According to the ACA Code of Ethics, the “primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients” (Standard A.1.a). Helping professionals also should be “aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors and avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals” (Standard A.4.b). Keeping both points in mind, helping professionals must sometimes help clients make informed decisions about behavior that is harmful to themselves and, potentially, others. Whether or not to use contraception is one potential area related to sexuality counseling for which helping professionals may need to inform clients about potential risk.
Consider the following case study:
You are a helping professional working in a college counseling center. You just completed your intake evaluation session with Josiah, a 20-year-old sophomore. Josiah was mandated to attend six counseling sessions after he received a citation from the campus police for underage drinking at a party sponsored by the fraternity to which Josiah belongs.
During the intake session, Josiah was very verbal and willing to share information about his background and current experiences. He shared with you that he frequently drinks six to eight beers or other alcoholic beverages at a time, typically every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday when he “parties” with friends. He described this as normal behavior among his peer group, saying that this is “just how we unwind from all the stress of school every week.”
When you asked Josiah about his relationships and sexual behaviors, he stated that he has not had a steady partner since high school, saying, “People here just aren’t into long-term relationships.” He admitted that he typically “hooks up” with at least one or two partners each weekend, and when you asked him what he meant by that, he said, “Sex.” You asked if he uses any contraception in these sexual encounters, and he said, “No, I don’t like how they feel, so I won’t have sex if the other person would make me use one.”
You asked Josiah what his goals are for counseling and what he would like to change, and he responded, “Not much really. I like my life and have fun with all the partying we do here. I guess I need to learn to be a little more careful with my drinking since I got that police citation, but otherwise I feel really happy with my life right now and can’t think of much that I really want to work on in counseling.”
American Counseling Association. (2014). ACA code of ethics. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/Resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdf
Frankel, M., Rachlin, H., & Yip-Bannicq, M. (2012). How nondirective therapy directs: The power of empathy in the context of unconditional positive regard. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 11(3), 205–214.
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