ACA Blog

Michelle Wade
Sep 27, 2011

So the Ethics Revision begins…

I just finished the first conference call regarding the Ethics Revision Task Force (ERTF) and let me say, it was a lot less painful than I had anticipated. And by that I mean that it flowed nicely as well as there seemed to be a number of things that the committee members were in consensus of and so from the start, your task force is all on the same page.

I’d like to take a moment to state again the honor of being selected for this task force and to reiterate that the task force is comprised of intelligent and well-versed in ethics individuals. Because the announcement has gone out about who is on the committee, I won’t speak too much about them, but I do want to take a moment to acknowledge them. The chair of the ERTF is Perry C. Francis from Eastern Michigan University has over 24 juried presentations on counseling ethics. Jeannette Baca is an independent practitioner and retired/adjunct professor of counseling in New Mexico; she served as past president and ethics chair for the New Mexico Counseling Association. Janelle Disney teaches for Argosy Atlanta and served as ethics chair for the Louisiana Counseling Association. Gary Goodnough is at Plymouth State University and just completed his appointment on the ACA ethics committee and was its immediate past co-chair. Mary Hermann co-authored Ethical and Legal Issues in School Counseling (3rd ed) and is located at Virginia Commonwealth University. Shannon Hodges has extensive knowledge and experience in forensics ethics and is an Associate Professor of Counseling at Niagara University. Lynn Linde has authored seven book chapters on ethics as well as is the director of clinical training for the School Counseling Program at Loyola University Maryland. Linda Shaw, department head for University of Arizona’s disability and psychoeducational studies, has served as chair on the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification’s ethics committee. Shawn Spurgeon from University of Tennessee Knoxville has also served as the co-chair on the ACA ethics committee. Richard Watts, the director of the center for research and doctoral studies at Sam Houston State University, served on the committee that initiated the code of ethics for the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors. And then there’s me, the student member of this task force, Michelle E. Wade who is a private practitioner in Maryland and has co-authored an in-press article regarding the ethical issues of internet counseling and social media.

I feel it is safe to say that we have experience as well as innovative thinkers within this task force whose aim is to revise/develop a code of ethics that we can be proud of as a profession. Perry wanted us from the onset of this process to have a sense of transparency and therefore we are hoping these blogs and other resources act as a way to keep the profession aware of what is going on and the process as well as alerting you all of the opportunities for public feedback. As someone who believes in the usefulness of social media, I could not have agreed more and so I agreed to write a blog about the process. Today’s call was the start of that process and it is my hope that I can help counselors, students, and counselor educators develop a sense of understanding and participation in the process.

The consensus of the task force members was to start the process by first beginning to think about issues we know need to be addressed either because they are already in the current code or because they are missing from the current code. Once we have identified some issues that we feel need to be addressed, to then look at the sections of the code specifically. Also, we seemed to all be in agreement that we wanted to address aspirational goals of the profession in more depth than the current code does while still maintaining a practice-based approach to ethics. In other words, stating some guiding general principals, morals, and values as a profession, but also being practical in our approach towards ethics. We want to find a balance between legal and ethical issues because as one task force member stated, they are different frameworks.

We also discussed this need for technology and social media to be addressed within the code in such a way that the code remains flexible even when technology advances beyond the imagination of where we might be technologically in 2014 and beyond. We also wanted to express to the public that we want feedback from you all, but we cannot guarantee that any feedback will be reflected or not reflected within the revision. That being said, there will be times when we invite public feedback through a variety of venues such as town hall meetings at ACA’s annual conference, ACA communicating with licensure boards about common ethical violations, and feedback through surveys or some other electronically based form of communication and/or possibly having electronically based town hall meetings. In other words, we want to hear from you all, but we do need to be systematic about it. Please keep in mind that it is our intention that this revision be as encompassing to the entire profession as possible.

I look forward to this journey and this process and I am very excited to be able to share the process with you. Additionally, I hope these blogs serve as a way for you all to feel informed and involved in the process.



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

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