Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Infusing Professional Ethics into Counselor Education Programs: A Multicultural/social Justice Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Infusing Professional Ethics into Counselor Education Programs: A Multicultural/social Justice Perspective

Article excerpt

Mental health professionals are expected to practice in ways that are consistent with the ethical codes and standards established by their professions. When discussing ethical issues and their relevance for mental health practices, it is important to understand the different ways that the term ethics has been defined and the impact that cultural factors have in the formation of codes of ethics for mental health professionals.

Although some persons define ethics from a theoretical and moral stance, others emphasize the practical, professional meaning of the term. Philosophical ethics relates to theoretical and moral consideration of what is thought to be "good," "right" or "worthy" (Cottone & Tarvydas, 2003, p. 4) actions in different situations. The term professional ethics refers to agreed-upon rules, principles, and standards that govern appropriate conduct and define acceptable practices in various professional fields, including the mental health professions (Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 2007; Cottone & Tarvydas, 2003; Pack-Brown & Williams, 2003).

The ethical codes of the American Counseling Association (ACA; 2005), the American Psychological Association (APA; 2002), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW; 1999) detail a broad range of practical standards for ethical professional practices that reflect core values of these professions. These ethical values and pragmatic standards highlight the importance of operating in ways that respect the dignity and worth of the persons served by counselors, psychologists, and social workers.

In this regard, ACA (2005) has emphasized the ethical responsibility professional counselors have in (a) enhancing human growth, (b) recognizing and respecting the diversity of their clients, and (c) embracing culturally appropriate strategies that honor the dignity and uniqueness of the persons they serve. APA's (2002) ethical standards stress the need for psychologists to (a) be impartial and just when providing psychological services to persons in diverse groups; (b) allow all persons equal access to available services; and (c) ensure that personal biases, boundaries of competence, and limitations of expertise do not result in unfair and improper professional practices. NASW (1999) has explicitly emphasized the need for social workers to promote justice and positive environmental changes on behalf of those served as important ethical responsibilities.

The codes of ethics in the fields of counseling, psychology, and social work have and will continue to undergo changes over time. Numerous factors have contributed to the evolution that has occurred in these ethical standards. These factors include the emergence of new knowledge about the effectiveness of intervention strategies that are believed to be helpful in fostering healthy human development; the ongoing evolution of human consciousness in general; and the moral-ethical reasoning of counselors, psychologists, and social workers in particular. Regarding the latter point, it is noted that the recent changes in the professional ethics of ACA, APA, and NASW reflect a growing sensitivity and moral-ethical respectability for the diverse cultural constructions of terms such as mental health and appropriate helping interventions and the meaning of ethical practices (Houser, Wilczenski, & Ham, 2006).

To illustrate this point further, the recently revised ACA (2005) standard related to receiving gifts from clients (see Standard A.10.e.) reflects a more culturally sensitive stance that recognizes the cultural implications of accepting small tokens of appreciation from clients, whereas acceptance of such gifts had been considered unethical in the past. This focus on cultural sensitivity can also be seen in the revisions made to other ethical standards related to issues of confidentiality, disclosure of information, and privacy (see Standard B.1.a.). These and other changes that have been made in the counseling profession's ethical standards are largely attributed to a couple of key factors. …

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