The expectations for ethical conduct as expressed in this Code are based on the following fundamental principles:
a) Beneficence – being proactive in promoting the client’s best interests
b) Fidelity – honouring commitments to clients and maintaining integrity in counselling relationship
c) Nonmaleficence – not wilfully harming clients and refraining from actions that risk harm
d) Autonomy – respecting the rights of clients to self- determination
e) Justice – respecting the dignity and just treatment of all persons
f) Societal Interest – respecting the need to be responsible to society
The CCPA Process of Ethical Decision-Making
This brief overview of approaches to the process of ethical decision-making is provided so that counsellors will have some direction when making ethical decisions and resolving ethical dilemmas.
1. Principle-Based Ethical Decision-Making
Step One —What are the key ethical issues in this situation?
Step Two — What ethical articles from the CCPA Code of Ethics are relevant to this situation?
Step Three — Which of the six ethical principles are of major importance in this situation? (This step also involves securing additional information, consulting with knowledgeable colleagues or the CCPA Ethics Committee, and examining the probable outcomes of various courses of action.)
Step Four — How can the relevant ethical articles be applied in this circumstance and any conflict between principles be resolved and what are the potential risks and benefits of this application and resolution?
Step Five —What do my feelings and intuitions tell me to do in this situation? (Counsellors may consider “2. Virtue-Based Ethical Decision-Making” at this point).
Step Six —What plan of action will be most helpful in this situation?
2. Virtue-Based Ethical Decision-Making
The virtue ethics approach is based on the belief that counsellors are motivated to be virtuous and caring because they believe it is the right thing to do. Virtue ethics focus on the counsellor as an ethical agent with the capacity to make complex ethical decisions. Although there is no step-by-step methodology for virtue ethics, the following questions may help the counsellor in the process of virtue-based ethical decision-making:
1. What emotions and intuition am I aware of as I consider this ethical dilemma and what are they telling me to do?
2. How can my values best show caring for the client in this situation?
3. How will my decision affect other relevant individuals in this ethical dilemma?
4. What decision would I feel best about publicizing?
5. What decision would best define who I am as a person?
3. Quick Check
1. Publicity – Would I want this ethical decision announced on the front page of a major newspaper?
2. Universality – Would I make the same decision for everyone? If every counsellor made this decision, would it be a good thing?
3. Justice – Is everyone being treated fairly by my decision?
For a more comprehensive treatment of Ethical Decision-Making, members are directed to the CCPA publication, Counselling Ethics: Issues and Cases, available from the CCPA National Office.
A. Professional Responsibility
A1. General Responsibility
Counsellors maintain high standards of professional competence and ethical behaviour, and recognize the need for continuing education and personal care in order to meet this responsibility. (See also C1, F1)
A2. Respect for Rights
Counsellors participate in only those practices which are respectful of the legal, civic, and moral rights of others, and act to safeguard the dignity and rights of their clients, students, and research participants.
A3. Boundaries of Competence
Counsellors limit their counselling services and practices to those which are within their professional competence by virtue of their education and professional experience, and consistent with any requirements for provincial and national credentials. They refer to other professionals, when the counselling needs of clients exceed their level of competence. (See also F2)
A4. Supervision and Consultation
Counsellors take reasonable steps to obtain supervision and/or consultation with respect to their counselling practices and, particularly, with respect to doubts or uncertainties which may arise during their professional work. (See also B10, C4, C7)
A5. Representation of Professional Qualifications
Counsellors claim or imply only those professional qualifications which they possess, and are responsible for correcting any known misrepresentation of their qualifications by others.
A6. Responsibility to Counsellors and Other Professionals
Counsellors understand that ethical behaviour among themselves and with other professionals is expected at all times.
A7. Unethical Behaviour by Other Counsellors
Counsellors have an obligation when they have serious doubts as to the ethical behaviour of another counsellor, to seek an informal resolution with the counsellor, when feasible and appropriate. When an informal resolution is not appropriate or feasible, or is unsuccessful, counsellors report their concerns to the CCPA Ethics Committee.
A8. Responsibility to Clients
When counsellors have reasonable grounds to believe that a client has an ethical complaint about the conduct of a CCPA member, counsellors inform the client of the CCPA Procedures for Processing Complaints of Ethical Violations and how to access these procedures.
A9. Sexual Harassment
Counsellors do not condone or engage in sexual harassment, which is defined as deliberate or repeated verbal or written comments, gestures, or physical contacts of a sexual nature.
A10. Sensitivity to Diversity
Counsellors strive to understand and respect the diversity of their clients, including differences related to age, ethnicity, culture, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. (See also B9, D10)
A11. Extension of Ethical Responsibilities
Counselling services and products provided by counsellors through classroom instruction, public lectures, demonstrations, publications, radio and television programs, computer technology and other media must meet the appropriate ethical standards consistent with this Code of Ethics.
B. Counselling Relationships
B1. Primary Responsibility
Counsellors have a primary responsibility to respect the integrity and promote the welfare of their clients. They work collaboratively with clients to devise integrated, individualized counselling plans that offer reasonable promise of success and are consistent with the abilities and circumstances of clients.
Counselling relationships and information resulting therefrom are kept confidential. However, there are the following exceptions to confidentiality:
(i) when disclosure is required to prevent clear and imminent danger to the client or others;
(ii) when legal requirements demand that confidential material be revealed;
(iii) when a child is in need of protection. (See also B15, B17, E6, E7, F8)
B3. Duty to Warn
When counsellors become aware of the intention or potential of clients to place others in clear or imminent danger, they use reasonable care to give threatened persons such warnings as are essential to avert foreseeable dangers.
B4. Client’s Rights and Informed Consent
When counselling is initiated, and throughout the counselling process as necessary, counsellors inform clients of the purposes, goals, techniques, procedures, limitations, potential risks and benefits of services to be performed, and other such pertinent information. Counsellors make sure that clients understand the implications of diagnosis, fees and fee collection arrangements, record-keeping, and limits of confidentiality. Clients have the right to participate in the ongoing counselling plans, to refuse any recommended services, and to be advised of the consequences of such refusal.
B5. Children and Persons with Diminished Capacity
Counsellors conduct the informed consent process with those legally appropriate to give consent when counselling, assessing, and having as research subjects children and/or persons with diminished capacity. These clients also give consent to such services or involvement commensurate with their capacity to do so. Counsellors understand that the parental or guardian right to consent on behalf of children diminishes commensurate with the child’s growing capacity to provide informed consent.
B6. Maintenance of Records
Counsellors maintain records in sufficient detail to track the sequence and nature of professional services rendered and consistent with any legal, regulatory, agency, or institutional requirement. They secure the safety of such records and create, maintain, transfer, and dispose of them in a manner compliant with the requirements of confidentiality and the other articles of this Code of Ethics.
B7. Access to Records
Counsellors understand that clients have a right of access to their counselling records, and that disclosure to others of information from these records only occurs with the written consent of the client and/or when required by law.
B8. Dual Relationships
Counsellors make every effort to avoid dual relationships with clients that could impair professional judgment or increase the risk of harm to clients. Examples of dual relationships include, but are not limited to, familial, social, financial, business, or close personal relationships. When a dual relationship cannot be avoided, counsellors take appropriate professional precautions such as role clarification, informed consent, consultation, and documentation to ensure that judgment is not impaired and no exploitation occurs. (See also B11, B12, B13, C5, C7, F10)
B9. Respecting Diversity
Counsellors actively work to understand the diverse cultural background of the clients with whom they work, and do not condone or engage in discrimination based on age, colour, culture, ethnicity, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation, marital, or socio-economic status. (See also D10)
B10. Consulting With Other Professionals
Counsellors may consult with other professionally competent persons about the client. However, if the identity of the client is to be revealed, it is done with the written consent of the client. Counsellors choose professional consultants in a manner which will avoid placing the consultant in a conflict of interest situation.
B11. Relationships with Former Clients
Counsellors remain accountable for any relationships established with former clients. Those relationships could include, but are not limited to those of a friendship, social, financial, and business nature. Counsellors exercise caution about entering any such relationships and take into account whether or not the issues and relational dynamics present during the counselling have been fully resolved and properly terminated. In any case, counsellors seek consultation on such decisions.
B12. Sexual Intimacies
Counsellors avoid any type of sexual intimacies with clients and they do not counsel persons with whom they have had a sexual relationship. Counsellors do not engage in sexual intimacies with former clients within a minimum of three years after terminating the counselling relationship. This prohibition is not limited to the three year period but extends indefinitely if the client is clearly vulnerable, by reason of emotional or cognitive disorder, to exploitative influence by the counsellor. Counsellors, in all such circumstances, clearly bear the burden to ensure that no such exploitative influence has occurred, and to seek consultative assistance.
B13. Multiple Clients
When counsellors agree to provide counselling to two or more persons who have a relationship (such as husband and wife, or parents and children), counsellors clarify at the outset which person or persons are clients and the nature of the relationship they will have with each person. If conflicting roles emerge for counsellors, they must clarify, adjust, or withdraw from roles appropriately.
B14. Multiple Helpers
If, after entering a counselling relationship, a counsellor discovers the client is already in a counselling relationship, the counsellor is responsible for discussing the issues related to continuing or terminating counselling with the client. It may be necessary, with client consent, to discuss these issues with the other helper.
B15. Group Work
Counsellors have the responsibility to screen prospective group members, especially when group goals focus on self-understanding and growth through self-disclosure. Counsellors inform clients of group member rights, issues of confidentiality, and group techniques typically used. They take reasonable precautions to protect group members from physical and/or psychological harm resulting from interaction within the group, both during and following the group experience.
B16. Computer Use
When computer applications are used as a component of counselling services, counsellors ensure that: (a) client and counsellor identities are verified; (b) the client is capable of using the computer application; (c) the computer application is appropriate to the needs of the client; (d) the client understands the purpose and operation of client-assisted and/or self-help computer applications; and (e) a follow-up of client use of a computer application is provided to assist subsequent needs. In all cases, computer applications do not diminish the counsellor’s responsibility to act in accordance with the CCPA Code of Ethics, and in particular, to ensure adherence to the principles of confidentiality, informed consent, and safeguarding against harmful effects. (See also D5)
B17. Delivery of Services by Telephone, Teleconferencing, and Internet
Counsellors follow all additional ethical guidelines for services delivered by telephone, teleconferencing, and the Internet, including appropriate precautions regarding confidentiality, security, informed consent, records and counselling plans, as well as determining the right to provide such services in regulatory jurisdictions.
When counsellors determine their inability to be of professional assistance to clients, they avoid initiating a counselling relationship, or immediately terminate it. In either event, members suggest appropriate alternatives, including making a referral to resources about which they are knowledgeable. Should clients decline the suggested referral, counsellors are not obligated to continue the relationship.
B19.Termination of Counselling
Counsellors terminate counselling relationships, with client agreement whenever possible, when it is reasonably clear that: the goals of counselling have been met, the client is no longer benefitting from counselling, the client does not pay fees charged, previously disclosed agency or institutional limits do not allow for the provision of further counselling services, and the client or another person with whom the client has a relationship threatens or otherwise endangers the counsellor. However, counsellors make reasonable efforts to facilitate the continued access to counselling services when services are interrupted by these factors and by counsellor illness, client or counsellor relocation, client financial difficulties and so forth.
C. Consulting and Private Practice
C1. General Responsibility
Counsellors provide consultative services only in those areas in which they have demonstrated competency by virtue of their education and experience.
C2. Undiminished Responsibility and Liability
Counsellors who work in private practice, whether incorporated or not, must ensure that there is no diminishing of their individual professional responsibility to act in accordance with the CCPA Code of Ethics, or in their liability for any failure to do so.
C3. Accurate Advertising
Counsellors, when advertising services as private practitioners, do so in a manner that accurately and clearly informs the public of their services and areas of expertise.
C4. Consultative Relationships
Counsellors ensure that consultation occurs within a voluntary relationship between a counsellor and a help-seeking individual, group, or organization, and that the goals are understood by all parties concerned.
C5. Informed Consent
Counsellors who provide services for the use of third parties, acknowledge and clarify for the informed consent of clients, all obligations of such multiple relationships, including purpose(s), entitlement to information, and any restrictions on confidentiality. Third parties include: courts, public and private institutions, funding agencies, employees, and so forth.
C6. Respect for Privacy
Counsellors limit any discussion of client information obtained from a consulting relationship to persons clearly involved with the case. Any written and oral reports restrict data to the purposes of the consultation and, every effort is made to protect client identity and to avoid undue invasion of privacy.
C7. Conflict of Interest
Counsellors who engage in consultation avoid circumstances where the duality of relationships or the prior possession of information could lead to a conflict of interest.
C8. Sponsorship and Recruitment
Counsellors present any of their organizational affiliations or membership in such a way as to avoid misunderstanding regarding sponsorship or certification. They also avoid the use of any institutional affiliation to recruit private practice clients.
D. Evaluation and Assessment
D1. General Orientation
Counsellors adequately orient and inform clients so that evaluation and assessment results can be placed in proper perspective along with other relevant information.
D2. Purposes and Results of Evaluation and Assessment
Counsellors take responsibility to inform clients about the purpose of any evaluation and assessment instruments and procedures and the meaning of evaluation and assessment results.
D3. Evaluation and Assessment Competence
Counsellors recognize the limits of their competence and offer only those evaluation and assessment services for which they have appropriate preparation and which meet established professional standards.
D4. Administrative and Supervisory Conditions
Counsellors ensure that evaluation and assessment instruments and procedures are administered and supervised under established conditions consistent with professional standards. They note any departures from standard conditions and any unusual behaviour or irregularities which may affect the interpretation of results.
D5. Use of Technology
Counsellors recognize that their ethical responsibilities are not altered, or in any way diminished, by the use of technology for the administration of evaluation and assessment instruments. Counsellors retain their responsibility for the maintenance of the ethical principles of privacy, confidentiality, and responsibility for decisions regardless of the technology used.
D6. Appropriateness of Evaluation and Assessment
Counsellors ensure that evaluation and assessment instruments and procedures are valid, reliable, and appropriate to both the client and the intended purposes.
D7. Reporting Evaluation and Assessment Results
Counsellors ensure that when reporting evaluation and assessment results to clients and other individuals care is taken to provide, in an appropriate manner, accurate and sufficient information for an understanding of any conclusions and recommendations made, and to identify the basis for any reservations which might exist.
D8. Release of Evaluation and Assessment Data
Counsellors ensure that evaluation and assessment data are released appropriately and only to the client and persons qualified to interpret and use them properly.
D9. Integrity of Evaluation and Assessment Instruments and Procedures
Counsellors who use psychological tests and other assessment instruments, the value of which depends on their novelty to the client, ensure that they are limited to and safeguarded by those with the professional interest and competence to do so.
D10. Sensitivity to Diversity when Assessing and Evaluating
Counsellors proceed with caution when judging and interpreting the performance of minority group members and any other persons not represented in the group on which the evaluation and assessment instruments and procedures were standardized. They recognize and take into account the potential effects of age, ethnicity, disability, culture, gender, religion, sexual orientation and socio-economic status on both the administration of, and the interpretation of data from, such instruments and procedures.
D11. Security Maintenance
Counsellors ensure the integrity and security of evaluation and assessment instruments and procedures consistent with any legal and contractual obligations. They refrain from appropriating, reproducing, or modifying established evaluation and assessment instruments without the expressed permission and adequate recognition of the original author, publisher and copyright holder.