Ethical Standards of Counseling

The values of Theravive are not replacements of regulated ethics. Mental Health associations have developed standardized codes of ethics in order to govern the professional application of qualified therapists. These ethics are the basic framework that defines professional therapy, and are in no way the same as values.


Values are much different than ethics in that ethics define the framework of professional therapy, while values predict the motivation and mechanisms of therapy. Think of ethics as the foundation of a home, and values as the model of the home.


While ethics are critical to the practice of professional therapy, they alone are not enough to speak to values, or lack thereof, in counseling. The purpose of ethics are not to define values. Yes, they are certainly important, and we very strongly uphold them, but they have an entirely different purpose.


For example, an ethical principle may state that a therapist cannot have an external relationship with a client until at least 2 years have past since the termination of the professional relationship (called a dual relationship). This is an ethical standard. Ethics are rooted in philosophy, in societal norms, and not always in science (such as in the example just cited, one regulatory body may say two years, another may say 3 years, and neither is completely scientific). Regulatory bodies have differences in their ethical codes from one another, and members of their respective associations must adhere to them completely in order to be in good standing with their regulatory body.


While ethics are vital to the practice of counseling and therapy, they do not speak to values at all. It is perfectly legitimate for a counselor to be completely ethical in his or her practice, and at the same time reject the idea of values in counseling (we do not believe in values-free counseling). A counselor could be highly ethical, and yet at the same time view people as not having inherent, absolute value (moral relativism), or see no moral distinction between marriage and divorce, or view marriage as merely a "contract." A counselor can be highly ethical and rapidly prescribe drugs (using drugs as a first resort) to deal with problems or define mothers and fathers as simply any human entity (i.e. a "village") taking care of a child, rejecting the principles of a loving family being a superior environment to raise a child over the "village" (i.e. society at large being somehow just as inherently good for raising children as a nuclear family). A counselor can be highly ethical and at the same time view "right" as anything a person feels or society defines as "right", rejecting the idea of moral absolutes. Indeed, this is the very reason why Theravive was created, because many people looking for help want counselors who uphold clear, standard values, rather than sterilize or remove them altogether from the counseling room.


Counselors on Theravive are bound by ethical standards regulated by mental health associations and in addition are transparent with their values.

It is important, therefore, to understand that ethics and values exist in harmony, and that we believe a good counselor is one who is not only ethical in his or her practice, but also one who provides transparency to clients regarding their values and approach to counseling before therapy even begins.


Here are some links to more on ethical standards from regulated professional bodies of mental health: (please note that because ethics are rooted in philosophy more than testable science, many of these will differ from one another).


American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Code of Ethics

American Group Psychotherapy Association: Guidelines for Ethics

American Psychological Association (APA) Code of Ethics

American Association of Christian Counselors: Code of Ethics

American Counseling Association: Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice

British Columbia Association for Clinical Counsellors: Code of Ethical Conduct

Canadian Counselling Association: Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice

Canadian Psychological Association Ethical Standards

Canadian Traumatic Stress Network [Reseau Canadian du Stress Traumatique]: Ethical Principles

Christian Association for Psychological Studies: Ethics Statement

International Society for Mental Health Online: Suggested Principles for the Online Provision of Mental Health Services

National Board for Certified Counselors: Code of Ethics

National Board for Certified Counselors: The Practice of Internet Counseling

Avoiding Exploitive Dual Relationships: A Decision-making Model


Influence follows close upon the heels of character -- Caroline Dall
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