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Ethical and Legal Issues in Group Counseling

Topics to be discussed
Introduction: A Brief History of Ethics in Psychology Ethical Issues in Group Membership Confidentiality The Use and Abuse of Group Techniques The Role of the Leaders’ Values in Group Leadership Ethical Issues in Group Work with Diverse Populations Ethical Issues in Technology and Group Work Competence and Training Issues Guidelines for Ethical and Legal Practice Conclusion: Ethics and Law in Group Counseling

Introduction: A Brief History of Ethics in Psychology

Main Objectives of Presentation Highlight ethical issues faced by group workers Briefly overview how established ethics codes are applied to various dilemmas BRIEF HISTORY Hippocratic Oath* Over 2,000 years old, written by Hippocrates, considered the foundation of modern ethics. Based on the concept of „ethos‟, a Greek word closely associated with character. “Do no harm.” Prohibits exploitation (financial, emotional, sexual, etc.) Rights and responsibilities of both the professional and the customer/patient/client – the right of one party is the responsibility of the other.


The need arose for a shared ethical code to boost credibility. Many amendments and changes have been made since then. what was considered ethical years ago in the practice of psychology may be considered unethical today (and vice versa). This would be the first of its kind. in consultation with the Hippocratic Oath. APA produced the first draft in the early 1950s. Changes in society are reflected in the changing ethics code – i. .e.Introduction - First APA Code of Ethics* Private psychology and social work practitioners increased after WWII.

new developments within the field. do not make false promises or reassurances.Personal integrity – be willing to follow through on what you say you will do.Personal and professional consciousness – know the laws and regulations governing your conduct and your profession. (2) Supervision and training. (4) Attend relevant conferences and workshops . Keep your word. . - - Factors in Ethical Decision-making (1) Consultation with colleagues.Introduction Ethical Decision-making . (3) Keeping up with trends.

etc. counseling. families.Introduction - - Codes of Ethics Used in Psychology Today Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice (American Counseling Association.) - . etc. 2002) American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Code of Ethics (AAMFT. 1999) Ethics codes within psychology differ according to: (1) National/state laws.g. psychoanalysis. (2) The types of groups involved (e.g. teenagers. 1995) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (American Psychological Association. 2000) Code of Ethics for National Association of Social Workers (NASW.) (3) The type of therapy undertaken (e.

purpose and goal of the group. Informed Consent Is information on nature.Ethical Issues in Group Management 1. be capable of a competent decision and independently agree to the option Failure to obtain informed consent can result in civil liability . An individual is provided with all information that might influence their willingness to participate Getting an informed consent means that the individual must understand their options.

Ethical Issues in Group Management 2. by court order Most effort is placed in informing members on: Nature Procedures Rights Benefits Members should also be asked why they do not wish to participate In case of getting a consent members may be explored by leaders during screening or orientation .g. Involuntary membership Members unwilling to take part but in some way are required to e.

Ethical Issues in Group Management 2. Involuntary membership Options of dropping out is not encouraged but leaders could give support and debriefing Leaders should not conclude that it is a mandatory group and members would be involuntary and unwilling to participate .

Members should also give reasons to leave If a member has decided to leave the leader nor any other group member must not interfere with the decision made . Freedom to withdraw from a group Procedures for leaving a group needs to be explained to all members before the session begins.Ethical Issues in Group Management 3. when they are given consent Although members have the right to leave they should give notice in advance and not encouraged to do so.

Freedom to withdraw from a group If a person leaves without putting much thought in consequences could be negative for the remaining members. Person leaving could have unsolved issues Withdrawal should not be encouraged.Ethical Issues in Group Management 3. if members have any doubts about anything the best thing to do is to stay and talk Member withdrawal could be reduced through preparation and screening .

Developing an invitational style Avoiding assaulting verbal confrontations Describing behaviors rather than making judgments Leaders should deal with any concerns members have after a group session Rushed decisions should not be made by group members after just a few sessions of group work .Ethical Issues in Group Management 4. Psychological risks for members Leaders should be responsible enough to see that this does not happen Psychological risks could be reduced by the following: Knowing members limits Respecting their requests.

Ethical Issues in Group Management 4. Psychological risks for members Its not the leaders responsibility to get in the way of a members decision but leaders could give advice and give better options Risks are to be identified and dealt with at the beginning And it‟s the members who decide how far they should go to Possible risk of group work Self disclosure Maintaining confidentiality Scapegoat Confrontation To reduce psychological risk there should be a contract where leaders state their responsibility and members state commitment .

.(1) Therapist must keep group members‟ confidence.This can mean enforcing some type of sanction on an offending member.Confidentiality General Guidelines . understood and signed by group members is a wise policy.(2) Group members must keep each other‟s confidence.Discussed during individual screening process of group members. .A written contract. . Aspects of Confidentiality . - . Leaders are responsible for ensuring that members maintain confidentiality within the group. read. before entering into actual therapy.

(5) Specific written permission is given by group members. - Limits of Confidentiality Confidence must be maintained unless: (1) Clients are likely to harm themselves/others.Confidentiality - ACA Code of Ethics (1995) Counselors must: (1) Clearly define confidentiality to clients. and/or physical property. (2) Explain its importance. (4) Communicate to members that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed – it has its limits. (2) Abuse of children/elderly is suspected. Strictly only relevant information is shared. (4) They are being supervised in a supervisory relationship. (3) Discuss difficulties. Members should be informed if information about them is shared . (3) There is a court order to provide the information.

Discuss the minors‟ concerns.” (Corey & Corey.Confidentiality - Confidentiality of Minors Cooperation and written permission from parents/guardians is a wise policy. Discuss the limits of confidentiality. Use simple. “People are not going to reveal facts about their personal lives unless they feel quite sure they can trust both the leader and the members to respect their confidences. easily understandable vocabulary. 2006) .

Use and abuse of group techniques Group techniques are leaders interventions aimed at facilitating movement within a group Group techniques includes: Suggesting good behavior Being silent Inviting members to deal with a conflict Offering feedback Techniques should not be used to cover up leaders discomfort Techniques used in consideration with members background .

Use and abuse of group techniques Techniques left if not effective Techniques must be invited not ordered Group techniques could be abused by group members at times of involuntary memberships .

it may be inappropriate to reply.Effective Group Leadership The Role of the Leader’s Values in Group Leadership - (1) Self-awareness in terms of your own values. . 1995). as opposed to what YOU think is right. (4) Your views must be expressed in a non-judgmental manner – if you cannot do so. “The key point is that it is not your role as leader to make this man’s decision for him. even if he asks you to do so. (5) Leaders must “avoid imposing their values on clients” (ACA. (2) Awareness of the direct and indirect ways you may influence members of the group.” (Corey and Corey. 2006) Group leaders must encourage members to explore alternatives and decide for themselves. (3) Keep in mind it may be necessary to refer members to someone else if a conflict in values affects your objectivity. Members must be challenged to do what‟s right for THEM.

race. Here we would be dealing with cultural and gender diversity .Ethical issues in group work with diversity When we look at a diverse group we could be looking at a wide range of diversity Diverse population includes diversity in culture. religion and so on. gender.

Ethical issues in group work with diversity 1. Values and working with Diversity If leaders ignore some basic difference in people they can hardly be doing what is in the best interest of their clients Ethical practice requires that leaders become aware of the multicultural context in a group There could be some group norms that do not go hand and hand with cultural norms .

Values and working with Diversity Looking at our own group diversity what are some of the cultural norms that do not go hand in hand with group norms Although some techniques are designed to assist members to talk openly some may find this offensive Cultural diversity affects the issues that members bring to a group and the ways in which they might be either ready or reluctant to explore these issues As group leader you should become aware of the clues given by the members indicating to issues they may not be comfortable to talk about They should also modify their interventions to suit the members cultural and ethical background .Ethical issues in group work with diverse population 1.

Ethical issues in group work with diversity 2. Ethics and standards of preparation and practice Counselors should not only consider the members cultural view but should also consider his own personal cultural and the impact it has on the counseling process The code of ethics suggest that: Acknowledge ethically and cultural influence behavior Should have knowledge and skills to work with diverse range of members Inform members about groups values counselors should not make assumption about a person just because he is of a particular background. .

lesbian and bisexual peoples special concern and develop techniques to suit their background . gender or sexual orientation . special issues pertaining to sexual orientation The ethics codes states that „discrimination on the basis of minority status – be it unethical and un acceptable.Ethical issues in group work with diversity 3. ethnicity.‟ Leaders have the responsibility to understand the gay.

etc.g.?) . . accounts hacked into. .Less computer-literate members may have difficulties interacting. . Difficulties with Online Group Work .Confidentiality issues are rife (e.Research on effectiveness is still in its early stages.Technology and Group Work Online Groups . what if passwords are shared.Increasing popularity of online group counseling/therapy .This indicates the need for group leaders of online groups to work closely with researchers to build a foundation for ethical guidelines for online groups.Informed consent is difficult to explain and obtain online.

Training and Supervision of Group Workers .Video and computer simulations can complement group workers‟ training (e. .).g.Potential enhancement to modeling and behavioural research (e.g. computer simulations of group ratings can be used to assess performance . video-taping mock sessions for later critiquing.Technology and Group Work Impacts on Teaching.

experience and competence. .Competence and training issues Competence refers to the capacity to use the information provided to adequately weigh risks and benefits associated with participating in treatment and research According to the ethical principles. They are to represent with accuracy their education. psychologist are to provide only those services and techniques for which they are qualified by training and experience. training.

Some general suggestions to increase the level of competence are: Increase knowledge be open when you yourself have issues – TAKE PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE Try to learn more about the group . The issue of leader competence Several factors like: Group type Licenses. degrees and credentials Leaders recognizing their limitations determines the level of competence in a leader Professional competence is not arrived at once.Competence and training issues 1.

Competence and training issues 1. Are able to explain to their client the theory Are able to tell the goals in simple language . The issue of leader competence A competent leader know their techniques really well.

Professional training standards for group counselors The revised professional standards for the training of group workers specify two levels of competency and related training.Competence and training issues 2. Core knowledge competencies (qualifications) + Skill competency (experience) = specialized training Training of group leaders focus on learning group process by becoming involved in supervised experiences .

Competence and training issues 3. Training and personal experience Personal experience and training is important The three types of experience which go together with training are: Personal psycho therapy for group leaders Self exploration group leaders Training groups for group leaders .

Ethical issues in training group counselors Sample informed consent statement on experimental learning Managing multiple roles as an educator Benefits to experiential training .Competence and training issues 4.

Guidelines for Ethical and Legal Practice Awareness . .Be well-versed in basic issues such as: (1) Confidentiality (2) Parental and informed consent (3) Record keeping (4) Patient welfare protection (5) Civil rights of institutionalized patients .Know the standards of your surrounding community and the possible effects/consequences of not following those standards. . .Be aware of your legal rights and responsibilities – both personally and professionally.Know the laws and regulations of your state/country regarding your profession.

Misdiagnosis. Failure to refer a client upon realization that they need intervention beyond your level of skill. Practicing beyond the scope of competency. Abandonment of a client. . Inadequate record keeping. Violation of confidentiality.Guidelines for Ethical and Legal Practice - Potential Sources of Civil Action Sexual misconduct. Departing from established therapeutic practices. Failure to obtain/document informed consent.

limits of confidentiality. Can you think of any other safeguards? . Discuss it with the member involved and obtain a written release.) (3) Provide all the information members need to make informed choices (e. (Potential problems can be minimized by referring potential members to other group workers if deemed in their best interests. dealing with intense emotions. risks involved in group work.) (4) Be alert to situations where you must break confidentiality. (5) Keep an open line of communication – inform members of your availability outside of the group. etc.g. (2) Carefully screen potential participants.Guidelines for Ethical and Legal Practice Legal Safeguards (1) Practice good client care (always keep the welfare of the patient in mind).