Counseling Minors: Ethical and Legal Issues Involved
COUNSELING MINORS: ETHICAL AND LEGAL2
Mental health counselors have many things to consider when working with clients. Providing services to clients comes with several expectations. Some of the factors which counselors must be aware of include: cultural differences, environmental influences, client expectations, and stages of development which can all play a part in the needs of that particular client. Also included in this group of factors that must be considered are the ethical and legal responsibilities which play a vital role in the appropriate service delivery of these professionals. The ethical and legal expectations can often be at opposing ends of the therapeutic spectrum and counselors may find themselves struggling with how to best satisfy each of them. When clients are minors, these factors can become even more at odds with each other, stirring an already muddy pool. Several ethical and legal issues can present themselves when working with this population as counselors share legal responsibility to parents with ethical responsibility to their minor client (Remley & Herlihy, 2010). Parents demand for confidential information
Counseling minors presents an added dimension to the therapeutic process. Due to the age of the client and the laws that not only allow but may require, parental involvement, counselors must consider how this can impact their relationship to the client and their obligation to the parent or legal guardian. Confidentiality is one of the most delicate issues when discussing ethical dilemma involved in the counseling process, and the demand for such information by a parent or legal guardian when the client is a minor can push this topic to the limit. Possible ethical and legal conflicts
COUNSELING MINORS: ETHICAL AND LEGAL3
Due to the age of the client, the parent or guardian is present at the beginning of the process so that all contractual information can be agreed upon with the parent as well as the client, which serves as a reminder that the dynamic in this counselor client relationship has an added layer. Parents may desire information regarding what is discussed in session because they feel in order to assist their child they must have an understanding of what is occurring. Also a parent may desire information because of their concern as to what the personal information the child in disclosing to the counselor. This may be seen in situations where there is abuse or neglect or when parents are separating but no legal custody has yet been established. Although the counselor’s primary responsibility is to promote the best interest of the client, (ACA, A.1.a., 2005), if parents or legal guardians choose to bring the matter to the level of court involvement, the counselor would take all necessary steps to disallow or minimize disclosure or speak with the client and obtain assent to release the information (ACA, B.2.c., 2005). Counselors should also be aware of custodial v. non custodial parent rights in their state which can assist with refusal to disclose information. Addressing the issue
To address the issue the counselor would be well advised to utilize the informed consent process to discuss with the client and the parent or legal guardian the purpose of the confidential relationship with the client. The counselor also has the opportunity to discuss the process with the parent, stressing the importance of maintaining confidentiality and disclosing only information that is ethically or legally necessary. (ACA, B.1.c., 2005). If the parent continues to demand the information, the counselor may attempt to meet with the parent and provide them a general synopsis of how the counseling process is going (Mitchell, Disque & Robertson, 2002). COUNSELING MINORS: ETHICAL AND LEGAL...