Professionals are guided by moral or ethical principles that regulate how they operate and relate with others, especially their clients. Ethics determine the kind of decisions that individuals make and how they conduct themselves in social contexts. In counseling, the code of conduct determines the nature and the course of action that counselors should take towards their clients. Counseling falls in the category of helping profession where individuals are expected to behave and act ethically. The service providers are expected to operate in the best interest of their clients to promote their welfare. They should protect the rights of their clients, maximize their well-being, and minimize harm (Welfel, 2015). The expectations from the counselor are broader because of the intrinsic power of connection between them and their and clients. Ethical codes and principles ensure that the professionals operate in the best interests of the patients. Hence, counselors are challenged to consider ethics in a holistic approach to have a complete awareness when providing counseling services.
Relevant History of the Counseling Profession
Currently, counseling fits all the requirements of a profession and has remained the same for a significantly long period. Counseling places emphasis on growth and remediation over the lifecycle of an individual while professionals focus on helping others, especially those experiencing various psychological and emotional problems. Unlike other encompassing and comprehensive professions such as medicine, counseling has not always met the standards. However, it has developed over the years from different disciplines such as education, anthropology, ethics, law, history, medical sciences, psychology, philosophy, and sociology (Capuzz & Gross, 2013). According to one pioneer in counseling, C. H. Patterson, most of the writers in counseling have appeared to ignore the history of the profession. However, some evidence of the development of the profession was recorded in the 1950s and 1960s publications (Capuzz & Gross, 2013). However, there have always been individuals who offered counseling services to different people affected by emotional and mental challenges. However, the progress made by professional counselors is a recent development, but one that has grown to become a specialized field with advanced educational qualifications and standards.
The Multiple Professional Roles and Functions of Counselors
Counselors play an essential role in providing human services to meet the needs of their clients by using the knowledge they have acquired through learning and experience. They are expected to work at the preventive and remediation levels to assist clients in dealing with problems and support them in improving the overall quality of life. In most settings, counseling works as an integrated healthcare service where care providers work in teams to address emotional and mental problems among diverse clients. They work with people throughout their lifetime because such issues emerge at any point in the life of an individual. To provide the most effective care, counselors work with other professionals through inter-agency and inter-organizational collaboration as well as consultation with their colleagues and other professionals in human services (Furniss, 2013). Counselors in healthcare facilities can work with mid-level practitioners, family practice physicians, and other primary care providers focusing on counseling and wellness services. The services are well-coordinated to ensure that all clients receive the facilities whenever they are needed to provide quality care in their different settings.
Advocacy Processes in Counseling
Counselors have an essential role in enhancing social justice and ensuring that patients receive quality and safe care. However, various obstacles to access this kind of care reveal the need for advocacy to improve access to proper care for the patients. Counselors play a role at the policy level by ensuring that the social and health problems are communicated to the authority to be addressed (Erford, 2017). They can work alone or in groups to influence policies that address institutional and social barriers, and hence, access equity and success of care. Consequently, they guarantee that every person in society has equal access to care and that their rights are respected. In addition, they fight for the rights and well-being of the disadvantaged members of society. They are social justice advocates and provide the service at the individual, institutional, and community levels. In playing this role, the professionals can sometimes help in reversing individual and community challenges affecting members of their communities. Therefore, they take a prominent place between the community members and policymakers.
Professional Counseling Organizations
Any qualified and accredited counselor has the opportunity to join a professional counseling organization to network and learn from other professionals in the field. One such organization is the American Counseling Association that has different categories of membership, including students, professionals, and retired counselors among other experts (American Counseling Association, 2015). Members have the opportunity to join an international network of counselors in various practices and learn from the most experienced in the field. Among the activities of the organization are holding conferences to train and educate members about the current trends in the counseling profession. They also include career information that members can learn to advance their opportunities. Leadership and political issues are among the main problems facing ACA in the modern day. For instance, changes in the country’s governance create significant uncertainties in the operations of the healthcare sector and could affect the services of professional organizations within the industry.
Professional Counseling Credentialing
Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) are qualified counselors working in diverse healthcare settings. They work with individuals, families, groups, and couples to address various issues, including substance abuse, mental challenges, and emotional problems among other concerns. The professionals must have at least a master’s degree in counseling or any other related discipline. They should undergo two years of supervised clinical experience after which they take the credentialing examination to work in healthcare settings (Cohen‐Filipic, 2014). It is worth noting that changes in public policy have a direct effect on the licensed professional counselors because of the demands on their careers associated with community issues. Therefore, they are expected to be advocates in public policies and any time a change occurs their work is directly affected.
Current Labor Market Information Relevant to the Counseling Profession
Professionals obtain essential information from the labor market when making the critical decision to join the profession. Hence, it is vital to have access to accurate labor market information since it plays a role in proper guidance. It is crucial for a person to understand the opportunities and challenges inherent in the profession before making a critical choice of joining that career (Sharf, 2016). The knowledge of the labor market is fundamental at the individual level for effective decision-making and the professional level when helping others in making resolutions. The concepts govern the modern practice primarily due to the increase in competition within the various fields. It is also critical to counter the challenges created by technological changes as well as volatility in the market. Hence, the role of accurate labor market information is crucial for career decision-making, especially regarding the counseling profession.
Technology’s Impact on the Counseling Profession
Technology has developed and occupied various areas of life, personal and professional. Counseling has also been affected by technological developments, changing the way services are provided in the modern environment (Glosoff & Schwarz-Whittaker, 2013). Technology is especially important when dealing with youth in counseling because most of their interactions are taking place through the mediated setting. Therefore, counselors are challenged to understand the development of technology and applications that could be used in their work. Professionals have an ethical obligation to communicate and interact with their clients in the most comfortable means. Hence, technology has become an essential part of their training and practice to understand how they work and affect their services. Consequently, they should comprehend the ethical concerns that emerge in the use of technology when providing counseling services, including the privacy of information stored electronically. Technology demands significant changes in the profession and counseling ethics to catch up with the constant evolution.
The Role of Counseling Supervision in the Profession
Clinical supervision plays a vital role in the counseling practice to develop competent professionals. The supervisory relationship entails a form of intervention that a senior member of the counseling profession offers to a junior within the same occupation. The association between the two is evaluative and takes an extended period to improve the functioning of the junior professional. The supervisor plays an essential role in monitoring the quality of service provided by a counselor to their clients. Counselors in training are required to have supervised experience to ensure that they develop effectively and serve their clients competently and ethically (Campbell, 2013). Therefore, regular supervision guarantees that counselors are working according to the code of practice while maintaining professional standards. Supervisors act as “gatekeepers” for the individuals joining the profession to ensure that they are operating according to the rules without diverting from the expectations of the profession. Hence, the process of supervision enhances the skills of the supervisee by improving the quality of counseling and ensuring effective service-provision over time.
Steps for Managing Ethical Concerns within Counseling
Counselors face various kinds of ethical dilemmas when providing their services to clients. For instance, the professional could encounter a situation where the clients are unwilling to provide adequate information for the fear that their privacy would be violated. It is possible for the client and the counselor to lose sight of their responsibility in the relationship when privacy is concerned. The most critical step for the counselor to take when dealing with such issues is to revisit the code of ethics and understand the most ethical choice when faced with moral concerns during counseling (Welfel, 2015). The code of ethics will provide the guidelines to evaluate the situation and come up with the most ethical course of action. In highly complex cases, the counselor can consult other experts in the profession to understand their perspective and compare with the personal point of view before making the right decision. Importantly, the counselor should always work with the client to establish the most effective course of action when facing ethical dilemmas since the recipient is an integral part of the care process.
Multicultural Trends for Populations within Counseling
Counselors have to work in a multicultural environment as diverse cultures interact and work together in the contemporary world. Multiculturalism in counseling occurs in two dimensions: counselors work with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds, and clients from diverse cultural backgrounds seek their services. The differences continue to increase as the country becomes more multicultural and diverse. Hence, counselors have the challenge to understand the trends and develop the necessary skills and competence to work effectively in such an environment (Glosoff & Schwarz-Whittaker, 2013). The professionals are incorporating awareness of the cultures of their colleagues and clients to provide quality services. They should integrate cultural sensitivity and competence in theory and practice to improve their services. Counselors must realize that cultural differences have a significant implication on their work. Hence, it is only by understanding and appreciating the differences that they can communicate effectively with their colleagues and provide the necessary care that improves the well-being of their clients. Intercultural communication is the most critical step in establishing successful therapeutic relationships.
Ethics Regarding Referrals within Counseling
Referrals are essential in counseling because some people might not be able to handle all the challenges presented by the client for various reasons. Hence, when the situation does not allow a counselor to provide the necessary services, a patient may be referred to another expert who would offer specialized support (Corey, 2015). In addition, referrals are essential in providing the client with competent care or when the relationship between the counselor and the client need to be protected. It is critical to ensure that the process involves an individual who is more qualified to perform the diagnosis and treatment of the presented condition. The profession should understand the limits of the expertise and who are competent enough to handle the problem. Another ethical consideration is the need to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the client, especially when individuals well-known to the client make referrals. Confidentiality between the client and the counselor is critical in all kinds of therapeutic arrangements. Therefore, counselors should follow clear guidelines and codes of ethics when dealing with referrals.
As it is evident from the discussion, ethics in counseling play a critical role in ensuring that individuals with diverse needs have access to appropriate care that will enhance their quality of life. Hence, counselors are significant stakeholders in the healthcare system who provide support in behavioral, psychological, and emotional issues that affect different clients. In addition, they have a compassionate role considering the nature of their clients and should always be guided by ethical principles when providing support to the clients to ensure that they protect their rights, maximize their welfare, and minimize harm and challenges encountered in life. They are expected to enhance the well-being of their clients by maintaining positive therapeutic relationships. Besides, they are anticipated to work with other professionals and policymakers to address any potential challenges that might hinder their effectiveness in providing services to their clients, including the disadvantaged ones. It is worth noting that their role is one of the most important in providing healthcare services to diverse patients and should be integrated into the general healthcare system to enhance its effectiveness.