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Ethics Codes

One of the intentions of the both the 2005 American Counseling Association Code of Ethics (ACA) and the 2004 American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) is to serve as an ethical guide that assists members in launching an ethical counseling practice that best serves the clients. Since the ACA Code of Ethics and AACC Ethics Codes were written specifically for the counseling profession they have many of the same ideas in regards to ethical practices, procedures, and behaviors. The AACC consulted with the ACA when writing their ethic codes.

The AACC defines their code of ethics from a Christian point of view and the codes are written explicitly for the Christian counselor. The ACA has a more humanistic approach to their codes and the codes are written for the secular counselor. This distinction can be made by simply reading the mission statement of the ACA and AACC. “The mission of the American Counseling Association is to enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors…and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity” (2005, p.

2) and “The mission of this Code is to help advance the central mission of the AACC—to bring honor to Jesus Christ and promote excellence and unity in Christian counseling” (2004, p. 4). The 2005 ACA Code of Ethics and the 2004 AACC Code of Ethics have many of the same categories. This paper will evaluate, compare and contrast the similarities and dissimilarities of the codes in the areas of informed consent, competence of the counselor, and the counselor’s relationship to society. Along with comparing these three ethical codes this paper will offer explanation to why the differences exist.

Duty to Clients Competence Any essential trait, necessary for an effective counselor is competence. Competence is the state if being sufficiently qualified. Both the ACA code of ethics and AACC code of ethics give a great deal of attention to competence. In regards to competence, the codes of ethics address boundaries, consultations, and continuing education. The ACA and AACC codes of ethics visibly state that counselors must be well trained and qualified in order to work ethically if not, they are practicing outside the boundaries of their competence.

Neither the ACA nor the AACC codes of ethics provides suggestions or information about specifications on education or training. Nevertheless, the ACA does offer details about the type of experience and certification stating that, “Counselors practice only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their supervised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience” (2005, C. 2. a. ).

Both The ACA and AACC address consultations, but the AACC adds referrals to its section on competence. Referrals are addressed in a different on section of the ACA code of ethics. The ACA and AACC code of ethics are similar in the idea that if a counselor cannot practice within his or her competence, they should consult a more competent counselor, a fellow colleague or supervisor. Conversely, the AACC places a great emphasis on the matter and is more comprehensive.

While the AACC is geared toward Christian counselors their codes are broad enough to be utilized by secular counselors, however, within this section of competence, the AACC specifically caters Christian counselor by saying, “…Christian counselors seek out the best Christian help at a higher level of knowledge, skill, and expertise. If Christian help is not available, or when professional skill is more important than the professional’s beliefs, Christian counselors shall use the entire network of professional services available” (2004, ES1-223).

The area of competence that is most similar between the ACA and AACC code of ethics is the notion of continuing education. The wording is different, yet the idea is the same. Continuing education helps counselors remain competent in their field, which in turn advances their effectiveness. Each code recognizes the importance of ongoing training and encourages its members to stay abreast of new knowledge, current scientific and professional information. A notable difference about competency in the ACA ethical codes and AACC codes of ethics is the area focus.

The AACC code of ethics focus on competence with integrity and the ACA ethical codes focus on competence with diversity. There is not a specific section on multicultural competence, yet the words diversity and diverse populations are used often in the segments on competence and many other sections. The AACC does not directly attend to multiculturalism competence. Informed Consent Clients have the right to know what they are getting into when they come for therapy, counseling or any other services.

The ACA and the AACC code of ethics are very thorough in the area of informed consent. Both codes of ethics are designed so that the client will be able make an informed decision based on the abundance of information that the counselor should provide. These codes of ethics state that the clients should not only have an understanding of the facts about the counselor and their practice but of the implications as well. The ACA and the AACC code of ethics on informed consent are very similar in content but different largely in their mission.

For example, both codes of ethics address the issue of clients who are incapable of making their own informed decisions. The same idea is implied in the ACA and AACC code of ethics, but the approach is different. The AACC affirms the Bible principles of parents being the head, thus being over their children, whereas the ACA ethical codes are more sensitive in their wording, highlighting the humanistic agenda. When counseling minors or persons unable to give voluntary consent, counselors seek the assent of clients to services, and include them in decision making as appropriate.

Counselors recognize the need to balance the ethical rights of clients to make choices, their capacity to give consent or assent to receive services, and parental or familial legal rights and responsibilities to protect these clients and make decisions on their behalf (ACA, 2005). Another distinction between the ACA and AACC code of ethics as they pertain to inform consent are there missions. The AACC adds a section about Biblical and spiritual practices, informing clients of the use of prayer, spiritual meditation, Bible reading and referencing. The ACA stresses the importance of sharing information in a culturally sensitive way.

“Counselors consider the client’s personal or cultural context” (2005, E. 3. a) and “counselors consider cultural implications of informed consent procedures and, where possible, counselors adjust their practices accordingly (2005, A. 2. c). The last section under informed consent in the AACC is unique because it talks about consent for unusual or more complex interventions such as deliverance and spiritual warfare activities; hypnosis; electro-convulsive therapy; reparative therapy with homosexual persons; and counseling regarding abortion (2004).

These techniques and practices are not mentioned in the ACA code. Duty to the Profession The Counselor’s Relationship to Society Weaved throughout the entire 2005 ACA Code of Ethics is the theme of the counselor’s relationship to society. Several sections refer to the counselor’s responsibility to enhance the quality of life in any society. One section in particular relates to the counselor being an advocate for society to help the growth and development of clients (2005, A. 6. a. ).

The AACC code of ethics speaks directly about the Christian counselor’s relationship to society in sections 800 and 820. These two section relay to Christian counselors that every effort should be made to uphold ethical relations with the church, government, professionals, and all of society and “Christian counselors are dedicated to build… a better society in which to live” (2004, ES1-820). Their viewpoints are similar at first glance, but their idea of ethical relations with society is quite different.

According to the ACA (2005) the ethical behavior for counselors towards society is to be advocates for society promoting and protecting diversity and multicultural communities, however, the AACC (2004) holds that ethical behavior for a counselor is to not condone or advocate certain societies because they contradict the way of life according to the Bible. The AACC stresses the Bible and the ACA stresses humanity and both hold true to their mission throughout their code of ethics. It’s within these specific areas that the greater contrasts lie since the ACA and AACC have different definitions for ethical standards and practices.

For the ACA there is no specific ethical decision-making model and for the AACC the ethical decision-model is none other than Jesus Christ. When counselors exalt the name of their Lord and Savior, invite in the Holy Spirit, and celebrate Jesus ethical dilemmas will not be an issue.

References

American Association of Christian Counselors. (2004). AACC code of ethics: The Y2004 final code. Retrieved June 28, 2009 from http://www. aacc. net/about-us/code-of-ethics/ American Counseling Association. (2005). Code of ethics and standards of practice. Retrieved June 28, 2009 from http://www. counseling. org/Resources/CodeOfEthics/TP/Home/CT2. aspx

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