Research Proposal: Group Dynamics Ethics in Counseling an Analysis

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Group Dynamics

Ethics in Counseling

An Analysis of the Similarities and Differences in Ethics in Individual and Group Counseling Sessions

There are different ethical requirements for a counselor in individual settings as opposed to a group setting. In the individual setting when it is one on one, there are special considerations that must be made to avoid taking advantage of patient vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can be in many different forms and a counselor must maintain a professional demeanor at all times to ensure they maintain an ethical position. However, in a group session, this can add to the complexity of the ethical considerations. Although the one on one potential for unethical behavior is minimized, the counselor must ensure that the group respects themselves and each other in a multitude of ways. This includes being able to control the group meetings, unwelcomed comments, privacy concerns, and diversity issues if they apply. This analysis will give a back group on ethics, address ethics in each situation, and then conclude by contrasting the two different scenarios.

Background on Ethics

There are a multitude of different ethical systems that can be used and different interpretations can persist in each different system. Even though the study of ethics has been covered developed over the course of millennia, it is still heavily debated. Each of the ethical systems looks at various ethical problems from different perspectives and can be applied differently depending on the individual circumstances. This makes ethics something that can take on a rather subjective nature. Furthermore, ethics are something that must be practiced continuously and no one can ever reach perfection. Thus a continuing education approach to ethics is needed to supplement a background in ethics.

There are several schools of ethical systems that are in existence and people use these as a foundation to make various ethical arguments. These include systems such as ethical formalism, utilitarianism, natural law, teleological and deontological, as well as more specific and well-defined segments among each of the main schools of though. The deontological and teleological perspectives deal with motivation and outcomes. The deontological ethical system is primarily concerned intent of the individual while teleological approach mainly focuses on the outcomes of actions. For example, if someone tried to save someone's life but ended up causing more good than harm then it could be debated whether or not the person acted ethically from these perspectives.

It isn't necessary for everyone to develop their own comprehensive ethical system; such an act is incredibly difficult and beyond the reach of most. Furthermore, different cultures and different types of people view ethics and morals very differently. However, in a counseling environment there are many rules and regulations that a counselor must adhere to at all times. Yet it is still good to have a broad understanding of ethics so that a counselor can more effectively justify and apply different approaches.

Despite the multitude of perspectives on ethics, there are some universal commonalities that can be found in nearly all cultures and peoples. Most individuals are generally agreeable and well-meaning. Yet at the same time, some people fear meeting and interacting to people they don't know and perceive them as the "out-group." It is usually when someone is perceived as a potential threat or part of an out-group that ethical violations occur. Therefore, one simple tactic for a counselor is to make sure the relationships in individual sessions are as comfortable as possible and the same would apply to a group setting.

Ethics in Individual Counseling

There are many ethical issues can are solely inherent in individual counseling. One of the most common issues is of sexual attraction from patient to counselor, counselor to patient, or in some cases both parties are attracted to each other. Even if there is some kind of attraction by either participant, this does not necessarily mean that the counseling session cannot maintain a professional stance. Physical attraction is a human quality that cannot be avoided. However, any attempts to fulfill a physical desire are definitely in violation of the code of ethics that a counselor is bound by. In fact, if a counselor uses their authority to promote a physical relationship they can even be subject to legal action.

The first step for a counselor is to recognize the sexual attraction and be conscious of these feelings. It is often the case that a counselor will ignore these feelings or dismiss them given the rather taboo nature of the counselor viewing their patient as sexually attractive (Gallagher, 2010). If these feelings are not dealt with in some way, the lack of acknowledgement can increase the risk that they could be expressed unintentionally. However, even if there is an attraction, the counselor can take steps to maintain their ethical integrity. However, if the attraction is not identified then this can create an situation that difficult for one or both of the counseling participants.

Sometimes a counselor will try to suppress these emotions because they may feel shame, guilt, remorse, or even just confusion. An unconscious desire to bury the feelings is a common reaction that some counselors may have. Furthermore, many counselors are not provided specific training on how to best manage these situations and their knowledge of how to deal with the situation may be limited. However, one study found that eighty four percent of therapists had become sexually attracted to a client at some point in their practice (Ladany, Melincoff, O'Brien, & Knox, 1997). Therefore, it is a common occurrence and a counselor should be prepared for the type of situation.

Another related problem is that when a counselor is attracted to a patient it is often hard for them to keep their objectivity. Not only that but it can also lead to distractions in the session as well as in the client-patient relationship that will reduce the counseling's effectiveness. If these feelings are too strong they may become so disruptive that it might be necessary to recommend a different counselor take the patient; perhaps one of the same sex. However, many counselors, over half in one study, have never received training in the most appropriate ways of handling such situations (Pope, Tabachinick, & Keith-Spiege, 1998). Thus there is definitely a need for more specialized training in this particular area of counseling. Consolers need to be aware of their own inner feelings and act in professional accordance with the patients' best interest in mind. If physical impulses are suppressed, then the attraction can not only can it reduce the quality of treatment that the patient receives but it can also put the counselor at higher risk to engage in inappropriate sexual behaviors.

Ethics in Group Counseling

Ethics in group counseling take on an entirely different nature than in individual counseling. Not only does the counselor have a professional obligation to treat individual member of the group in an ethical way, but they must also consider the groups interactions and the way they act towards each other. In some cases this can be a complex endeavor just to select a group. Not all members might be compatible for a lot of different reasons. Thus designing a group can include a lot of preparation and research to ensure that the members that are selected to participate will have compatible needs and personalities that will not clash in any way that can lead to unethical treatment.

Another part of group counseling that can be subject to problematic ethical conduct is the confidential aspects of counseling. With several members in a group there is the potential for one of the individuals to violate confidentiality. Often the people in a group session will not have the same appreciation for confidentiality as the counselor and tell someone's personal story that was told in a group session to a friend or a relative. The counselor must inform the group on a regular basis about the importance of confidentiality to help mitigate the chance of occurrence of a breach of confidentiality.

One of the core ethical considerations in the groups deals with the "power imbalance" that can occur under a lack of leadership (Kropf, 2010). A leader of a group counselling session is responsible to reduce any chance of human suffering that can occur. If the leader cannot control the group's discussions then there is the potential for ill effect for the individual members. The state of a counselling group session can be considered something of a dangerous and somewhat delicate situation in which the leader has to have a substantial amount of control over to ensure that the group operates effectively and maintains the rules the group has in place.

Once last difference is that a group session may have to deal with in cultural diversity. Often a group will have a member or number of members that are from different cultural backgrounds. Therefore, it is important that the counselor and the group all respect the backgrounds of those who are in the group. The counselor should identify any specific needs… [END OF PREVIEW]

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