Many professions have their own either written or understood code of ethics. This holds true for the profession of counseling, including the Christian sector of counseling. The American Counseling Association along with the American Association of Christian counselors both published codes of ethics for the licensed professionals in this particular field. Their specific ethics provide counselors with a guideline of how to correctly and ethically serve their clients.
Some of the ethics described in these documents are: confidentiality, informed consent, and discrimination, healthy relationships with clients, laws and regulations, along with other specific duties to the clients and to the profession itself. These detailed standards are set in place to uphold the integrity of the counseling profession and ensure that clients are cared for in the most appropriate manner. This paper compares the two codes of ethics, pointing out specifically the similarities and differences the following topics: competence, fees, and personal problems of counselors.
A Comparison of the ACA and AACC Code of Ethics Ethics are principals adopted by a group or individual “to provide rules for right conduct” (Corey, Corey, and Callanan, 2007, pg. 14). They “pertain to the beliefs we hold about what constitutes what is right” (Corey, et al, 2007, pg. 14). The American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Association of Christian Counseling (AACC) have both published a code of ethics for the counseling professionals.
Though similar in fashion, there are some differences that are noticeable. For some, it may be unimportant that the two codes are dissimilar, but it is important to know the differences between the two in order to be a successful Christian counselor. The two ethics codes describe the duties to clients and to the profession. The following will show general comparisons between the ACA and AACC, along with comparing and contrasting the following specific ethics topics: competence, fees, and personal problems. General Comparison
The most obvious difference between the two codes is that the American Association of Christian Counseling purposefully relates everything back to God, expecting the counselor to view “human beings [as] God’s creation” (AACC, 2004, pg. 6). The focus is consistently directed toward Christ and what the Bible teaches us in regards to the counseling field. Included in the document are biblical-ethical foundations which reflect the basic religious beliefs of the AACC. This particular document was created for Christian counselors, giving clear directions regarding the standards specific to Christian counseling.
Both the AACC and the ACA are fully intentional about their commitment to the client. The ACA states that “the primary responsibility of the counselors is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients” (ACA, 2005, pg. 4). The associations hold high standards regarding confidentiality, expecting the trust between patient and client not to be broken. Records of clients are carefully preserved and “we do not disclose or submit session notes and details of client admissions solely on demand of third-party payors” (AACC, 2005, pg. 12).
Specific Comparisons Competence Both codes of ethics explicitly outline what it means to be a competent counselor. The AACC states that “Christian counselors maintain the highest standards of competence with integrity” (AACC, 2004, pg. 9). The ACA and AACC both review the importance of working within personal boundaries and respecting those boundaries. Some of these particular boundaries include “education, training, supervised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience” (ACA, 2005, pg. 9).
Counselors are expected to be honest and open about their experiences even if that means they must refer a client if their expertise do not relate directly to the issues the client is facing. The AACC expresses the desire for counselors to reach out to other Christian helpers that have a “higher level of knowledge, skill, and expertise” (AACC, 2004, pg. 10). Unlike ACA, the AACC code of ethics requests Christian help first for clients who may need to be referred, using secular professionals as the secondary choice. In order to maintain competence, counselors must be life-long learners.
As the processes and procedures of how to best help clients are constantly changing, it is the job of the counselor to become abreast with the transforming ways of the future. Both codes of ethics express the importance of being well-educated and continuing the education process throughout the counselor’s career. Competent counselors “take steps to maintain competence in the skills they use, are open to new procedures, and keep current with the diverse populations and specific populations with whom they work” (ACA, 2005, pg. 9). Fees
Clients are expected to pay for services rendered by a counselor. When establishing fees, it is appropriate to consider the location being served and the client’s ability to pay for services. According to the ACA, the counselor may opt to use collection agencies. In using these agencies to collect nonpayment of fees, the counselor must “first inform clients of intended actions and offer clients the opportunity to pay” (ACA, 2005, pg. 6). Some clients may choose to barter, which can be an appropriate form of payment in certain settings.
Both parties need to benefit from the bartering relationship if this route is taken for payments. The AACC also expects counselors to establish reasonable fees for their clients to pay for the services provided. Unlike the ACA code of ethics, “Christians are encouraged, beyond their fee schedule, to make a portion of their time and services available without cost or at a greatly reduced fee to those unable to pay” (AACC, 2004, pg. 13). The code also encourages counselors to be cautious with their finances, being careful to avoid appearing greedy.
Another difference between the AACC and ACA is that the AACC directly mentions the appropriate relationship that should be had between the counselor and the insurance and/or third-party payors. The counselor should “not charge third-party payors for services not rendered, nor for missed or cancelled appointments” (AACC, 2004, pg. 14). Information regarding a client should not be tainted in order to fit into the prescribed reimbursement categories. Personal Problems Sometimes, personal issues will ignite in life, attempting to interfere with every area of our lives. Christian counselors acknowledge that certain problems, such as sin, illnesses, mental disorders, interpersonal crises, distress, and self-deception still influence [the counselor] personally” (AACC, 2004, pg. 10). The counselor must be willing to openly admit when there is a problem that could potentially hinder their sessions with clients. The counselor should “refrain from offering or providing professional services when such impairment is likely to harm a client or others” (ACA, 2005, pg. 9).
Both codes of ethics agree that it is necessary to take the needed time off to recover from any personal problems. The ACA points out the need for professionals to assist each other in identifying their personal impairments. Counselors and supervisors can “provide consultation and assistance when warranted with colleagues or supervisors showing signs of impairment” (ACA, 2005, pg. 10). Conclusion The American Counseling Association and the American Association of Christian Counseling codes of ethics are similar, yet different in regards to certain areas of ethics.
While both agree that counselors must be competent, well-trained, and knowledgeable enough to know when they cannot help a client, the AACC does focus on the counselor being Spirit-led. When providing services for clients, fees must be paid according to the client’s ability. While the AACC focuses on pro bono work, the ACA codes discuss the ability to barter in appropriate cases. Both codes of ethics recognize that there will be personal problems that will attempt to hinder counselors, and they must be prepared to work through these issues, sometimes taking time off to refocus themselves. The ACA and AACC codes of ethics both are written with high standards for counselors, helping to ensure that the client is properly taken care of in all situations.
AACC Code of Ethics (2004) American Association of Christian Counselors. Retrieved October 31, 2012 from http://www. aacc. net/about-us/coe-of-ethics/ ACA Code of Ethics (2005) American Counseling Association. Retrieved October 31, 2012 from http://www. counseling. org/Resources/CodeofEthics/TP/Home/CT2. aspx Corey, G. , Schneider-Corey, M. , & Callanan, P. (2011). Issues and ethics in the helping professions, 8th ed. Belmont, Ca: Brooks/Cole.