Professional ethics is an integral part of counseling since it ensures proper service and helps in resolving complicated cases. In the chosen dilemma, a social worker interacts with a 15-year-old adolescent, who has depression. The boy tells that his friends offered him to try crystal meth and ecstasy, and he agreed. The counselor notes that the speech of the client is slurred, and his eyes are blurred. When the adolescent says that he is concerned about drugs, the social worker suggests him to enroll in a state-funded program. The main issue that is to be addressed is that the boy asks the counselor not to notify his parents about the drug problem, but is it ethical to keep this information confidential?
Dilemma’s Scope and Impact
Speaking of the impact of the defined dilemma, one should stress that there are several involved groups that can be affected. First, the boy and his parents as a family can face a crisis in relationships. On the one hand, the adolescent may perceive the disclosure of his information as a betrayal of the counselor. On the other hand, his parents need to know what happens with their son to help and support him (Pope & Vasquez, 2016). Even though there is a threat of significant misunderstanding between the family members, it seems that they should be aware of the problem. Second, the group of friends who use drugs can be impacted through this client by showing them that crystal meth destroys their bodies and minds. Their parents can also be either contacted or remain unaware of this situation. Third, this ethical dilemma can also affect the counselor since his or her professional competence seems to be challenged (Bryan et al., 2016). On a broader scale, this dilemma impacts the future of all the mentioned people, defining their mental and physical health.
Competing Values and Gut Solution
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) provides six core values that should be taken into account during counseling. Relating them to the given dilemma, it is important to note that the value of dignity and worth of a person competes with the value of integrity. On the one hand, this social worker should respect the adolescent and his requests (“Code of Ethics”, 2017). This value also refers to resolving broader social conflicts and the client’s self-determination. In the other hand, the client is underage, and his parents have responsibility for caring for their son. Integrity implies that a counselor should behave in a trustworthy way, practicing honesty and the awareness of professional standards (“Code of Ethics”, 2017). In this case, the social worker should rely not only on values but also personal experience and common sense.
Personally, I understand that the boy wants to keep his drug experience in secret from his parents. There can be a range of reasons, including but not limited to fear, potential misunderstanding, an excellent student syndrome, and the belief that he can easily quit (Bryan et al., 2016). When I was addicted to alcohol, I also tried to hide it from my family and friends because I was not sure how they would perceive it. They finally found that I have the addiction since my behaviors and thoughts changed dramatically. Even though the counselor would not tell the boy’s parents, they are likely to learn about it later. Therefore, I believe that this information should be disclosed to the parents to allow them to take action and help their child.
Most importantly, the way of revealing information should be chosen with caution so that the parents would not damage their relationships with their son. The Bible teaches that the family is a strong source of support and that relationships present the opportunity to open one’s soul. For example, the following quote describes the expected acceptance of parents: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV). It seems to be useful to plan a visit to the boy’s parents and talk to them, trying to explain that their son is concerned about taking drugs, and he needs their assistance. God states that “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV). It is better to initiate the second meeting with the whole family and discuss both sides’ concerns.
According to the value of human relationships, the social worker is expected to recognize the role of families and social groups in one’s life. In this case, the attention should be paid to both the family and friends of the adolescent as both are quite significant for him. The Code of Ethics clarifies that relationships can be viewed as a powerful mechanism for changing social patterns (“Code of Ethics”, 2017). The social work strives to strengthen the relationships to promote and improve the well-being of the involved persons. Pope and Vasquez (2016) state that the value of service means elevating a client’s interests above personal ones. In this dilemma, the interests of the adolescent are closely related to those of his parents, which also confirm that they should be notified of the problem and the need to enroll their son in the special program.
Another rational for having an informed consent of parents for the program enrollment is the presence of a significant risk to the health of the boy. By communicating to the parents, the social worker would create more opportunities to address the mental issues and drug use more effectively (Bryan et al., 2016). The type of the family and the adolescent’s maturity should be considered while choosing the strategies of communication. One can anticipate that the negative emotions may appear in the client and his family, but the key goal is to avoid misunderstanding and reach a compromise. For example, the treatment benefits can be clarified, and long-term outcomes can be discussed with the family members. The importance of timely help should not be underestimated since drug addiction is a serious condition that is difficult to overcome.
To conclude, this paper discussed the ethical dilemma, in which the adolescent client has depression and drug use problems, refusing to notify his parents about them. The social worker faces such competing values as the respect for one’s dignity and integrity. Based on the academic resource and the Code of Conduct, it was suggested that the parental notification should be chosen in the interests of the client and his family.
Bryan, V., Sanders, S., & Kaplan, L. (2016). The helping professional’s guide to ethics: A new perspective. Oxford University Press.
Code of Ethics. (2017). Web.
Pope, K. S., & Vasquez, M. J. (2016). Ethics in psychotherapy and counseling: A practical guide. John Wiley & Sons.