Ethics And The Counseling Relationship

It is good for clients to be aware of these ethics, and for counselors to refresh your memory…

NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics
there are 10 categories for ethics, but this article will deal only with The Counseling Relationship

ethicsEthics are generally regarded as the standards that govern the conduct of a person. Smith and Hodges define ethics as a “human reflecting self-consciously on the act of being a moral being”. This implies a process of self-reflection and awareness of how to behave as a moral being. Some definitions are dictated by law, individual belief systems, religion or a mixture of all three.

The Counseling Relationship

It is the responsibility of the addiction professional to safeguard the integrity of the counseling relationship and to ensure that the client is provided with services that are most beneficial. The client will be provided access to effective treatment and referral giving consideration to individual educational, legal and financial resources needs. Addiction professionals should recognize their responsibility to the larger society and any specific legal obligations that may, on limited occasions, supersede loyalty to clients. The addiction professional shall provide the client and/or guardian with accurate and complete information regarding the extent of the potential professional relationship. In all areas of function, the addiction professional is likely to encounter individuals who are vulnerable and exploitable. In such relationships he/she seeks to nurture and support the development of a relationship of equals rather than to take unfair advantage. In personal relationships, the addiction professional seeks to foster self-sufficiency and healthy self-esteem in others. In relationships with clients he/she provides only that level and length of care that is necessary and acceptable.

Standard 1: Client Welfare

The addiction professional understands that the ability to do good is based on an underlying concern for the well being of others. The addiction professional will act for the good of others and exercise respect, sensitivity and insight. The addiction professional understands that the primary professional responsibility and loyalty is to the welfare of his or her clients, and will work for the client irrespective of who actually pays his/her fees.

The addiction professional understands and supports actions that will assist clients to a better quality of life, greater freedom and true independence.
The addiction professional will support clients in accomplishing what they can readily do for themselves. Likewise, the addiction professional will not insist on pursuing treatment goals without incorporating what the client perceives as good and necessary.
The addiction professional understands that suffering is unique to a specific individual and not of some generalized or abstract suffering, such as might be found in the understanding of the disorder. On that basis, the action taken to relieve suffering must be uniquely suited to the suffering individual and not simply some universal prescription.
Services will be provided without regard to the compensation provided by the client or by a third party and shall render equally appropriate services to individuals whether they are paying a reduced fee or a full fee or are waived from fees.

Standard 2: Client Self Determination

The addiction professional understands and respects the fundamental human right of all individuals to self-determination and to make decisions that they consider in their own best interest. In that regard, the counselor will be open and clear about the nature, extent, probable effectiveness and cost of those services to allow each individual to make an informed decision about his or her care. The addiction professional works toward increased competence in all areas of professional functioning; recognizing that at the heart of all roles is an ethical commitment contributing greatly to the well-being and happiness of others. He/she is especially mindful of the need for faithful competence in those relationships that are termed fiduciary – relationships of special trust in which the clients generally do not have the resources to adequately judge competence.

The addiction professional will provide the client and/or guardian with accurate and complete information regarding the extent of the potential professional relationship, including the Code of Ethics and documentation regarding professional loyalties and responsibilities.
Addiction professionals will provide accurate information about the efficacy of treatment and referral options available to the client.
The addiction professional will terminate work with a client when services are no longer required or no longer serve the client’s best interest.
The addiction professional will take reasonable steps to avoid abandoning clients who are in need of services. Referral will be made only after careful consideration of all factors to minimize adverse effects.
The addiction professional recognizes that there are clients with whom he/she cannot work effectively. In such cases, arrangements for consultation, co-therapy or referral are made.
The addiction professional may terminate services to a client for nonpayment if the financial contractual arrangements have been made clear to the client and if the client does not pose an imminent danger to self or others. The addiction professional will document discussion of the consequences of nonpayment with the client.
When an addiction professional must refuse to accept the client due to inability to pay for services, ethical standards support the addiction professional in attempting to identify other care options. Funding constraints might interfere with this standard.
The addiction professional will refer a client to an appropriate resource when the client’s mental, spiritual, physical or chemical impairment status is beyond the scope of the addiction professional’s expertise.The addiction professional will foster self-sufficiency and healthy self-esteem in others. In relationships with clients, students, employees and supervisors, he/she strives to develop full creative potential and mature, independent functioning.
Informed Consent: The addiction professional understands the client’s right to be informed about treatment. Informed consent information will be presented in clear and understandable language that informs the client or guardian of the purpose of the services, risks related to the services, limits of services due to requirements from a third party payer, relevant costs, reasonable alternatives and the client’s right to refuse or withdraw consent within the time frames covered by the consent. When serving coerced clients, the addiction professional will provide information about the nature and extent of services, treatment options and the extent to which the client has the right to refuse services. When services are provided via technology such as computer, telephone or web-based counseling, clients are fully informed of the limitations and risks associated with these services. Client questions will be addressed within a reasonable time frame.
Clients will be provided with full disclosure including the guarantee of confidentiality if and when they are to receive services by a supervised person in training. The consent to treat will outline the boundaries of the client-supervisee relationship, the supervisee’s training status and confidentiality issues. Clients will have the option of choosing not to engage in services provided by a trainee as determined by agency policies. Any disclosure forms will provide information about grievance procedures.

Standard 3: Dual Relationships

The addiction professional understands that the goal of treatment services is to nurture and support the development of a relationship of equals of individuals to ensure protection and fairness of all parties.

Addiction professionals will provide services to clients only in the context of a professional setting. In rural settings and in small communities, dual relationships are evaluated carefully and avoided as much as possible.

Because a relationship begins with a power differential, the addiction professional will not exploit relationships with current or former clients, current or former supervisees or colleagues for personal gain, including social or business relationships.
The addiction professional avoids situations that might appear to be or could be interpreted as a conflict of interest. Gifts from clients, other treatment organizations or the providers of materials or services used in the addiction professional’s practice will not be accepted, except when refusal of such gift would cause irreparable harm to the client relationship. Gifts of value over $25 will not be accepted under any circumstances.
The addiction professional will not engage in professional relationships or commitments that conflict with family members, friends, close associates or others whose welfare might be jeopardized by such a dual relationship.
The addiction professional will not, under any circumstances, engage in sexual behavior with current or former clients.
The addiction professional will not accept as clients anyone with whom they have engaged in romantic or sexual relationships.
The addiction professional makes no request of clients that does not directly pertain to treatment (giving testimonials about the program or participating in interviews with reporters or students).
The addiction professional recognizes that there are situations in which dual relationships are difficult to avoid. Rural areas, small communities and other situations necessitate discussion of the counseling relationship and take steps to distinguish the counseling relationship from other interactions.
When the addiction professional works for an agency such as department of corrections, military, an HMO or as an employee of the client’s employer, the obligations to external individuals and organizations are disclosed prior to delivering any services.
The addiction professional recognizes the challenges resulting from increased role of the criminal justice system in making referrals for addiction treatment. Consequently he/she strives to remove coercive elements of such referrals as quickly as possible to encourage engagement in the treatment and recovery process.
The addiction professional encourages self-sufficiency among clients in making daily choices related to the recovery process and self care.
The addiction professional shall avoid any action that might appear to impose on others’ acceptance of their religious/spiritual, political or other personal beliefs while also encouraging and supporting participation in recovery support groups.

Standard 4: Group Standards

Much of the work conducted with substance use disorder clients is performed in group settings. Addiction professionals shall take steps to provide the required services while providing clients physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological health and safety..

Confidentiality standards are established for each counseling group by involving the addiction professional and the clients in setting confidentiality guidelines.
To the extent possible, addiction professionals will match clients to a group in which other clients have similar needs and goals.

Standard 5: Preventing Harm

The addiction professional understands that every decision and action has ethical implication leading either to benefit or harm, and will carefully consider whether decisions or actions have the potential to produce harm of a physical, psychological, financial, legal or spiritual nature before implementing them. The addiction professional recognizes that even in a life well lived, harm may be done to others by thoughtless words and actions, If he/she becomes aware that any word or action has done harm to anyone, he/she readily admits it and does what is possible to repair or ameliorate the harm except where doing so might cause greater harm.

The addiction professional counselor will refrain from using any methods that could be considered coercive such as threats, negative labeling and attempts to provoke shame or humiliation.
The addiction professional develops treatment plans as a negotiation with the client, soliciting the client’s input about the identified issues/needs, the goals of treatment and the means of reaching treatment goals.
The addiction professional will make no requests of clients that are not necessary as part of the agreed treatment plan. At the beginning of each session, the client will be informed of the intent of the session. Collaborative effort between the client and the addiction professional will be maintained as much as possible.
The addiction professional will terminate the counseling or consulting relationship when it is reasonably clear that the client is not benefiting from the exchange.
The addiction professional understands the obligation to protect individuals, institutions and the profession from harm that might be done by others. Consequently there is awareness when the conduct of another individual is an actual or likely source of harm to clients, colleagues, institutions or the profession. The addiction professional will assume an ethical obligation to report such conduct to competent authorities.
The addiction professional defers to review by a human subjects committee (Institutional Review Board) to ensure that research protocol is free of coercion and that the informed consent process is followed. Confidentiality and deceptive practices are avoided except when such procedures are essential to the research protocol and are approved by the designated review board or committee.
When research is conducted, the addiction professional is careful to ensure that compensation to subjects is not as great or attractive as to distort the client’s ability to make free decisions about participation.


May 29, 2015

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