Counselor Ethical Boundaries and Practices

  • In many professions, specialists apply a code of ethics that guides their actions. Counseling specialists follow the system of ethics as well. The purpose of this standard of practice is to guarantee clients’ safety and to ensure that the training session provides a sufficient level of professionalism. The relationships in the counseling profession are complex, which imply the necessity to create the standards that safeguard the integrity of these links. The ACA is the code followed in the counseling practice that requires collaboration with other professionals in the process of overcoming the challenges caused by dual character of relationships and risk of crossing the boundaries.

    Boundary Issues and Dual Relationships

    Boundary crossing and dual relationships are common problems that are faced by counseling specialists. Dual relationships occur when a counselor assumes more than one role or when the counselor develops external relationships with the clients. Boundary crossing happens when the counselor and the patient go beyond the professional boundaries (Afolabi, 2015). Though considered an ethical issue, dual relationships and boundary crossing may improve the effectiveness of treatment if applied appropriately. When deciding whether to employ these tactics, counselors should try to define whether it is appropriate and ethical in each particular case. They can do this by applying clinical consciousness by continually probing their obligation. In addition, the counselor should consider one’s code of conduct, which enlightens the professional’s decision-making process. A questioning technique is another criterion that would help in determining whether the decision is an appropriate one. By applying it, one is able to evaluate the positive and negative impacts of such arrangements and determine whether it is professional or not.

    There are many situations in which counselors face challenges of dual relationships and boundary crossing. The physical attraction between the client and the counselors is one of these cases. When faced with such a situation, a counselor should refer to one’s professional code of ethics, which considers such relationships unethical. Moreover, establishing physical relationships with clients negatively affects the treatment progress. Another interaction of that kind can happen when a counselor works with the patient with similar religious affiliation. The counselor can invite the patient to attend spiritual sessions together. Such an interaction is appropriate as religious affiliation may improve the progress of the patient. The counselor can question their decision to determine its appropriateness (Afolabi, 2015). Additionally, on some occasions, the therapist could establish social relationships with the client beyond the boundaries of professional communication. Such relationships are not necessarily harmful to the people involved. It is also possible that the patient and the counselor are business partners. In such circumstances, the therapist should question their actions to ensure that they do not have an exploitative character.

    Professional Collaboration in Counseling: Working with a Multidisciplinary Team

    In addressing the mental health issue, the collaboration between the counselors and multidisciplinary health care providers is necessary. The cooperation is essential, as counseling is a young and growing profession. Collaborating with other interdisciplinary professionals involves consulting with them where appropriate (Hrovat, Thompson, & Thaxton, 2012). In every situation, the therapist should identify the professionals, the collaboration with which will be beneficial for fostering progress in the patient’s treatment. Additionally, there is a need for the practitioners to establish good working relationships as well as a proper communication channel. The establishment of proper working relations helps define each participant’s role, which, in turn, helps eliminate confusion and conflicts. Working in collaboration with other person requires the willingness to cooperate and helps to improve health care quality.

    Counselors work in collaboration with multidisciplinary teams. The counselor focuses on ensuring the mental well-being of the patients. However, to achieve this, the input of other professionals is required (Bridges, Davidson, Odegard, Maki, & Tomkowiak, 2011). Some of these professionals include social workers whose role comprises managing cases in the society and offering services to patients in their communities. They also work with healthcare providers such as nurses and physicians. Physicians make a diagnosis and prescribe medication to patients while nurses take care of patients, particularly, in psychiatric wards. What is more, dissertation discussion chapter is available for reading and for ordering  at our relianle writing service.

    Relationships with Supervisors and Colleagues

    The ACA code of ethics defines the procedures, according to which counseling professionals should conduct themselves. According to the abovementioned code, the supervisor has several roles. One of these includes informing the supervisees on the established policy, which the supervisors adhere to and providing the acceptable channel to complain about the supervisor's actions (American Counseling Association, 2014). They should also communicate with the supervisees on the emergences and absenteeism and educate the junior on the code of ethics. Additionally, the supervisor can terminate the relationship following the discussions with the supervisee. The primary responsibility of the supervisor, however, is to monitor the supervisee’s welfare that directly relates to ensuring the client’s well-being.

    Like other relationships, the supervisor-supervisee relationship is guided by a code of ethics. According to the ACA, sexual relationships between the supervisee and the supervisor is considered not professional (American Counseling Association, 2014). Additionally, the relationships between the therapist and client should not extend beyond professional encounters; in the event they do, the supervisor must apply due diligence to ensure that no harm arises. In addition, supervisory relationship with family and friends is not allowed. This code is similar to that of the client in almost all aspects. On both occasions, maintaining sexual contacts is inappropriate. It discourages crossing boundaries but calls for evaluating the decision to ensure that no harm arises. However, it allows for a relationship with friends and family as long as such connection does not interfere with the professional activity.

    Counseling always implies some ethical issues. Consequently, there are decision-making models that prescribe the action that should be taken in such situations. An example of the breach of moral behaviors can be observed when the therapist fails to follow client's confidentiality by discussing a patient’s information with others. In such a situation, one can apply a practice-based decision-making model (Francis, 2015). The first step is the identification of the problem; the second one is the consideration of the applicable code of ethics (Francis, 2015). After this, one applies the laws and regulations, seeks consultation with an unbiased colleague and thinks about the probable cause of actions. One should then weigh the consequences of each alternative and make a final decision.

    Development of My Thinking about Ethics

    The course has significantly developed my understanding of ethical practice in counseling. One of the most significant discoveries was the existence of a code of ethics that guides the procedure of counselors’ interaction with their colleagues and patients. The code provides clear solutions for the issues of boundaries and dual relationships with clients. I had not known before that a therapist could assume more than one role when it comes to interaction with the clients. Additionally, the course has brought to light the importance of maintaining boundaries during my practice as a professional counselor. Additionally, it has emphasized the importance of weighing all pros and cons before making decisions so that such choices do not lead to adverse outcomes (Preez and Goedeke, 2013). For example, in a situation when there is a probability of crossing professional boundaries, one must critically evaluate the consequences of such a decision to prevent harm.


    Dual relationships and boundary crossing are among the difficult issues that may be faced by counseling professionals. However, when faced with such situations, counselors should refer to their code of ethics and evaluate the consequences of their actions. In the course of their work, counselors work in collaboration with other professionals, particularly, social workers, doctors, and nurses. Effective collaboration requires the input of each person, responsive communication, and respect for each other's area of expertise. The ACA code of ethics guides the actions of the specialists of the counseling profession and prescribes the principles of conduct for supervisor-supervisee relationships as well as for client-counselor relationships. The practice-based model is one of the effective ethical decision-making models. The course has helped to develop my understanding and application of ethics in my future practice.