Ethical Analysis in Counseling: A Case for Narrative Ethics, Moral Visions, and Virtue Ethics

By Hill, Adam L. | Counseling and Values, January 2004 | Go to article overview

Ethical Analysis in Counseling: A Case for Narrative Ethics, Moral Visions, and Virtue Ethics


Hill, Adam L., Counseling and Values


The author presents an overview of the current content of ethics education in counseling, grouping that content into 3 areas: decision-making models, principle ethics, and the standard of care. It is argued that as the field of ethics education has grown, so has the need for additional content models, especially ones that enhance moral sensitivity and reduce objectification of client circumstances. The author presents 3 possible approaches to revising the conceptualization of professional ethics that meet the need for new models: moral visions, narrative ethics, and virtue ethics.

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This article provides a broad overview of the current ethical analysis content presented to students in counselor education programs. In this article, ethical analysis refers to the educational content counseling students can be expected to apply to ethically troubling situations throughout their careers. The goal of this article is to describe some of the characteristics of ethical analysis that are commonly presented in counselor education programs. I also introduce alternate methods of ethical analysis to help counselor educators enhance the ethical capacities of counseling students. In order to identify the content of ethical analysis in counselor education, it is necessary to define ethics. It is also necessary to describe the social context in which the teaching of ethics in counselor education programs takes place.

The Current State of Ethical Analysis: Dilemma Over Drama

Definitions

Professional ethics is a complex domain for students, teachers, and practitioners. The term ethics itself carries so many different meanings that important opportunities for valuable inquiry may be missed by individuals who are attempting to clarify these meanings. When counselors refer to ethics, it is often not clear whether they are referring to codes of ethics, moral values, legal limitations on behavior, community standards, or to some general sense of the term that is meant to encompass any one or all of these concepts. In addition, ethics may be discussed in either ideal language, referring to the highest and best goals a counselor may aspire to, or in practical language, reflecting mandatory minimal standards in professional life (Herlihy & Corey, 1996).

Standards created by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2001) provide some guidance for individuals who want to define the parameters and limits of ethics, of professional ethics, and of educational content relating to ethics. CACREP standards related to knowledge and skill acquisition are divided into core standards that are required of all students and program specialization standards. The following text applies to all but one of the eight core curricular areas: "Curricular experiences and demonstrated knowledge ... of ethical and legal considerations ... for each area are required of all students in the program" (CACREP, 2001). In all but one instance among the eight core standards, this is the only mention of what instruction in ethics should entail. One exception exists in the section on helping relationships. This section requires curricular experience and demonstrated knowledge of the guidelines presented in the American Counseling Association's (ACA; 1995) ACA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice and related codes of ethics. The same language used to describe the required curricular experiences and demonstrated knowledge is then repeated in the sections on eight program specialization areas. Curricular content in each of these specialization areas is cross-referenced to the ACA Code of Ethics as well as to divisional ethical codes, where relevant. Thus, the CACREP standards strongly suggest that being ethical and behaving ethically are defined by practice in accordance with these codes of ethics. Furthermore, the CACREP standards suggest that the content of education in ethics may appropriately be limited to curricular experiences and demonstrated knowledge of practicing in accordance with these codes of ethics. …

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Ethical Analysis in Counseling: A Case for Narrative Ethics, Moral Visions, and Virtue Ethics
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