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Counselor Ethical Boundaries and Practices

Counselor Ethical Boundaries and Practices

Counselors have the duty of caring for their clients. This obligation sets them apart and accords them with greater responsibility in shaping communities and developing individuals. The American Counseling Association (ACA) established counselors’ codes of ethics that guide their activities and help them decide. These codes oblige counselors to protect their client’s dignity and set professional standards for all counselors (“ACA Code of Ethics,” 2014). In their line of duty, counselors sometimes face challenges bordering the discernment of right and wrong and maintaining their professional standards amidst complex individual interactions. This paper explores counselors’ ethical boundaries, emphasizing boundary issues, inter-professional collaborations, and supervisor relationships.

Boundary Issues and Dual Relationships

As a moral and professional obligation in counseling, clear boundaries should be established between counselors and their clients. Boundaries define the framework within which counseling takes place and are pivotal in promoting trust and establishing clarity in the client-counselor relationship’s type, nature, and purpose (Sivis-Cetinkaya, 2017). On the other hand, dual relationships exist where the counselor-client relationship exists outside the defined scope of counseling. Dual relationships can manifest via social connections and interactions. Such is the case for neighbors, physical and online friendships, neighbors, family connections, and religious congregations. “BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions” (2022) asserts that counselors should avoid dual and multiple relationships if the potential risks outweigh the benefits.

The ethicality and appropriateness of a boundary-crossing or a dual relationship depend on several factors. These factors include impairment of clinical judgment, conflict of interest, the effectiveness of the therapeutic approach, the welfare of the client, and the possibility of harm or exploitation of the client. Counselors must consider these factors if they plan to enter a dual relationship or cross client-counselor boundaries. These factors also form the criterion by which a counselor can cross boundaries or enter into a dual relationship. A counselor can only enter a dual relationship or cross boundaries on four accounts. The first is when there is no conflict of interest, and the second is when there is no possible patient harm. Thirdly, they can enter a dual relationship or cross boundaries to ensure the welfare of the patients, and fourthly, when the client-counselor relationship does not cause judgment impairment to the counselor.

This criterion can be used when the manifested dual relationship presents ambiguity or complexity. This relationship may impair the counselor’s judgment in a scenario with a physical attraction between the client and the counselor. A counselor should, in this regard, avoid crossing this boundary. Conflict of interest can be an issue in a scenario where the counselor is a family friend to the counselor’s family. This is because the counselor can be tempted to disclose information revealed to them by the client to their family members. Another scenario is when the client is a family member or a close friend. There is a possibility of exploitation in this case. The client may use personal ties to exploit the counselor. In this case, a counselor should avoid entering into dual relationships with close friends or family members. In the event of a client with whom the counselor has a history of an intimate relationship, there is a possibility of conflict of interest and impairment of judgment. In this case, the counselor should maintain competency and integrity to the ethical guidelines of counseling and, if possible, avoid this relationship.

Professional Collaboration in Counseling: Working with a Multidisciplinary Team

Professional collaborations in counseling provide a framework for negotiating and uniting healthcare goals and deciding a pathway to achieve these goals. Collaborative healthcare paradigms have yielded better clinical outcomes (Greidanus et al., 2019). In addition, professional collaborations draw all healthcare professionals and synergize their functionalities within a multidisciplinary healthcare team. Several strategies can be utilized in healthcare collaborations. Maintaining open communication with other healthcare professionals, remaining accountable, maintaining transparency, and mastering teamwork skills enables a professional to work collaboratively with other mental healthcare professionals towards ensuring quality care.

Open communication ensures a seamless transfer of information and knowledge between one healthcare professional to another. Open communication forms the basis of all healthcare collaborations. The effectiveness of collaborative approaches in healthcare depends on how well members of multidisciplinary healthcare teams communicate (Schot et al., 2019). Teamwork skills also foster a collaborative approach to care. Teamworking skills include demonstrating respect for self and others, cooperating with other group members, sharing information, and integrity. Role specification is another important feature in collaborative paradigms. Each professional within the multidisciplinary team must exhibit knowledge of their roles, remain accountable for their actions, and assume greater responsibility for improving therapy outcomes.

Mental healthcare institutions provide an interesting area for practicing clinical counseling. In this area of care, a clinical counselor gets to work with psychiatrists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other members of the multidisciplinary teams. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are responsible for addressing the physical needs of the patients. The doctors assess and diagnose these clients. On the other hand, pharmacists help design pharmacotherapeutic plans for clients. Nurses administer medication to these clients and are also responsible for their welfare while incarcerated in these institutions of care. Psychologists and psychiatrists address the psychosocial needs of the clients.

A clinical counselor’s role in a mental healthcare institution is to assess and diagnose clients who are brought with symptoms of psychological distress. They also provide psychotherapy to clients with mental illnesses who may benefit from psychotherapy and hold group counseling sessions for families undergoing psychological turmoils. Clinical counselors are also involved in therapeutic goal setting and the development of therapeutic plans for clients with mental illnesses. Additionally, they collaborate with other mental health care providers to examine social issues that may be contributing to an individual’s disease, such as substance use, low-income family structure, other health issues, and stress, among others.

Relationships with Supervisors and Colleagues

Clinical supervision provides a framework in which counselors in their respective practices can acquire knowledge, skills, and competency through practice. It bridges the theoretical provision developed in class and actual clinical environments requiring the counselor to utilize those theories. The ACA code of ethics outlines a clinical supervisor’s roles and primary responsibilities. Clinical supervisors are obliged to monitor psychological services offered by a supervisee. In this regard, they assess the performance of the supervisee against the welfare of their clients as well as the professional development of the supervisee. Clinical supervisors also ensure that supervisees communicate their academic credentials to clients before rendering services. They also educate supervisees on the client’s rights and the need for informed consent before initiating any counseling services (“ACA Code of Ethics,” 2014). Clinical counselors also ensure that the supervisees acquire and maintain competency by engaging in continuous educational activities.

The primary responsibilities of a clinical supervisor include incorporating the principles of informed consent in their supervisor-supervisee interactions and advising the supervisees on the ethical and professional standards of practice. Clinical supervisors also educate supervisees on the procedures for contacting a supervisor or anyone equal to the supervisor in an emergency. Clinical supervisors also manage and direct a clinical team (Voges & Frantz, 2019). They must utilize counseling principles when educating various needy groups and planning treatment for them.

Several ethical issues may be apparent in counselor-supervisor relationships. These include supervisor exploitation, supervisees’ disclosure of personal information, sexual relationships, informed consent, the delegation of work, and accuracy in reporting to payers. These issues may jeopardize their relationship and contribute to the ineffectiveness of the process. These issues are similar to client-counselor relationships: ethical issues of sexual relationships, informed consent, and disclosure of information. All of these jeopardize the process and result in its ineffectiveness. Topics such as service delegation and reporting accuracy are unique to supervisor-counselor interactions.

Unethical behaviors that may be apparent during supervision include inaccurate reporting to payers, having a client perform personal work for the counselors, and having a counselor who delegates their work to others, among others. A counselor who inaccurately reports their contact time with the client contravenes the ethical provision of integrity. The practitioner’s guide to the ethical decision-making model is an example of a model that can address unethical behavior. This model outlines stepwise processing of addressing unethical issues presented during clinical practice. These steps are identifying the issue, applying the ACA code of ethics, determining the nature and extent of the problem, considering the consequence of the action, evaluating a selected intervention, and implementing the intervention (Chae et al., 2021). In this case, evaluation of the issue against the provision of ACA codes of ethics reveals a contravention of the integrity provision. The consequence of the action may be the loss of license credentials, and the individual may face litigations. As per the statutes of South Carolina, it is unlawful to knowingly and willingly make false claims (“South Carolina Code of Laws,” 2022). Reporting to authorities may be a viable course of action in this case.

Development of Your Thinking about Ethics

This course has widened my understanding of the provisions of the ethical codes of counseling. I have learned to recognize and appreciate practices that constitute unethicality and how clinical counselors can utilize moral codes in their practices and decision-making processes. Provisions on dual relationships and boundaries have also given a new perspective on personal interactions with work and the environment. I have learned how border crossing and dual relationships affect my competency and integrity. Also, I have known how to assess my treatment plan to ascertain whether these factors may jeopardize my decision-making processes.

Dual relationships in counseling are an area that I used to view as complex. Initially, I thought it would be easy to brush away the impact of personal relationships on my functionality. I have learned that these issues affect several areas, such as the clinical decision-making process and conflict of interests, that may ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the therapy process. Moving forward, I seek to have a good mastery of the ACA Code of Ethics provision and integrate it into my clinical practice.


ACA Code of Ethics. (2014). Retrieved 8 September 2022, from

BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions. (2022). Retrieved 8 September 2022, from

Chae, N., Gosling, D., Goshorn, J., & Fan, S. (2021). A Dilemma within Doctoral Supervision: Applying an Ethical Decision‐Making Model. Counseling and Values66(2), 117-130.

Greidanus, E., Warren, C., Harris, G., & Umetsubo, Y. (2019). Collaborative practice in counseling: a scoping review. Journal Of Interprofessional Care34(3), 353-361.

Schot, E., Tummers, L., & Noordegraaf, M. (2019). Working on working together. A systematic review of how healthcare professionals contribute to interprofessional collaboration. Journal of Interprofessional Care34(3), 332-342.

Sivis-Cetinkaya, R. (2017). A combined approach to teaching counseling ethics: a preliminary study. British Journal Of Guidance &Amp; Counselling47(3), 274-282.

South Carolina Code of Laws. (2022). Retrieved 8 September 2022, from

Voges, T., & Frantz, J. (2019). Clarifying the role of clinical supervisors according to physiotherapists at a higher education institution. South African Journal of Physiotherapy75(1).


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Assessment Description
Access the “Counselor Ethical Boundaries and Practices Assignment Guidelines” document. Complete the project according to the assignment guidelines.

Counselor Ethical Boundaries and Practices

Counselor Ethical Boundaries and Practices

Include at least six scholarly resources besides the textbook in your paper.

Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines in the APA Style Guide in the Student Success Center. An abstract is not required.

This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric before beginning the assessment and familiarizing yourself with it for successful completion.

You are required to submit this assignment to LopesWrite. A link to the LopesWrite technical support articles is located in Course Resources if you need assistance.

This performance assessment assesses the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for Professional Counseling Orientation & Ethical Practice.

GCU Benchmark Information

This benchmark assignment assesses the following programmatic competencies and professional standards:

MS Clinical Mental Health Counseling

1.2: Analyze the independent and collaborative roles of the professional counselor. [CACREP 2.F.1.b, 2.F.6.a, 2.F.6.b, 2.F.6.c., 2.F.6.d, 2.F.6.e] (MC4)

2.1: Evaluate elements of counselor-client relationships within professional counseling, focusing on professional ethical standards. [CACREP 2.F.5.d] (MC3, MC5)

5.2: Recognize the importance of establishing and maintaining appropriate professional boundaries. [CACREP 2.F.1.l] (MC4)

MEd School Counseling

8.4: Recognize the importance of establishing and maintaining appropriate professional boundaries. [CACREP 2.F.1.l] (MC4)

The following CACREP  informs the following CACREP StandarCounselors’nforms. This assignment’s roles and functions are across specialty areas and their relationships with human service and integrated behavioral health care systems, including interagency and inter-organizational collaboration and consultation.

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