Ethics and Ethical Dilemmas in the Work of School Counsellor Dagmar Kopčanová

Ethics and Ethical
Dilemmas in the Work of
School Counsellor
Dagmar Kopčanová
VÚDPaP Bratislava, Slovakia
[email protected]
Cross Border Seminar 2010
“Professional Care for Guidance Practitioners – Who Cares for Those Who Care”
Bratislava 15 – 16th April 2010, Falkensteiner Hotel Bratislava
Ethics - definitions :
1. ethic: a. A set of principles of right conduct.
b. A theory or a system of moral values: "An
ethic of service is at war with a craving for
gain" (Gregg Easterbrook).
2. ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of
the general nature of morals and of the
specific moral choices to be made by a
person; moral philosophy.
3. ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The
rules or standards governing the conduct of
a person or the members of a profession (
medical ethics, counsellor ethics, etc.) .
Ethical dilemma :
An ethical dilemma is :
.....complex situation that will often involve an
apparent mental conflict between moral
imperatives, in which to obey one would result in
transgressing another
• you are caught between two possible choices in
a situation where both could be considered
"ethical" (right or moral choices) but the
goodness of one cancels out the other.
Example 1:
Business is business...?
You are a school principal in a secondary school in Warszaw and
your spouse is a manager at T-mobile.
Fearful of staff cutbacks, you start up a jewelry sales business for
the evenings and are surprised when it quickly starts to make a
profit. You know that you can double your regular salary if you
recruit more sales staff. Some of your own teaching staff might
like to join you.
a/ recruit any teachers who would be good at sales
b/ recruit only teachers who need the money
c/ recruit staff only from your spouse's office
d/ avoid recruiting any staff to avoid conflict
Example 2:
Making a better deal
• You are on the District School Board and also own a
small computer store. The Board issued a Request
for Proposals for a large number of PC's to two big
suppliers. After listening to their competing
proposals you believe you could offer a better deal
• You:
• offer a better deal to the Board
• express the opinion that both proposals are high
• say nothing because it is a conflict of interest
• absent yourself from all discussion on the deal
Example 3:
From the school settings...
• Amanda is a bright student in your class but has
done very badly in a recent test and has not been
behaving well. Her parents are divorcing. Her mother
who is a vocal critic on the school council has
arranged an interview with you to "see what can be
done about Amanda's test results".
• You :
• review the test to look for potential upgrades
• ask the principal for help with the politics
• explain that your marking was fair, and firm
• discuss the impact of the divorce on Amanda
• Anything else...?
Meaning of ethical principles in the work
of a school counsellor
„ Primum nihil nocere “ or the responsibility for the
well- being of a client
• The help and protection of a client as well as the
• Some ethical dilemmas cannot be solved so easily or
• Legal regulations take always precedence over
ethical doctrines (Pope and Bajt ,1988)
Values of counselling
The fundamental values of counselling include a commitment to:
• Respecting human rights and dignity
• Ensuring the integrity of practitioner-client relationships
• Enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its
• Alleviating personal distress and suffering
• Fostering a sense of self that is meaningful to the person(s)
• Increasing personal effectiveness
• Enhancing the quality of relationships between people
• Appreciating the variety of human experience and culture
• Striving for the fair and adequate provision of counselling
Some examples of the most frequent ethical
dilemmas among counselling psychologists:
The most frequent ethical dilemmas by psychologists working in CHGC in Slovakia
1.Contact or not to contact parents of the minor client
2.Various dilemmas with drugs, thefts, bullying etc.
3.Psychical biases and prejudices on the side of a practitioner, related to
gender, race, political reasons, etc.
4.School, educational workers
5.Neglecting children by parents
6.Sexual abuse by parents
7.Parent´s disagreement with a psychologist´s proposal
8. Sexual abuse-other people
9.Family secret
10.Child custody
11.Shift to other school
12.Unprofessional interference of a colleague
13.Other (like refusal of next cooperation,etc.) NOTE :
Some examples of ED :
• -The client asked me not to tell about his theft in the
supermarket to his parents...
• - I know that my client started „to taste drugs“ .Feel
embaressed to contact his parents...
• - I was dealing with the case of a drug abuse (the young
boy came voluntarily),however, the problem was to
receive his approval on contacting his parents, or
doctor, what he strongly rejected...
• - The client insisted on taking no steps on behalf of his
drug abuse - he was afraid of a dealer /threat of death)
and me too...
• - A secondary school girl confided her troubles with
being abused in the family and did not want anybody
learnt about it. After long talks she agreed we started the
family therapy.
Programme STEPS ( Solutions to ethical
problems in schools (2001)
• STEPS is a nine step model developed in the USA which
considers the emotional influences of a problem, the
chronological and developmental appropriateness of the
solution, the setting and parent's right.
• It shows how to deal with dilemmas appearing in the
context of school settings
• Model is presented in a few sequences
Main principles :
1. Identify the dilemma (define the
problem emotionally and
2. Apply the ASCA and ACA Ethical
Codes and the Law
3. Consider the chronological and
developmental levels
4. Consider the setting, parental/guardian
rights and minors' rights
Working through ethical decisions and
dilemmas (by Tim Bond, UK,1993) :
Based on 5 C´s :
Working with ethical dilemmas II
- practical part
Dilemma 1 : The Suicidal Client
• You are working as a counsellor in your first year in the
secondary school in London.
• From the first time you talked with your student Martin he
has talked about suicidal feelings. In the latest meeting,
2 months after your intervention, he appears very
depressed. It is 15 minutes to the end of the session and
he suddenly shouts out : "Yes , it all makes sense now.
I'm going to kill myself when I get home".
Practical part- continue...
Dilemma 2: Boundaries (from Counselling)
Client :
What would really make me feel better would be a hug.
No one will just love me for myself and let me feel they
want to be near me. Nobody seems to understand
what I really feel.
My mom is always too busy and rushing
off to do something important. She makes me feel as
though I'm not important enough just for her to put her
arms around me. I'm sick and tired of it.
»Counsellor : Maybe if you let people know what you
want, if you put it into words, you would find that they
would give you what you are asking for.
»Client: So if I let you know, will you hug me?
Practical part- continue...
• Dilemma 3 - The Role of the Counsellor
• Much of the time your client talks about the tremendous
problems they are having getting a job. You think that
there are practical ( as opposed to psychological)
reasons why your client is not being successful in her job
applications. You could coach her but feel this isn't part
of your role as a counsellor. All your normal counsellingstyle efforts to get the client to help herself are to no
Practical part- continue...
Dilemma 4 - Sexual attraction with clients
You are a counsellor in a private school.
A new student has come for an initial
assessment interview, sent by the teacher.
You find her very attractive and you
interpret some of her behaviour as flirting with
you. Neither of you is in a relationship.
Awareness- enhancing exercises
connected with one's own well-being
• 1. Take a fresh sheet of A4. Draw a graph like that
below. Mark the x axis "Year" - it should start with the
year you were born. The y axis should be titled "wellbeing ". This is a subjective rating from 0 - to 100
indicating how well you would say your life has been
going at each point ( 100 is the highest). Think for a few
minutes about significant events in your life, and how
well your life has been going as you have got older. Now
fill the graph in, annotating it with your significant life
events and ratings. An example graph is illustrated
below ( of course your significant life events and ratings
may be completely different). What difficulties are there
in filling in this graph ?
Exercise - example:
What causes the ethical problems
most :
big variety / insufficient variety of provided services
insufficient competencies of a counsellor
work of a counsellor not evaluated enough
counselling intervention that was not enough recognized
by a client or other partners in the resolved case
• social interaction limitations between client and family
• parents views with regards to the counsellor´s
• various misunderstandings due to the lack of sufficient
What impact have these issues...
All of the above mentioned situations can put many
question marks in the work of a school counsellor, they
contribute to his uncertainty and frequent selfconfrontation with accuracy of procedures, forms and
methods used on behalf of best case solutions.
Personal moral qualities :
• Empathy: the ability to communicate understanding of
another person’s experience from that person’s
• Sincerity: a personal commitment to consistency
between what is professed and what is done.
• Integrity: commitment to being moral in dealings with
others, personal straightforwardness, honesty and
• Resilience: the capacity to work with the client’s
concerns without being personally diminished.
• Respect: showing appropriate esteem to others and
their understanding of themselves.
Personal moral qualities (cont.)
• Humility: the ability to assess accurately and
acknowledge one’s own strengths and weaknesses.
• Competence: the effective deployment of the skills and
knowledge needed to do what is required.
• Fairness: the consistent application of appropriate
criteria to inform decisions and actions.
• Wisdom: possession of sound judgement that informs
• Courage: the capacity to act in spite of known fears,
risks and uncertainty.
Code of Ethics
• Why it is important to have a specific
Code of Ethics for a counsellor ?
The challenge of working ethically means that
practitioners will inevitably encounter situations where
there are competing obligations. In such situations it is
tempting to retreat from all ethical analysis in order to
escape a sense of what may appear to be unresolvable
ethical tension. In these circumstances the
professionals can adhere to the assistance of variety of
ethical factors that may need to be taken into
consideration and to alternative ways of approaching
ethics that may prove more useful.
At any case, each counsellor should respect, (except of
relevant laws), the ethical standards developed and
accepted by particup national Counselling Association .