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Case Study: Imposing Values on Clients



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    When Jill expressed her confusion about her sexuality, Joe’s body language was a dead give- away that he was judging her. This, in itself, can add to Jill’s anxiety and depression. Joe should know, and understand, the ethical guidelines that he is governed by. When he imparted his religious views on Jill’s thoughts and lifestyle, he crossed the boundaries of ethical treatment. According to the ACA (American Counseling Association) Code of Ethics, counselors do not discriminate regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

    Also, within the APA (American Psychological Association) Ethical Principles, Principle E assures the clients that need treatment will receive the dignity and respect that they deserve regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Above all of this, Joe should discuss with Jill the referral process because of his religious beliefs, and the fact that he shouldn’t continue treating her if his beliefs and convictions are going to impede his ability to counsel and treat Jill fairly without judgment.

    The ACA Code of Ethics regulates counselors from imposing their personal and/or religious beliefs and values on their clients – which is exactly what Joe has done by telling Jill her thoughts are immoral and she should pray for forgiveness. “Clients might often press a counselor’s limits of comfort when discussing controversial topics. It is the counselor’s duty to keep an objective view while listening to the client’s interpretation of events. They have to put aside their own value systems and understand what the clients are going through” (Argosy, 2012).

    Next, when he continues to treat Jill, he offers to try a technique that obviously has not been tried in the United States, or has little research results. As a counselor, Joe is obligated to not harm his client. Jill clearly states she doesn’t wish to try this new technique, yet Joe plans on continuing on with his plans regardless of her wishes. This can, undoubtedly, cause harm to Jill and would create distrust between her and Joe. Counselors are to strive for the well-being – both physically and mentally – of their clients.

    Once the client has declined a form of treatment, the counselor should be looking for another means of agreeable treatment options and not go against the wishes of that client. It is the obligation of the counselor to work with the client to create a plan of care that is focused on the success of the client and is a plan of care that is within the abilities of the client. Joe states that he feels inadequate in assisting Jill with her cultural struggles. If nothing before has signaled him to disengage therapy treatment with Jill, this should.

    Just because his area, or geographical location, isn’t accustomed to Jill’s culture, is no reason to say that he is not required to study these cultural issues. The APA Code of Conduct Section 2. 03, states, “Psychologists undertake ongoing efforts to develop and maintain their competence” (APA, 2012). He has the responsibility to his client to remain committed to furthering his capabilities and knowledge. The ACA Ethical Code Section A. 5, refers to “The Roles and Relationships With Clients” (ACA, 2005).

    This section gives direction for counselors in regards to their relationships with current and former clients. Relationships of the intimate kind should not be entered into for 5 years from the last treatment session with that professional. Even though the referral process has been initiated, a relationship between Joe and Jill would remain unethical at this point. Once they decided to meet privately and later began an intimate sexual relationship, they were in violation of ethical codes and guidelines.

    Being that Jill possibly didn’t realize these codes, Joe should have stepped up and explained the guidelines to her and ended the entire situation. Joe has, quite frankly, created a chaotic situation with Jill and has, possibly, caused additional mental distress for Jill. He never completed the referral process, even though, he was in an unethical, sexual relationship and she continued to be in a desperate state of depression and anxiety. Now, he has entered into another unethical relationship with his supervisor and, therefore, can’t discuss Jill’s case with this supervisor.

    He is causing harm to the client, is engaging in multiple inappropriate relationships, as well as, imposing conflict of interest. When Joe called Jill’s place of employment and divulged personal, confidential information that she had been receiving treatment for depression and anxiety, he overstepped the ethics boundaries yet again. The ACA and APA Code of Ethics make provisions for respecting privacy and confidentiality. As far as Joe changing career paths, he might need some counseling and treatment himself. His own life appears to be in pandemonium.

    He surely doesn’t need to move into a different counseling arena until he gets his own matters under control. All clients that seek/ need counseling deserve someone who is truly concerned about them and their well -being. If I were the counselor in this case study, my main concern would be putting Jill’s care first and foremost. My own personal thoughts, interests, and religious views would not enter into the treatment regime. Without putting your own values and beliefs out of the picture, you will never understand where the client is coming from.

    I need to help Jill feel comfortable and to give her the ability to open up about her feelings to help to begin her path of recovery and feeling better about herself and any issues and concerns in her life. No new techniques would be attempted with Jill without more knowledge of their effectiveness and her consent. I would never put Jill’s privacy and confidentiality at risk by disclosing her personal information. And, without a doubt, relationships within the professional realm, and with clients, is completely out of the question.

    The specific code from the ACA Code of Ethics that pertains to the issue of imposing values on clients is A. 4. b, “Personal Values. Counselors are aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors and avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants” (ACA, 2005). The APA Ethical Principles of Psychologist and Code of Conduct section that pertains to the issue of imposing values on clients is Principle A: “Beneficence and Non-maleficence” – professionals prevent harm to their lients and do not share their personal views with their clients. The specific infractions that are pertinent in the case study between Joe, the counselor, and Jill, the client, are: Joe imparts his religious views on Jill by announcing that he is a traditional Catholic that believes that the thoughts she is experiencing about her sexuality are immoral and wrong and she should avoid thinking any more about it and just pray about it, and when Jill expressed to Joe that she was attracted to him, instead of discouraging these emotions and ending therapy between them, he expressed that the was attracted to her and had feelings for her.

    Both the ACA and APA guidelines depict the professional’s duty to not provoke harm on or to their clients and that they are not to communicate, in any way, their personal values of any form. Every individual has their own thoughts and beliefs. Counseling professionals understand that this concept is essential and promotes this for growth within society. These ethical guidelines are in place to regulate these counseling professionals so that they “do not hinder the development of value systems in the clients they serve” (Argosy, 2012).

    References American Counseling Association (2005). ACA Code of Ethics. http://www. counseling. org/Resources/CodeofEthics/TP/CT2. aspx American Psychological Association (2012). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. http://www. apa. org/ethics/code/index. aspx? item=9# Argosy University (2012). Lecture Notes. http://www. myeclassonline. com

    Case Study: Imposing Values on Clients. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from

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