Ethical Decision-Making: Counseling and Homeopathy


This paper applies the ethical decision-making model to solve the dilemma of a particular scenario. It discusses if using the client base of private counseling to sell homeopathic remedies was an appropriate decision or not. The approach of the scenario’s character creates an ethical dilemma that needs to be solved. The issues related to the counselor’s practice are revealed in terms of moral principles, such as nonmaleficence, autonomy, and beneficence. The American Counseling Association Code of Ethics’ violations are listed to provide a better understanding of the problem. The corresponding literature has been researched to assist in finding solutions for a dilemma and particular difficulties it contains. Lastly, the paper explores possible and optimal courses of action to solve the dilemma within the ethical terms and values.

Keywords: ethics, counselor, decision-making, moral principles.


The chosen scenario describes how Amy, a professional counselor in private practice, sells multivitamins to her counseling clients. She believes that homeopathic remedies are beneficial for health, and places advertisements in her office and on her website. Amy works on a Ph.D. in Counseling and pays for it with most of her money. Becoming the representative of the vitamin supplying company is an opportunity to earn extra money to invest in education. In addition, Amy sells the remedies to several counseling clients interested in the advertisement they found on the website and in the office to resolve her financial problems.

Identifying the Problem

The scenario includes points that raise ethical questions, such as using a counseling client base as a part of a marketing strategy. Several facts in Amy’s case are necessary for consideration within the context of an ethical decision-making process. First, she is in graduate school and invests significant amounts of money in getting a Ph. D. degree in Counseling. This circumstance reveals that she cares about her career and wants to be a better counselor for her already existing clients. Second, she was looking for extra income, and becoming a representative of a vitamin-selling company was an excellent opportunity for her. It is necessary to mention that Amy believes in vitamins and homeopathic remedies, therefore, selling them to clients or other people is the right action from her point of view. Third, Amy used her office and website as places for the promotion of the vitamins, regardless of the absence of any connection between the remedies and counseling. Finally, several clients inquired more information about these vitamins and bought them from Amy.

The occasions of how Amy advertised or provided details about vitamins are unknown, and it raises questions such as whether her clients knew the reason why Amy promoted vitamins, and what was the pressure degree while she was convincing them to buy remedies. The other parts of her marketing strategies are also unrevealed, but it supposed that she received the most valuable income from counseling clients. Moreover, there is no information about other options Amy could use to get extra money. It creates an assumption that Amy did not consider the ethical part of her actions or that she was in a desperate money situation. Hypothetically, she needed to evaluate her actions from multiple sides to avoid any ethical issues.

The ethical problem of Amy’s case is that she should not advertise anything apart from her counseling because it is inappropriate by standards and policies. However, the fact that the extra money she earned was to be spent on her Ph.D. in Counseling creates a dilemma as Amy’s degree will be a sound impact on her clients as well. Her case is a combination of professional and ethical problems, and it is related to her private practice and clients who trust her. The professional issue is that the vitamins’ marketing strategy should not get the advantage of the client base that Amy gained during her practice. The other question is how ethical it is to offer the clients anything above the counseling at the counselor’s office.

Applying the ACA Code of Ethics

The marketing strategy to sell vitamins to counseling clients Amy chose breaches several requirements listed in the ACA Code of Ethics. The Code’s Standard C.3.f. describes deceptively selling non-related products to clients as an unethical approach (American Counseling Association, 2014). Amy’s approach also violated several other Code’s regulations like A.6.e. which excludes any of the non-professional interactions and relationships between clients and a counselor. Moreover, A.10.b. Standard of the Code defines any business practices, extra fees, and other money-related operations above a contract as ethically unacceptable. Besides, I.1.a. Standard requires a counselor to know, use, and understand it (American Counseling Association, 2014). Amy did not consider the Code while selling non-related products to her clients as a part of her marketing strategy.

However, the Code of Ethics includes C.2.f. Standard (2014) stating that “counselors recognize the need for continuing education to acquire and maintain a reasonable level of awareness of current scientific and professional information” (p. 9). Therefore, Amy’s willingness to get a Ph.D. in Counseling is ethically appropriate and a necessary part of her practice. After applying the Code of Ethics, it is clear that the ethical dilemma exists in this scenario, and it is related to the relationship between counselor and clients, as well as to the professional responsibilities.

Determining the Nature of the Dilemma

It is necessary to explore the ethical dilemma in regards to the moral principles: autonomy, justice, beneficence, non-maleficence, and fidelity, to determine the right course of action. From the point of a client’s autonomy, the freedom of choice was limited for a client, not only because the particular vitamins were to be sold without competitors check, but also because clients’ possible willingness to act kind with Amy, could affect the decision to buy vitamins. The principle of non-maleficence is not to harm others, and selling homeopathic remedies might violate it as there is no scientific approval of their impact on health. Alternative medicine has questionable therapeutic value and no stable and regulative relationship between patients and purveyors (Macdonald & Gavura, 2016). Although Amy believes in the advantages of vitamins, selling them to clients breaches the principle of beneficence as well. Fidelity and justice are the concepts related to equal treatment for clients, and the faithful relationship between them and a counselor. These principles should be applied to the counseling in general, and therefore do not play a significant role in Amy’s case.

The possible solutions for the ethical dilemma can be discovered in the research of the professional and corresponding literature. Counselors might be unaware that the decisions they make are ethically inappropriate, thus require the evaluation and feedback from a person of higher professional range (Bazerman & Sezer, 2016). Amy’s counseling practice is private, and there was no one to point to the ethical regards of her approach. Johnston and Tarydas (2019) state that “to manage ethical conflicts, counselors may benefit from understanding how moral, ethical, and legal considerations, with the intrinsic and extrinsic consequences may affect decision-making in a given case” (p. 180). Therefore, the financial issue Amy discovered should have been reviewed from a broader perspective, including moral compliance and possible conflicts related to her counseling practice.

The research of Burns and Cruikshanks (2017) revealed that private practitioners tend to review different codes of ethics, seek consultancy, check state laws, rely on natural instincts, and personal experience when dealing with ethical issues. For the given case, choosing multiple sources of opinions could be beneficial both in decision-making and solving the problem. Counseling is mostly a private practice, and violations of some standards or rules and to be unrevealed (Lerman et al., 2020). However, it does not exclude a counselor’s value of ethics and moral principles. In Amy’s case, she had to remember that if her actions are considered unethical or illegal, clients can reach regulating institutions. Thus, the principles must be applied while making decisions to protect a counselor from possible severe consequences.

In the United States, the Committee on Ethics established to consult about problems and dilemmas. Although there is no particular section to reach for Amy’s case, an option to report the problem and get recommendations exists. If the situation takes place in Virginia, the State Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council might consult regarding the problem and possible solution. Moreover, there is the state’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics, and its members, such as Jackson D. A. or Mitchell J. L., can assist with choosing the right course of action (Virginia State Bar, 2020). The State Bar aims to consult in case of ethical or decisions-making issues, and the contacts of the representatives are available for everyone.

Potential Courses of Action

The process of solving problems caused by the ethical dilemma of Amy’s case might have multiple courses of action. These issues are health damage caused to a client after using the vitamins, or clients who find offering non-related products inappropriate, and reach to legal regulators. Besides, the website advertisement might be noticed by her Ph.D. assistance professor which can lead him to question her awareness of the responsibilities she takes as a counselor.

The potential course to action is to reach to Amy’s graduate school lawyers to evaluate the ethical side of the decisions she made. Besides, the request for quality control from vitamin suppliers is essential, as well as their target audience research. If Amy stops selling remedies to her clients, knowledge of the target audience will be useful. The other course is to remove the advertisements and provide clients with information about vitamins only out of the office.

Considering Consequences and Determining Course of Action

If the course of action is to review the decision with some authorities in counseling, Amy might get recommendations with the objective evaluation, but that person might also decide that it is necessary to check if Amy’s actions are legal. The consequences of a regulative judicial investigation can be damaging for Amy’s career, and for the clients who trust her. In case if Amy completely stops selling the homeopathic remedies to her clients, ethically, the decision will be the most appropriate. However, it can lead to Amy’s money problems renewal, and cause difficulties in getting her Ph.D. In the course of action where Amy removes the advertisements yet recommends the vitamins out of office, the consequence of health damage for her clients still occurs, as well as the possibility of lowering her income. Besides, she should not have any non-professional connections with her clients, according to the ethical standards.

Evaluating the Selected Course of Action

The complete withdrawal of giving any advertisement and selling remedies to clients is the most ethically appropriate course of action. It excludes a non-professional relationship between Amy and her counseling clients and will not present any new ethical problems. In case if some of the clients who bought vitamins request to buy more, Amy will be aware of ethical standards and possible issues so that she will assess the risks, as well as the intrinsic and extrinsic consequences of her decisions.

Implementing the Course of Action

Implementing the chosen course of action includes multiple steps to make and points to consider. At first, Amy needs to research the target audience and find out how to reach them to replace the source of income she got from her clients. The next step is to remove the advertisements both from the office and website. Moreover, Amy has to choose a person to consult with if any ethical assessment is needed. Lastly, in case of investigations from the regulators, Amy has to prepare the evidence of her money problems, which forced her to sell non-related products at her counseling office.


American Counseling Association. (2014). ACA code of ethics. [PDF document]. Web.

Bazerman, M. H., & Sezer, O. (2016). Bounded awareness: Implications for ethical decision making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 136, 95-105. Web.

Burns, S. T., & Cruikshanks, D. R. (2017). Impact of ethical information resources on independently licensed counselors. Counseling and Values, 62(2), 159-179. Web.

Johnston, S. P., & Tarydas, V. M. (2019). Legal issues, ethics of practice, and counselor behaviors. Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Practicing in Integrated Systems of Care, 161-181.

Lerman, L. G., Schrag, P. G., & Rubinson, R. (2020). Ethical problems in the practice of law. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.

Macdonald, C., & Gavura, S. (2016). Alternative medicine and the ethics of commerce. Bioethics, 30(2), 77-84. Web.

Virginia State Bar (2020). Legal ethics. Web.

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"Ethical Decision-Making: Counseling and Homeopathy." PsychologyWriting, 19 Sept. 2023,


PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Ethical Decision-Making: Counseling and Homeopathy'. 19 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Ethical Decision-Making: Counseling and Homeopathy." September 19, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Ethical Decision-Making: Counseling and Homeopathy." September 19, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Ethical Decision-Making: Counseling and Homeopathy." September 19, 2023.