Ethical Decision-Making Paper


EthicalDecision-Making Paper

Ina counseling relationship, sexual association with a client isprohibited. However, a non-sexual association with a client isallowed. Nevertheless, a counselor must evaluate whether a dualrelationship with a client would have negative consequences(Williams,2001).In case a dual relationship with a client is likely to result innegative consequences, a counselor should not be involved in such adual relationship. In the current digital age, online communicationhas become common and clients may desire communicating to theircounselor through social media platforms. It is not wrong tocommunicate through the social media platforms with clients, but itis critical to review what one is posting. Because of this, it isimportant that counselors should have different social mediaaccounts that is professional and private accounts. This is becauseit is the responsibility of the counselor in maintaining anappropriate boundary (Robert&amp Daniel, 2007).

  1. Problem Identification

Accordingto Scenario 2, John is faced with an ethical issue involving havingdual relationship with clients. John is in a dilemma because heaccepts to have dual relationship with one of his male client, butdoes not want to have a dual relationship with a female client,Jeanne. This may depict discrimination of the female gender, which isunethical. Since he accepts to have a dual relationship with Ben byaccepting friend request sent by Ben on his personal Facebookaccount, but refuses to have a dual relationship with Jeanne since heis not fond of her, his actions and reasons for not accepting thefriendship of Jeanne seems justified on one way but not justified onthe other. Therefore, the ethical dilemma can be seen in terms ofJohn accepting to have a dual relationship with one client andrefuses to do so with another client. The big question is whetherJohn is supposed to accept the friend request sent by Jeanne or not.

  1. Application of ACA Code of Ethics

Dualrelationship with clients is well provided in the ACA code of ethics.According to the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics, nonsexual dualrelationships are usually allowed. However, navigating through dualrelationships may be challenging. Counselors are ethically requiredto approach dual relationships with a lot of caution and much care(Ken &ampPatricia, 2008).Because of their challenging nature, dual relationships should beclearly scrutinized in order to notice whether there are any negativeconsequences that may result from the relationships. This may be thereason behind John fearing to have a dual relationship with Jeanne.From John’s perspective and reason given to Jeanne for notaccepting the friend request revolves around Jeanne being a woman.May be john feared that engaging in a nonprofessional relationshipwith a woman may be a challenging hurdle to bear. Going by the ACAcode of ethics, the nonprofessional relationship that could have beenborne could be challenging.

Accordingto standard A.5.e of the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics, counselors arerestricted from engaging in a personal virtual relationship withtheir clients, whom they have an ongoing counseling relationship.Besides, standard A.5.c of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics argues thatcounselor-client non-professional relationships should be avoided,except the moment when the interaction is deemed beneficial to theclient. In the case of John (the counselor) and his clients (Ben andJeanne), the nonprofessional relationships do not in any way seemnecessary because their necessity has not been indicated. Moreover,the relationship is extending towards private life since the two havesought to be included as friends on the personal social media page.

Onthe other hand, John has been indicated to treat the friend requestssent to him differently on the ground of gender, which may indicategender discrimination. However, standard A.4.b of the 2014 ACA Codeof Ethics points out that counselors should be aware of and avoidimposing their personal attitudes, values, behaviors, and beliefs.Counselors should always respect the diversity of his/her clients andhis/her actions should not be discriminatory in nature. From thecase, it has been pointed out that John refuses to accept the friendrequest sent by Jeanne because he beliefs that he should not befriendwomen.

  1. Determining the Nature and Dimensions of the Dilemma

Theprinciple of justice prevails in this scenario. According to theprinciple of justice, equals should be treated equally while unequalsshould be treated unequally, but in proportion to their relevantdifferences. In case, a person is to be treated differently, acounselor should be capable of offering a rationale that tends toexplain the necessity and appropriateness of treating the persondifferently. In the case presented, John accepts the friend requestsent by Ben, but does not accept the friend request sent by Jeanne.However, John explains to Jeanne that he did not accept her friendrequest because she does not befriend women. Since John provided arationale for not accepting her client’s friend request, he did notcontradict the principle of justice. This is an indication thatJohn’s actions were ethical.

Besides,the actions of John were ethical because the ACA code of ethicsallows counselors to have dual relationship with their clients thatare non-sexual in nature. However, a counselor needs to decidewhether to engage in a nonsexual dual relationship with a clientthrough evaluating the consequences of the relationship. In case, acounselor perceives that having a dual relationship with a clientwould compromise his/her counseling relationship with the client,then he/she should avoid such a dual relationship (Corey et al,2014). The action of John refusing to accept the friend request sentby Jeanne may be on the basis of John evaluating the consequences ofbefriending a woman that is her client. Therefore, it was ethical todecide to accept the friend request sent by Ben and refusing thefriend request sent by Jeanne because the action relied on the ACAcode of ethics.

Inaddition, John’s actions were ethical because standard A.5.c of the2014 ACA Code of Ethics argues that counselor-client non-professionalrelationships should be avoided, except the moment when theinteraction is deemed beneficial to the client. John accepted thefriend request of Ben because he may have perceived the relationshipbeneficial, but might have refused to accept the friend request ofJeanne since he deemed the relationship not to be beneficial.Therefore, the actions of John were ethical and can be justified.

  1. Courses of Action

Thereare three courses of action that John can choose from based on thecase scenario. One of the courses of action that John can chooseentails seeking guidance from other counseling professionals. Whencounselors are faced with a given dilemma, they can seek theassistance of other counselors in order to get a solution of theproblem that they are facing. Other professionals in the field can beof great assistance because different professionals have diverseknowledge concerning different aspects in the counseling field.Working as an intern, John may not have sufficient knowledgeconcerning how to deal with certain issues, but professionalsexperienced in the field may offer ways of tackling different issuesbecause they have a lot of know how in the field. Another course ofaction available to John entails accepting the friend request sent byJeanne. Since he accepted the friend request sent by Ben, he may alsoopt to accept the friend request sent by Jeanne. Another course ofaction for John is opening another Facebook account, which will dealwith professional issues. After opening a professional Facebookaccount, he can provide his clients with the professional Facebookaccount. So, Jeanne can be provided with the professional Facebookaccount and John can explain to her that the other Facebook accountis personal.

  1. Potential Consequences

  1. Seeking Guidance from Experienced Professionals

Experiencedprofessionals in the field of counseling are likely to offer asolution that would take into considerations the interests of thecounselor and those of the client. in most cases, experiencedprofessionals are likely to use professional ethics in resolving theissue. Therefore, seeking the guidance of the experiencedprofessionals in the field of counseling would provide a solutionthat is optimal to both the client and the counselor. Therefore,through seeking the intervention of experienced professionals in thefield of counseling, it would be possible to leave the client and thecounselor contented. For example, the experienced counselors mayleave the client and the counselor satisfied because they would becapable of explaining every detail through the existing professionalcode of ethics.

  1. Accepting Jeanne’s Friend Request

Johnmay opt to accept Jeanne’s friend request on his personal Facebookaccount. This would have different consequences. On the side of thecounselor, one of the consequences would be that his private lifewould be exposed to the client. Private information sent through theFacebook account of John may be accessed easily by the client, whichmay compromise the client-counselor relationship. This is becauseonce the client learns of the private life of the John, it may bedifficult to view him as a counselor. Besides, John may be affectedand unable to perform as a counselor to Jeanne because Jeanne may behaving a lot of personal information concerning John. Therefore,accepting the friend request of Jeanne may have the effect ofcompromising the client-counselor relationship. On the other hand,Jeanne may be affected by the acceptance of friend request since mostof her personal life would be exposed to John. As such, she may feelinsecure that her counselor knows a lot of her personal life. Thismay make her opt to have another counselor other than John.

  1. Providing a Professional Facebook Account

Thecounselor may decide to open a professional Facebook account andprovide it to his clients. Instead of accepting the friend requestsent by Jeanne on his personal Facebook account, John can provideJeanne with a professional Facebook account and explain to her thatthe other Facebook account is personal. Providing a professionalFacebook account to Jeanne would help in resolving the issue underconsideration. This is because Jeanne would be capable of sharingwith her counselor through the professional Facebook account.Providing a professional Facebook account to Jeanne would havepositive consequences. Through the professional Facebook account, theclient would not be capable of accessing private information of thecounselor. This would be of the best interest to their relationshipbecause client-counselor relationship would not be compromised as theprivate life of the counselor would not be accessed by the client.Provision of the professional account would also have positiveconsequences since the client would be capable of interacting withthe counselor online by posting any concern on the professional page.

Fromthe analysis of the different course of actions, providing aprofessional Facebook page would seem the most appropriate andappealing to both the client and the counselor. This is because theprofessional Facebook page would result in positive consequences.Also, to some extent, seeking the guidance of experienced counselorswould also offer positive consequences. Therefore, providing aprofessional Facebook page and seeking the guidance of experiencedcounselors are the preferable courses of action, but providing aprofessional Facebook page is the best action.

  1. Evaluation of the Course of Action

Byconsidering the test of justice, the course of action is appropriatebecause I would treat others similarly in case I was faced with asimilar situation. Providing an alternative Facebook account toclient is a necessary and a good move since it would help inenhancing the client-counselor relationship that already existsrather than hindering the relationship. The professional Facebookaccount would not harm the client or the counselor, which impliesthat it would be for the client’s and counselor’s own good.Therefore, in case I was confronted with such a situation, I wouldnot hesitate treating others in a similar manner since this would notharm them or hurt their interests. The treatment is fair, making itpass the test of justice.

Thecourse of action also passes the test of publicity. This is becausethere would be no harm in reporting the action on the press. Peoplewould feel absurd, when they allow wrong actions to be publicized onthe press. However, a reasonable action would allow individuals feelokay, when their actions become publicized on the press. Since theaction of providing an alternative Facebook account seems reasonable,it can be reported on the press. This makes the course of action passthe publicity test. In addition, the course of action also passes thetest of universality. According to the test, an action is said topass universality test in case it can be recommended to anothercounselor facing a similar scenario. It is possible to recommend thiscourse of action to another counselor facing a similar situationbecause the course of action provides an optimal solution to both thecounselor and the client. Therefore, since the course of actionpasses all the three tests, it is appropriate.

  1. Implementation

Inorder to implement the course of action, John would need to clarifyto Jeanne the reason for rejecting her friend request on his personalFacebook account and offering an alternative Facebook account. Inthis case, John has to convince Jeanne that it is important to followprofessional ethics and accepting her friend request on the personalFacebook account may lead to hindering the smooth association theyare having. This is because dual relationship may lead to losing theobjectivity of counseling (Ken &ampMelba, 2011).Therefore, talking to Jeanne and explaining to her the reason for notaccepting her friend request on the private account would be thefirst step towards the implementation of the course of action.Besides, John would need to cancel the friendship of the other client(Ben) on his private page and provide him with the professionalFacebook account. This would be critical in order to show the clientsthat they are equally important and that there is no discriminationin regard to gender or otherwise. John has also to explain to Ben whyhe provided the professional account and cancelled the relationshipon the private account. Such an explanation would make John to usethe professional account rather than the private account. Inaddition, it is not possible to give what one does not have. Thus,john would need to open a professional Facebook account, which hewould provide to his clients.


Fromthe case scenario, John should consider opening a professionalFacebook account and provide it to his clients, who wish tocommunicate with him online. Opening a professional platform wouldhelp in guarding the client-counselor relationships that existbetween John and his clients since his private life will not beaccessed by his clients through his Facebook account. Besides, inorder to have a balanced treatment to his clients, John would need tocancel the friendship that he has with Ben on his private Facebookaccount and provide a professional account to Ben. This would provideeffective dual relationship.


Alexandria,V.A. (2005). AmericanCounseling Association 2005 Code of Ethics.

Corey,G., Corey, M. &amp Corey, C. (2014). Issuesand Ethics in the Helping Professions.New York: Prentice Hall.

Ken,P. &amp Patricia, K. (2008). &quotA Practical Approach toBoundaries in Psychotherapy: Making Decisions, Bypassing Blunders,and Mending Fences&quot. Journalof Clinical Psychology,vol. 64 (5), pages 638-652.

Robert,S. &amp Daniel, S. (2007). ClinicalManual of Psychiatry &amp Law,American Psychiatric Publishing.

Ken,P. &amp Melba, V. (2011). Ethicsin Psychotherapy &amp Counseling: A Practical Guide, 4th Edition.New York: Wiley.

Williams,S.M. (2001). Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Managing DualRelationships. AMCAPJournal,Vol. 26, page 19-26.