PROFESSIONAL ETHICS IN COUNSELLING
Guidance is assistance made available by professionally qualified and adequately trained men and women to an individual of any age to help him manage his own life activities, develop his own decisions and carry his own burdens.
Guidance is being popularised both as a course of study and a profession in the Nigerian school system. This fresh impetus has arisen out of recognition by government and by the public that there is need to offer additional direction to students and school leavers in the art of coping with life both within and outside the school settings. It is considered necessary at such a time to help the would-be professional counsellor, the teacher and the parents to acquire a clear understanding of this fast growing field of study and practice which is likely to affect the lives of their clients, students and wards respectively.
CONCEPT OF GUIDANCE
The American Personnel and Guidance Association (1967) define Guidance as an organized effort of a school to help the individual child to develop his maximum potential. Benard and Fulllmer (1977) on their part consider Guidance as the formal and informal effort to guide youths into the future while Ipaye (1983) sees guidance as a generic label, an umbrella term that covers all the means whereby an instruction identifies and responds to the needs of pupils or students no matter the nature of the need and no matter its sources thereby helping the child to develop to his/her maximum potential.
Another leading researcher, Rao (1981) looks at Guidance as the assistance given to individual in making intelligent choices and adjustments. Okon (1984) tends to agree with Rao when he defined guidance as a total programme of a number of highly specialized activities implemented by all staff members to help individuals make wise, intelligent choices and decisions.
Shertzer and Stone (1976) provide one of the most esoteric definitions of Guidance. They define guidance as the process of helping individuals to understand themselves and their world. According to them, Guidance as a process denotes not a single event but involves a series of actions or steps progressing towards a goal. By helping it is meant assisting or aiding individuals to prevent, remedy or ameliorate their difficulties and situational crisis.
In the words of Ipaye (1983:1) ‘help’ does not mean and should not be taken to mean handling decisions, orders or a plan package down to the person who needs help, rather it means helping that person to sharpen his or her perception of issues at hand with a view to facilitating his or her getting into grips with the issue. Individuals in their definitions refer specifically to normal pupils in a school setting who need help with events and concerns that take place during normal development. Understanding themselves and their world means that these pupils come to know who they are as individuals, become aware of their personal identity and experience their world more deeply and completely.
From the above definitions, the following salient points emerge.
- Guidance is a helping relationship.
- It is a total school programme provided for pupils by teachers, administrators, guidance specialists and other school personnel on a continuous basis.
- It is aimed at assisting the individual to understand and accept himself and his world thereby becoming a more effective, more productive and happier human being.
- It takes place with normal people who may be experiencing situational crisis.
Counselling can be defined from the perspective of learning. In this regard, it is considered as a process of learning in which individuals learn about themselves (personal characteristics, interpersonal relationships, attitudes, values and behavior) that help them in their development (Okon,1984). In other words, counselling provides learning opportunities for individuals who are willing to learn from the counsellor and make appropriate choices applicable to their area of needs.
WHAT ARE ETHICS
Ethics are a set of moral principles or rules of conduct for an individual or group. The term ethics comes from the Greek ethos meaning custom, habit or character. Ethics determine choices made. In counselling, ethics underpin the nature and course of actions taken by the counsellor. Counsellors and others in helping professions are expected to behave in an ethical manner.
ETHICAL STANDARD OF GUIDANCE AND COUNSELLING
By nature of the profession, counsellors are to act in the best interest of their client, promoting client goals, protecting client rights, maximising good and minimizing harm (Stein, 1990). This expectation broadens due to the inherent power of the relationship between client and counsellor. Ethics including ethical codes and principles aim to balance the power and ensure that the counsellor operates for the good of the client and not for self.
Primarily, counsellors’ duty of care is to their clients. When making ethical choices, counsellors must consider not only themselves, but also the agency or organisation (if not self-employed), their profession and the greater community (Axten, 2002). Counselling does not occur in a vacuum therefore it is important that counsellors acknowledge all facets of their practice both internally and externally.
Ross (2002) draws on this further by asking counselors to look at ethics from a holistic perspective — body (the environment, structures, systems, policies, laws, regulations, moral codes, and societal norms), mind (ethical thinking, philosophy), heart (relationships, emotions, values) and spirit (unknowing, unconscious). A complete awareness of the ethics of a situation can occur when all are taken into consideration.
Code of Ethics
The concept of ethics relates to moral consideration. The challenge lies in what is considered moral or ethical. Each counsellor comes to the profession with their own set of values and standards. Individual principles and how they were used to interpret dilemmas would be universally different. Therefore, a Code of Ethics — a general standard that counsellors and therapists adhere to and use co jointly with legal standards to provide ethical practice and work through ethical dilemmas — is required.
Ethical codes offer counsellors an outline of what are considered acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. In a region (such as Australia) where counselling is not regulated through licensing, ethical codes provide a valuable tool for developing and maintaining ethical conduct.
Numerous professional associations have developed their own Code of Conduct and Ethics. Codes may adopt similar principles whilst also covering behaviours specific to an area of counselling. Professional counselling organisations provide Codes of Conduct and Ethics to members and the inability to stick to these Codes may result in removal of membership.
A professional may belong to more than one organisation and thus have access to additional ethical codes. When faced with an ethical dilemma, a counsellor is to consider all available and applicable codes. It is counsellors’ responsibility to familiarise themselves with relevant codes and regulations governing their area of practice.
Clarkson (2001) contends that all members of a professional association subscribe (at least in principle) to their profession’s Code of Ethics for the sake of protecting the public. The degree to which this ‘protection’ occurs is based on four factors:
- Client awareness and knowledge of the Code of Ethics and the complaints procedure
- The degree to which the client feels they can discuss his or her feelings about a violation with the counselor
- The fairness of the Codes
- The client’s ability to manage the Code or gain assistance in negotiation.
ACADEMIC GUIDANCE AND EDUCATIONAL INFORMATION
There are various types of Educational Information and the following are some of them:
- Information about the school rules and regulations.
- Information regarding the different departments in the schools and the
- various subject being taught.
- The school time table and schedule of activities, both curricular and co-
- curricular for each team.
- The various clubs and societies in the school, what they stand for and the
- time of their meetings.
- Information about the various post secondary schools available in the
- locality and in other places.
- Information about the minimum requirements and the subjects required for
- each course of study in the universities and other tertiary institutions.
- Information regarding the various types of occupation and the training/qualification required before entry into such occupation.
- Information regarding scholarships, bursaries, students loans and other sponsorship opportunities.
- The type of correspondence school, available, their addresses and school fees.
- Opportunities for on-the-job training, short courses available locally and abroad, long vacation courses, extra courses, extra moral/evening lessons and apprenticeship opportunities for those students who are terminating their formal education at the JSS 3 level and those who would not go beyond secondary level.
In summary, it could be said that; guidance and counseling is a total school programme provided for students/pupils by teachers, administrators, guidance specialist and other school personnel on a continuous basis. It is aimed at assisting the individual to understand and accept himself and his world thereby becoming a more effective, more productive and happier human being.
Thus, guidance and counseling is a helping relationship and it takes place with normal people who may be experiencing situational crisis. It is evident that while some writer such as Gustad, Shertzer, Stone, Dustin and George emphasise the cognitive dimension of the subject matter of counselling, others such as Perez, Lewis and Rogers emphasise the affective component. With regard to the counseling process, the initial perception of counselling as a dyadic (one to one, face to face) relationship has evidenced, since the ascent of group procedures, to include more than one client in small, intimate and cohesive groups.
ETHICAL STANDARD OF GUIDANCE AND COUNSELLING
Ipaye, T. (1983). The roles of the home, the community and the School in Guidance and Counselling. In A. Uba (ed) Introduction to Counselling. Ile-Ife: University of Ife Press.