ACA Blog

Michelle Wade
May 11, 2011

New Technology, New Ethics?

With the application deadline for the Ethics Revision Task Force approaching, I can’t help but wonder where to go with the new ethical code with regards to technology and counseling. As is pretty obvious from my blogs, I am passionate about using technology in counseling. And I think we can all agree that unfortunately section A.12 of the current Code of Ethics just is not up to par with current technology.

However, isn’t that unavoidable?

Truth is, no matter how diligent the new task force is or how forward thinking they are, technology is always changing and adapting. That being said, it is clear to me and I think a lot of the other recent bloggers out there talking about ethics and technology (Dr. Centore and Ryan Neace to name 2), would agree that something has to change. But what?

The beauty of our code is that it is flexible rather than rigid. If you’ve ever really studied our code (and I know our grad students out there have probably more than they want), you will notice the lack of the words DO NOT. Even in sections where we can read between the lines and see that the section was written with a specific thing in mind, that specific thing is not called out. Because what happens when you start making a list of things someone can’t do? New things that are far worse emerge and survive because they are not on the list.

So when it comes to technology, how do we address valid concerns of today while still thinking about what might come tomorrow? I think section A.12 was an incredible and ground-breaking section. But there are still so many questions that are grey areas and confusing to the everyday practitioner when it comes to technology. For me, it comes down first and foremost to addressing what needs to be within the informed consent if going to engage in the use of technology. Let’s spell some of that stuff out for the counselor who is considering it, but may not be the computer guru and therefore not understand all of the tech jargon. Let’s also address the lack of 100% confidentiality because even if we don’t engage in technology assisted counseling, chances are your records are saved electronically and we as professionals need to know some standards for that and how to warn our clients. Boundaries I think will be a big part of where technology needs to be discussed again as well because it is SO easy to blur those lines.

In the 2005 code, the emphasis was multiculturalism infused throughout each section. For the upcoming code, I hope that technology is what we see infused throughout. I don’t think it can be limited to one section alone anymore. I think we need to begin to realize as a profession that technology is ever present in all aspects of our counseling profession. I am curious though as to what you readers see as things that need to be addressed with regard to the code and technology. It is the Digital Age and it is time our code gets plugged in…so where do we start?



Michelle E. Wade is a counselor and doctoral student focusing on in-home therapy and technology in counseling.

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