History of Ethical Standards and Ethical Dilemmas

History of Ethical Standards and Ethical Dilemmas

Throughout the history of the counseling profession, the establishment and evolution of ethical standards have been essential to ensure the integrity and ethical practice of counselors. The development of ethical standards can be traced back to the early formation of counseling organizations and the recognition of the need for ethical guidelines to protect clients and guide the profession.

  • Key Historical Events in Counseling

The counseling profession has evolved into a diverse and inclusive field, with counselors working in various settings such as educational institutions, hospitals, and community health centers. The profession has expanded over time to meet the needs of individuals and families across the lifespan. Its origins can be traced back to the late 1800s when vocational guidance emerged as a key focus. Since then, additional approaches and types of counseling services have been introduced to promote client and student well-being. The table at the end of the section provides a glimpse into the historical events that have shaped the counseling profession into what it is today.

  • The American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics

One significant milestone in the history of ethical standards is the creation of the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics, which serves as a guiding document for professional counselors in the United States. The ACA Code of Ethics outlines the principles and standards that counselors are expected to uphold, covering areas such as confidentiality, informed consent, professional competence, and ethical decision-making.

Over the years, ethical standards have evolved in response to changes in society, advancements in technology, and emerging ethical dilemmas. Professional counseling organizations, including the ACA and other specialized counseling associations, regularly review and revise their ethical codes to address new challenges faced by counselors.

  • Ethical dilemmas

Ethical dilemmas are complex situations where counselors encounter conflicting ethical principles or face challenging decisions. These dilemmas require thoughtful consideration and ethical decision-making processes. Some common ethical dilemmas in counseling include maintaining client confidentiality when there is a risk of harm to self or others, managing dual relationships, respecting cultural diversity, and navigating boundaries in therapeutic relationships.

Continuing education, training, and professional development opportunities are vital for counselors to stay informed about current ethical standards and best practices. Ethical decision-making models and consultation with colleagues or supervisors can also support counselors in navigating ethical dilemmas and ensuring ethical practice.

The history of ethical standards in counseling reflects the profession’s commitment to promoting ethical conduct, protecting clients’ welfare, and upholding professional integrity. By adhering to ethical standards and engaging in ongoing ethical reflection, counselors strive to provide the highest quality of care and maintain the trust of their clients and the public.

Timeline of Historical Events.

Late 1800sVocational guidance counseling emerges as a result of the Industrial Revolution and social reform movements.
Early 1900sFrank Parsons, heralded as the founder of vocational guidance, opens the Bureau of Vocational Guidance in Boston, which helps match individuals with suitable careers based on their skills and personal traits.
1908Frank Parsons dies, and his influential book Choosing a Vocation is published posthumously.
1913The National Vocational Guidance Association (NVGA) is founded.Clifford Beers founds the Clifford Beers Clinic in New Haven, Connecticut, considered the first outpatient mental health clinic in America.
1930sE. G. Williamson creates the Minnesota Point of View, a trait and factor theory considered to be one of the first counseling theories.
1932The Wagner O’Day Act is passed, which creates U.S. Employment Services to aid the unemployed in finding work through vocational guidance.
1940s and 1950sCarl Rogers’ humanistic approach to psychology gains widespread support in the counseling profession.Soldiers return home after World War II and increase the need for counseling, readjustment, and rehabilitation services.Increased numbers of counselors begin working full-time at postsecondary educational institutions, community agencies, and vocational rehabilitation centers.More associations sprout up to help new counseling specializations form a unified and professional identity.
1952The American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA; since renamed the American Counseling Association [ACA]) is formed as a union among the National Vocational Guidance Association (NVGA; since renamed the National Career Development Association [NCDA]), the National Association of Guidance and Counselor Trainers (NAGCT; since renamed the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision [ACES]), the Student Personnel Association for Teacher Education (SPATE; since renamed the Counseling Association for Humanistic Education and Development [C-AHEAD] and most recently the Association for Humanistic Counseling [AHC]), and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA).The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is formed and becomes a division of APGA the next year.
1958Congress passes the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in response to the launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957. The NDEA provides schools with increased funds to improve their curriculum and hire school counselors to pick out students showing promise in math and science.The American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA), a division of APGA, is chartered.
1961APGA publishes its first code of ethics.
1963President Lyndon Johnson signs into law the Community Mental Health Act, which allots money for the creation of mental health centers.
1965The Association for Measurement and Evaluation in Guidance (AMEG), currently known as the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC), is chartered as a division of APGA.
1966The National Employment Counseling Association (NECA), a division of APGA, is chartered.
1970sLegislation for individuals with disabilities emerges, leading to a heightened demand for rehabilitation counselors and school counselors. Individuals in the counseling field publish books and articles that increase the counseling profession’s interest in multicultural issues, such as cultural identity development, multicultural awareness, racism, and counseling minorities.
1972The Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD), a division of APGA, is founded.
1973The Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW), a division of APGA, is created.
1974The Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC) and the International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors (IAAOC), both divisions of APGA, are chartered.
1975The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Donaldson v. O’Connor results in the deinstitutionalization of patients in state mental hospitals. This precedent-setting decision was one of the most significant in mental health law. It barred mental institutions from committing individuals involuntarily if they were not an immediate threat to themselves or other people.
1976Virginia is the first state to offer counselors the option to seek licensure.
1978The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), a division of APGA, is chartered.
1981The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is established to provide accreditation for master’s and doctoral programs in counseling that adhere to its standards of preparation.
1982The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), which develops and implements the first national examination to certify counselors, the National Counselor Exam (NCE), is formed by APGA.
1983APGA changes its name to the American Association of Counseling and Development (AACD).
1984The Association for Counselors and Educators in Government (ACEG), a division of AACD, is chartered. The division has since been renamed the Military and Government Counseling Association (MGCA).
1985Chi Sigma Iota, the international honor society for the counseling profession, is founded.
1986The Association for Adult Development and Aging (AADA), a division of AACD, is chartered.
1989The International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC), a division of AACD, is chartered.
1991The American College Counseling Association (ACCA), a division of AACD, is chartered.
1993AACD, formerly known as APGA, changes its name to the American Counseling Association (ACA).
1995ACA makes a major revision to its code of ethics, allowing members and divisions to submit suggestions and ideas and revising the format of the document to make it more cohesive and organized.
1997The Association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling (AGLBIC) is chartered by ACA.
2002Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ), a division of ACA, is chartered.
2004The Association for Creativity in Counseling (ACC), a division of ACA, is established.
2005The ACA code of ethics is revised and includes new sections on technology, end-of-life care, making diagnoses, ending practice, and choosing therapeutic interventions.
2007The AGLBIC name is changed to the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling (ALGBTIC).
2009California becomes the final state to offer counselors the option to seek licensure. Also, CACREP publishes revisions to its accreditation standards.
2010–2012Three legal cases (i.e., Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, 2011 ; Ward v Polite, 2012 ; Ward v. Wilbanks, 2010 ), involving the role of value conflicts for counselor trainees working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) clients, set the stage for clarifying the role of counselor personal values in the ACA Code of Ethics (2014 ).
2013The Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC), a division of the ACA, is chartered.
2014The seventh and most recent revision of the ACA Code of Ethics is published. This edition includes new or expanded guidelines to address issues related to technology and social media, distance counseling, multiculturalism and social advocacy, imposition of personal values, confidentiality, recordkeeping, diagnosis, end-of-life care, and selection of counseling interventions (ACA, 2017a ).
2017CACREP and the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) merges. Rehabilitation counseling programs seeking accreditation now apply through CACREP.