Preventing Counselor Impairment

Preventing Counselor Impairment - Article 53 Preventing...

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243 Article 53 Preventing Counselor Impairment: Vulnerability, Wellness, and Resilience Gerard Lawson and Beth Venart The Governing Council of the American Counseling Association established a Task Force on Impaired Counselors in the spring of 2003. The charge for the task force was to “develop a proposal with options for ACA to address the needs of impaired counselors and their clients.” The creation of this task force reflected a growing awareness of impairment in the field and ACA’s commitment to identifying and developing intervention strategies and resources to help impaired counselors. This article outlines the early work of the task force in addressing one of the primary needs that has been identified, specifically the prevention of impairment through building counselor resiliency. The Task Force on Impaired Counselors surveyed a sample of ACA members to better understand their beliefs about counselor impairment. The results of that survey led to three broad avenues for addressing the needs of impaired counselors. The first is impairment prevention and resiliency education designed for all counselors and initially targeted to the membership of ACA. Education efforts build on counselors’ strengths, help counselors identify areas of vulnerability, and provide strategies to promote wellness. The second area of need involves resources, intervention, and treatment for counselors who are impaired. This includes increasing access to resources for impaired counselors and establishing best practice criteria for those who counsel and supervise impaired clinicians. Further, the task force recognized the importance of advocacy within ACA and on the state and national levels to address the needs of impaired counselors—through clarifying ethical guidelines, providing access to services for impaired counselors before ethical concerns arise, and addressing the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment among counselors. This article focuses primarily on the first of the three areas of need: wellness and resiliency. The task force on impaired counselors has developed the following working definition of counselor impairment to guide our work: Therapeutic impairment occurs when there is a significant negative impact on a counselor’s professional functioning which compromises client care or poses the potential for harm to the client. Impairment may be due to substance abuse or chemical dependency; mental illness; personal crisis (traumatic events or vicarious trauma, burnout, life crisis); and physical illness or debilitation. Impairment in and of itself does not imply unethical behavior. Such behavior may occur as a symptom of impairment, or may occur in counselors who are not impaired. Counselors who are impaired are distinguished
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This note was uploaded on 09/12/2011 for the course MHS 6803 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '11 term at University of Central Florida.

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Preventing Counselor Impairment - Article 53 Preventing...

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