Professional Identity Paper
You are required to write a 10-page professional identity paper describing your own plans to develop a professional identity as a mental health counselor. The paper should describe how you will operationalize the five ethical principles which serve as the foundation of the ACA Code of Ethics in practice as a mental health counselor; indicate the organizations with which you will become a member and describe how the goals and mission of that organization align with your own professional values; discuss how social change will be operationalized; and compare your attitudes about the profession with a professional in the field.
Kitchener (1984) has identified five moral principles that are viewed as the cornerstone of our ethical guidelines. Ethical guidelines can not aIDress all situations that a counselor is forced to confront. Reviewing these ethical principles which are at the foundation of the guidelines often helps to clarify the issues involved in a given situation. The five principles, autonomy, justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and fidelity are each absolute truths in and of themselves. By exploring the dilemma in regards to these principles one may come to a better understanding of the conflicting issues.
1. Autonomy is the principle that aIDresses the concept of independence. The essence of this principle is allowing an individual the freedom of choice and action. It aIDresses the responsibility of the counselor to encourage clients, when appropriate, to make their own decisions and to act on their own values. There are two important considerations in encouraging clients to be autonomous. First, helping the client to understand how their decisions and their values may or may not be received within the context of the society in which they live, and how they may impinge on the rights of others. The second consideration is related to the client’s ability to make sound and rational decisions. Persons not capable of making competent choices, such as children, and some individuals with mental handicaps, should not be allowed to act on decisions that could harm themselves or others.
2. Nonmaleficence is the concept of not causing harm to others. Often explained as “above all do no harm”, this principle is considered by some to be the most critical of all the principles, even though theoretically they are all of equal weight (Kitchener, 1984; Rosenbaum, 1982; Stadler, 1986). This principle reflects both the idea of not inflicting intentional harm, and not engaging in actions that risk harming others (Forester-Miller & Rubenstein, 1992).
3. Beneficence reflects the counselor’s responsibility to contribute to the welfare of the client. Simply stated it means to do good, to be proactive and also to prevent harm when possible (Forester-Miller & Rubenstein, 1992).
4. Justice does not mean treating all individuals the same. Kitchener (1984) points out that the formal meaning of justice is “treating equals equally and unequals unequally but in proportion to their relevant differences” (p.49). If an individual is to be treated differently, the counselor needs to be able to offer a rationale that explains the necessity and appropriateness of treating this individual differently.
5. Fidelity involves the notions of loyalty, faithfulness, and honoring commitments. Clients must be able to trust the counselor and have faith in the therapeutic relationship if growth is to occur. Therefore, the counselor must take care not to threaten the therapeutic relationship nor to leave obligations unfulfilled.
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