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VISTAS Online is an innovative publication produced for ACA by Dr. Garry R. Walz and Dr. Jeanne C. Bleuer of Counseling Outfitters, LLC. Its purpose is to provide a means of capturing the ideas, information and experiences generated by the annual ACA Conference and selected ACA Division Conferences. Papers on a program or practice that has been validated through research or experience may also be submitted. This digital collection of peer-reviewed articles is authored by counselors, for counselors. VISTAS Online contains the full text of over 900 proprietary counseling articles published from 2004 to 2017.

The Privileged Defense: Affluenza’s Potential Impact on Counselors in Court Proceedings

Ashley Clark


Concerns regarding affluenza as an epidemic have been quietly raised in a sociological context and largely ignored in mainstream society for several decades. When the idea of affluenza was raised in the criminal court system by the defense’s evaluating psychologist during a high profile manslaughter case, however, the concerns regarding effects of affluenza rose to the forefront. In fact, the trial of Ethan Couch, product of affluent parents, caused public outcry when an affluenza defense was noted as a potential contributor to a seemingly lenient sentence. This paper provides a brief overview of the history and development of the affluenza concept, evaluates the impact of affluenza through a systemic lens, reviews systemic influences in court rulings, discusses the potential impact of counselors’ roles in the courtroom, and provides a case illustration to demonstrate this potential.

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