Term Paper: Substance Abuse Among Licensed Counselors and Client Contact

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Substance Abuse Among Licensed Counselors and Client Contact

Today, there are numerous ethical and legal dilemmas inherent in the issue of licensed counselors and drug abuse. The ACA or the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics requires counselors to follow the guidelines under the ACA strictly, so that there would be an exercise of restraint against those counselors who are prone to using drugs, and are in no fit state of mind to offer advice to others. For example, the Standard of Practice Nineteen (SP-19): Impairment of Professionals states that "Counselors must refrain from offering professional services when their personal problems or conflicts may cause harm to a client or others." (ACA Code of Ethics and Standards of practice) In other words, the basic mission of the American Code of Ethics is to be able to augment and improve the quality of life in society, by making sure of the fact that the development of counselors takes place, as it must. (ACA Code of Ethics: The ACA Governing Council)

Counselors must also make sure that they utilize the profession of counseling, and also practice it in such a manner that dignity and respect for the human race is kept in mind at all times, and is therefore, promoted. It must be noted that the Code of Ethics starts with a small introductory passage, in which the issue of what counselors must do in order to maintain discipline and behavior in their profession is discussed. If further goes on to state that when counselors are faced with certain ethical dilemmas that they may find difficult to resolve at that particular time, then they must perforce engage in a "carefully considered decision making process," so that they may be able to find an appropriate solution to the problem at hand. Since it is a fact that everyone has different opinions about one topic, and that there may as many different opinions as here are counselors, there is no specific decision making model that can be deemed the best or the most effective; counselors, according to the American Counselors Association are therefore expected to familiarize themselves with a credible model of decision making that would be able to stand on its own while under public scrutiny. (ACA Code of Ethics: The ACA Governing Council)

The American Counselors Association is a scientific and educational and professional organization, whose numerous members work in a variety of settings. However, in general, the members are individuals, who are completely dedicated to the enhancement of human development. They also use a sort of cross-cultural approach that would support the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of people within their social and cultural contexts. The Code of Ethics serves to help the members and clarify for them issues such as their ethical responsibilities and duties towards the people that they help. (Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions at IIT)

One must remember that, according to a survey by Information Services Survey, at an average, about 67,000 counselors treat about 1 million patients who suffer from alcohol and drug induced disorders, in outpatient and residential facilities. A CSAT survey states that about half of the counselors who work in addiction treatment facilities are graduates; while the rest of them are at the present time undergoing graduate training. In the past, when financial resources were extremely limited, trained counselors would have little or no interest in dealing with individuals who were trying to cope with the difficulties and depression brought on by alcohol and Substance Abuse addictions. Perhaps this was the main reason that most programs started to train their own staff that would be able to rely heavily on 'recovery' as the basic criterion for recruitment. In other words, those people who were struggling with the same issues in their personal lives, it was felt, would be the best people to treat others with the same difficulties and problems. Therefore, it can be said that 'recovering counselors' have in fact been the hart and soul of several addiction programs over the past few decades. Their experiences, both with dependence and with recovery, would be able to provide patients with perfect examples of strategies that can be used for achieving sobriety and complete recovery. (Lowinson; Ruiz; Millman; Langrod, 2005)

One of the strategies that are most popularly used among counselors treating substance abuse patients is that of having two separate groups of people, running simultaneously. While one group would be comprised of patients in the early stages of recovery, the second would be made up of those individuals who are in the later stages. It must be mentioned that this type of counseling does not need trained counselors, because there is no real need to delve too deeply into one's psyche as a part of the treatment. (Velasquez; Maurer; Cathy; Diclemente, 2001)

However, it must also be mentioned that today, counselors face a variety of challenging issues like substance abuse, suicide, and other deadly problems. Therefore, counselors may also find that they are facing serious legal consequences for the manner in which they may have handled the problem. This is because of the undeniable fact that there are several 'gray' areas in these issues concerning counseling, and this means that both counselors and the teachers become extremely anxious and frightened. Books like 'Ethical and Legal Issues in School Counseling,' edited by Mary A Hermann, among others, is one reference manual that counselors today can safely use, so that they may feel free to practice and counsel as they see fit. The 'American School Counselor Association', a worldwide nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, published the book. The Association was founded in 1952 and it includes about 14,000 professional school counselors. According to Hermann, "If we can train more counselors in crisis management and get more counselors into our schools, we can be more proactive in preventing potentially deadly situations." (Geuder, 2003)

Counselors in general are expected to adhere to certain rules and regulations as specified under the American Counselors Association and its Code of Ethics. These are therefore the primary issues that a counselor has to deal with at the very outset in order to maintain a stable relationship with his patient, and set him on the right path towards a cure for his substance abuse and addictions. Confidentiality, informed consents, the basic duty to care for the patient, no matter what, respecting the patient's self-determination to try to overcome his problems, and credentialing mechanisms are the code of ethics. One must remember that ethical concerns and dilemmas in alcohol and substance abuse treatments are, more often than not, completely complex and multi-dimensional, and at times, these issues may or may not be actually addressed in laws and in professional ethic codes. (Module 9, Legal and Ethical Issues in Prevention and Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorders)

However, these codes of ethical practice would help in educating and informing a counselor about basic and sound ethical behavior, and also mandate a certain code of ethics for practice. This may certainly not be the best or the highest form of ethics, but it would help a counselor immensely if he were to know exactly what consequences his actions would bring on. Moral principles, for example, form the basis of social work's professional code of ethics, and they are: autonomy, which would including the client's self-determination, nonmalfeasance or avoiding harm, beneficence or in other words, promoting good for others, justice and fair and equitable treatment to all, fidelity, which in other words may mean honoring commitments, and veracity, or in other words, truthfulness. According to the Surgeon General's report on mental health, 1999, the very fact that their case may not be kept under the srtictest confidentiality may very well deter an individual from seeking out medical treatment and counseling for his alcohol and substance use and addictions. This was the reason why the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA has issued several technical reports mentioning the requirements relating to CFR confidentiality. (Module 9, Legal and Ethical Issues in Prevention and Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorders)

The consequences in general for drug abuse and other related problems, for the government, can be an expensive affair, both monetarily, as well as in human terms, like for example, the mental discord and trauma that it can cause, and the family breakups that inevitably result when one member of the family becomes addicted to alcohol or to any other substance. Children are neglected, the user develops mental and physical problems, and he also undergoes severe financial constraints, because of the pressure that he faces in order to pay for his addictions. Legal problems, automobile accidents, HIV infection, incarceration, lower work productivity, and job loss are some of the other problems that a substance user may have to face, as a result of his addiction. A counselor's job is to handle the drug user in such a way that he would be able to overcome his addiction to a certain extent at least, so… [END OF PREVIEW]

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