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Ethical Decision-Making

Ethical Decision-Making

Throughout their careers, all counselors are expected to make ethical decisions. As a school counselor, one should be able to understand the rights of the students when counseling them. Some students prefer any information shared with a school counselor to remain confidential. Therefore, in such a case, a school counselor should be able to make an ethical decision without violating the students’ right to confidentiality. This paper focuses on a discussion of an ethical dilemma whereas a school counselor, I have to solve an issue in which a student has suicidal thoughts.

As a school counselor, I expect to encounter a situation in which a student from a family I counsel expresses to commit suicide. In this case, telling the parents about the student’s thoughts would be important since her parents would play a vital role in guiding the student. Also, forming a group in which the students discuss suicide could be important. However, several things must be considered before the most appropriate decision is made. For instance, the student should give her opinion on whether or not the information should be shared. This would help determine whether I should disclose the information during one of the family sessions.

The ethical boundaries relevant in this situation are confidentiality and dual relationships. Confidentiality entails the information shared between a counselor and the client being kept private. Counselors can only disclose the information shared by clients after obtaining consent from the clients. Counselors must maintain confidentiality for their clients to trust them more. This would make the clients share personal information with the counselors without fearing that the information might be disclosed to someone else. In this case, assuring the student about the confidentiality of the information she shares would make her trust me as her counselor. This would make her fully share details about the suicidal thoughts. In addition, maintaining confidentiality is important in situations where disclosure of information to unwanted parties would lead to harmful effects. For instance, in this case, the student is likely to be stressed if other students or her parents are informed about the thoughts. This would eventually lead to the student committing suicide.

The student and I are placed in dual roles regarding the ethical boundary of dual relationships. This is because I act as the school counselor to the student as an individual and as the family counselor to the student’s family while the student is part of the family I counsel and, at the same time, a student. It is recommended that counselors do not enter into dual relationships with their clients. These relationships should be avoided whenever the risks of harm to the client outweigh the benefits (Herlihy and Corey, 2015). If they cannot be avoided, the counselor must proceed with caution to make sound ethical decisions. School counselors can avoid dual relationships by clearly communicating their roles and functions to administrators, parents, teachers, and students. As a school counselor avoiding family counseling sessions while handling the student’s situation would help me avoid dual relationships. This will help me make sound ethical decisions.

A model based on the stepwise approach can be used to make an ethical decision for this situation. The model was detailed by Forester-miller & Davis(1996). The first step in the seven-step process is the identification of the problem. In the student’s case, I have to decide whether to disclose the information to the parents or other students. I also have to determine whether to completely avoid a dual relationship or not since I also counsel the student’s family. In the next step of the stepwise approach, I have to apply the ACA Code of Ethics. Per the code of ethics, dual relationships must be avoided completely, especially when the risks outweigh the benefits. Besides, the ACA Code of Ethics recommends maintaining the confidentiality of information a client shares (American Counseling Association, 2009). In step 3, I have to determine the nature and dimensions of the dilemma. I need to keep the student’s information confidential for me to help her solve the issue. However, I need to know the reason why she has suicidal thoughts before deciding on this. If the parents are the ones making the student have suicidal thoughts, then I should consider obtaining consent from the student to inform her parents about the issue. In step 4, I have to devise a possible course of action. To maintain confidentiality and avoid dual relationships, I would ask to meet the student again to find out why she is thinking of committing suicide. This will then be followed by a discussion with the student on what she should do instead of committing suicide. Step 5 of the decision-making process entails considering the possible effects of my actions. Meeting the student again will help me build a better relationship with her, and she will be free to tell me everything about her suicidal thoughts. In step 6, I will evaluate the course of action I have opted for before implementing it in the last step of the model. I do not expect my actions to lead to more ethical concerns, and discussing with the student will make her disclose the necessary details. This would help me advise her on how to avoid committing suicide.

One of the areas that may require collegial consultation is the confidentiality of the information shared by the student. I might need to confirm with the school whether confidentiality must be maintained in all cases, even when revealing certain information is important. For instance, after discussing with the students, I might realize that her parents are making her suicidal thoughts. Revealing the information to the parents in such a case is important.

To sum up, the student’s situation presents a difficult ethical dilemma. Even though the information shared by the student should be kept confidential, it might be useful in solving her situation. Besides, the dual relationship should be avoided for an ethical decision to be made. Despite these challenges, it would be important to come up with the best decision that does not violate the student’s rights. Therefore, a discussion to determine the causes of suicidal thoughts would be important.


American Counseling Association, (2009). The ACA Encyclopedia of Counseling.

Forester-miller, H., & Davis, T. (1996). A Practitioner’s Guide to Ethical Decision Making. American Counseling Association, 5.

Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2015). Boundary issues in counseling: Multiple roles and responsibilities. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.


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Ethical Decision-Making

Write a 750-1,000-word paper in which you:

  • create an ethical dilemma that you could reasonably assume you might encounter in the population with which you plan to work.
  • Discuss what ethical boundaries are relevant in the situation and the importance of maintaining those boundaries.
  • Explain the ethical decision-making process. Frame the process around your dilemma when discussing each of the ethical decision-making steps that a paraprofessional must complete.
  • Address areas that may require collegial or supervisory consultation to resolve this dilemma.

    Ethical Decision-Making

    Ethical Decision-Making

Note: It is acceptable to get inspiration for this dilemma from the textbook if needed; you must create your own dilemma, not simply revisit one from the text.



  1. Worzbyt, J. C., O’Rourke, K., & Dandeneau, C. (2003). Elementary School Counseling A Commitment to Caring and Community Building. London: Taylor and Francis.
  2. Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2015). Boundary issues in counseling: Multiple roles and responsibilities. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
  3. Wiley. (2015). The ACA Encyclopedia of Counseling. Hoboken: Wiley.

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