Professional competence refers to our ability to perform effectively within our professional role. As counselors, we are required to remain aware of our professional strengths and weaknesses and respond accordingly when counseling situations fall outside of our ability to be effective. Professional competence involves working with client populations for which we have been properly trained, maintaining training and education throughout our careers, and identifying and addressing personal experiences or internal problems that can affect our ability to be effective counselors. In this chapter, authors cover what it means to be professionally competent, how to recognize when we are exceeding boundaries of competence, and how to maintain competence throughout a professional career. Professional competence includes a host of complex situations and variables. Much of the research and writings on the topic of competence focuses on multicultural competence. Understanding individual differences in our client population is essential for maintaining professional competence.
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This book provides both counselors in training and established counselors the tools needed to make sound ethical decisions. It integrates a comprehensive review of ethical standards and guidelines by two major professional governing bodies in psychology: the Ethical Principles for Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association (ACA). The book focuses on engaging the reader in critically thinking through the intersections of legal requirements and ethics codes. It integrates critical self-reflection and identifies variables that would place a counselor at risk. The book is organized into four parts. Part one provides an overview of the topics discussed in the book. Part two reviews typical ethical issues that counselors encounter in practice relating to confidentiality, professional boundaries, and professional competence. Part three analyzes ethical dilemmas that may arise given the changing face of technology and the country’s demographics relating to culturally competent treatment, managing social media, and confronting colleagues and other sticky situations. The final part focuses on recommendations for counselors to continue sound ethical decisions. The book is designed for counselors-in-training or engaged in externships and practicums. They include master’s level students in counseling psychology, clinical psychology, and mental health programs; doctoral students; predoctoral students on internship; and students enrolled in programs with dual degrees. It is also for established counselors who must remain abreast of changing standards and issues affecting clinical practice, such as those related to social media and technology, for postdoctoral counselors working toward licensure, and for undergraduate-level students who are training to become Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC).
Confidentiality refers to the protection from unauthorized disclosure of information shared between a counselor and her or his client. Confidentiality is an ethical duty that is informed by ethical codes and standards in the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA). This chapter covers the importance of protecting clients’ privacy and confidentiality in order for the therapeutic relationship to flourish. However, authors went over gray areas that pose dilemmas for counselors: (a) how to ethically provide information for your clients and when to do so, (b) how to protect client information from unauthorized third parties, and (c) what are the limits to confidentiality. Although we did not go over every code of ethics that discusses confidentiality, it is clear that one must reference multiple codes, even within one set of guidelines, in order to make an ethical decision regarding confidentiality.
This chapter reviews multiple vignettes that provide examples of complex ethical dilemmas involving client and colleagues. It focuses on three specific gray areas that pose dilemmas for counselors. First, and perhaps one of the greatest dilemmas, is how to tell the difference between actions that can be addressed informally vs. actions that require reporting to ethics committees. While discussing the importance of addressing colleagues’ behaviors, it is essential to develop the ability to receive feedback ourselves. Therefore, two additional gray areas arise. First, how do we proceed when workplace rules seem to differ from our code of conduct? Second, how should we proceed if the counselor engaging in unethical behavior is a supervisor or someone in a leadership position? The chapter reviews each of these gray areas and walk through how the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) can guide sound ethical decisions.
This chapter provides recommendations regarding the development and maintenance of ethical practices, as well as summary messages for trainees and early career counselors, supervisors, and training programs. The recommendations are grounded in their clinical experiences, including their theoretical orientations, as well as their training, research, and teaching approach. In providing recommendations, the authors acknowledge some are not new, and discussed by previous scholars and researchers. The authors bridge the fields of mental health counseling, counseling psychology, and clinical psychology, as well as other fields of study including multicultural, health, and social psychology. The recommendations are person-centered with attention to the multiple variables that impact functioning including the environment and group memberships. The chapter also reviews ethical codes and standards of both the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) as they relate to self-care and requirements regarding responding to ethical complaints.
This chapter reviews two ethical issues which authors find challenging for any counselor, given their nuances: (a) understanding how worldviews may collide and (b) what happens when boundaries are crossed. It discusses the role of self-awareness in sound ethical decisions. The chapter reviews each of these dilemmas and walk through how American Psychological Association (APA) and American Counseling Association (ACA) can guide our ethical decisions regarding each of these dilemmas. Counselors cannot make sound ethical decisions devoid of individual and sociocultural contexts. In this chapter the authors reviewed that being culturally competent includes having self-awareness of our biases and assumptions, knowledge of those we work with, and our ability to adapt our skills so they are congruent with the people we serve. It is most important to be aware of our various areas of privilege and biases that may impact our ability to effectively interpret and respond to ethical dilemmas.
Social media is an amazing way to communicate with friends, colleagues, and family members across the world. Counselors have the right to participate in and benefit from this way of relating to others it would be unrealistic to think otherwise. This chapter focuses on counselors’ personal use of social media platforms and how their participation may result in ethical dilemmas. Social media has become, and likely will continue to be, an integral way in which people communicate. The potential to leverage social media for counseling-related purposes is promising. However, given the laws, rules, and ethical guidelines and standards that are still under development, counselors must proceed with caution, even when social media is used for professional purposes, and thoughtfully consider the risks and benefits. Given the interconnected, transparent, and discoverable nature of social media, personal use must also be thoughtful and deliberate.
Effective therapeutic services depend largely on good client therapist relationships. Irrespective of the counselor’s theoretical background, it is well documented that trust is a cornerstone of this relationship and one that is secured when counselors are able to act with excellence in professionalism and ethical behavior (Erford, 2013; Herlihy & Corey, 2006). One of the core foundations of ethical behavior is the ability to effectively navigate ethical dilemmas. This chapter covers the rules and laws that govern a counselor’s ethical obligations. It reviews the variety of professionals that must adhere to these guidelines as well as the professional bodies, such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and American Counseling Association (ACA), which oversee these professionals. Sound ethical decision making requires an understanding of these ethical guidelines, state and national standards, as well as self-awareness.