Ethics and Cultural Issues in Counselling

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Working with a child is a privilege and a responsibility. It is a privilege because we have the opportunity to make a great difference in someone’s life, and a responsibility because we are entrusted with the task of promoting every aspect of the child’s development. All children are vulnerable. They have little power over their lives and few skills for protecting and caring for themselves. Caregivers who work with children have a special and important role—one in which they have the power to do great good or, in some unfortunate cases, great harm. The particular status of children as human beings who need special protection and nurturing is recognised in documents such as the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the ethical codes of relevant professional organisations.

Ethical codes and the values which they reflect can guide the work of caregivers and help them when they are making difficult decisions. Considerations such as culture and gender are part of the context within which those decisions are made. Caregivers working with children and youth have an ethical responsibility to work in ways that put the children’s interests first. In order to be able to do this, caregivers must have a high level of self-awareness so they can recognise their own needs, values, and beliefs and see how these could affect the relationship with the child.

This unit contains six lessons. The first discusses the needs and rights of children, including the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Lesson Two deals with the ethics of counselling. Lessons Three and Four talk about the roles of culture and gender in counselling. Lessons Five and Six are about increasing your self-awareness and resolving ethical dilemmas.2

Objectives Counselling for Caregivers
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
1. Explain why children hold a special position in society and discuss their particular rights and needs.
2. List ethical...
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