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Ethical Standards, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 728

Essay

The role of mental health practitioner requires a variety of personal qualities that made it natural for me to pursue a human services career. I was raised to respect people, treat others with honesty and dignity, and to refrain from judging people without “walking in their shoes.” Studying ethics is only one part of an overall approach to working with people; ethical codes are not meant to be replacements for the use of judgment and conscious ethical reasoning (Freeman, 2000.) My father, in particular, served as a role model for these values. This perception dates from a very young age, when I can recall neighbors knocking at the door at night, asking to speak to my father, and asking him if he would sign a petition to prevent an African-American family from purchasing the house across the street in our all-white neighborhood. His response was, “Sure, I’ll sign your petition if you will sign my petition to prevent ignorant people from remaining in our neighborhood.” That early example of tolerance and integrity has remained with me always, and is part of the code of ethics in human service professions that informs my behavior, personal and professional, today.

An ethical dilemma in which my own personal values were in conflict with the professional code of ethics was when a new client revealed that many years earlier, he had molested his daughter when she was little more than a toddler. The man was obviously in a great deal of distress; he was only able make eye contact after much hesitation, looking downward and questioning the agency’s policy regarding confidentiality. I treated him with as little apparent judgment as possible, given that the primary responsibility of a healthcare provider is to maintain the dignity of each person (American Mental Health Counselors Association, 2000.) Because the abuse had taken place so long ago, I wasn’t sure whether or not my role as a mandated reporter required me to contact the state agency charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect. After the session, I spoke with my supervisor, who suggested that I call the abuse hotline, and without giving any specific information, ask them that hypothetical question. I did so, and was informed that regardless of the time frame involved, I needed to report the abuse. I was extremely hesitant to call my client to inform him that I was obligated to report the abuse, because I was concerned that since he and I had not formed any kind of therapeutic alliance beyond the first appointment, he would never return for help. In addition, it had taken so much courage for him to confess this secret to me when no one had forced him to seek help; he genuinely appeared to be tortured by the memory of what he had done. Nevertheless, I also recognized my obligation as a mandated reporter, and my need to protect his daughter and any other children, so I made the call. Despite the fact that what this man had done was inexcusable, I always treated him with respect, as an individual worth being shown dignity, which wasn’t difficult because he appeared to be so genuinely remorseful.

In another similar situation, that of another man who had been accused of sexually molesting his daughter was mandated to seek counseling, I had tremendous conflict between my personal values and my ability to work with this man, because his presentation was completely unlike that of my other client who had been in a similar situation: unlike the previously described man, this client was not only not remorseful, I had suspicions that the abuse was continuing, and I was extremely concerned because he was still living in the house with the daughters that he had previously molested. This man challenged the concept of “the dignity and worth of the person” (Code of Ethics, 2008) for me because of his damaging behavior, but more so because of  his lack of conscience about it. Due to my own reactions to this client, I needed to utilize a great deal of supervision to be able to prevent countertransference issues from contaminating our contacts.

References

Code of Ethics. (2000). Retrieved February 19, 2012, from American Mental Health Counselors Association: http://www.amhca.org/assets/content/CodeofEthics1.pdf

Code of Ethics. (2008). Retrieved February 19, 2012, from The National Association of Social Workers: http://www.naswdc.org/pubs/code/default.asp

Freeman, S. (2000). Ethics: An Introduction to Philosophy and Practice. New York: Wadsworth/Thomson.

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