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Ethics: “Oops I Didn’t Know!”

Mental Health Professionals have an ethical obligation to uphold their professions’ Code of Ethics (e.g., American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics, National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics). For some this may seem like common sense. Others may view themselves as able to practice on a ‘slippery slope’ by practicing according to their own personal and professional code of ethics. I would like to bring attention to importance of adhering to the mandated code of ethics in your profession, as well as national and state licensure and credentialing boards. The ACA offers clarification in the code of ethics purpose statement reminding us that both professional counselors and counselors-in-training must uphold the code (ACA, 2014). All Codes of Ethics have similar points in their purpose statement. As an educator and professional counselor, I have heard the unfortunate excuse “oops I didn’t know that was unethical” given one too many times as an explanation for behaviors, actions and decisions that should have been avoided. Failure to know is not an excuse for unethical behavior and likely does not remove or minimize negative consequences for engaging in unethical practices. All mental health professionals are encouraged to review their guiding Code of Ethics, save the document and reference it when needed. Please do not place yourself at risk for an ethical violation. Having a solid understanding of ethical principles is essential to your training and practice as counselors. You might even find ethics fun and interesting!



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