Comparing and Contrasting the Ethics Codes of the ACA and AACC
Ethics codes are used to "protect consumers, provide practitioner guidelines, and clarify the professional stance of the organization" according to Corey, Corey & Callanan (2007). The ethics codes looked at for this paper will be from the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). The similarities and differences of the codes will be discussed, as will possible reasons for any differences. The parts of the ethics codes to be looked at by this paper will be confidentiality, dual roles or conflict of interest, and sexual intimacies.
Confidentiality is very important to all counselors, and to the trusting relationship between the client and counselor. There are many similarities in the codes. A counselor does not give any client information to anyone without discussing and getting the client's consent, unless required by law. Counselors discuss any limitations to confidentiality during the first session if possible. Some limitations in both codes are suicide, homicide and child or elder abuse. In group or family counseling the counselor has to define the limits of confidentiality very well. Some of the issues in working with groups are who is the client, and what are the limitations of confidentiality according to the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics (2005) B.4.b.
Some more similarities are when consulting with another counselor do not disclose confidential information. Keep identifying information out of research and publications unless the client gives permission. Counselors need to store client records in secure and locked areas.
There are also some differences between the two codes. The American Counseling Association code of ethics (2005) in section B.3.f discussed deceased patients and protecting their confidentiality. In Section B.1.a. of the ACA code of ethics (2005), multicultural and diversity considerations are covered. Counselors need to be aware and sensitive to differing views on confidentiality and disclosing information. In the American Association of Christian Counselors code of ethics (2004) ES1-470, it discusses advocating privacy rights against intrusive powers. The AACC code of ethics (2004) ES1-470 states that "Christian counselors hear the most private and sensitive details of clients lives-information that must be zealously guarded from public disclosure", and "Christian counselors are called to wisely protect and assertively advocate for privacy protection on behalf of our clients against the pervasive intrusion of personal, corporate, governmental, even religious powers." The AACC code also went into more detail on the duty to protect others by giving more examples.
Dual roles or conflict of interest is important because they can harm the client. There are some similarities in the codes. The general rule is that dual roles should be avoided to avoid unintentional harm of the client. Some exceptions that can happen are: attending a wedding or graduation and being a member of a professional organization. Counselors should never treat their spouse, a close family member, or a close friend. A counselor cannot terminate treatment just to start a relationship.
There are also some differences between the codes. The ACA code of ethics (2005) talks about role changes in the relationship in Section A.5.e. If the counselor changes roles such as going into couples counseling or going into research instead of individual counseling, they need to discuss this with their clients and explain the client's rights. The AACC code of ethics (2004) discusses how to avoid and resolve role conflicts in marriage counseling in Section ES1-543. It talks about clarifying the counselor's role and contracting for professional neutrality before starting counseling. The AACC code of ethics also directly advises on counseling fellow church members in Section ES1-145. It tells counselors not to counsel fellow church members who have" close personal, business, or shared ministry relations" with them (AACC code of ethics, 2004, ES1-145).
Sexual intimacies can be very harmful so are very important to both codes. There are many similarities in the codes. Sexual intimacy with current clients is forbidden. Sexual intimacy with former clients is also forbidden. Counselors do not terminate the counseling relationship just to start a sexual relationship.
There are some differences between the two codes as well. In the ACA code of ethics (2005) Section A.5.b., sexual relationships are prohibited for five years after the last counseling session. In the AACC code of ethics (2004) Section ES1-130, it prohibits any and all sexual misconduct including: "direct sexual touch or contact, seductive sexual speech, solicitation of a relationship, and unnecessary questioning of a client's sexual past." The AACC code of ethics (2004) also specifically prohibits counseling your spouse in Section ES1-132, and prohibits marriage to former clients except under the very strict guidelines stated in Section ES1-133.
There are some reasons for the similarities in the two codes of ethics. Both codes are for the counseling profession. This would help them have a lot of similarities because even with one organization having a Christian worldview, they would still have a lot of the same issues that come up in the profession. Both codes were also made to keep some of the same mistakes from happening again. Ethics code sections are adopted after a mistake has been made, and the code then helps others from making the same mistake. Both codes also have a basis in the same theories, thoughts, and ideas. Even Christian counselors use the same basic theories in their counseling as secular counselors, although they do use them a little differently.
There are also reasons for the differences between the two codes. The major difference is that the American Association of Christian Counselors code of ethics was created specifically for Christian counselors and therefore has a Biblical or Christian worldview and foundation. The AACC code of ethics starts with the seven Biblical-Ethical foundations. The AACC code also seems to flesh out the American Counseling Association code of ethics in places. The AACC give more depth in some areas by adding the Christian worldview to the ethics code.
Another possible reason for the differences is that the AACC is a newer organization. This ethics code is the first official full ethics code of the organization. AS an organization they might not have enough information to have developed all the issues that other organizations might have experienced. One of the ways ethics codes are developed is by taking the mistakes made and forming codes to protect others from making the same mistakes. Even using other ethics codes as a basis for their ethics code, some of the issues other organizations have had might not seem like something that would be relevant in Christian counseling. If an organization is young it might not have all the experiences for the ethics code.
Another possible reason for the differences is that the AACC using a Christian worldview expects a certain level of behavior from their counselors that other professional groups might not. A counselor with a Christian worldview should want to treat others, as they would want to be treated. They would also try to think of everyone as God's child and treat him or her as such no matter what the differences in the person. They might not look at a person's race, age, sex, or religion as such obstacles if they were looking at the person as God's child.
In conclusion there are many similarities between the confidentiality, dual roles or conflict of interest, and sexual intimacy sections of the AACC and ACA codes of ethics. There are also several differences between the sections of the ethics codes as well. There are some possible reasons for the similarities in the codes, such as both codes being from the same profession. There are also some possible reasons for the differences, such as the AACC being for Christian counseling and having a Biblical or Christian worldview.
This paper has helped explore the writer's thoughts and feelings on these issues as well. It has helped the writer become more in tune with the way they want to work as a counselor. It has been a very informative and enlightening journey.
American Association if Christian Counselors, AACC Law & Ethics Committee. (2004). AACC
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American Counseling Association. (2005). ACA code of ethics. Alexandria, VA: American
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