Ethics Education in CACREP-Accredited Counselor Education Programs

Article excerpt

The authors present the results of a survey investigating ethics education practices in counselor education programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and counselor educators' beliefs regarding ethics education. Survey responses describe current curricular approaches to ethics education, content, and instructional methodologies used in counselor education. The survey also ascertained information regarding counselor educators' beliefs about ethics education and their abilities to teach ethics, implications for counselor education, professional development, and suggestions for further research are discussed.

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The importance of ethics in relation to counseling and counselor education on is more than a philosophical consideration. In the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) 2001 accreditation standards, it is required that counseling ethics be addressed in core and specialty area curricula, recognizing ethics education as a critical component of counselor education. The purposes of this research were (a) to provide counselor educators with a current picture of ethics training within counselor education, (b) to examine the beliefs of counselor educators as they relate to the role of ethics education in counselor education, and (c) to begin the discussion of whether the current training reflects the beliefs expressed by counselor educators.

According to Stein (1990), there has been an increased interest in ethics and issues related to ethical standards of practice within the counseling profession, as evident in the consistent choice of ethical issues as themes for local, state, and national meetings; the desire by publishers for books on ethics; and the eagerness of journals to publish articles on ethics. In most cases, the American Counseling Association's (ACA; 1995) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice serves as a focal point for the presentations and writings on counseling ethics. Many authors have posited the limitations of ethical codes in assisting with ethical judgments (e.g., Kitchener, 1984; Mabe & Rollin, 1986; Neukrug, Lovell, & Parker, 1996; Talbutt, 1981) or raised criticisms suggesting that the ethical codes in counseling and psychology do not effectively represent and incorporate a multicultural context (e.g., Casas & Thompson, 1991; Pedersen, 1997). Although the professional organizations for counseling and psychology clearly have recognized the importance of ethical considerations in training programs, no specifications are made as to what are considered best practices in ethics education in counselor education.

The American Psychological Association (APA) began mandating ethics education in its accreditation standards for doctoral programs in 1979 (Handelsman, 1986; Welfel, 1992). At that time, Tymchuk et al. (1979) offered information about ethics education practices through a survey of APA-approved doctoral clinical psychology programs. The authors reported that 67% of responding programs offered formal courses in ethics compared with 9% of the responding programs in a study conducted 22 years earlier. They also noted a trend: Programs offering formal ethics courses were making efforts to require the course in their programs.

In 1983, Welfel and Lipsitz reviewed the literature on ethics education in psychology and counseling and noted that little was known about ethics education other than that more courses were being offered than had been previously. Although they acknowledged the profession's efforts to improve training in ethics, these authors decried the lack of empirical findings to support such efforts. They labeled the existing lack of research as "predictable" due, in part, to the fact that "the profession is operating on little more than intuitive knowledge of the sources of unethical behavior" (Welfel & Lipsitz, 1983, p. …