2014 Code of Ethics

Ethical & Professional Standards

The American Counseling Association Center for Policy, Practice, and Research is responsible for providing access to, and interpretation of, the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. This web page offers  ACA members and members of the public with the necessary tools to ensure compliance with the ethical standards of the counseling profession.

Although ethics and risk management are related, ACA does not offer risk management services such as advice to minimize risk in the event of lawsuits and/or criminal charges. ACA believes that, whenever questions arise, counselors should consult with a lawyer licensed in the jurisdiction in which they practice. More information is offered in the Risk Management section below. 

2014 ACA Code of Ethics

The 2014 update to the ACA Code of Ethics is the first edition that covers the ethics of using social media with clients. This edition also presents new or expanded guidelines on distance counseling, confidentiality, extending boundaries, multiculturalism and diversity, the use of technology, record keeping, diagnosis, end-of life care, the selection of interventions, and preventing the imposition of counselor personal values,

View the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics (PDF)

The 2014 ACA Code of Ethics is also available:

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

To veiw previous editions of the Codes of Ethics visit our Ethics Archive.


ETHICS CONSULTATION SERVICES

The American Counseling Association is pleased to help members with inquiries on ethical practice. This service is not designed to function as a real-time hotline; inquiries are prioritized and the ACA standard is to respond within three business days of receipt.

For questions on ethics, contact the ACA Center for Policy, Practice, and Research at (800) 347-6647, ext. 321 or through the online Ethics Contact Form.


ETHICS COMPLAINTS

The ACA Ethics Committee is responsible for processing complaints of alleged violations of the ACA Code of Ethics. To file a complaint against a counselor who is an active ACA member, please review the Policies and Procedures for Processing Complaints of Ethical ViolationsAfter reviewing the Policies and Procedures for Processing Complaints of Ethical Violations, begin the complaint process by sending an email to ethics@counseling.org

RISK MANAGEMENT  

Although ethics and risk management are related, the American Counseling Association no longer offers risk management services such as advice to minimize risk in the event of lawsuits and/or criminal charges.

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 Anne Marie “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. Be certain 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 licensure complaint or professional liability incident or notice of complaint, ACA members insured through HPSO should call 800-982-9491, or go to hpso.com for more information.

To view previous risk management columns by Anne Marie "Nancy" Wheeler, J.D., as well as  other resources, visit the ACA Risk Management page.


ETHICS UPDATE COLUMNS

Each month, experts in ethics explore real-world issues in Counseling Today through the lens of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Visit our Ethics Update page to access past columns.


ETHICAL DECISION-MAKING

Difficult situations can arise in any counseling setting, and when they do, counselors “are expected to engage in a carefully considered ethical decision-making process,” as recommended by  the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics.

Holly Forester-Miller, PhD, and Thomas E. Davis, PhD, collaborated with the American Counseling Association to publish a white paper titled “Practitioner’s Guide to Ethical Decision Making” (2016). For more information and to read the white paper, visit the ACA Ethical Decision-Making page.

CODE OF ETHICS RESOURCES

There are many ways to engage with and/or learn about the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Visit the Code of Ethics Resources page to find out more.

If you are looking for resources related to previous editions of the Codes of Ethics visit our Ethics Archive.

LICENSURE

ACA offers a number of resources, including consultation, regarding licensure. Visit the ACA Licensure Requirements page for more information. To request a consultation about licensure, email acacareers@counseling.org.


Graduate Student Ethics Awards

The Graduate Student Ethics Awards, with separate categories for master's degree and doctoral degree students, reward the exceptional and demonstrable understanding of the ACA Code of Ethics. 


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