Report of the ACA Ethics Committee: 2000-2001

Article excerpt

The American Counseling Association (ACA) Ethics Committee annual report provides the membership with information about activities of the Ethics Committee throughout the preceding year. The Ethics Committee has published an annual report in the Journal of Counseling & Development since 1991. The Ethics Committee conducts face-to-face and telephone meetings a minimum of three times per year for processing complaints. Meetings for the 2000-2001 term were held on November 2, 2000; March 17, 2001; and June 29, 2001. The 2000-2001 report includes the following sections: overview of the mission of the Ethics Committee, Ethics Committee membership, educational activities, review of policies and procedures, and adjudication activities.

ETHICS COMMITTEE MISSION

The ACA Ethics Committee has two primary responsibilities: education and adjudication. Educational functions include interpreting the ACA (1995) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for ACA members seeking guidance about potential ethical dilemmas; writing articles for Counseling Today (ACA's newspaper), addressing ethical issues and concerns; and creating resource documents, such as the "Layperson's Guide to Counselor Ethics: What You Should Know About the Ethical Practice of Professional Counselors," for use by professionals and consumers.

The Ethics Committee's adjudicative function involves monitoring and issuing sanctions for unethical practice on the part of ACA members. ACA's (1997) Policies and Procedures for Processing Complaints of Ethical Violations establishes explicit guidelines for receiving, processing, investigating, and deciding the outcome of formal complaints against ACA members. The guidelines are also designed to protect ACA members from unsubstantiated accusations of unethical practice.

According to ACA's (1997) Policies and Procedures for Processing Complaints of Ethical Violations, when an ethics complaint is determined by one of the Ethics Committee co-chairs to warrant investigation, the task of the committee is to compile "an objective, factual account" and conduct an impartial, confidential peer review of the case. Following comprehensive case examination and discussion by the Ethics Committee, the committee votes on each alleged ethics code violation. The committee has the option of dismissing a complaint or imposing sanctions for violation of one or more ethics codes. Sanctions may include remedial measures, suspension, or expulsion from membership in ACA. Sanctioned members have the right to appeal the decision of the Ethics Committee. Suspensions and expulsions of ACA members are published in Counseling Today and reported to several entities: the American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB); relevant ACA divisions; ACA branches in states in which the member lives or practices, or both; the National Board for Certified Counselors (via the AASCB); and the ACA Insurance Trust. A case is closed when the sanction has been completed or, if no violation is found, when the complainant and accused have been notified.

ETHICS COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP

Six ACA members serving 3-year terms constitute the standing Ethics Committee. Two new committee members and a cochair are appointed annually by the ACA president-elect, subject to ratification by the ACA Governing Council. In 1997-1998, the Ethics Committee initiated a process to promote and preserve multiculturalism and diversity in its membership. The 2001-2002 Ethics Committee reflected diversity in terms of age, race, ethnicity, gender, geography, sexual orientation, and professional setting. Members of the 2000-2001 ACA Ethics Committee were Carmen Braun Williams (Senior Cochair), Jo-Ann Lipford-Sanders (Junior Cochair), Bobbie Birdsall, Colleen Logan, Mike Hubert, and Carole Minor. Additional, nonvoting committee members were Graduate Student Representative Deborah Linnell, Governing Council Liaison Jim Whitledge, and ACA Staff Liaison Larry T. …