Professional Responsibility

Counselors aspire to open, honest, and accurate communication in dealing with the public and other professionals. Counselors facilitate access to counseling services, and they practice in a nondiscriminatory manner within the boundaries of professional and personal competence; they also have a responsibility to abide by the ACA Code of Ethics. Counselors actively participate in local, state, and national associations that foster the development and improvement of counseling. Counselors are expected to advocate to promote changes at the individual, group, institutional, and societal levels that improve the quality of life for individuals and groups and remove potential barriers to the provision or access of appropriate services being offered. Counselors have a responsibility to the public to engage in counseling practices that are based on rigorous research methodologies. Counselors are encouraged to contribute to society by devoting a portion of their professional activity to services for which there is little or no financial return (pro bono publico). In addition, counselors engage in self-care activities to maintain and promote their own emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being to best meet their professional responsibilities.
C.1. Knowledge of and Compliance With Standards
Counselors have a responsibility to
read, understand, and follow the ACA Code of Ethics and adhere to applicable laws and regulations.
C.2. Professional Competence
C.2.a. Boundaries of
Counselors practice only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, super- vised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience. Whereas multicultural counseling competency is required across all counseling specialties, counselors gain knowledge, personal awareness, sensitivity, dispositions, and skills pertinent to being a culturally competent counselor in working with a diverse client population.
C.2.b. New Specialty Areas of Practice
Counselors practice in specialty areas new to them only after appropriate education, training, and supervised experience. While developing skills in new specialty areas, counselors take steps to ensure the competence of their work and protect others from possible harm.
C.2.c. Qualified for Employment Counselors accept employment only for positions for which they are qualified given their education, training, supervised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience. Counselors hire for professional counseling positions only individuals who are qualified and competent for those positions.
C.2.d. Monitor Effectiveness Counselors continually monitor their effectiveness as professionals and take steps to improve when necessary. Counselors take reasonable steps to seek peer supervision to evaluate their efficacy as counselors.

C.2.e. Consultations on Ethical Obligations
Counselors take reasonable steps to consult with other counselors, the ACA Ethics and Professional Standards Department, or related professionals when they have questions regarding their ethical obligations or professional practice.
C.2.f. Continuing Education Counselors recognize the need for continuing education to acquire and maintain a reasonable level of awareness of current scientific and professional information in their fields of activity. Counselors maintain their competence in the skills they use, are open to new procedures, and remain informed regarding best practices for working with diverse populations.
C.2.g. Impairment
Counselors monitor themselves for signs of impairment from their own physical, mental, or emotional problems and refrain from offering or providing professional services when impaired. They seek assistance for problems that reach the level of professional impairment, and, if necessary, they limit, suspend, or terminate their professional responsibilities until it is determined that they may safely resume their work. Counselors assist colleagues or supervisors in recognizing their own professional impairment and provide consultation and assistance when war- ranted with colleagues or supervisors showing signs of impairment and intervene as appropriate to prevent imminent harm to clients.
C.2.h. Counselor Incapacitation, Death, Retirement, or Termination of Practice
Counselors prepare a plan for the transfer of clients and the dissemination of records to an identified colleague or records custodian in the case of the counselor’s incapacitation, death, retirement, or termination of practice.
C.3. Advertising and Soliciting Clients
C.3.a. Accurate Advertising When advertising or otherwise rep- resenting their services to the public, counselors identify their credentials in an accurate manner that is not false, misleading, deceptive, or fraudulent.
C.3.b. Testimonials
Counselors who use testimonials do not solicit them from current clients, former clients, or any other persons who

may be vulnerable to undue influence. Counselors discuss with clients the implications of and obtain permission for the use of any testimonial.
C.3.c. Statements by Others When feasible, counselors make reason- able efforts to ensure that statements made by others about them or about the counseling profession are accurate.
C.3.d. Recruiting Through Employment
Counselors do not use their places of employment or institutional affiliation to recruit clients, supervisors, or consultees for their private practices.
C.3.e. Products and Training Advertisements
Counselors who develop products related to their profession or conduct workshops or training events ensure that the advertisements concerning these products or events are accurate and disclose adequate information for consumers to make informed choices.
C.3.f. Promoting to Those Served Counselors do not use counseling, teaching, training, or supervisory relationships to promote their products or training events in a manner that is deceptive or would exert undue influence on individuals who may be vulnerable. However, counselor educators may adopt textbooks they have authored for instructional purposes.
C.4. Professional Qualifications
C.4.a. Accurate Representation Counselors claim or imply only professional qualifications actually completed and correct any known misrepresentations of their qualifications by others. Counselors truthfully represent the qualifications of their professional colleagues. Counselors clearly distinguish between paid and volunteer work experience and accurately describe their continuing education and specialized training.
C.4.b. Credentials
Counselors claim only licenses or certifications that are current and in good standing.
C.4.c. Educational Degrees Counselors clearly differentiate be- tween earned and honorary degrees.
C.4.d. Implying Doctoral-Level Competence
Counselors clearly state their highest earned degree in counseling or a closely related field. Counselors do not imply doctoral-level competence when possessing a master’s degree in counseling or a related field by referring to themselves as “Dr.” in a counseling context when their doctorate is not in counseling or a related field. Counselors do not use “ABD” (all but dissertation) or other such terms to imply competency.
C.4.e. Accreditation Status
Counselors accurately represent the accreditation status of their degree pro- gram and college/university.
C.4.f. Professional Membership Counselors clearly differentiate between current, active memberships and former memberships in associations. Members of ACA must clearly differentiate be- tween professional membership, which implies the possession of at least a master’s degree in counseling, and regular membership, which is open to individuals whose interests and activities are consistent with those of ACA but are not qualified for professional membership.
C.5. Nondiscrimination
Counselors do not condone or engage in discrimination against prospective or current clients, students, employees, supervisees, or research participants based on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/ partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law.
C.6. Public Responsibility
C.6.a. Sexual Harassment Counselors do not engage in or condone sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can consist of a single intense or severe act, or multiple persistent or pervasive acts.
C.6.b. Reports to Third Parties Counselors are accurate, honest, and objective in reporting their professional activities and judgments to appropriate third parties, including courts, health insurance companies, those who are the recipients of evaluation reports, and others.
C.6.c. Media Presentations
When counselors provide advice or comment by means of public lectures, demonstrations, radio or television programs, recordings, technology-based applications, printed articles, mailed material, or other media, they take reasonable precautions to ensure that

  1. the statements are based on ap- propriate professional counsel- ing literature and practice,
  2. the statements are otherwise consistent with the ACA Code of Ethics, and
  3. the recipients of the information are not encouraged to infer that a professional counseling relation- ship has been established.
    C.6.d. Exploitation of Others Counselors do not exploit others in their professional relationships.
    C.6.e. Contributing to the Public Good
    (Pro Bono Publico) Counselors make a reasonable effort to provide services to the public for which there is little or no financial return (e.g., speaking to groups, shar- ing professional information, offering reduced fees).
    C.7. Treatment Modalities
    C.7.a. Scientific Basis for Treatment
    When providing services, counselors use techniques/procedures/modalities that are grounded in theory and/or have an empirical or scientific foundation.
    C.7.b. Development and Innovation
    When counselors use developing or innovative techniques/procedures/ modalities, they explain the potential risks, benefits, and ethical considerations of using such techniques/procedures/ modalities. Counselors work to minimize any potential risks or harm when using these techniques/procedures/modalities.
    C.7.c. Harmful Practices Counselors do not use techniques/pro- cedures/modalities when substantial evidence suggests harm, even if such services are requested.
    C.8. Responsibility to Other Professionals
    C.8.a. Personal Public Statements
    When making personal statements in a public context, counselors clarify that they are speaking from their personal perspec- tives and that they are not speaking on behalf of all counselors or the profession.

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