Comparison of Ethics Codes: Church Focused or Self Focused Diana Calhoun Liberty University Abstract The American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) have both established a code of ethics to assist and protect their members in serving and protecting their clients. While there are many differences between the two ethics codes, there are also many similarities. The first part of this essay will discuss the general differences in ethics codes adhered to from the AACC and the ACA.
The second part of this essay will discuss the differences between the two organizations’ codes of ethics in subjects of conflict of interest in fees, sexual intimacies, and discrimination. In conclusion clarification on how the similarities between the two codes are the AACC’s attempt to not adopt areas in which the ACA’s practice is not glorifying to Christ and how His church should respond in such subject matters. Comparison of Ethics Codes: Church Focused or Self Focused
The ultimate goal between the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) is different in their code of ethics pursuit. In the ACA Code of Ethics the main goal of the association’s members are to “recognize diversity, and embrace a cross-cultural approach in support of the worth dignity, potential and uniqueness of people within their social and cultural contexts” (2005, p. 3).
The AACC Code of Ethics primary goal is “to bring honor to Jesus Christ and his church, promote excellence in Christian counseling, and bring unity to Christian counselors” (2004, p. 3). Even though these goals are vastly different, in order for the AACC to accomplish its goal of honoring Christ and the church it also wants to lovingly respect God’s creation while counseling people. With that in mind the AACC Code of Ethics consulted the American Counseling Association in addition to other ethics codes in the drafting of its statement (2004, p. ). This creates many similarities and differences between the two codes. The similarities are revealed as the AACC retained ethical stances from the ACA that supported the AACC’s goal, not contradict it. The practices on how these two different goals are achieved by both organizations will be reviewed along with its affects on ethical views. Section I: General Comparison of the Two Codes Both the AACC and ACA have a similar general goal to do “no harm” to the client, and that all their actions should be consistent with that counseling goal.
There are many sub goals and protocols to assist the counselor in abiding to this counseling goal. Sub goals consist of regards to privacy, appropriate counselor-client relationship guidelines, counseling plans, training and resolutions of ethical issues. However the difference between the AACC and ACA is the perspective or definition of what each group considers being “no harm” to the client. The ACA code of ethics appears to be legal guidelines in counseling clients to learn to look inward and make decisions in life on their own based on the client’s moral values.
This can include to any degree the client’s view on sex, drugs, money, power or any pleasure deriving device to provide the client with immediate satisfaction. As stated in Competent Christian Counseling this however can be a numbing agent providing short term relief when one desires to find purpose for their life. This short term relief can lead to long term sorrow. Being entrapped in long term sorrow is not classified as a ‘no harm’ counseling goal for any client (Clinton, & Ohlschlager, 2002, p. 26).
The AACC Code of Ethics goes beyond just legal guidelines in their dedication “to Jesus Christ as their ‘first love,’ to excellence in client service, to ethical integrity in practice, and to respect for everyone encountered” (2004, p. 5). According to Competent Christian Counseling, Christian counselors not only want to help foster growth for a healthy lifestyle but also to assist clients in a more fulfilling life that will sustain, to show clients “relief that lasts, purpose that remains, and direction that leads to a hope-filled future.
The sufferers who flee into the arms of God can discover this relief” (Clinton, & Ohlschlager, 2002, p. 26). This is ultimately the ‘no harm’ perspective and goal; long term ‘no harm’ and not just short term relief ‘no harm’. The AACC Code of Ethics also strives that even in having this ultimate goal they also honor the client’s choice in spiritual interventions in counseling, verifying that the client’s goals are the counselor’s goals and that the counselor is respecting the client’s counseling goals (2004, p. 11, 1-330).
This balance is shown by the counselor not condoning abortions, adultery, abuse, addictions, and divorce; yet the counselor will not discriminate against a client whose beliefs and values are not the same. The Christian counselor is spurred on to use the counseling sessions as Jesus did when he ate and fellowshipped with sinners (Matthew 9:10 NLT). The only similarity with the ACA Code of Ethics is the stance to avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals. (2002, p. 4, A. 4) Section II: Specific Comparison of Three Particular Areas
Fees Fees for services rendered should be clearly stated to the client. Both code of ethics for the ACA and the AACC contain guidelines for possible options for how fees can be rendered. The profound difference between the two is the lack of provision by the ACA for when funds are not sufficient from the client to cover the cost. In their code of ethics, the ACA (2002) makes an optional provision through bartering in section A. 10. d as an only alternative before referring clients to affordable comparable services as stated in section A. 10. c (p. 6).
In addition to bartering, in their code of ethics, the AACC (2004) goes on to encourage a sliding fee scale or even pro bono work as stated in sections 1-513 and 1-512 in order to meet the client where they are financially (p. 13). These solutions can be temporary or permanent for the client’s financial situation. These are additional ways that the AACC suggest for ethical compensation. They are also great ways to go beyond the basic legal criteria as stated in the ACA code of ethics in order to make assistance available for clients to obtain counseling.
These techniques are also supportive of the counselor’s goal of not abandoning the client. Sexual Intimacies Sexual intimacies are the application of pre-marital or extramarital sexual behavior in a client’s life. Both the AACC and the ACA share the ethical guideline of not imposing the counselor’s values and beliefs on the client. However the AACC and the ACA’s similarities stop at that point. In their code of ethics the ACA (2002) states in section A. 4 that counselors are to avoid imposing their own values and are to respect the diversity of their clients (p. -5). The AACC (2004) states in their code of ethics in section 1-125 that counselors will refuse to condone or advocate the pursuit or active involvement in sexual behavior outside of marriage (p. 7). There is a clear distinction between the two ethical codes on this matter. Christian counselors will not abandon a client by discriminating against a client even when the client’s beliefs and values are different. A counselor is not to impose their own beliefs and values on a client but the counselor can review a client’s motives that may fuel their actions.
Discrimination Discrimination is when someone is treated differently from others, due to involvement in a certain group. Specific groups receiving differential treatment can be identified by age, gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, education, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, denomination, belief system, values, or political affiliation. Both the ACA Code of Ethics and the AACC Codes of Ethics contain guidelines for on discrimination, and neither will tolerate discrimination.
In their code of ethics the ACA (2002) states that counselors do not discriminate in a manner that has a negative impact on a person (p. 10, C. 5). In the AACC Codes of Ethics states that not only would they not treat persons in a harmful manner, but that they will challenge harmful attitudes and actions while express a loving care and ultimately loving one well when pushing them forward (2004, P. 6, 1-101). These harmful attitudes and actions will not exclude discriminatory topics of sexual behavior, belief systems, values or others; but will be lovingly examined to what may fuel the actions in these areas.
Conclusion The distinctions between the two ethical codes from the AACC and the ACA do not exclude the Christian counselor from treating clients with situations that differ from the counselor’s personal values. Since Christian counselors are not to condone and advocate actions that do not bring honor to Jesus Christ and his church, they are challenged with “fitting their counseling models to people, rather than fitting people to counseling models” as stated by Clinton & Ohlschlager in their book, Competent Christian Counseling (2002, p. 6). These counseling models may include some unique methods such as a willingness to confront people with an attitude of love and to challenge them to correct erroneous beliefs about the world. Research has shown these techniques to be most beneficial and potent (Clinton & Ohlschager, 2002, p. 43). These techniques can lead a client to a more fulfilling life that will sustain, as the Christian counselor honors Jesus Christ by handling his creation, the client, in the best way possible.
Excluding Christian counselors from working with clients whose lifestyles are different from the counselor’s personal values, gives the client the only option to find counselors that hold the same personal values and belief perspectives as the client. Counseling for the client will then be focused on themselves and the pursuit of their happiness. The AACC encourages Christian counselors not to let financial, personal value differences, or discrimination to interfere the main goal of the Christian counselor; to honor Jesus Christ and the church in the pursuit of the gospel call through counseling.
The ACA encourages the counselor to keep all personal values out of the counseling environment in order to push the client forward in their own personal pursuit of happiness as long as it is legal and supportive of their counseling goals. This illustrates differences in church and self focused ethics. References American Counseling Association. (2005). ACA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www. counseling. org/resources/codeofethics/TP/home/ct2. aspx. American Association of Christian Counselors. (2004). AACC Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www. aacc. net/about-us/code-of-ethics/.
Clinton, T. & Ohlschlager, G. (2002). Christian counseling and compassionate soul care: The case for twenty-first-century practice. In T. Clinton & G. Ohlschlager (Eds. ). Competent Christian counseling: Foundations and practice of compassionate soul care. (pp. 11-34), Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press. Clinton, T. & Ohlschlager, G. (2002). Competent Christian counseling: Definitions and dynamics. In T. Clinton & G. Ohlschlager (Eds. ). Competent Christian counseling: Foundations and practice of compassionate soul care. (pp. 36-68), Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press.