1. First Place - University of Texas at San Antonio
    Team Members: Travis Walker, Emma Tharp, Elaine Oyama, (Dr. Barbara Herlihy, Advisor)
  2. Second Place - Johns Hopkins University
    Team Members: Cindy Bui, John-Henry Strong, Tanya P. Vasunia, TW Cherry Ng, (Dr. Sterling P. Travis, Advisor)
  3. Third Place - University of SC School of Medicine
    Team Members: Erica Hoyer, Hayden Petee, Samantha Haering, (Dr. Christine Sacco-Bene, Advisor) 

The American Counseling Association (ACA) Graduate Student Ethics Awards for Master's Degree Students recognize exceptional, demonstrable understanding of the ACA Code of Ethics, the foundation of ethical professional counseling practice.

To be determined

To be determined

Members of the ACA Ethics Committee

The names of the team members and the names of the institutions of the winning teams will be published in Counseling Today and CT Online.

First Place Award:

  • $100 honorarium and a certificate of recognition for each student team member.
  • Complimentary registration for the 2024 ACA Conference and Expo (April 11-13, 2024 | New Orleans, LA), and recognition during event. Winners will receive further information at the time of award notification. 
  • Essay will be posted online. 

Second Place Award: $75 honorarium and a certificate of recognition for each student team member.

Third Place Award: $50 honorarium and a certificate of recognition for each student team member.

Honorable Mention Award: Certificate of recognition for each student team member.

Sponsor:The American Counseling Association Foundation


  • Each student team member must be currently enrolled in good standing in a master's degree program in counseling or counselor education and must be enrolled for a minimum of three credits during the term when the competition will take place.
  • Each student and faculty member on a team must be a member of the American Counseling Association.

Expand lists below to read detailed criteria for doctoral student candidates

  • A counseling or counselor education program may have one team of master’s degree students and one team of doctoral degree students in the competition.
  • Master’s degree and doctoral degree teams will be judged separately. Teams must be made up of students in the same level of a degree program. This is not a mixed-level competition.
  • Counseling or counselor education programs with separate and distinct campuses may have a master's degree team representing each campus. Separate and distinct campuses are considered those that have stand-alone programs.
  • A single counseling or counselor education program that has multiple satellite campuses is not eligible for multiple master’s degree team submissions. (These campuses would have one dedicated representative in an accreditation process, representing the multiple satellite campuses.)
  • Teams are limited to having either a minimum of three students or a maximum of four students.
  • Each team must have a faculty member who will serve as an administrative contact person for the counseling or counselor education program.
  • The role of the faculty contact person is to represent the team’s counseling or counselor education program only.
  • Faculty members should not act as consultants in the awards competition.
  • The faculty member’s email address must be their own, not that of a student.

The team essays will be scored in terms of five rubrics:

  1. Identification of the Dilemma: The team clearly identified the ethical dilemma(s) including conflicting factors, dimensions and variables included in the professional quandary. The dilemma was described in relationship to ethical standards, laws and professional ideas or aspirations.
  2. Proposed Ethical Action: The team proposed action it would take including having: (a) clearly articulated professional interventions; (b) persuasive justification for proposed action; and (c) a description of the professionally recognized decision-making model or process used to arrive at decisions.
  3. Use of the ACA Code of Ethics: The team cited appropriate sections of the ACA Code of Ethics (2014) and, if appropriate, other ethical guidelines considered in rendering their arguments. In addition, the team provided a clear rationale regarding selected sections of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics and any other ethical guidelines cited.
  4. Use of the Proposed Model: The steps of the group's decision-making model were clearly followed and skillfully applied to the case.
  5. Overall: A thorough yet concise paper addressing details of the case and (a) the case study included proper citation of sources throughout the paper using the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association 7th edition for the reference list; (b) the paper was well organized and written, and information was presented clearly and concisely; (c) the paper cited the appropriate scholarly literature relevant to solving the ethical dilemma; and (d) the paper is no longer than 10 pages.


  • Submit an essay addressing this year's essay prompt, found below.
  • Each team member must provide their American Counseling Association member number at the time of submission. Incomplete submissions will not be accepted.
  • Registering on the American Counseling Association website to generate an ID number does not constitute membership. For information about membership, contact the membership department or call 800-347-6647.
  • By submitting an essay, teams and team members agree to allow their names and essay responses to be posted on CT Online.

Expand list below to read essay prompt for doctoral student candidates

Wayne has been living and working as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Tennessee for the past three years. Prior to living in Tennessee, Wayne lived in Michigan where he completed his master’s in counseling. After graduating with his master’s degree, Wayne worked in a private practice, which allowed him to accumulate enough supervised clinical hours to become a LPC in Michigan. To date, Wayne has maintained licenses in both states because he has thought about moving back to Michigan. His current practice in Tennessee is thriving. He has branded himself well and has done a good job marketing his practice on various websites including a reputable nationally known website. He sees clients both in-person and via telehealth.

Last month, Wayne received a call from Casey. On the intake form, Casey identified himself as a 19-year old, African American male who lives in Michigan. Casey found Wayne on a nationally known website where counselors typically advertise. Wayne maintained advertisements as a counselor for both Michigan and Tennessee. Because Casey preferred telehealth counseling, Wayne agreed to take on Casey as a client. In their first two virtual-sessions together, Casey told Wayne that he wanted to work on managing depressive episodes and bouts of anxiety. However, at the end of their most recent telecounseling session, which was the third session, Casey nervously announced to Wayne, “I have been struggling with something for a long time…. and ummm… think that I…. ummm…. may be… I think I …umm…may be trans…and would like you to….ugh…start calling me Cassie and want to try…mmm…to use she/they pronouns.” Because it was the end the session, Wayne said, “Well, we can talk about this at our next session.”

After the session, Wayne struggled with what he was going to do because he holds fairly conservative beliefs about LGBTQ+ issues, but really struggles to understand transgender issues. After about a week of processing and engaging in his own research about what he was going to do, at the next session, he informed Cassie, “I can longer work with you because your presenting issues conflict with my ‘sincerely held principles’ and according to Tennessee Law, I do not have to work with you.” With tears in her eyes, Cassie said, “But your online ad said you worked with LGBTQ+ issues.” Wayne replied, “That box must have gotten checked by mistake, and I am sorry about that.” Wayne kept the session rather short and recommended to Cassie that she go back to the website to find another counselor in her area. 

A few days later, Wayne received a call from a hospital in Michigan informing him that Cassie had attempted suicide and would be hospitalized for the next several days. Given that Wayne was the last clinician on record, the hospital sought his involvement and recommendations for Cassie’s future care.

Wayne feels stuck and unsure how to proceed.

Sample Ethical Standards Involved (Not Exhaustive):

  • A.1.a. Primary Responsibility The primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the

    dignity and promote the welfare of clients

  • A.2.c. Developmental and cultural sensitivity
  • A.4.a. Avoiding Harm
  • A.4.b Personal Values
  • A.11.c. Appropriate termination
  • A.11.d. Appropriate Transfer of Services Values within Termination and Referral
  • A.12. Abandonment and Client Neglect
  • C.5. Nondiscrimination
  • I.1.a. Knowledge Counselors know and understand the ACA Code of Ethics and other applicable ethics codes from professional organizations or certification and licensure bodies of which they are members. Lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of an ethical responsibility is not a defense against a charge of unethical conduct
  • I.1.c. Conflicts Between Ethics and Laws
  • I.2.c. Consultation
  • C.4.a. Accurate Representation (Relevant because counselor ad said they work with LGBTQ+ issues, when in fact counselor does not “Counselors… accurately describe…specialized training”).

Legal Issues:

  • Client is a resident of MI, counselor using his MI license to see this client. However, Counselor who lives in Tennessee is using Tennessee law (SB 1556) to not see MI client.