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Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions 10th Edition

Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions (10th Edition)

Book Edition10th Edition
Author(s)Corey, Corey
PublisherCengage Learning
Contemporary Professional Issues
Gender-Sensitive Couples and Family Therapy
The Case of Marge and AI
The Case of Melody
Responsibilities of Couples and Family Therapists
Confidentiality in Couples and Family Therapy
Chapter 11, Contemporary Professional Issues, The Case of Ludwig, Exercise 01
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Laura, a master's level graduate student in a counseling program, has completed a "Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling" course that was very personal and required a lot of self-reflection and journaling. During this course, she had the opportunity to listen to and talk with two lesbian women who had been living in an open, committed relationship for 15 years. In meeting these people, she decided it was time for her to "come out" too. She started with a close friend who had known her all her life, but it did not go well. Her friend was shocked and very disapproving, and they have not talked to each other since the disclosure. She is also wondering whether she should now tell her parents because she is afraid her former friend will say something to someone in the small town in which they live, and it will get back to her parents anyway.


Laura is now failing her "Methods of Research" course because she has missed a lot of classes struggling with this issue. She needs more time and help to catch up, but her instructor is unsympathetic. She does not want to tell him what is going on for fear of his reaction. Laura has been confiding in one professor, a licensed professional counselor, who is both a supervisor of her practicum and an instructor in her courses. The professor acknowledges what a difficult decision Laura is facing with regard to telling her parents and others, and the professor lets Laura know that she is available to talk to her any time the student needs a friendly ear. She also tells Laura about a lesbian counselor who has a private practice in the area. Laura is not ready to see someone she does not know, and she is reluctant to be seen going to a counselor who is known to be gay or lesbian.


The professor does nothing to persuade her differently and reminds Laura that she is available at any time. She also inquires whether Laura would like her to talk to the "Methods of Research" instructor—without disclosing more than the fact that the student is having a hard time right now and could use some help and understanding. Laura accepts this offer.


Do you think the professor/counselor was engaged in appropriate social activism or in boundary violations?


Counselor L is trained in individual therapy. After a few sessions with Client E, they come to a conclusion that their issues stem from faults within their family system. They made a recommendation for the client to attend family therapy. This clinical recommendation was not valid because the counselor's competency was in individual therapy only. The basic therapeutic models for individual therapy and family therapy are vastly different. In individual therapy, a person is considered as a sole entity and the focus is on their objectives, whereas, in family therapy, the individual is considered a part of a unit, and the focus is on collaborative objectives. Individual counselors do not have the skills required to prescribe a family-based intervention. 

Counselor L later came to the realization that Client E would feel abandoned if they were referred to another therapist. Citing these abandonment issues, Counselor L decided to continue with individual therapy while trying to break down the family dynamic of Client E. This decision was also not valid, as they are not qualified to provide care from a family therapy perspective in an individual therapy setting. Another factor of importance is that the family members are not present.


One of the basic ethical practices that all counselors must follow is to refer their clients when they are not qualified to help the client achieve their objectives in therapy. The counselor has to make sure they understand the limits of their competence. Other alternatives also include seeking supervision from a mental health professional who is more experienced or getting a consultation. However, Counselor L does not go for any of these alternatives and sticks to individual therapy, citing the abandonment issues that Client E faced. They assumed that the client might feel abandoned because of the referral. It is the counselor's ethical obligation to make it clear that the referral is made solely because of the counselor's limitations. The client's personal characteristics, such as their values, beliefs, traits, or anything else have nothing to do with the referral. 

Sample Response

Counselor L was not qualified to provide family therapy for Client E as they were trained in individual therapy. They later changed their mind considering Client E's abandonment issues and continued with individual therapy with Client E while exploring the family dynamic with other members being absent in the therapy. Their recommendation for Client E to attend family therapy was not valid.


Counselor L reasoned that Client E's abandonment issues would act as an impediment if they are referred to a family therapist. This rationale was unfounded because the counselor has to make sure that the client understands the true reasons for the referral. A referral is only made when the therapist does not have the skills to help the client and they are not being rejected or abandoned. 

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