospital. In extending these boundaries, counselors take appropriate professional precautions such as informed consent, consultation, supervision, and documentation to ensure that judgment is not impaired and no harm occurs. A.6.c. If counselors extend boundaries as described in A.6.a. and A.6.b., they must officially document, prior to the interaction (when feasible), the rationale for such an interaction, the potential benefit, and anticipated consequences for the client or former client and other individuals significantly involved with the client or former client. When unintentional
harm occurs to the client or former client, or to an individual. A. 6.d. When counselors change a role from the original or most recent contracted relationship, they obtain informed consent from the client and explain the client’s right to refuse services related to the change. Examples of role changes include, but are not limited to changing from individual to relationship or family counseling, or vice versa; changing from an evaluative role to a therapeutic role, or vice versa; and changing from a counselor to a mediator role, or vice versa. Clients must be fully informed of any anticipated consequences (e.g., financial, legal, personal, therapeutic) of counselor role changes. A.6.e Counselors avoid entering into nonprofessional relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members when the interaction is potentially harmful to the client. This applies to both in-person and electronic interactions or relationships” ("ACA," 2014, p. 4).
While communication ethics could be, for instance if there were an addiction counselor they would have to abide by certain guidelines such as ““Addiction professionals shall provide information to clients regarding confidentiality and any reasons for releasing information in adherence with confidentiality laws. When providing services to families, couples or groups, the limits and exceptions to confidentiality must be reviewed and a written document describing confidentiality must be provided to each person. Once private information is obtained by the addiction professional, standards of confidentiality apply. Confidential information is disclosed when appropriate with valid consent from a client or guardian. Every effort is made to protect the confidentiality of client information, except in very specific cases or situations. And the addiction professional will inform the client(s) of the limits of confidentiality prior to recording an interview or prior to using information from a session for training purposes” ("NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics," 2014). Therefore, it is important for counselors to respect these communication guidelines. Counselors must quickly and efficiently learn these ethics to be good role models for their clients, co-workers, and the external environment. The counselors, however, that fail to learn these provisions will most likely engage in unprofessional behavior. Furthermore, unprofessional behavior falls into four categories consisting of “illegal or criminal acts, immoral acts, business related acts, and acts that violate acceptable medical or counseling practices” ("Wehavins," 2012).
Licensed counselors are commonly known to portray characteristics as “(altruism) putting patients’ best interests first, (accountability) to patients, to society, to their profession, (excellence) exceeding expectations and commitment to lifelong learning, (duty) commitment to service in the community and professional organizations, (honor and integrity) adhering to personal and professional codes, being fair, truthful, straightforward, and meeting commitments, (respect for others) all patients and their families, all colleagues and other health professionals” (Hammer, 2000, p. 455). As previously mentioned, this is not always the case for good professional behavior. There are those sorts of counselors whom may engage in criminal activity such as prescribing extra medication to clients for a financial profit, or behavior that may violate the board of regent’s provisions. This section of the paper will aim to discuss in depth the general four categories of unprofessional behavior. The first category which is labeled the criminal category because the counselor is breaking the law in some form, or fashion. One way could be is a breaking confidentiality. “Confidentiality is a concept that is based on ethical principles
and is important to the counseling relationship because it facilitates trust and the establishment of a therapeutic relationship. It is important to note, however, that what is ethical behavior under professional codes of ethics is not necessarily legal and vice versa. However, confidentiality has gained legal status throughout the United States through licensing laws for counselors with several states specifically granting the right of privileged communication to school counselors. It should be noted that this privilege belongs to the client and not the counselor. Breach of confidence is considered unprofessional conduct and is grounds for disciplinary action and sometimes legal action” (Sealander, 1999, p. 122).
The second category is based on counselors engaging in sexual acts with clients, or patients. This sort of behavior is not only unprofessional, but it causes the patient and community to lose faith in the company that provides care. In some cases, however a counselor could be terminated from their position if the sexual occurrence happens with a “current client or patient” but it is still wrong nonetheless, whether if it is a patient or not. The third category of unprofessional behavior is business related acts. “It is a disciplinary violation to obtain, maintain, or renew a license to practice medicine by bribery, fraud or misrepresentation or to attempt the same” ("Wehavins," 2012). The fourth category is a part of the general violation of the American Counseling Association ethics such as if a counselor abandoned a client “Counselors do not abandon or neglect clients in counseling. Counselors assist in making appropriate arrangements for the continuation of treatment, when necessary, during interruptions such as vacations, illness, and following termination” Or if a counselor wanted to accept a gift from a client, “Counselors understand the challenges of accepting gifts from clients and recognize that in some cultures, small gifts are a token of respect and gratitude. When determining whether to accept a gift from clients, counselors take into account the therapeutic relationship, the monetary value of the gift, the client’s motivation for giving the gift, and the counselor’s motivation for wanting to accept or decline the gift” ("ACA," 2014) could still be considered a violation of the ethics agreement.
“Technology and the internet are designed to make things easier and more accessible. But counselors caution that technological advances can also usher in ethical unknowns. Many counselors have professional websites and social media pages while also maintaining a personal presence online. It is important to keep the two identities separate. Counselors have greater control over information if they were to publish themselves, making it easier to keep boundaries intact. But they have less control, and might even be unaware of information that others publish such as party photos posted by their friends. On a social network site like Facebook, use a ‘Page’ to display professional information and use a ‘Profile’ to display personal information. The page allows you to publish information for client use and does not have friends associated with it” (Shallcross, 2011). Being a professional and utilizing social media could be considered “risky” at times. Take for instance, if a current client sent a friend request to their counselor, and the counselor were to accept, this scenario would “open the door” for private inbox messages, or allowing the client to see the counselor personal life in general which has its consequences such as exhortation of the counselor, or blackmail if those private messages were to become inappropriate.
Speaking of consequences, there are many when pertaining to unprofessional behavior. A counselor may have a family and need their job, but to engage in an appropriate act could result in termination, mandatory resignation, jail, or prison sentencing, and media attention depending upon the severity of the offense, and how well known the company may be. Not to mention, it could affect the counselor’s relationships with their husband/wife, family members, friends, and colleagues. Or worse, become mentally depressed and endure a serious health ailment from the stress. Despite the fact that these events will be indeed overwhelming, the counselor should already have in place “malpractice insurance”. This sort of insurance “(aka Professional Liability Insurance or Errors & Omissions Insurance) covers liability suits against a counseling practice that allege services which caused harm or financial loss. For example, say a mental health counselor began an inappropriate relationship with a client. He began revealing personal information about himself to the client that has absolutely no therapeutic value and encouraged the client to meet him for a social engagement outside the office. A sexual relationship emerged while he was still offering the client counseling sessions. When the client discontinued the counseling sessions, the counselor failed to assist her in obtaining another counselor. Because the counselor breached clinical, ethical, and legal standards of care, the plaintiff's attorney initially sought $500,000. However, the case was settled out of court for $150,000 (plus an additional $11,780 paid in legal costs). Unfortunately, cases like this are not anomalies. As more people gain access to the therapeutic help they need in order to live healthy lives, malpractice suits are becoming more common. When you have Malpractice Insurance, it covers lawsuits over: professional negligence, breaches in standard of care, provision of shoddy services that jeopardize a client's health, failure to treat or protect clients appropriately, misrepresentation of services to entice a prospective patient to agree to a contract. Malpractice Insurance is claims-made coverage, which is based on two conditions. The policy must be active when an alleged incident occurs and when the lawsuit is filed against the counselor’s practice. If these conditions are both met, the policy would cover the attorney's fees, settlements, and other costs related to the initial charge depending on the counselor’s limits”("Insurance Policies," 2014).
After an unethical behavior is committed, and the consequences are dealt with, there are questions to be asked such as, what if the counselor is given a second chance? Did the counselor learn from their mistakes? Will the counselor make an effective decision if faced with the same issue again? How does the future behavior shape the relationships with the client, supervisor, or workplace as a whole? It is important to note, however that there will be many emotions present in these sorts of situations, but the counselor must stay grounded despite the adversity. The counselor must remember to do the following: clearly define their role as a counselor, develop a sense of humor, deal with their anxiety, learn how to handle demanding clients, and knowing how to stay strong as a unique individual and a counseling professional. “One of the challenges as a counselor will be to define and clarify your professional role. Think about what role or roles you would most want to assume. At this point, how might you define the basic role of a therapist? Is the therapist a friend? An expert? A teacher? An advice giver? An information giver? A provider of alternatives? A confronter? As a counselor, might you have each of these functions at various times, and if so, what is your basic role in the counseling process? What influence might the setting in which you practice have on your role? You will have to reassess the nature of your professional commitments and redefine your role at various times. In addition, therapy is a responsible matter, but it can be more fulfilling by humor and tragedy are closely linked and that after allowing ourselves to feel some experiences that are painfully tragic, we can also genuinely laugh at how seriously we have taken our situation. There will also be a high level of anxiety. A certain level of anxiety demonstrates that we are aware of the uncertainties of the future with our clients and of our abilities to really be there and stay with them. Our willingness to recognize and deal with these anxieties, as opposed to denying them by pretenses, is a mark of courage. That we have self-doubts which seems perfectly normal; it is how we deal with them that count. One way is to openly discuss them with a supervisor and peers. The possibilities are rich for meaningful exchanges and for gaining support. Not to mention, the counselor could be faced with clients who may appear as “intimidating” or even demanding, but the counselor must be certain to maintain a level of professionalism at all times. Therapists feel that they should extend themselves in being helpful; they often burden themselves with the unrealistic standard that they should give unselfishly regardless of how great the demands on them are. The demands may manifest themselves in a variety of ways such as demanding to see you more often or for a longer period than you can provide; wanting to see you socially; wanting the counselor to adopt or in some other way take care of them and assume their responsibilities; expect you to manipulate another person (spouse, child, parent) to see and accept their point of view; demand that you not leave them and that you continually demonstrate how much you care; or demand that you tell them what to do and how to solve a problem which could potentially lead to the inappropriate behavior once again. Counselors must be able to discern these triggers and make your expectations and boundaries clear during the initial counseling session or in the disclosure statement. Lastly, a counselor single most important instrument is the person that they are, and the most powerful technique is the ability to model aliveness and realness. Counselors must take care of themselves and make effective decisions. They must work at dealing with issues that threaten their energy to make them become helpless to their work environment and clients” ("The Counselor," 2011).
In conclusion, this paper has discussed several components of inappropriate behaviors conducted by counselor professionals. Not to mention, the consequences and future behaviors. It is essential to note that although a bad decision was made by the counselor, it will most likely cause long-term damage with the supervisors, for instance the counselor may be overlooked for a promotion, or the state licensing authorities would have the counselor on their radar so if one incident was to occur again, then their license would be immediately revoked and they would no longer be able to practice in their profession on a permanent basis. All in all, the best decision for a counselor is abide by the code of ethics to avoid any potential problems while in employment as a counselor. “If counselors are to promote growth and change in their clients, they must be willing to promote growth in their own lives by exploring their own choices and decisions and by striving to become aware of the ways in which they have ignored their own potential for growth. This willingness to attempt to live in accordance with what they teach and thus to be positive models for their clients is what makes counselors "therapeutic persons."("The Counselor," 2011, p. 29).


American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. (2014). Retrieved from
Branch, W. T., & Paranjape, A. (2002). Feedback and Reflection: Teaching Methods for Clinical Settings. Academic Medicine, 77, 1187. Retrieved from
Krawford, K. (2012). SOCIAL, LEGAL & ETHICAL ISSUES. Retrieved from
Must-Have Insurance Policies for Mental Health Counselors. (2014). Retrieved from
Professionalism. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 64, 457.
Sealander, K. A. (1999, December 1999). Confidentiality and the Law. Professional School Counseling, 3, 122.
Shallcross, L. (2011). Do The Right Thing. Retrieved from
The Counselor: Person and Professional. (2011). Retrieved from
Unprofessional Conduct. (2012). Retrieved from

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