There is a professional body in Singapore for counselling named as Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC). SAC is registered in Singapore and it is an organization for Counsellors and Psychotherapists. The main objectives of SAC are to maintain the standards of this profession, provide general principles and standards for members of this organization, these principles state the ethical and professional behavior of members of SAC. These general principles are known as ‘Code of Ethics’. Code of ethics is also known as moral philosophy. Standards developed by SAC guides the behavior of the professional counsellers, and these standards also increase the quality of the services provided by the members of SAC. These guidelines state the ethical and professional conduct for the members of SAC. In this paper we discuss the ethical issues related to the profession of counselling. We also discuss the considerations applied to children and adolescents in relation of these issues. In last we conclude the essay by discussing the solutions related to these issues (SAC, n.d.).
Ethical and Professional Principles in Counselling:
Counseling is a term which generally describes the process of assessment of the individual’s problem and helping the individual to solve that problem. SAC provide some guidelines which control the behavior of counsellers in Singapore. Here we discuss two ethical issues related to counselling that is confidentiality and professional competence:
Confidentiality: It is the responsibility of Counsellors that they maintain the trust, honesty and seriousness of their relationship with their clients. The main aim of this profession is to provide satisfactory services to their clients and solve the problems of clients instead of getting financial benefit from clients. Counsellers do not own duties towards the client only, but they also own some responsibility towards other counsellers, colleagues and community. It is the duty of the therapist/ counsellor to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the sessions with their clients.
- It is a duty of the counselors that they consider the communication with their client as confidential communication and does not disclose it anywhere unless the client permits to disclose such information.
- Information received from client in sessions can be discussed by counselor in supervision, and as part of management.
- It is necessary that counselor inform the client all the provisions of confidentiality they offer. Counselor and client jointly change the provisions of confidentiality agreement.
- If information provided by client is used in counselling training and audit then counselor must protect and not disclose the identity of client.
- Counsellor also respects the confidentiality matter of their colleague’s client (New Zealand Association of Counsellors, n.d.).
- Counselors can seek information about their rights and liabilities, if nature of work involves legal matter.
- Counselor makes sure that the client’s record must be kept at separately.
- Counselor makes sure that client’s records are properly disposed.
- In case of transfer of client’s case to another counselor, written consent must be taken from client to disclose the confidential information.
- If counselor wants to use the matter of client for case study or reports then written consent of client is necessary.
- It is the responsibility of counselor to hide the identity of client (Goh, 2012).
Exceptions in case of Confidential issue: In normal situation it is expected from counsellers that they maintain the confidentiality of sessions with their clients. But there are some situations in which it is necessary that counsellor breach the confidentiality of client:
- Counsellor can breach the confidentially for reducing any risk.
- Counsellor can breach the confidentially when client or other person is in some danger.
- Counsellor can provide confidential information in case of legal matter.
- Counsellor can provide confidential information while answering the complaint filed during practice of counselling.
- However co-counsellers or supervisors can attend the sessions with the permission of client (AIPC, 2010).
It is the duty of the therapist/ counsellor to ensure that necessary steps are taken to keep the information confidential. It is the duty of the therapist/ counsellor that they maintain professional relationship with their clients and set a boundary in their relationship.Therapist/counsellor does not take any personal advantage from the confidential information of their client (AAMFT, N.D.).
It is the duty of the counsellor that they set a boundary of relationship with their clients. It is very important aspect of the relationship between counsellor and client. It is necessary that counsellor maintain professional relationship with their clients. Definition of boundaries is not provided anywhere. It includes those circumstances which do not lie within the framework of formal code of ethics (Krawford, 2012). There are five principles from which boundaries of counsellers are derived:
- Beneficence- it is the responsibility of the counsellor that he work in the interest of the client and make sure that client get best from the sessions of counselling.
- Nonmaleficence- counsellor must not engage in any activity which cause any harm to the client during sessions.
- Autonomy- it is the responsibility of the counsellor that he increase the decision making power of client, and prevent the any dependency of client.
- Justice- it is the responsibility of the counsellor that he does not discriminate between his clients on the basis of gender, sex, nationality, race, etc.
- fidelity- maintains the trust and honesty in the relationship with client, and fulfills all the commitments made to the client
Confidentiality matter in case of children’s and adolescents: children’s and teenagers are different from adults and they have different thinking. Therefore there are some special points which a counsellor has to keep in mind while counselling a child or teenager:
- Respect the rights and responsibilities of every children and young person.
- Respect the relationship of the child or young person with his parents, siblings, friends and other members of family.
- Make sure the growth and development of personality of child and young people.
- Respect the privacy and confidentiality of child and young people (Ances, n.d.).
Professional Competence: it is a duty of the counsellor that they maintain the competency in their profession in the interest of their clients and in the interest of the society. It is the duty of the counsellor that they set the boundary of their profession and offer only those services and techniques that they are allowed to provide by their profession. They should not offer those services which they are not permitted to provide by their profession (Singapore Psychological Society, n.d.). Following are the guidelines to achieve the competency in profession:
- It is important that counsellor attain the competency in his profession before starting the sessions.
- Counsellor must be connected with some reputed organization that provides them supremacy in counselling services.
- Counsellor must act on advices of their supervisors and clients, and also review their performance from time to time.
- Counsellor must have complete updated information of his field, and he must maintain the level of knowledge in his field.
- Counsellor must have information regarding the dangers and problems in the sessions
Boundaries of Professional Competence: it is necessary that counsellor provide only those services which is related to his field or services which are based on his education, training, field, supervision and experience. Counsellor must initiate the session and give treatment after considering the circumstances of patient or other important factors such as age, gender, sex, language, culture, etc. it is necessary that counsellers keep doing efforts to maintain their competency in their profession (American Psychological Association, 2010).
It is important for the counsellers that they update their skills. It is necessary that they know their limits related to their expertise and take help and advice of their supervisors, and whenever they feel that matter is not related to their field they refer the matter to other counsellor who can better understand the problem of client. They must use only those methods and test for which they get training (Institute of Guidance Counsellors, n.d.).
Following are the steps to maintain the professional competency and integrity:
- Counsellors must develop their knowledge and skills to maintain the competency in their profession.
- Counsellors must have complete knowledge about their profession.
- Professional must avoid the conflicts with their clients and fellow members.
- Counsellors must not exploit their clients, students and society.
- Counsellors must avoid such acts which lead to professional misconduct.
- Counselors must not claim any degree or qualification which they do not possess.
- Any information provided by counselors to public or their supervisors must be fair and based on some factual data.
- Any misrepresentation or misuse committed by counselor must be reported to their supervisors, and counselor must take reasonable steps to make corrections.
- Counselors must take only those tasks for which they are qualified.
- Counselors must not involve in any practice which reduce the integrity of their profession.
It is necessary that statements made by the counsellers to the public comply with the ethical code. Members must take care of these things while making the statements to the public:
- Statements made by the counsellers must be true and fair. Their statements must not include any deceptive or misleading information regarding their work.
- Counselors must not make false statements regarding:
- Education or qualification degrees.
- Training conducted by them
- Relations with organizations
- Research work conducted by them (SAC, n.d.).
In last we can say that it is necessary for counsellers that they learn something new from every situation of their client. If counsellor wants to be best in his profession, it is necessary that he learn from the task and challenges he face (McKinnis, 2013). In case of child and adolescents counselling it is necessary that counsellor first talk with their parents and supporters, and also discuss the process of treatment to them. Sessions must be based on the history and circumstances of children and young people. It is necessary in child counselling that counsellor use different methods of treatment which involve fun and games. It must include the techniques through which a child can express his feelings and feel comfortable (Innersight, n.d.).
SAC is registered in Singapore and it is an organization for Counsellors and Psychotherapists. The main objectives of SAC are to maintain the standards of this profession, provide general principles and standards for members of this organization, these principles state the ethical and professional behavior of members of SAC. Here we discuss two ethical issues related to counselling that is confidentiality and professional competence and integrity. In case of confidentiality, the main aim of this profession is to maintain the confidentiality of the matters of the client. Counsellers do not own duties towards the client only, but they also own some responsibility towards other counsellers, colleagues and community. In case of Professional Competence and Integrity it is a duty of the counsellor that they maintain the competency in their profession in the interest of their clients and in the interest of the society. It is the duty of the counsellor that they set the boundary of their profession and offer only those services and techniques that they are allowed to provide by their profession.
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