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Dilemmas Faced During Research Planning With Special Populations

Dilemmas Faced During Research Planning With Special Populations

When working with special populations, counselors may encounter several ethical dilemmas that pose a serious concern. Although several ethical dilemmas may arise during research and the counseling process, it is fundamental that professionals adhere to and abide by the American Counseling Association (ACA) code of ethics to ensure they can overcome ethical dilemmas. Counselors must be competent, practicing within their professional boundaries while protecting and promoting the client’s overall welfare. Specific to conducting research, “Counselors plan, design, conduct, and report research in a manner that is consistent with pertinent ethical principles, federal and state laws, host institutional regulations, and scientific standards governing research” (American Counseling Association, 2014, p.15).

Two ethical dilemmas that may arise when working with special populations include the process of informed consent and non-maleficence. Working with special people requires special attention in the process of informed consent. Counselors must ensure that their clients understand and recognize the parameters of their participation in research. This is critical as some clients may not comprehend nor appropriately authorize their participation in the study. Professionals risk harming the client if counselors fail to recognize the ethical dilemma with special populations and their ability to provide informed consent.

Counselors can mitigate this ethical dilemma by including legally authorized individuals in the process of informed consent. Since clients may have an impaired ability to understand the reason behind research, it is important that representation is present to ensure no harm to their clients. They’re able to participate in the research study. In addition to the informed consent process, counselors may encounter the ethical dilemma of non-maleficence. Counselors uphold the moral duty to protect and promote the client’s welfare without imposing or inflicting harm (American Counseling Association, 2014).

Counselors must acknowledge clients’ needs before involving them in the research process. This process requires counselors to work under goodwill, which can be challenging. Some related issues may include not providing the client with the necessary treatment during research. Counselors must consider the risks and benefits of the client emerging into the study as it can either harm or help the client. For instance, if a counselor wants to involve a pregnant participant, they must ensure that the parameters of the research study benefit the client. Counselors want to avoid the possibility of having a research risk. In addition to referring to the code of ethics, counselors may also wish to consult these ethical dilemmas with their supervisors to ensure they receive adequate guidance to avoid violating a client’s rights and imposing any harm. Overall, counselors “must ensure a full understanding by the subjects of the information given when inviting them to participate in a study protocol; ensure that the study subject is not selected or rejected for the wrong reasons and that there are no secondary or hidden interests when performing the research” (Gonzalez et al. l., 2019, p.224).


 American Counseling Association. (2014). American Counseling Association code of ethics. Alexandria, VA: Author.

González-Duarte, A., Zambrano-González, E., Medina-Franco, H., Alberú-Gómez, J., Durand-Carbajal, M., Hinojosa, C. A., … & Kaufer-Horwitz, M. (2019). II. The research ethics involving vulnerable groups. Revista de investigación clínica, 71(4), 217-225.


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Dilemmas Faced During Research Planning With Special Populations

Dilemmas Faced During Research Planning With Special Populations

Describe two dilemmas a counselor might face in planning research with special populations (e.g., seriously mentally ill, children, persons with disabilities, elderly, or other marginalized group members). What are some ethical dilemmas a researcher could face with these populations? What principles of ethical research are involved? How would you handle these dilemmas in planning your research? Include at least one peer-reviewed resource to support your response.

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