Multicultural Competence and Ethical Decision-Making in School Counselors
It is unlikely school counselors will find clear concise responses to all of the ethical dilemmas that they face (Remley & Huey, 2002). Lambie (2005) concurs, "Rarely do ethical dilemmas confronting professional school counselors involve definitive 'correct' or 'incorrect' choices" (p.249). Although school counselors have access to two sets of ethical guidelines (i.e., American School Counseling Association (ASCA) code of ethics and American Counseling Association (ACA) code of ethics), both of these resources routinely fail to address many of the everyday challenges faced by practitioners in the field. The purpose of this article was to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between school counselors' multicultural competence and their capacity for ethical decision-making.
Ethical Decision-Making and School Counselors
Kottler & Brown (2000) point out that, "Ethical dilemmas do arise because of a conflict between what is best for the client and what is best for other people" (p.360). According to the ASCA Ethical Guidelines (2004) Section A.2.c., a professional school counselor has a duty to prevent harm to a student or other person, and this mandate even supersedes the obligations of confidentiality. Faced with such a serious conflict, the ASCA guidelines also recommend professional school counselors err on the side of caution by first consulting with their peers when uncertain about the proper course of action.
Over the past 20 years, ASCA has produced and refined a position statement (adopted 1988; revised 1993, 1999, 2004, 2009) emphasizing the importance of cultural diversity, stating professional school counselors promote the academic, career, and personal/social success for all students. In addition, they collaborate with stakeholders to create a school and community climate which embraces diversity (ASCA, 2009). Likewise, Sue, Arredondo, and McDavis (1992), argue, "[T]he need for multiculturalism in the counseling profession is urgent and necessary for ethical practice, an integral part of our professional work" (p.480). Detrimental consequences of a lack of multicultural competence in counseling could include improper case conceptualization for culturally diverse groups and lead to improper diagnosis (Sue & Sue, 2008).
Dominated by diverse and abstract theories and practices, effective counseling may be better classified as art form rather than a science (Gladding, 1992). In order to give the profession a more solid, objective and uniform foundation, ethical standards have been established. By endeavoring to understand and align themselves with these rules, professional counselors may enjoy a safe harbor, bolstered by legal precedents and be substantially protected from the threat of successful malpractice litigation (Remley & Herlihy, 2001). Thus, ethical practice requires professional school counselors to regularly review the ASCA Ethical Guidelines and maintain solid relationships with students, parents and faculty to ensure the availability of effective consultation (Bodenhorn, 2006). Ethical codes give direction to practitioners in that they are responsible for recognizing the needs of diverse clients. However, counselors are still lagging in their ability to recognize the association between cultural competence and ethical behavior (Watson, Herlihy, & Pierce, 2006).
A counselor may inadvertently violate the rights of a client if he/she does not have the proper training and skills to appropriately counsel diverse populations (Pedersen, Draguns, Lonner, & Trimble, 1996; Sue & Sue, 2008). For example, when cultural barriers exist in the counselor-client relationship, a client may not fully understand his or her rights about entering, continuing or terminating treatment (Pedersen et al., 1996). Furthermore, many persons of color place a high value on family relationships and cohesiveness. …