2014 Code of Ethics

Ethics & Professional Standards

The ACA Department of Ethics is responsible for providing access to and interpretation of the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics.  We hope this webpage will provide ACA members and interested members of the public with the necessary tools to ensure compliance with the ethical standards of the counseling profession.

Ethical, Licensure, and Risk Management Consults

Ethical dilemmas and professional challenges surround us on a daily basis, and assistance with these issues is at hand! A benefit of membership is FREE confidential ethical/professional standards consultation five days a week between 8:30am and 4:30pm ET with either  Erin T. Shifflett, Director of Ethics or Michelle E. Wade, Ethics Specialist.

If ACA Ethics Professionals determine that the issue has implications beyond ethics, they may refer the ACA member to the ACA-sponsored Risk Management Service, operated by Anne Marie “Nancy” Wheeler, J.D. The Risk Management Service is designed to help members troubleshoot issues, identify resources, manage counseling practice risks, and help determine whether members need representation by a local attorney. The Risk Management Service is a resource for members but it is not designed to take the place of a counselor’s attorney. Legal opinions will not be rendered.  The Risk Management Service is available Monday through Thursdays, and the service hours will be listed on the voicemail message.

We also provide consultation regarding licensure. Every two years, ACA compiles the latest licensure information for all fifty states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.  This information is published as the Licensure Requirements for Professional Counselors: A State-by-State report  and can be purchased in our ACA Bookstore.

Please note, these services are not designed to function as hotlines; inquiries are prioritized and answered within 72 business hours.

Professional assistance is only an email/letter or phone call away. Contact the ACA Ethics and Professional Standards Department at (800) 347 6647, ext. 314 or email: ethics@counseling.org.

To file a complaint against a counselor who is an active ACA member, please review the Policies and Procedures for Processing Complaints of Ethical Violations . After reviewing the Policies and Procedures for Processing Complaints of Ethical Violations, you can begin the complaint process by emailing ethics@counseling.org 

2014 ACA Code of Ethics

The 2014 ACA Code of Ethics was approved by the Governing Council at its meeting at the ACA conference held in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The 2014 ACA Code of Ethics replaces the 2005 edition.  The new edition is the first code that speaks to the ethics of using social media with clients.  It also presents new or expanded guidelines for preventing the imposition of counselor personal values, distance counseling, confidentiality, dual relationships, multiculturalism and diversity, the use of technology, recordkeeping, diagnosis, end-of life care and the selection of interventions.

To cite the ACA Code of Ethics as a resource for an academic work:

American Counseling Association (2014). ACA Code of Ethics. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Resources for the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics

2014 ACA Code of Ethics (PDF)

The 2014 ACA Code of Ethics is now available as a Kindle e-book on Amazon for $4.99. This version allows practitioners and students quick and searchable access to the Code of Ethics at a moment’s notice.  It is a wise investment and a user-friendly tool. Learn more about how to access it here

New Concepts in the ACA Code of Ethics

The 2014 revision of the ACA Code of Ethics is a game changer that raises the bar for ethical practice. As a service to members, ACA is conducting interviews with members of the Ethics Revision Task Force to help flesh out critical new concepts in the code. Each column is also published in the corresponding issue of Counseling Today.

July column
August column
September column
October column
November column
December column

Practioner's Guide to Ethical Decision Making (1996)

Holly Forester-Miller, Ph.D. & Thomas Davis, Ph.D.


This article was published in 1996 and, as such, precedes the most recent version of the ACA Code of Ethics; however, the guidance provided within this article remains relevant and can be used to formulate sound ethical decisions. Please consult the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics for current references.

Ethical Implications of a Critical Legal Case for the Counseling Profession: Ward v. Wilbanks (2012)

David M. Kaplan

This article presents the official position of the American Counseling Association on a seminal legal case for professional counseling: Ward v. Wilbanks. The focus is on three key questions: Is it permissible to deny counseling services to a homosexual client on the basis of a counselor’s values? Can referrals be made at any time a counselor wishes to do so? When is a client a client?

Tick Tock...Heed the HIPAA/HITECH Clock! (2013)

Anne Marie “Nancy” Wheeler, J.D.

Counselors should be aware that 2013 has brought important new changes to HIPAA and that September 23, 2013 is the compliance deadline for many of these new regulatory requirements. Any counselor who is not sure if she is considered a “covered entity” under HIPAA should immediately access the online decision-making tool available at the website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. All counselors who are covered entities should move quickly to come into compliance or risk very stiff monetary penalties.

Online Ethics Courses,

If you are a member of ACA, you can also access the  members-only Risk Management Service page which contains  de-identified composites of calls made to the ACA’s Risk Management Helpline, operated by Anne Marie "Nancy" Wheeler, J.D., an attorney licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia. For specific legal advice, please consult your own local attorney.

If you are doing research, you can also use our search function to  access articles and databases that may assist you with your research.

Graduate Student Ethics Competition

The 2014-2015 ACA Graduate Student Ethics Competition is closed; Winners will be announced near the end of January 2015.  

Please click here to see the 2013-2014 competition results to view the competition results.

 



Ethics Committee Reports

Risk Management

The documents on the following members-only page are de-identified composite of calls made to the ACA’s Risk Management Helpline, operated by Anne Marie "Nancy" Wheeler, J.D., an attorney licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia. For specific legal advice, please consult your own local attorney.

Visit our Risk Management Section

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