Professionalism Issues in Counseling

From the point of view of counseling, professionalism can be defined as the process of setting adequate ethical and specialized boundaries in order to exercise intentionality and self-awareness. Any given counselor should possess professionalism in order to be able to remain competent and focused on performance. Therefore, professionalism can be associated with one’s ability to show empathy to clients and strengthen the therapeutic alliance by removing barriers to safer well-being (Blake, 2018). Counselors are responsible for maintaining their professionalism in order to conduct relevant research on different topics and ensure that they can contribute to a healthier society by means of their actions. Professionalism can be directly associated with the counselor’s ability to engage in self-care.

Ethical Use of Self

The notion of ethical use of self entails the use of therapist’s own experiences to improve the therapeutic process without imposing their worldviews on the client. This is an exceptional approach to counseling because it requires the therapist to build a detailed rapport with their own feelings and personality while being as objective as possible (Sue et al., 2019). One of the examples of ethical use of self in counseling is the construct of presence. It suggests that the therapist authentically reaches out to clients in order to facilitate their improvements and become a sort of role model for clients based on behavior and attitudes. Thus, ethical use of self can be associated with safety and the ability to stay away from pretentiousness so as not to affect the client-counselor bond (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2018). This is why many counselors resort to personal self-disclosure in an attempt to promote trust and a closer connection between the actors involved in the counseling process.

Professional Values

Within the framework of counseling, professional integrity can be defined as a value that has to be preserved by the therapist in order to protect the counselor-client relationship from numerous hazards. For example, counselors should avoid causing harm to clients, as one of their professional values is nonmaleficence (Beckett et al., 2017). Clients should have the opportunity to put their trust in the counselor in order to set the expectations together and see how both the therapist and the client could act in line with the code of ethics. Thus, professional values are the pillars that support client growth while delineating the counseling practice and establishing relevant boundaries that should not be crossed if healthy relationships are to be formed and maintained.

Social Justice

The concept of social justice is fundamental for the counseling process because it suggests that multicultural competence is one of the key moving forces bringing clients closer to positive mental health outcomes. In the case where a counselor is culturally competent, they will have the ability to utilize specific knowledge and skills to advocate for reasonable change and empower clients (Sue et al., 2019). Social justice connects counselors and clients and helps them investigate each other’s unique features while ensuring that the importance of equity and cultural balance is explained. The harmony that can be achieved with the help of social justice cannot be replicated because of the exclusive insights that every client brings into the therapeutic process.

Ethical Theories

The care-based theory relates to counseling because it shows that emotional responses and mutual interdependence help establish a beneficial therapeutic alliance. Counselors should pay specific attention to the ethical processes included in therapeutic interventions due to the need to overcome the past impartiality and ensure that rational reasoning and principle-driven decision-making can be achieved (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2018). The care-based theory appeals to the counselor’s morals in order to leave them responsible for establishing a positive relationship with the client. Nevertheless, moral responses in clients differ based on their norms of care, love, and friendship. This leaves enough room for varied therapeutic responses that do not exceed the limits of the given code of ethics nonetheless.

Deontological Theory

The deontological theory of counseling has to be addressed in order to make sure that the therapist has all the knowledge and skills required to help them play the chosen social role successfully. Depending on the form of treatment and the client’s exigencies, different relationships between clients and therapists could be developed. Even though the code of ethics plays a crucial role in maintaining access to high-quality counseling, there are numerous hints at the connections between utilitarianism and deontology (LeRoy et al., 2020). There are situations where the counselor would have to overlook normative ethics and display inconsistent behaviors in order to help the client. Thus, the deontological theory of counseling stands for the definition of key social roles of a therapist where they would have to refrain from their everyday personality to be able to remain objective.

Ethico-Legal Principles

The primary ethico-legal principle that has to be respected within the framework of counseling is confidentiality. Counselors should never disclose any bits of client-related information unless written consent is expressed by the client. As stated by McAuliffe (2021), even the fact of a person going to a therapist should not be discovered under any circumstances unless specific legal actions were taken to breach the client’s privacy. Therefore, a therapist should create a safe environment where clients would feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics. Even though there are cases where confidentiality has to be breached, the overall task of the counselor is to develop a trusting relationship with the client and prevent the possibility of harm to a client or anyone else.

Duty of Care

The notion of confidentiality also creates a premise for another value in counseling, the duty of care. It means that the therapist engages the client in varied interventions with the intention of ensuring that the client’s best interests are respected and considered at all times. According to Maylea (2019), this is not only one of the primary concerns for therapists but also an opportunity for clients to pay closer attention to attitudes that the counselor might display toward them. The duty of care is founded on the pillars of knowing lots of information about the client and recognizing the potential ways of reducing the occurrence of triggers that led to the issues experienced by the client (Clifford & Burke, 2009). The therapeutic process cannot be expected to go as planned at all times because problem situations arise unexpectedly. This is why the duty of care is so important to counselors, especially when there are numerous sensible precautions.

Relevant Legislation

The relevant legislation that can be linked to the current case study is the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. The first reason to include this document in the discussion is the need to maintain positive interpersonal relationships and ensure that the client’s vulnerability does not affect the proposed therapy. Thus, a therapist could be in a position suggesting that they could exploit their power by taking advantage of the client (American Counseling Association, 2014). The ACA Code of Ethics is an essential document because it reiterates the importance of keeping one’s off-duty relationships separated from the counseling role. The idea is that people tend to make decisions based on their moral compass, so it should be crucial for therapists to consult the Code of Ethics occasionally if they are unsure about certain behaviors or challenges.

Another reason why the ACA Code of Ethics can be considered relevant legislation for the current case is the high grade of autonomy. The code mentions it as essential to achieving a client’s positive goals due to the need to take responsibility for one’s actions. This sense of entitlement should be seen as an exceptional contributor to the quality of services provided by any given counselor. The therapist should remain responsible for giving the right to autonomy to both the client and themselves in order to maintain the balance between interdependence and a rational level of self-sufficiency (American Counseling Association, 2014). The Code of Ethics can be recognized as a supporting tool throughout the process of therapy, as it might help the counselor pick the best moment to intervene, stand back, or stop the client from engaging in certain actions.

A Professional Response to the Case Study

The ethical ideas mentioned above are directly associated with the case study because both the counselor and the client seemed calm and protected during their interaction. The client displayed her vulnerability, and the counselor supported her with all available resources. It allowed the therapist to make sure that the client was going to take responsibility for her actions. The interaction between the client and the counselor was confidential and trustworthy. It can be concluded that the interaction between the two actors contributed to the establishment of a therapeutic alliance and an impartial relationship. Both the counselor and the client were actively engaged in the discussion, with the therapist exerting just enough power to avoid any issues.

Power Issues

Understanding Power Issues: First Impressions

On the one hand, even though numerous therapists tend to play the role of experts when communicating with clients, the case shows that there could be different approaches to client-counselor dialogs. For example, it could be seen in the video that the counselor picked the person-centered approach instead of focusing on her status. It was important for her to reduce the imbalance between her and the client to help the latter discover the inner strength to share intimate details (Pullen-Sansfaçon & Cowden, 2012). As soon as the rapport was built, the therapist gained access to the ability to manage the power balance and ask the client questions that she would not have answered prior to the session. It was evident that the client was significantly distressed, and the counselor had done everything in her power to provide relevant assistance. Therefore, person-centered counseling allowed the therapist to retain power while achieving a positive response from the client.

On the other hand, the counselor clearly followed the principles of confidentiality and nonmaleficence. She rarely asked about anything sensitive and mostly let the client express her thoughts and feelings. It was an essential indicator of the counselor’s professionalism and willingness to help the client. The counselor quickly set clear boundaries for the therapeutic alliance and began dwelling on how certain outcomes could be achieved by the client (Kennedy et al., 2009; Pullen-Sansfaçon & Cowden, 2012). The counselor rightfully displayed her reliability and offered hope to the client while remaining emotionally connected to the client’s issue. Therefore, the degree of power exercised by the therapist within the framework of the current case study can be outlined as reasonable.

Impact of Values, Legislation, and Ethics on the Case

The values and ethical principles of counseling affected the case study because the therapist was able to maintain a perfect rapport with the client. The client was not worried about the information being kept confidential, as she trusted the counselor. In turn, the therapist established an environment for the client where she would be treated in a just manner, with no judgment at all. There were no signs of abuse in this new therapeutic alliance. Therefore, the counselor can be expected to respect the client’s privacy and personalized values because positive outcomes represent a central value to them. The therapist respects the code of ethics as well because she does not seem to pass the client’s boundaries or exercise pervasive techniques to have the client share more sensitive information.

Even though the counselor was the one controlling the discussion and exerting power, it was evident that the client felt comfortable enough to open up more and provide the counselor with a more detailed account of the issue that bothered her. The ability to respond to the client’s urges while maintaining control of the dialog allowed the therapist to develop an equal relationship with the client. It was a sign of professionalism that the counselor utilized to close the gap between her and the client. In turn, the client instinctively agreed to play along and see how the counselor’s display of power could help her resolve the issue or at least gain valuable insight into the background of the problem.


American Counseling Association. (2014). ACA Code of Ethics [PDF]. Web.

Beckett, C., Maynard, A., & Jordan, P. (2017). Values and ethics in social work. Sage.

Blake, P. (2018). Child and adolescent psychotherapy. Routledge.

Clifford, D., & Burke, B. (2009). Anti-oppressive ethics and values in social work. Macmillan International Higher Education.

Kennedy, R. (2009). Duty of care in the human services: Mishaps, misdeeds and the law. Cambridge University Press.

LeRoy, B. S., Veach, P. M., & Callanan, N. P. (2020). Genetic counseling practice: Advanced concepts and skills. John Wiley & Sons.

Maylea, C. (2019). Social work and the law: A guide for ethical practice. Red Globe Press.

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