Ethics In Groups
(Subject of Class)
In today’s society more and more people are starting to seek guidance and/or assistance with personal matters or issues from counselors. This essay will not only state the benefits of counseling to a group or to an individual but it will also discuss and state the many challenges that counselors/associates may encounter during their sessions and elaborate on the hot topics of ethics in the field of counseling. It will provide the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of group counseling as well as that of individual counseling. It is very important for counselors and associates of all professional levels to implement ethical values in their everyday practice so that they may familiarize their self with the dos and don’ts they could make or break their career. Research from various scholarly journals, articles and textbook readings will be used as factors for this essay paper.
Ethics In Groups
The implementations of ethics in counseling is not to micromanage and/or try to inform someone of how to do their job, it is provided in order to help counselors and other professionals maintain standards within the profession one is in and it is the standard of behavior or action in relation to others. “A code of ethics for most professional organizations or associations is designed to articulate the standards of practice for a group of people.” (Kocet, 2006). Although ethics have many definitions, they are all intertwined to state the same meaning. According to Jacobs (2012), “Most ethical problems and situations deal with therapy and growth groups, although ethical standards apply to leaders of all kinds of groups.” (p. 27) These types of problems or unethical behavior usually occurs when a leader is not knowledgeable enough to lead a group or the leader shows or have a lack of care for their members.
“All professional associations, such as the American Counseling Association, the National Association for Social Workers, and the Psychological Association, have ethical standards regarding working with clients in groups.” (Jacobs, 2012, p. 27) Apart from the fore mentioned organizations, there are other distinctive organizations that consist of professionals that do group work such as the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) and the Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW). When it comes to ethics, these associations have their own code of ethics. In order to be an effective counselor or leader one must be able to include their knowledge of and the ability to integrate the code of ethics into their professional day-to-day practice.
In the field of counseling there are two central components of a code of ethics. The first component is “a code outlines the prescribed or mandatory professional behaviors by which counselors are expected to govern their conduct” and the second component is “a code that contains aspirational components, which encourage active ethical reflection that fosters clarification of fundamental ethical beliefs of the profession”. (Kocet, 2006) Due to the many errors that counselors or any other associate may encounter in their career not every code of ethics can encompass every potential ethical dilemma faced by a professional. To help professionals in this area, the code of ethics can serve as a regulatory guide for laying the foundation necessary to promote the competency and value of counselors. It is up to that person to abide and follow and/or do what is morally right. However, not everyone is perfect. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God.
The hot topics that are consistently being a problem in the field of counseling are those of leaders who are not prepared and/or qualified, lack the knowledge of being an effective leader, leaders having a dual relationship with its members, confidentiality of the leader and some of the members that are in attendance in the group. Counselors can have successful group sessions only if they were to prepare themselves and follow the guidance that is provided to them within the code of ethics. In the Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW) Best Practice Guidelines (2008) it states “Group counselors do not attempt any techniques unless thoroughly trained in its use or under supervision by a counselor familiar with the intervention.” (Jacobs, 2012, p. 28) Following the guidance provided within the Best Practices can help counselors or any other associate not make the many errors that are made when the lack of knowledge is not present.
Leading a group without knowledge is also unethical, especially trying to lead one without the proper materials, guidance, and/or a seasoned counselor/leader. It is very imperative for a leader to have the knowledge of the group they are going to lead. The lack of knowledge is like “the blind leading the blind”. If problems, questions or situations occur in a group a leader should have some sense of knowledge on how to handle them and/or what steps to take to get the group back in order, if it comes to that point. In an article that addresses education/training and professional competency along with other ethical issues in exercise psychology (i.e. counseling or clinical physiology), it too abides by the same guidance in reference to ethics. In their field of training “licensed psychologists with limited or no training in the movement sciences should not ethically refer to themselves as “exercise psychologists” because of a lack of proper training in exercise science.” (Pauline, Pauline, Johnson, Gamble, 2006) Proverbs 15:21 Folly is joy to him who is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walks uprightly.
Relationships outside of the group session are not always harmful however; the leader (professional) and member (client) must be able to still maintain a “business” relationship without things getting out of hand, in which sometimes they do. In reality “It is the leaders’ responsibility to make sure the therapeutic relationship is not being jeopardized.” (Jacobs, 2012, p. 29) Dual relationships/multiple-role relationships occur when the therapeutic connection has geared towards a friendship relationship. During these relationships leaders must maintain ethically proper professional boundaries to include the atmosphere that they will be in. If leaders are going to form relationships outside of the group setting and/or office environment boundaries must clarified prior to. If a leader finds himself or herself gaining emotional feelings for the client or vice versa, the leader needs to take the more conservative approach that was suggested by Bernstein and Hartsell and follow it “once a client, always a client” (Pauline, 2006)
Confidentiality is another major ethical issue in counseling that often arises in a variety of modern and exercise counseling settings. According to Jacobs (2012), “There are two issues regarding confidentiality that nay group leader should understand: the leader’s ethical responsibility for keeping material confidential and the leader’s lack of total control regarding members keeping matters confidential. Members turning to counselors for assistance with their matter and/or guidance go to them because they feel as their issues, matters or concerns will remain in the setting that was chosen for them to talk confidentially. Leaders divulging information about clients/members to anyone is unethical; the only time that a leader may divulge information about a member is when it is a case dealing with a child or it is an adolescent group.
In China, the field of counseling psychology also faces the same ethical issues that many other counselor, associate or professional encounter. In a survey-based study of Chinese professionals to explore general ethical awareness and features of ethical dilemmas, “Chinese professionals demonstrate a strong awareness of professional ethics, but they require more training in regards to the issue of confidentiality.” (Qian, Gao, Yao, Rodriguez, 2009) In comparison to American participants, a larger number of Chinese participants regarded not to inform the client of the aim of psychological assessment or to record a session without receiving prior consent from the client. The most prominent ethical problem that was reported by athletes that was receiving counseling was “The counselor breaks the rule of confidentiality and reveals the content of counseling to one’s coach”. (Qian, 2009) Although confidentiality cannot always be guaranteed, “The best way to prevent any breach of confidentiality is to stress its importance and discuss the subject whenever it seems necessary.” (Jacobs, 2012, p. 30)
Counseling deals with providing professional guidance by the usage of standard psychological methods such as that of collecting case-history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. In the process of counseling, the counselor’s goal is to help the individual toward opportunities that can grant the greatest fulfillment of his or her personal needs and aspirations. The counselor set their best efforts forth in order to clarify the client’s own thinking rather than to solve his or her problems. “Professional counselors (such as educational guidance and career counselors) and counseling psychologists (such as marriage and bereavement counselors) are found in a wide variety of institutional settings and in private practice.” (Merriam-Webster, 2013)
In the field of counseling there are many principles and standards that counselors must abide by. “Personal and professional values often predict and guide one’s choices, decisions, and behaviors in interpersonal, social, and professional realms.” (Crether & Winterowd, 2011) Counselors having these qualities in the field of counseling can help prevent some of the ethical issues and/or concerns that occur in counseling. Social counseling, another approach in the field of counseling, “is both a goal and a process for counselors who believe in developing an increasingly socially just world, one in which all people receive equitable opportunities to access resources and participate in policy and law development that affect them, ultimately resulting in a society that embodies harmony between the needs of individuals and the needs of the whole.” (Crether, 2011). Social justice is used in individually counseling as well as that of family counseling. Issues In Group Counseling
In group counseling many problems may occur in different areas, especially when it comes to trying to have a productive group session. Issues that may occur in group counseling has been known to occur in the areas of coleading, legal issues, research, training, and future trends. Each of the stated issues are very important for counselors to learn about prior to their leading of a group. “The environment in which counseling is practiced is complex and ever changing, and new ethical issues are constantly emerging. This makes it difficult for even the most ethically conscientious practitioners to keep current. (Herlihy & Dufrene, 2011)
According to an article that was produced by Journal of Psychology and Christianity, “It is incumbent upon all professionals who provide counseling, therapy, or mental health services to offer quality care and to work within the bounds of their professional ethical guidelines.” (Schneller, Swenson, Sanders, 2010) These guidelines have been developed by major professionals that provide “subject matter expert” services, including those professions in the psychology field, social workers, licensed professional counselor, and psychiatrists. The codes that each of these professionals use address issues such as maintaining client confidentiality, advocating for client/patient welfare, and appropriately handling multiple-relationship issues.
Counselors seem to make many errors within the counseling field; this could be from the lack of training, knowledge and education of counseling. One should never use group therapy for their own personal growth. According to Jacobs (2012), “We have heard of numerous instances of leaders drawing attention to themselves and using the group for their own therapy. This is unethical.” (p. 29) Leaders making mistakes in group sessions may cause a group to fail at disjunctive tasks when a too-confident leader rejects a superior solution offered by a subordinate. Seeking advice from someone that is not “equal” to another individual is not always an unwise decision. Seeking and/or accepting advice from another individual is not always harmful. When they put their minds together and/or work together on a task, discussion or whatever the case may be a resolution to a task, problem, or situation can be resolved without looking back and stating should’ve, would’ve, could’ve after its failure.
Coleading in counseling is when a leader has one or more colleagues assisting with leading a group. Although this could be an advantage for some due to a coleader offering additional ideas, pointers, feedback, support, etc in group sessions, especially when therapy groups are intense and difficult to handle and/or work with. According to Jacobs, (2012), “One disadvantage for some agencies and settings is that coleading takes time away from other counseling duties and can add stress to an already demanding work schedule.” (p. 451) Other disadvantages that my occur when having a coleader is that of different personalities, styles and goals. It is known that no matter how much in similar two or three people are, there is going to be some type of disagreement or differences amongst them because God did not make everyone the same and people are entitled to have their own opinions and use their way of thinking. Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether Prophecy, let us Prophesy according to the proportion of Faith. Also, within the disadvantages of coleading is that of interpersonal conflict, ineffective communication, competition between leaders, envy and overdependence on the coleader. Not having effective communication amongst the leader and coleader will continue to have problems within the group because neither will be willing to listen to what the other has to say. Effective communication is important in any line of business, relationships, and work settings.
In the coleader relationship “it is noted that the relationship between coleaders promotes a potential dynamic that would either facilitate or complicate the group process. In order to have an effective relationship in such a group setting it is important that the “counseling profession learn as much as possible about the relationship dynamics and how they affect the group process.” (Luke & Hackney, 2007) When leaders are incapable of working together, it will be almost impossible for them to lead an effective group and members may not see them as being capable to provide them guidance and/or assistance with their reason of being a part of the group.
Legal issues occur in counseling when counselors fail to take into consideration the act of due care of their members and acting in good faith of their well-being. When leading a group, leaders must practice within their limits of expertise and not neglect their duties as a group leader. Counselors have been sued in cases where malpractice was not within the “professional setting” of the particular group or individual session being held (i.e. Female Patient Wins $1,423,000 in a Physical and Sexual Abuse Case Against her Psychotherapist). Counselors are being sued for in malpractice pitfalls in the following areas: excessive or inappropriate self-disclosure; business relationships with patients; using techniques without proper training; using incorrect diagnosis deliberately; the true love exception for sexual relationships and out of office contact. The fore mentioned pitfalls are common problems that may arise in time of litigation and once these pitfalls are acknowledge by counselors or any other profession they can be avoided. “Ethical standards require counselors to monitor their professional actions and to take responsibility for those actions, including those that are considered minor infractions.” (Welfel, 2005) It is in the best interest of the counselor to keep everything professional amongst the group and/or individual that is being counseled in order to prevent a trajectory in their life.
Great emphasis is being put on group therapy in order to for researchers to determine the effectiveness of group work. According to Jacobs (2012), “Overall, research on the effectiveness of groups needs to be greatly expanded to reach the level of sophistication that has been established on the effectiveness of individual counseling.” (p. 459) In reasoning for editorials findings of why research is limited in the group field it is due to the lack of time, finances, lack of interest and the difficulty of designing a research project where the variables can be controlled enough to study different aspects of group counseling.
In an article titled Review of School Counseling Outcome Research, attempts were made in order to try and combine research studies of school counseling interventions to explore the overall effectiveness of such interventions. In order for this research to get started, the American School Counselor Association (2005) published The ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs, which is also well known as the ASCA National Model. “The ACA National Model was developed in order to guide school counselors in designing, implementing, managing, and evaluating a comprehensive school counseling program.” (Whiston & Quinby, 2009) Although this model was intended for great purpose of implementing comprehensive school programs, very few research studies have been conducted on the comprehensive programs. This goes back to the fore mention of Jacobs readings of why research is not effective in group research. It is in the hopes within the reading of Jacobs that researchers “will empirically study different ways that students are taught to lead groups and what ways are more effective.” (Jacobs, 2012, p. 459)
In the future of counseling, “Most experts seem to agree that group work will continue to be a major force in the field of counseling.” (Jacobs, 2012, p. 461) Research is a continuous job that experts in the field of counseling must continue to do because of the many changes that occur, especially ethical challenges and changes. Researchers are needed in the future to continue the investigation of the new Codes that may arise and analyze the effectiveness of them in the counseling profession. According to Jacobs (2012), “More training in specific group leadership skills is essential if leaders are going to be prepared for all the different kinds of groups that will exist in the next 10 years. Leaders that are going to continue to lead in areas of professions such as counseling they need to learn more ways to involve their members in the therapeutic process while integrating counseling theories. “Research activities are subjected to higher demands on ethics and safety than similar activities that are not classified as research. Therefore, the boundary between research and non-research will often determine the ethical demands on an activity…” (Hansson, 2011) It is very important that researchers make a continuous attempt on ensuring research will continue in the field of counseling so that leaders will have the knowledge and leadership abilities to work towards successful counseling/therapeutic sessions. Group Versus Individual Counseling
The question of which is better individual counseling or group therapy has probably been a question of many years. According to Jacobs (2012), “This is difficult to answer because people and situations are so different.” With the question being asked of which is better it will have to be based upon the individual to decide due to him or her personal decision. There can be many advantages to both forms of counseling; group counseling is not made for everyone and neither is individual counseling. Group counseling can be an advantage to some people because they find it important to receive feedback/input from others as well as learning more from other individuals that are talking and within groups of teenagers they will often talk more readily to other teenagers than they will with adults. Group counseling assists with an individual’s growth and problem solving with certain issues and/or concerns they have encountered (i.e. loss of a love one, addiction). In group therapy sessions, members are encouraged, not forced, to discuss openly and honestly about their reason(s) for being there. The leader/counselor works to create an atmosphere of trust and acceptance that will allow members to feel more comfortable and to support one another.
In the article of Therapists’ views of the relative benefits and pitfalls of group work and one-to-one counseling for bereavement, explored to see which form of counseling was beneficial for the bereavement. This case consisted of nine experienced bereavement therapies that had experienced both groups and individual forms of counseling. During their research it was determined that “there is ample evidence that bereavement is a major health risk, involving enormous psychological and physical health costs to individual and society.” (Vlasto, 2010). Their findings in both individual and group counseling forms of bereavement are basically the same results from any other group session of counseling. For a group session members benefited more from the following areas: social contact, social skills practice, support, challenge of witnessing difference, generate a culture of honest sharing, and normalcy of grief. Members in group settings can find a sense of hope by sharing their thoughts and feelings from other members in the group. Although group settings can be a challenge at times it is still beneficial to those who desires a “need” of support from other individuals due to them not being able to do it on their own. This type of support was described as a ‘dual thing’ of ‘being supported and supporting’ thereby indicating the inter-active nature of this function. (Vlasto, 2010)
In individual counseling for the bereavement, individuals benefited safety, formation of reparative relationship, expressing extreme emotion and dealing with blocks and accessing deeper material. Individual counseling is more of a gentler and safer process for those individuals that are not yet ready to express or let out their total emotions amongst a group of people. Individual counseling can also be looked upon as “enabling the initial story-telling and release of emotion. The ‘building of trust’ and confidentiality, assured in a one to one situation, was thought to be particularly important for ‘shy’ people or those who have difficult experiences of groups or families.
Groups and individual counseling also have disadvantages to them. The disadvantages for group counseling sessions were that of non-disclosure of feelings and information, ‘competition’, and over-exposure. Individual counseling had disadvantages of power imbalance and intensity for both parties. Although these type of group settings have disadvantages they are not disadvantages that cannot be resolved in a civil manner. “Groups, being primarily a social intervention, were thought to help clients feel less isolated and to see how other people grieve. Individual counseling was perceived as a safer experience providing clients with a chance to tell their story in depth, and to release deep feelings without embarrassment.” (Vlasto, 2010)
In an outcome research that was developed in school groups related to specific issues, whereas other schools focus more on assisting students individually. The outcome of this researched “found that individual counseling is generally more effective than group counseling.” (Whiston, & Quinby, 2009) Also within their findings individual counseling does not require a long process in order to be effective. Again, trying to figure which is better will be based upon people’s issues/concerns and the ability of the therapist.
A therapist choosing group therapy over individual counseling or vice versa will solely be based upon the therapist because they have to find within themselves what area are they more successful in. Working with groups or individually counseling? This decision making process can be factored upon the knowledge, education, and leadership skills that the therapist have. Personal Leadership Qualities
My personal leadership qualities did not derive only from the teachings within this course on how to lead a group or an individual counseling setting, it goes back many years. The leadership qualities came throughout my life of living. On a personal note I have had to lead by a “good” example due to being a single mother for over 21 years and serving my country for over 16 years. Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
In order for one to be an effective leader they must instill within themselves the characteristics of caring, openness, flexibility, trustworthiness, honesty, patience, etc. Once someone sees these traits within an individual, more than likely they will be more than willing to seek that individual for guidance and/or support. Outside of the aforementioned characteristics a leader needs the following leadership qualities in leadership as well: comfort and confidence within self to lead a group or an individual; the ability to tune into other people’s feelings, reactions, moods and words. Of the characteristics that are listed above I believe I now have all the qualities, not saying that I have had them the whole time. These personal qualities were within me but it came to a point when I wanted to share with others what I have learned from others leaders that were in leadership positions and from the education I have received.
Leadership to some could possibly mean that they are in just in charge, but where they fell to realize is when that approach is taken no one will is willing to follow. When one falls into leadership rolls they must be able to lead and have the attributes of what it takes to be a leader. My beliefs of leadership skills are similar to the definition itself. I believe that one must have the knowledge, experience, the capability of motivating and taking care of people that looks for them for guidance and support. According to Jacobs (2012) “Leading groups successfully requires a great deal from the leader. Often people lead groups when they simply do not possess the necessary leadership characteristics.” (p. 26) In the Army we live by the Army Values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Self-less Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage, in which it spells out the Army acronym of LDRSHIP (leadership).
For this course I conducted four Psychoeducational Group Sessions with co-workers from my place of employment. Prior to me starting I almost did not have a clue as to how this was going to turn out because this type of setting was my first in my life of me having to conduct. I have had to conduct classes within the military setting but never within a counseling group session. But with prayer and support I was able to get through it. Matthew 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. The individuals were not forced to be a part of the group and none of them were required to state any personal information unless they wanted to. The first two group sessions that I conducted were more in tuned because of the number of personnel in attendance. In these sessions I wanted to ensure I used the leadership qualities that I had within me because I wanted to have a successful group session. Receiving feedback from individuals after the session I had used the majority of the leadership characteristics that were aforementioned. After receiving feedback from several of the members, it made me feel good that I was able to conduct a “successful” group session and to know that the sessions I was holding should be something that is done more often. Approach To Group Counseling
“Our approach to groups is based on the principles of impact therapy, which is a multisensory approach that recognizes that change or impact comes not only from verbal, but also visual and kinesthetic exchanges.” (Jacobs, 2012, p. 20) Over the last several weeks I have had to use certain approaches to hold group sessions. I had to ensure while holding these sessions that I had the right tone and body language to conduct them. If I was to show nervousness or my inability to lead the group the members probably would have thought I was incapable of leading or holding the group session successfully. In the group session I ensure that the members were well informed of what each session was going to be about.
The leader approach that I used during the sessions was that of leader-directed. “A leader-directed style can be of great benefit by provoking structure, thought-provoking questions, and group exercises.” (Jacobs, 2012, p. 23) The leader-direct approach was a successful approach with the group because they were allowed to discuss and express their concerns about change and show their support for one another. At times an individual would want to continue for a long period of time but they had no issue with me informing them I would come back to them because other members wanted to speak. The members in my group sessions were all eager and willing to participate, although for the last two sessions, the participation for some was not feasible due to work or their absence from work. Overall, the outcome of each session held was a success regardless of the amount of members that attended. It was also a success because the members that attended were able to share information that was bottled up inside of them for quite some time.
The ethical challenges they I encountered within the course was that, from the beginning I had to understand the meaning of ethical issues or concerns in the field of counseling. In everyday living I cannot say that I actually think of ethically living although it is a highly recommended practice in the military. The unethical challenges that I/we face in our everyday way of living is implementing the ethical values into our day-to-day living. This will help prevent many of the unethical behaviors that occur. It is critical that all professions understand and apply the code of ethics into their day-to-day practices. Isaiah 1:17-19 (KJV) Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18-Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19-If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. Conclusion
The one thing that is very important within the area of ethics in group counseling, the counselor that is providing the counseling must have the leadership skills, knowledge and training in order to run a successful group session in counseling and/or individual counseling. Counseling is a field of profession that can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience not only to the counselor that is providing the counseling but to the individual or group that is receiving the counseling. It can be rewarding to both because if it was a success and issues/concerns were resolved and/or results were shown from the individual that was receiving counseling, although trials and tribulations may have occurred during the session, it was a success. A counselor/leader must be able to find within themselves which works best for them in the field of counseling, individually or group counseling. A leader should never jeopardize their career or lose sight of what counseling really is by not following the guidance that is provided for them, especially the ethical practices. The most important lessons or attributes that a counselor or associate can have in the field of counseling and that is of having a well-educated background, experience, and knowledge of how to be an effective counselor/leader. Reaching People. Restoring Lives.
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