ACA Code of Ethics | A Comprehensive Guide | Ethics demystified (2023)


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Why it is important to understand the 2023 ACA Code of Ethics

It is important to learn the ACA Code of Ethics. After your state advisory body's code of ethics, the ACA code of ethics is the code of ethics most commonly referred to by advisors.

The American Advisory Associationis also the organization that provided funds to take action for LPC's interstate legal practice. This step towards interstate practice is commonly referred to as theAdvice compact.

LPCs/LMHCs should also understand that the American Counseling Association may have authority with certain state advisory bodies where licensees of those states are subject to disciplinary action.

Some states have adopted the ACA Code of Ethics as their code of ethics in a variety of ways:

1) You have accepted the ACA Code of Ethics by reference. In other words, "We don't have the text of the ACA Code in our laws or rules, but read them and that's the ethics you should follow."

2) The state has established by law that licensees must follow the ACA Code of Ethics unless there is a conflict with other sections of law. In these cases, state law takes precedence.

3) It's not written in state law, it's written in board rules.

4) In still other states, the ACA Code of Ethics is actually being adopted and enforced into law.

In all cases, the ACA has disciplinary authority over its members and may suspend or revoke membership.

However, in many states, some of ACA's ethical policies may conflict with your state licensing law.

Compliance with the ACA Code of Ethics shall not prevent disciplinary action by the State Councilas they bothCodes of ethics can be contradictory.Examples are bartering and patients with communicable diseases.

*This information in no way reflects the opinions or views of this author.*

Six ACA code sections

For 2023, the ACA Code of Ethics has not changed. It is the same as the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics.

Here's a comprehensive guide thatclarifies six of the least understood and important sections of the ACA Code of Ethics.This article contains ACA's position on:

  1. barter transactions, intimate and prohibited non-counseling relationships,
  2. Confidentiality,
  3. barter,
  4. disclosure of infectious diseases,
  5. non-discrimination,
  6. sexual relations,
  7. Credentials,
  8. Elementary health trainingand remote consulting.

In many states, if there is a conflict, yoursProfessional ethics take precedence over professional association codes of ethics.

1) Section A: Barter, intimate and forbidden relationships without counseling


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Counselors can act if the agreement is not exploitative and will not harm the patient. If the customer agrees in writing and it is culturally appropriate, bartering is permitted.

While this is ACA's official position, it's important to understand whyBartering is unethicalnaturally.

LPCs cannot include a patient for counseling if they are in a current intimate relationship.

LPCs are prohibited from entering into intimate relationships with customers for 5 years from the last date of contact. Important: This may conflict with your state's licensing laws and regulations.

In principle, all treatments that the LPC subjects its clients to should be presented in writing, orally and continuously.

Provide informed consent in a language the patient understands. Gain a basic understanding of your patients' cultural and developmental issues. If the patient does not clearly understand what the LPC has conveyed, the counselor has not adequately given the patient's consent.

2) Section B: Confidentiality and Privacy

Contagious and life-threatening diseases

“Counselors may be entitled to disclose their patient's infectious diseasestatus to known third parties.”

Note: This is subject to the advisor's state law.

Responsibility to Parents and Guardians

Counselors work to establish collaborative relationships with parents/guardians, where appropriate, to best serve clients.

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Client access to recordings

In general, ACA's ethics policy is that when a patient requests a copy of their records, the consultant provides the minimum information required.

3) Section C: Certificates, Professional Responsibility

"The counselor acts in the best interest of the patient when interacting with all levels of groups and society."

Disability, death, retirement or cessation of Consultant's practice

"In the event of death, the counselor prepares and identifies a licensed mental health third party who becomes the custodian of the patient's records."

Some states have laws governing the retention of mental health records. Many states do not have specific retention requirements. The law that regulates general medical records is often quoted.


"Advisors don't ask for testimonialsfrom current or former patients or others who may be susceptible to inappropriate influence.”

The main consideration is the counselor's power imbalance over a client or current supervisee. There is a power imbalance in ex-patients, and it is wise to regard this power as permanent.

ACA takes strong account of the power imbalance between the counselor and patients or others.

By default, it is the advisor's responsibility to determine the size of the power difference.

In contrast, when the supervision ends, the supervisors/supervises have simply become colleagues in the counseling profession. Everyone becomes individually accountable for their consulting licenses.

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The ACA Code of Ethics position on discrimination is strict and broad.

“Counselors do not discriminate on the basis of age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/marital status, language preference,
socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis required by law.”

Does this mean that we treat every customer regardless of the above factors?

1) We are obliged to arrange for treatment of persons using services, if necessary. We are under no obligation to treat every customer we encounter.

2) Discriminatory advice is often punished by the board as incompetence or exceeding one's own area of ​​expertise.

3) We are committed to protecting our customers from harm.

There are instances when a therapist is unable or unwilling to change the way they view a demographic. For example, a counselor's religious beliefs could harm a client.

4) Section D: Employers: Relations with

Negative conditions and protection from penalties

“Consultants warn their employers about inappropriate policies and practices. You try to effect change... by constructive measures... If such policies... harm the customer... proceed appropriately
Action. Such actions may include...voluntarily
Termination of Employment."

It is not uncommon for advisor-employer relationships to become controversial. When a counselor has determined that the organization's policies are harmful to clients or require them to practice unethically, they may have to make difficult decisions. Underneath they leave the counseling center.

"Counselors will not harass a colleague or employee, or fire an employee who has acted responsibly and ethically to expose improper employer policies or practices."

A consultant in a supervisory position with an employer does not harass or retaliate against the colleague/employee.

Be careful when accepting employment.

5) Section F: Supervision, Training and Teaching

  • Counselors are fair and accurate in their assessment of supervisees.
  • Counselors treat their supervisees with respect,

Multicultural aspects/diversity in supervision

"Counselors try to understand cultural considerations in their work with managers."

There are problems when a counselor treats a patient from a foreign culture.

2) A discriminatory act is often punished by the board as incompetence or exceeding one's own area of ​​expertise.

3) We are committed to protecting our customers from harm.

There are instances when a therapist is unable or unwilling to change the way they view a demographic. For example, a counselor's religious beliefs could harm a client.


Sexual relationships with supervisees

Sexual relations with current or former supervisees are prohibited.

6) Section H: Remote Consulting, Technology and Social Media

social media

Advisors do not seek client social media presence unless they have given their consent to view such information.

It has become a common practice for websites and social media to track website visitors. This poses the problem of inappropriately following the customer.

remote consulting relationship

Counselors state both the benefits and limitations of elementary health and complete appropriateness in their patient's informed consentElementary health trainingand further education.

Summary of the ACA Code of Ethics

It is important to read and understand the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics, especially if you are an ACA member.

1) The ethics of the State Licensing Board may conflict with ACA's Code of Ethics. Even if not expressly enshrined in law, governmental ethics rules and regulations may have the same legal force.

2 Consider all factors when deciding whether to barter, use testimonials, accept a client with qualities, opinions, or interests that you do not share, accept employment, or offer basic health advice versus in-person consultation.


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