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

The American Counseling Association (ACA) is no longer offering risk management services.

Risk management is a very complex area. ACA believes that, whenever questions arise, counselors should consult with a lawyer licensed in the jurisdiction in which they practice.

One resource, recommended by Nancy Wheeler, former ACA Risk Management Consultant, is Martindale.com, an online legal portal that can be used to search for attorneys. ACA has no affiliation with Martindale and does not endorse the attorneys listed on the company’s website. ACA members should keep in mind that it is important to verify the credentials and past work of all prospective legal advisers.

In addition, professional counselors should use all of the services available to them through their liability insurance provider. In the event of a license protection or professional liability incident or notice of complaint, ACA members insured through HPSO should call HPSO for support at 800-982-9491, or go to hpso.com for more information.

 Visit our Risk Management Section

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, which is available as a free benefit for ACA members. You can also access contact information for the state licensing boards here and other useful information regarding licensure here.  

Please note, these services are not designed to function as hotlines; inquiries are prioritized and answered within 3 business days.
Contact the ACA Ethics and Professional Standards Department at (800) 347 6647, ext. 321 or through the online Ethics Contact Form.

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 

Licensure Requirements 2016 Edition

Professional counselors are licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  Find answers to your questions in this comprehensive and state-by-state report.

Special Features

  • Contact information/website for every state licensing board
  • Scope of practice for each state
  • Renewal requirements by state
  • Licensure portability/reciprocity
  • Distance counseling/technology details

New for 2016

Licensure Requirements for Professional Counselors, A State-by-State Report 2016 Edition is FREE to ACA members in digital format. Click here to download today!


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.

2014 ACA Código de Ética

The 2014 ACA Code of Ethics is now available in Spanish!

2014 ACA Código de Ética (PDF)

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 conducted interviews with members of the Ethics Revision Task Force to help flesh out critical new concepts in the code.

This article was also published in the Journal of Counseling & Development

New Concepts in the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics (PDF)

Earlier Versions of the ACA Code of Ethics

Practitioner's Guide to Ethical Decision Making (2016)
Holly Forester-Miller, Ph.D. & Thomas Davis, Ph.D.

This article was originally published in 1996, this update reflects changes in the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. 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

Registration for the 2015-2016 is closed; please visit the Competition page for further information and current results.

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