American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics

American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

This lesson will review the American Counseling Association (ACA) code of ethics as it applies to school counselors. The nine sections of the ACA ethical code will be reviewed, and a brief overview of each will be provided.

The ACA

Your daughter appears to be having an issue with a teacher, and it's upsetting her. The teacher seems to single her out in front of the class and embarrass her in front of her peers without cause. You're thinking of reaching out to the school counselor about this, but are concerned about confidentiality.

This lesson will help you understand the ethical standards school counselors are required to adhere to according to the American Counseling Association, so that you can make a more informed decision before seeking out guidance.

The American Counseling Association

The American Counseling Association (ACA) is a professional organization which serves as a resource to counselors nationwide. One of the primary purposes of the ACA is to establish a general ethical code of conduct to which all counseling professionals are expected to adhere. The ACA code of ethics contains 9 different sections dealing with:

  1. The counseling relationship
  2. Confidentiality
  3. Professional obligations
  4. Relationships with colleagues in the field
  5. Evaluation, assessment, and data interpretation
  6. Supervision, training, and education
  7. Research and publication
  8. Virtual counseling, technology, and social media
  9. Ethical issues

Let's take a look at these sections in a little more detail and consider how they impact school counselors.

The ACA Code of Ethics Sections

The Counseling Relationship

A counselor's responsibility lies first and foremost with their clients. For school counselors, the identified populations would primarily be students and parents. All counselors need to ensure that:

  • Client welfare is protected and the counseling relationship is explained. This includes working collaboratively with other mental health professionals.
  • Personal values are not projected onto clients, and appropriate relationship boundaries are adhered to at all times.
  • Appropriate advocacy for clients takes place at multiple levels and assuming conflicting roles is avoided.
  • Fair business practices are adhered to and termination practices are appropriately followed, ensuring that clients are not abandoned.

School counselors should ensure that relationships with students do not get personal and that they serve pro-actively, collaboratively, and without bias on interdisciplinary teams that are serving students.

Confidentiality

The American Counseling Association's concern with client confidentiality and privacy is paramount. It is recognized that counselors have an ethical obligation to preserve and respect client privacy and must simultaneously inform clients about the limits of confidentiality. General exceptions to confidentiality include a serious threat to harm oneself or others, a court order disclosure, or when sharing information within a professional counseling environment, provided the personal identity of the client is not revealed.

School counselors most often deal with children, who are not considered capable of giving informed consent for treatment. School counselors are encouraged to establish collaborative relationships with parents whenever possible, while maintaining confidentiality in accordance with legal requirements.

Professional Obligations

The American Counseling Association expects all counselors, including school counselors, to comply with the ACA code of ethics. Counselors are furthermore expected to -

  • Provide services only within their areas of expertise
  • Seek out professional development
  • Represent themselves accurately
  • Maintain a non-discriminatory approach
  • Practice a high level of public responsibility
  • Take personal ownership of comments made in professional settings

School counselors should seek ongoing professional development opportunities to remain current in their field and become knowledgeable about the latest trends and issues in school counseling.

Relationships with Colleagues in the Field

The American Counseling Association recognizes the importance and value of establishing collegiate, professional relationships within the field. Interdisciplinary team approaches are therefore encouraged. For school counselors, this may mean working with teachers, the school psychologist, and school administrators to ensure that the best interests of the students remain central.

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