One of the major characteristics of a profession is the presence of principles and professional ethics that govern the activities of its members. Guidance and Counseling is not an exception.
To maintain the professionalization of guidance and counseling, below are some of the principles and professional ethics that guide the practice of guidance and counseling across every nation.
Principles of Guidance and Counseling
1. Principle of Universality
Guidance and counseling is for everyone. No individual, no matter their ethnic, gender, racial, economic, social, or physical differences should be exempted from receiving guidance and counseling.
Any counselor who segregates is falling short of the standards of the profession and can be sanctioned in communities where professional ethics are enforced.
2. Principle of need
Guidance and counseling activities must be based on the needs of the clients. As much as a counselor may have their own desires and interests they would like to see around them, all counseling activities can only be tailored toward the needs of the client.
It is therefore the responsibility of the counselor to identify the needs of the client as soon as the counseling relationship commences so that all the activities that follow can be designed toward meeting those needs and counseling goals.
3. Principle of dignity and worth
Guidance and counseling must be provided in a way that upholds human dignity and worth. No counselor should treat a client in a subhuman way or with disregard.
All clients that come to the counselor must be given equal respect, equal attention, and equal professional treatment. This becomes more important when the client has obvious limitations or disadvantages e.g having disabilities or economic disadvantages.
4. Principle of sequence
Guidance and counseling is a sequential, continuous and developmental process. All guidance and counseling activities must follow a structured pattern. Counselors should not just give unrelated and unthought talks.
Instead, they should ensure they ascertain, from the very first session, a goal and structure that is set in place based on the needs of the client which should be followed throughout subsequent sessions.
5. Principle of understanding
All guardians and counseling activities must emphasize helping the client understand themselves accurately and systematically. A counselor should not just tell the client what to do. Instead, they should guide them to conclude by themselves by helping them understand themselves and their situations.
Clients who do not get to a point of better understanding of themselves and the situation they are in will always keep coming back for counseling over the same or similar issue. When this happens, the counselor is unsuccessful.
6. Principle of effective leadership
The guidance counselor must uphold effective leadership as a watchword. For the counselor to be able to take a client through a sequential, continuous, and developmental process and also guide them towards understanding themselves, they must be an effective leader.
An effective leader is someone who inspires and influences others to follow them towards attaining a particular vision. The counselor should therefore work on inspiring and influencing rather than manipulating or coercing the client toward the desired goal.
7. Principle of ethics
All counseling practitioners must practice within ethical and moral limits. All forms of falsehood and deceit must be put aside when dealing with clients.
A counselor should never seek to take advantage of their client either emotionally, financially, socially, or psychologically. All the activities of the counselor must be transparent and not break legal or moral standards peculiar to the community they are in.
Principles of Counselling
1. Principle of acceptance
A counselor must fully accept any client that comes to them no matter who they are, what they believe, or the challenges they are facing. Clients shouldn’t feel weird during their encounters with the counselor.
In fact, if the client has some characteristics (e.g accent) that make them feel weird when with everyone else, part of the first “therapy” they should receive is acceptance from the counselor, letting them know that it’s okay to be different.
2. Principle of communication
Counseling is built on effective communication. There can be no effective counseling relationship if communication flow is hindered or communication is misunderstood.
Communication is not just words— the counselor must pay attention to the facial and body gestures of the client and also ensure their facial and body gestures align with what they are actually saying with their mouth. To ensure there are no assumptions, counseling techniques like paraphrasing and clarification should be employed.
3. Principle of empathy
The counselor must ensure that they see the issues brought forth through the eyes of the client. That is empathy. Empathy is not sympathy, it is not pitying the client but putting yourself in the client’s shoes and feeling their pain as though you were the one going through it.
If a counselor does not see the situation through the eyes of the client, they cannot provide applicable counsel in all cases, and sometimes, all clients even want is someone to listen to and understand them.
4. Principle of non-judgemental attitude
This is similar to the principle of acceptance. No matter the client’s concern or their interpretation of it, the counselor must not judge them. To judge them is to give a verdict that they are either right or wrong. But more emphasis is laid on judging them as wrong.
Even when a client has irrational assumptions (as in REBT), the counselor should make them feel it is normal to have those assumptions that guide them to rational assumptions, instead of making them feel they are bad to have those assumptions. The non-judgmental attitude should be displayed verbally and nonverbally.
5. Principle of confidentiality
Sensitive information of clients like their names, photos, files, concerns, and so on should be kept confidential except otherwise agreed between the client and counselor. The counselor should also assure the client of the same.
There could be limitations to the principle of confidentiality in some cases, however. For instance, in cases like suicidal ideation where there is a need for intervention from third parties. But even at that, only the minimum viable information needed should be disclosed and to only professionals.
6. Principle of individuality
The counselor might have handled countless cases similar to the one before them but they must treat it and the client as unique individuals and give them all the attention needed and examine the unique details of the situation.
This is the best way to ensure nothing is left unattended to or overlooked. There should be no assumptions or generalizations.
7. Principle of non-emotional involvement
This might look contradictory examining the fact that we have talked about the principle of empathy which is feeling the client’s pain. The principle of non-emotional involvement ensures that the counselor does not relate with the client or issue emotionally.
You can feel the client’s pain and think about a way out, not feel the pain and feel a way out. One of the reasons clients come to a counselor is to get someone who will look into their issues with no emotional bias.
Also, the counselor must be careful not to get emotionally attached to the client especially if of the opposite sex as that will also becloud their judgment.
Professional Ethics in Guidance and Counselling
Below are some ethical guidelines that govern the activities of every professional entity of which are counselors and counseling. They were identified by Garrison and Noreen (2003).
The professional ethics of guidance and counseling are categorized into four broad categories which are competence, confidentiality, integrity, and objectivity.
All counselors must:
- maintain an appropriate level of professional competence by the ongoing development of their skills.
- Perform their professional duties in accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and technical standards.
- Prepare complete and clear reports and recommendations after appropriate analysis of relevant and reliable information.
All counselors must:
- Refrain from disclosing confidential information acquired in the course of interaction with clients.
- Inform and assure clients appropriately about the confidentiality of information acquired in the course of interaction.
- Refrain from using or appearing to use confidential information acquired through their work for their advantage either professionally or through third parties.
All counselors must:
- Avoid actual or apparent conflict of interest and advise all appropriate parties of any potential conflict.
- Refrain from engaging in any activity that would prejudice their ability to carry out their duties ethically.
- Refuse any gift, favor, or hospitality that would influence or would appear to influence the activities.
- Refrain from either actively or passively subverting the attainment of the organizational objective wherever they work.
- Recognize and communicate professional limitations or other constraints that will preclude responsible judgment or successful performance of an activity to clients.
- Communicate favorable as well as unfavorable information using professional judgment or opinions.
- Refrain from engaging in or supporting any activity that would discredit the profession.
All counselors must:
- Communicate information fairly and objectively
- Disclose fully all relevant information that could reasonably be expected to influence a client’s understanding of report comments and recommendations
It is the responsibility of all counselors and all professional counseling organizations to uphold these professional ethics and principles of counseling if counseling must remain a respected and effective profession. These principles, if followed, not only protect the profession; they also protect clients and the nation as a whole.
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.