Respond to classmates Week 7 D-1

Expand on your colleague’s posting by providing an alternate course of action for the ethical and legal challenges your colleague discussed. Please support your response with sources. Please respond to the following:

 C.Bix-Minor Clients

                Counseling minors requires a gifted and competent professional. Adult counseling does not easily translate to minor counseling and having a minor as a client can pose its own set of ethical and legal issues. Counselors must understand the legal rights of parents or guardians while honoring their ethical obligations to children as well (Remley & Herlihy, 2016). Two major areas of ethical and legal concern when counseling minors are confidentiality and report of abuse.

Confidentiality

                Although there are some limits to confidentiality with adult clients there is no real fear that someone else may have access to confidential information but for a minor client who is legally not capable of giving informed consent, there is no real guarantee to full confidentiality. Standard A.2.d. of the ACA Code (ACA, 2014) states that counselors recognize the need to balance ethical rights of minor clients as well as the legal rights of the parents or guardians. Revealing disclosed information to parents or guardians can put the therapeutic relationship at risk but withholding important information can result in legal complications for the counselor. The counselor must be aware of laws related to parental rights and consider the possible benefit or harm to the client if/when confidential information is revealed.

                To address confidentiality with minors, it is always important to discuss confidentiality and its limits during the informed consent process with both minor clients and their parents/gaurdians.  Stated in standard B.5.b of the ACA Code (ACA, 2014), counselors are to work with parents/guardians to establish collaborative relationships and inform them of the role of counselors and the confidential nature of the therapeutic relationship.  Keeping everyone involved as informed as possible should ease distress. Involving parents in creating mutually agreed upon disclosure guidelines and motivating the minor client to disclose information on their own are two effective approaches to addressing confidentiality issues with minor clients (Lawrence & Robinson Kurpius, 2000).

Report of Abuse

                Another issue that can impact the therapeutic relationship is when a counseling a minor is the obligation report abuse. There are a number of reasons counselors may struggle with the decision to report child abuse including the desire to avoid betraying the child’s trust, fear that protective services will not handle the case well, fear of retaliation of the perpetrator, or the hope of maintaining the counseling relationship (Remley & Herlihy, 2016). Standard B.2.a. of the ACA Code addresses disclosing confidential information to protect clients or identified others from serious and foreseeable harm (ACA, 2014).

                Addressing this issue requires that the counselor be familiar with his/her state reporting laws and must be sure that their suspicions of abuse are valid. A responsible counselor would consider the following factors before making the decision to report abuse: (a) credibility of victim; (b) disciplinary standards in the community; and (c) information that is known about the victim and perpetrator (Remley & Herlihy, 2016). Making an invalid report of abuse could be detrimental to the therapeutic relationship.  As with many ethical concerns it is always helpful to consult with another colleague/supervisor and an attorney in cases with minors and suspected abuse.

References:

American Counseling Association (ACA). (2014). 2014 ACA code of ethics  [White Paper] . Retrieved July 10, 2017 from http://www.counseling.org/docs/ethics/2014-aca-code-of-ethics.pdf?sfvrsn=4

Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2015). ACA ethical standards casebook (7th ed.). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Lawrence, G., & Robinson Kirpius, S. E. (2000). Legal and ethical issues involved when counseling minors in nonschool settings. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78(2), 130–136.

Remley, T. P., Jr., & Herlihy, B. (2016). Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

2. C.Mack- When it comes to counseling children, the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics does not offer much direction or guidance on the proper way to accomplish this.  Because of this, counselors are expected to exercise their best judgement when faced with ethical scenarios that involve children.  Therapists who counsel children have an added responsibility to ensure that they are mindful of the rights that the parents and/or guardians possess (Remley & Herlihy, 2016). 

Ethical and Legal Challenges

            Confidentiality is said to be the main issue that counselors encounter when working with children because there is a lot of ambiguity about things such as who a counselor can share information with and at what point that can and should be done (Salo, 2015).  State laws vary widely and oftentimes leave counselors in ethical dilemmas about whether or not they should consult the child’s parent on certain issues.  Although the ACA Code of Ethics charges counselors to act in the best interest of the client, sometimes it is hard to determine who the loyalty should rest with since the child is receiving services and the parent is footing the bill for the services (Salo, 2015).  Section I.1.c. of the ACA tells counselors that they may follow the law or other legal authority to resolve ethical and legal conflict (ACA, 2014).

            Another challenge is the struggle for counselors to remain neutral in custody battles between parents.  Counselors should avoid taking sides and being dragged into disputes between feuding parents.  Some reasons to avoid taking sides are that the counselor must be able to remain an effective counselor to the child while simultaneously maintaining a good relationship with both parents, and counselors do not have knowledge about what goes on in the family’s home or relationship, therefore it would be inappropriate to take sides (Remley & Herlihy, 2016). 

Course of Action

             The age of the child and the gravity of the event or behavior that the child reveals should play a factor in the determination on whether or not confidentiality of the child should be breached when a counselor is faced with that decision (McCurdy & Murray, 2003).  If a child reveals that they are experimenting with cigarette smoking, that activity would be viewed as minor and does not necessarily need to be revealed to the parents.  In contrast, if a child reveals that they are using an addictive, illegal drug, that would warrant a breach of confidentiality to warn the parents about the child’s destructive behavior (McCurdy & Murray, 2003).  ACA Standard B.1.c., Respect for Confidentiality, says that counselors will keep confidentiality of their clients and only breach it with proper consent, for adherence to the law, or with a strong ethical rationalization (ACA, 2014).

            When a counselor is subpoenaed to court in order to testify on the character of a parent, whether or not a parent is fit, or any other opinion-based question, it is in the best interest of the child for the counselor to decline providing their personal opinion, and state the reason for their declination as not having enough information to form a fair opinion in that matter  (Remley & Herlihy, 2016).

References

American Counseling Association (ACA). (2014). 2014 ACA code of ethics [White Paper]. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/docs/ethics/2014-aca-code-of-ethics.pdf?sfvrsn=4

McCurdy, K. G., & Murray, K. C. (2003). Confidentiality issues when minor children disclose family secrets in family counseling. The Family Journal, 11(4), 393–398.

Remley, T. P., Jr., & Herlihy, B. (2016). Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Salo, M. (2015). Counseling Minor Clients. In B. Herlihy & G. Corey (Eds.). ACA ethical standards casebook (7th ed., pp. 205-214). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

3. T.Bin- Ethical Challenge

One ethical challenge while working with minors is the situation where they express they have desires to end his or her life and ask that the counselor keeps this information confidential from his or her parents. Two things need to be considered here: one, the counseling relationship and two, the welfare of the minor client. The  2014 American Counseling Association (ACA) code of ethics states that counselors protect information given in a counseling session (even for minors) and finishes with stating that counselors “disclose information only with appropriate consent” (Section B.1.c., Section B.5.a.). On the contrary, Section A.4.a  advocates for clients for the counselor to “avoid harming the client” or “preventing foreseeable harm”(ACA, 2014). Most states require action to be taken to ensure the safety of the client. The therapeutic relationship is taken into consideration yet also that value of life and harm is important.

Course of Action

The counselor should consider a detailed introduction of informed consent at the beginning of the counseling relationship. If the parents are introduced as allies to the child as well as to the counselor in the beginning, much harm can be avoided (Remley & Herlihy, 2016).  Yet, at the time of conflict, precautionary steps should be taken in either consultation of another professional, or referring to ethical codes. 

Second Ethical Challenge

The second ethical consideration is when the minor client is a part of unlawful behavior. It is obvious that legal precautions need to be taken since the minor has violated rules upheld by authorities. As a counselor, to keep this information confidentially could be injurious not only to the minor but also the counselor (Remly & Herlihy, 2016). Section A.4.a of “preventing foreseeable harm” is taken into account here as well.  

Again, a good introduction of informed consent would help the minor client understand the counselor’s role in protecting the client even from him or herself. Even if that means introducing the client’s parents as well as the correct authorities. Informed consent could be reminded in the exact moment of the sensitive information being shared.  

References

American Counseling Association (ACA). (2014). 2014 ACA code of ethics [White Paper]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/USW1/201770_27/MS_COUN/COUN_6306_COUN_6306A_COUN_6306F_HUMN_8306/readings/2014_aca_code_of_ethics.pdf 

Remley, T. P., Jr., & Herlihy, B. (2016). Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. 

 

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