Ethical issues in multi-cultural perspective

Ethical issues in multi-cultural perspective

Ethical practice requires that we take the client’s cultural context into account in counselling practice. There is an argument on, is counselling cultural bound? Multi-cultural specialist has asserted that theories of counselling and psychotherapy represent different world views, each with its own values, biases, and assumption about human behavior. Some counsellors have criticized traditional therapeutic practices as irrelevant of people of color and other special population such as the elderly. Most techniques are derived from counselling approaches developed by and for white, male, middle class, western clients. These approaches may not be applicable to clients from different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Western models of counselling have a major limitation when applied to special population and minority groups such as Asian and Pacific Islanders, Latinos, Native
Americans and African Americans.

Focusing on Individual and Environmental Factors

A theoretical orientation provides practioners with a map to guide them in a productive direction with their clients. It is hoped that the theory orients them but does not control what they attend to in the therapeutic venture.

Counsellors who operate from a multi-cultural frame work also have certain assumptions and a focus that guides their practice. They view individuals in the context of the family and the culture and their aim is to facilitate social action that will lead to change within the client’s community rather than merely increasing the individual’s insight. Both multi-cultural practitioners and feminist therapists maintain that therapeutic practice will be effective only to the extent that interventions are tailored toward social action aimed at changing those factors that are creating the clients problem rather than blaming the clients for his or her condition. Both the individual factors and the environmental factors must be considered in the counselling context.

Therefore an adequate theory of counselling does deal with the social and cultural factors of an individual’s problem. However, there is something to be said for helping clients deal with their response to environmental realities. Counsellors may well be at a loss in trying to bring about social change when they are sitting with a client who is in pain because of social justice.

By using techniques from many of the traditional therapies, counsellors can help clients increase their awareness of their options in dealing with barriers and struggles.

Dual and Multiple Relationships in Counselling Practice

Dual relationships, either sexual or non sexual, occur when counsellors assume two roles (or more) simultaneously or sequentially with a client. Some examples of non-sexual dual relationships are combing the roles of teacher and therapist of supervisor and therapist; bartering for goods or therapeutic services; borrowing money from a client; accepting an expensive gift from a client; providing therapy to a friend, an employee or a relative; going into a business venture with a client. Becoming emotionally or sexually involved with a current client is clearly unethical, unprofessional, and illegal; sexual involvement with former clients is unwise and generally considered unethical.

Dual relationship in counselling and psychotherapy occur when the therapist is also engaged in another, significantly different, relationship with a client. Pope (1986) identifies a four main ways in which a dual relationship conflict with effective therapy.

  •  First, dual relationships compromise the professional nature of relationship. Counselling depends on the creation of an environment of emotional safety created in part by the construction of reliable professional boundaries. The existence of dual relationships makes these boundaries unclear.
  •  Second, dual relationships introduce a conflict of interest. No longer is the counsellor there solely for the client.
  •  Third, the counsellor is unable to enter into business or other nontherapy relationship on an equal footing, because of the personal material the client has disclosed and the likelihood of transference reactions, such as dependence.
  •  Finally, if it became acceptable for counsellors to engage in dual relationships after counselling has terminated, it would become possible for unscrupulous practitioners to use their professional role to set up relationships engineered to meet their needs.

Strategies for Maintaining Ethical Standards

Increasing attention has been devoted by professional organizations in recent years to the question of how to maintain and enforce ethical standard. To some extent, these efforts have been motivated, particularly in the USA but also in other countries, by the recognition that media coverage of cases of misconduct was reducing public confidence and leading government agencies to impose legal penalties, thereby reducing professional autonomy.

All professional organization requires their accredited members to abide by a formal code of ethics, and all enforce procedures for disciplining members who violate these codes. Increasingly however aspect of the enforcement of counselling standards is being taken over by the court. In turn, some counsellors and psychotherapist have begun to develop an area of research, called ‘therapeutic jurisprudence’ that focuses on the impact of the law on therapy.

Ethical codes can be best only supply board guideline for action. There are always ‘grey areas’, and situation where different ethical rules might be in conflict. It is therefore necessary for counsellor to acquire an understanding of the broader ethical, moral and value consideration that inform and underpin the statements made in formal codes. Most counselling courses give considerable attention to awareness of ethical issues, drawing on standard text such as Corey et al. (1988), van Hoose and Kottler (1985) and Bond (1993).

This field is also served by an increasing amount of research on  ethical issues (Miller and Thelon 1987; Larkin 1988). Another development within the field has been the construction of ethical codes designed to reflect the moral concerns of practitioners working within approaches such as multicultural and feminist counselling.

One of the main techniques for addressing ethical issues in counselling practice is the use of the informed consent. Effective informed consent can prevent or minimize or minimize difficulties arising over issue such as disclosure of confidential information to a third party, fess and cancellation arrangements, the risk of dual relationships and the emotional or practical demands of treatment.

Full informed consent is an ideal that is difficult to achieve in reality. It is difficult for some clients to enter a counselling relationship at all, and there is a danger that some people might be deterred by receiving a mass of detailed information during or at their first meeting with a counsellor. Some clients may be to upset or traumatized to assimilate informed consent information. Other clients may not understand what it means. Many counsellor or counselling agencies provide client with a leaflet explaining the principles of their therapy, outlining practical arrangements and informing them of complaints procedures.

Some counsellors have contributed to the development of ways of helping clients who have been the victims of malpractice. This work has been mainly concentrated on the needs of clients who have been sexually exploited by therapists, and has included advocacy services, setting up self help groups and therapy for victims (Pope and Bouhoutsos 1986). Ethical counselling is more effective counselling. For example, a study by Woods and McNamara (1980) revealed that people were likely to be more open and honest about what they said about themselves in they were convinced that the information
would be heard in confidence.

Limitations of Ethical Codes

Remly (1985) notes that ethical codes are general and idealistic; they seldom answer specific questions. Furthermore, he points out that such a document do not address “foreseeable professional dilemmas”. Rather, they provide guidelines, based on experiences and values, of how counsellor should behave.

In many ways, ethical standards represent the collected wisdom of a profession at a particular time.

A number of specific limitations exist in any code of ethics. Here are some of the limitations most frequently mentioned

  • Some issues cannot be resolved by a code of ethics
  • Enforcing ethical codes is difficult
  • There may be conflicts within the standards delineated by the code
  •  Some legal and ethical issues are not covered in codes
  • Ethical codes are historical documents. Thus, what may be acceptable practice at one time may be considered unethical later
  • Sometimes conflicts arise between ethical and legal codes
  • Ethical codes do not address cross- cultural issues
  • Ethical codes do not address every possible situation
  • There is often difficulty in bringing the interest of all parties involved in an ethical disputes together systematically
  • Ethical documents are not pro active documents for helping counsellors decide what to do in new situation