The American Counseling Association and the Code of Ethics

American Counseling Association

Published statements about the value system and moral aspirations of people belonging to a particular profession, designed to improve their professionalism, and to inform the public about the behavioral standards of these experts. The American Counseling Association (ACA) is a non-profit organization, which unites professional counseling professionals in various fields of counseling, such as mental health, family, addictions, disorders after drug use, rehabilitation, education, as well as business career. The main mission of this organization is to improve the quality of the human life in the society with an assistance of professional counselors. All that was reflected in the Code of Ethics, developed and announced by this Association.

ACA, being is an educational, scientific and professional organization, is aimed at raising the overall level of human development throughout the life of people. Members of the Association recognize the diversity in our society and are adherents of the cross-cultural approach, supporting the moral values, dignity, potential and uniqueness of each person. The ACA is organized on the principle of a professional club. With the ACA assistance, an Insitute of Management Consultants was established. The ACA heads believe that their main goal is the training of external and internal consultants who are proficient in modern methods of counseling. An important role in the creation of the market of consulting services and professional consulting standards is played by counseling agencies and individual counselors. They help to solve such important issues as coordination and information service of counseling activities, maintenance, and dissemination of high- quality standards of services provided and ethics in the relations with clients, certification, and training of counselors. No less important is the activity of ACA, such as carrying out research on forecasting needs for business corporations, developing recommendations about methods and priorities of counseling. Often, the ACA members carry out publishing and advertising activities, promoting the ACA Code of Ethics with citations. ACA protect the interests of clients from non-professionalism and incompetence in their services. The Association with its subdivisions can assist clients with services in search and selection of the necessary counseling firms or counselors, provide information on the reliability and qualifications of the counselors, implemented projects, and customer reviews.

In 2005, ACA elaborated a Code of Ethics and its new edition of 2014 replaced it. The creation of an ethical code allowed the Association to explain to its current and future members, and also to those they serve, the character of ethical responsibility that all members of the Association must bear. Having the status of an ethical code of the Association, this document establishes principles that determine the ethical correct behavior of the members of the Association. All members of ACA are required to adhere to the Code of Ethics and the Standards of Common Practice. The ethical code should serve as a basis for consideration of ethical complaints directed against members of the Association. The ACA Department of Ethics is responsible for promoting and elucidating of the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics. Also, this Department develops necessary tools to ensure compliance with the ethical standards of the counseling profession and how to cite the ACA Code of Ethics. The new edition first of all presents the ethical norms more deeply in the close relation with the modern world. The common use of the social media in the counselors’ professional activity with clients became the norm of present days. It also presents new and expanded guidelines for preventing the priority of counselor’s personal values and errors in the distance counseling and the use of new technologies.

Carol W. Lewis, a professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, claims that codes of ethics have existed since the time immemorial. She writes that since the times of Hammurabi, Moses, and Hippocrates, legislators and performers proceeded from the premise that “it is easier to do right when you know what is right.” As a result, codified behavioral norms have become widely used to explain what is understood as acceptable behavior. James Bowman, the author of books about ethics, highlighted three signs of a successful code of ethics: 1) the code provides guidance for behavior, 2) it can be applied to many specialties within the profession and 3) it offers an effective means to ensure compliance with prescribed norms. Nevertheless, most codes of ethics do not contain sanctions. When codes of ethics still contain compulsory standards, they become more concrete and less ideal. They are no longer normative descriptions of the desired correct behavior, but turn into a set of clearly defined, legal requirements. Once the code of ethics becomes a description of the required behavior, the failure of which is punishable by law, it immediately becomes a code of a conduct.

In order to more clearly define the meaning of the term “code of ethics”, it is first necessary to clarify the meaning of the words “code” and “ethics”. “Code” can be interpreted in different ways: “laws, rules, regulations, standards, acts.” In combination with the word “ethics”, the meaning of this term narrows to one definition: “standard or norm”. In other words, a code of ethics is a set of norms of correct, appropriate behavior, considered appropriate for the person of a profession to which this code relates. “Ethics” is defined as “ideals, morality, principles of morality, conscience,” and also as “rules and norms governing the conduct of people in a profession.” But in fact, the concept of ethics is much larger.
A code of ethics requires all members to manifest an ethical behavior. Codes of ethics are usually developed in professional organizations. They list those social functions for the sake of maintaining which the organization exists and assure that these functions will be carried out in accordance with high moral standards. Professional codes of ethics perform two moral functions. They serve the society as a quality guarantee and carry information about the standards and limitations of members’ activities in the area for which these codes are developed.