There are specific principles and ethics guidance counsellors must uphold to maintain the professionalism of guidance and counselling and to ensure that the best possible services are provided to clients.
In addition to the principles and ethical principles that govern guidance and counselling as a whole, I will be highlighting some additional principles that will make guidance and counselling more effective in Nigeria, both curtailing the excesses of counsellors and creating a structure that will build trust in the profession.
What Are Ethical Principles in Counselling?
Ethical principles of counseling are the guiding rules and codes of conduct that define the scope within which counsellors can operate and the expected behaviours they should portray as members of the profession.
Ethical principles define the limit outside of which behaviours become unacceptable and sanctionable.
The body in charge of upholding the ethical principles of counsellors in Nigeria is the Counselling Association of Nigeria (CASSON).
14 Principles of Guidance and Counselling in Nigeria
The principles below were outlined by Gesinde (1999):
- The client’s permission should be sought before communicating any information to any other person, the counselors associate, or agency.
- Counsellors must not utilise their professional relationships with clients to gain social, economic, or other personal advantage.
- A counselor should not accept a client who is receiving psychological assistance from another professional member unless there is an agreement as to the respective areas of help being offered or unless the counsellees former professional relationship has been terminated.
- Counsellors should guard the confidences which are extended to them in respect of clients. The only time a counsellor could reveal any confidence received from a client or client’s parent is when it is quite clear that there is imminent danger to the client or society.
- Counsellors should not suggest or support unwarranted assumptions and conclusions with respect to the usage of psychological instruments or techniques.
- Counsellors should avoid overgeneralization of test results. It is unethical to use test or non-test materials without prior proper training and when they are not needed.
- Diagnosis should be based on scientific theories supported by objective evidence
- Counsellors should not attempt to diagnose, treat or advise a client with reference to problems which are not within the counseling domain.
- Counsellors should not normally enter into a counselling relationship with close friends or members of their families.
- The purpose and goals of counselling interaction should be clear to the client, thus suggestions and actions that will expose clients to hazards or negative consequences should be avoided.
- Counsellors should devote part of their services to work which are not included in their duties or for which they will receive little or no financial gains. This makes counseling a helping profession.
- Counsellors should not impose their values on the client. They are not expected to compromise their personal standard but should note that they are personal issues.
- Counselors should offer the highest level of service and refer clients to appropriate agencies when cases are beyond their competence.
- Counsellors should present their findings with respect to clients in simple and accurate language. This is to facilitate effective understanding and interaction.
Benefits of Ethical Principles in Counselling
- To guide the average citizen in understanding professional conduct
- To regulate professional conduct
- To regulate the relationship between counsellors and clients
- To distinguish between scrupulous and unscrupulous counselling practitioners
- To acquaint new counsellors with their professional obligation, privileges, and rights
- To protect competent professionals from unjust attack
- To protect the reputation of the profession
There you have the ethical principles of guidance and counselling in Nigeria and some benefits of upholding ethical principles. It is the responsibility of all and sundry to see that counsellors actually live by these principles.
Counsellor training programmes should teach them, counsellors should practice them and encourage other counsellors to do so, counselling bodies should enforce them, and clients should insist counsellors uphold them before agreeing to be counselled and report unethical practices.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.