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Couselling Ethics

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Introduction An organization's code of ethics forms a system to guide the counsellor through appropriate approaches and it protects the human dignity of the client. It is acknowledged that the Singapore Association for Counselling Code of Ethics (SAC) has many similarities and differences compared to the American Counselling Association Code of Ethics (ACA). This paper will compare the two code of ethics using the systemic perspective model which comprises of eight specific areas, mindset, emotional, physical/biological, philosophy, culture, political/economic, social and environment. Systemic perspective model is based on a framework whereby different components of a perspective can be understood in parallel with each other rather than in isolation. Specifically, this paper will illustrate these comparisons between the perspectives based on same sex issues. Systemic Perspective Model

Mindset When dealing with clients who face a crisis in sexual identity, the counsellor must maintain an open mindset and not form prejudices that might hinder the counsellor-client relationship. Mindset is a fixed disposition that predetermines an individual’s response to a situation. As a counsellor, one must be receptive to all views regardless of societal influences, especially on a contentious issue such as homosexuality. It is evident that both SAC and ACA code of ethics recognized diversity as their key point, hence, the counsellor are likely to prioritise the clients' views and emotional needs and not form pre-conceived notions of alternative lifestyles. Counsellors must realise the importance and thus maintain ethical professionalism, personal, and social relationships with their client (See F.3.a. Relationship Boundaries With Supervisees Counseling supervisors). On a similar note, SAC repeatedly emphasized on the competence and professionalism of every counsellor, that one should always respect the rights of the his clients and not discriminate anyone based on age, gender, race, sexual orientation or other differences. Therefore, it can be concluded that both associations are largely in consensus with regards to a counsellor's dealings with clients facing this crisis despite the ostensible disparity in mindsets of a typical Asian and Western society. In my perspective, I fervently believe that a counsellor should always set aside his prejudices and maintain a definite ethical standard, prioritise his clients welfare and only then can a counsellor address his clients' emotional needs, which I will touch on in the next section.

Emotional People with alternative sexual orientations often face periods of emotional crisis as they come to grips with their sexual identity. It is necessary and ethical for counsellors to facilitate the emotional needs of their clients. They must be sensitive to their conflicted feelings and pay attention to their emotional state, which may be fragile at such junctures. This will help to build a sense of trust between client and counsellor, and enable the latter to be more aware of the special needs of each individual in such circumstances. In this aspect, the ACA focuses more on the imperative role a counsellor provides when it comes to the catering of emotional needs of his clients. A counsellor must never disregard his clients psychological or mental distress and should never mix up his own emotional problems with his clients as this impairment is likely to harm a client or others (See ACA C.2.g. Impairment) Evidently, the main difference between the SAC and ACA is that ACA is more of the counsellor being self aware of his own personal values to avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counselling values. The SAC counsellors should not be too emotionally involved with the client and cross the line of not having a professional relationship with the client, as this will affect the counsellors' professionalism and attitude in dealing with the client. Physical / Biological Counsellors should be aware of the physical / biological behaviour of their clients, in order to treat them effectively. Particularly in the case of homosexuals, they may demonstrate physical behaviour which reflect their mental condition. Under no circumstances should counsellors ignore these symptoms, as they may be necessary in the treatment of the client. In both America and Singapore, counsellors who are not familiar with these are encouraged to refer their clients to more experienced colleagues. ACA is more strict on the issue of a counsellor and client relationship. Having a sexual relationship with current clients, romantic partners or their family members are prohibited. Counsellors are not allow to see former clients, their romantic partners or their family members for a period of 5 years following the last professional contact. If there is a need to engage a professional contact again, counsellors need to produce documents in written form whether is it appropriate to continue the professional relationship, if not causing harm. Where else by the SAC, there is not much details on this issue as it only says that counsellors do not engage in sexual intimacies with current clients or with formal clients within two years of cessation or termination of service and also do not accept people whom they have engaged in sexual intimacies as clients. In conclusion, the ACA is definitely more detailed and in their code, to a larger extent, distinguishes the relationship between a counsellor and a client. This is definitely in line with the ethical code of 'professionalism' a counsellor should uphold, as tricky counsellor-client relationships may inadvertently affect the competence and performance of a counsellor. Philosophy Counsellors should retain a standard philosophy on treating clients, regardless of sexual orientation. However, homosexuals have specific needs and counsellors must have have a fair and effective philosophy on helping homosexuals to cope with the problems they face. This will standardize treatment and help across all cases and ensure that ethical standards are not compromised in the treatment of each individuals. Both the American Counsellors' Association and the Singapore Counsellors' Association do not have a specific philosophy on helping homosexuals, but both practise a standard code of ethics which operates as their main philosophy in treating all individuals, whereby counsellors are strictly required to perform their duties in a professional manner and are expected to respect the rights of each and everyone of their clients, regardless of any differences.

Culture The culture which counsellors create for their clients must be one of understanding and openness, free of discrimination or prejudice. Counsellors should not abuse their position or authority, in order to facilitate a culture of learning and understanding between both counsellor and client. Such a culture will allow patients to become comfortable in the counsellor-patient setup and will make their treatment more effective. This is especially true for homosexuals, who may face a culture of exclusion and prejudice in society, and should be made to feel at ease in counselling sessions. Likewise, in the American Counsellors' Association, non-discrimination is a cornerstone of their code of ethics, and in Singapore, any abuse of authority is not condoned. Despite the obvious differences in state regulations regarding same-sex marriages, (e.g. In the United States, states such as Massachusetts, Maine which allows gay marriages, unlike Singapore which forbids gay marriages) and the 'stereotype' of a largely liberal western half as opposed to a widely state controlled and influenced eastern (Singapore) media; A counsellor should never be biased in his treatment of his gay or lesbian clients and must indefinitely maintain his integrity and non-discriminatory professionalism when dealing with clients.

Political / Economic The issue of homosexuals is a politically contentious one, and is unavoidable for patients and counsellors to have their own views on this matter. However, it is crucial for counsellors to be free of political inclinations during treatment, to prevent prejudice or misunderstandings from arising. Clients who already face political or legal problems as a result of existing laws will need understanding from their counsellors. In Singapore, where the act of homosexual activity is banned by law, this is a crucial point and counsellors must take care to be sensitive to their clients and not accuse unknowingly. Even in America, not all states have legalized homosexual unions, and it is just as important for counsellors there to be sympathetic to their clients. Social Often, homosexuals may face social problems because of their sexual inclinations. Some may feel isolated from society, or may feel excluded and left out in many social situations. Counsellors must empathise with their clients and help their clients to fit into society while retaining their own individualism and identity. Counsellors should help to build their clients' self-esteem and help them to come to terms with their own sexual identity. In Singapore, counsellors are informed to take necessary actions if the client is a danger to himself or others in society, and also use group experiences to help their clients. American counsellors follow a similar philosophy in helping their clients integrate into society. Environment Counsellors should make their environment a warm and friendly place for their clients, in order for them to feel at ease with the setting. In the case of homosexuals, some may feel hesitant about seeking counselling help for fear of misunderstanding, so to clear such doubts, counsellors must ensure that the environment they provide is a comfortable setting where clients can be free to express themselves as they wish and enable the counsellor to provide the best possible treatment. A counsellor must be receptive to the ideas and thinking of his client, and must create a sharing platform and amicable atmosphere whereby discussion of sensitive experiences, solutions and problems becomes more comfortable for both party. Counsellors in both Singapore and America both strive to create such environments for their patients as far as possible.

Conclusion Despite the differences between ACA and SAC, the mission of these two code of ethics still aims to achieve a professional guideline for the counselor and also to protect the privacy of the client. ACA provides greater depth in the guidelines on handling the emotional and physiological well-being of clients, whereas SAC's ethics mainly revolves around the professionalism and counsellor-client relationship responsibilities. A counsellor must nevertheless strike a balance between the management of clients' emotional and physical needs, prioritise patients' views and not project their selfish pre-conceived notions unto others. After all, a counsellor must be utmost dedicated to the service of all society members, regardless of any differences one may perceive. These values thus primarily serves its function as a guide for all counsellors, but the secondary concerns of patients which must be addressed definitely, will eventually depend on each and every counsellor's style and commitment to his responsibilities.

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