My Account



Please take time to read each of the following scenarios. Based upon your own experience with situations that presented ethical concerns, try to identify the most important components of the ethical decision making process for each scenario, and give some thought to how the ethical questions might be addressed. Then, on a piece of paper, write your answers to the questions at the end of the scenario. You can then compare your answers and your understanding of the ethical decision making process with the answers from a panel of experts that has asked to help with this process. You should expect to spend about 8-10 minutes on each scenario.

Scenario One

John M. is a licensed social worker. He is currently seeing Brad S. in counseling for depression. Brad is the president of a bank that is about to enter into a merger with another bank. He says that John should purchase some shares of stock in the bank because the stock price is going to go up significantly. Are there any ethical concerns with John buying the suggested stock? Upon what principles related to ethics in counseling do you base your opinion?

Scenario Two

Jim P. is a licensed clinician, specializing in work with adolescents who have Attention Deficit Disorder. He works in a small town where there are few clinical professionals and therefore few treatment options. He receives a call from Rhonda M., who is requesting services for her eldest son. Several minutes into the conversation, Jim realizes that his own son is in the same school class as is Rhonda's younger son. He also realizes that he has served as a sports coach for Rhonda's younger son, and has met Rhonda numerous times in that capacity. Are there any ethical concerns with Jim providing services to this family? Upon what principles related to the code of ethics for your profession do you base your opinion?

Scenario Three

Julie R. is a licensed clinician. She has been seeing Gloria K. in counseling for about a year. Among other issues, Gloria has been discussing her relationship with Bob O., a local real estate developer. Gloria has reported to Julie that her boyfriend is unscrupulous, and has been bragging about the shoddy construction he has been using to build units cheaply in a new development, while still selling the units for a high price. Quite coincidentally, Julie has another client who is thinking of purchasing a unit in this development. Would it be ethical for Julie to warn her client about making a purchase in this development? Upon what principles related to ethics in counseling do you base your opinion? Are there also legal considerations concerned here, and, if so, what are they?

Scenario Four

Jessica P. is a licensed clinician. At a party one night, she meets a former client, Edward G. She saw this client for a single assessment session ten years prior, when she was working as a clinical professional for the Employee Assistance Program offered by the client's company. Due to the public nature of the party, Jessica is not at liberty to notify Edward of this prior client/clinical professional relationship, and he appears not to remember their session together. At the time of this session, the client was seeking help for grief issues related to the death of his father. During the single session, the client reported that he had had a very good relationship with a clinical professional when he had been fifteen, and had resolved most other emotional issues during that treatment. Towards the end of the party, Edward asks Jessica if she would like to go out on a date with him. Is it ethical for Jessica to accept a date with this former client? Upon what principles related to ethics in counseling do you base your opinion?

Scenario Five

Janet P. is a licensed clinician who specializes in Christian counseling. She has been seeing Marjorie B. for counseling. Marjorie has been having marital problems. As the counseling progresses, Janet's assessment is that Marjorie's goals for counseling would be better reached if the counseling were to move to couple's counseling. Marjorie requests that Janet do the counseling, particularly because one of the primary problems between the couple is the refusal of Marjorie's husband to raise her children in a Christian environment. Is it ethical for Janet to agree to provide Christian based counseling for this couple? Upon what principles related to the ethical code for your profession do you base your opinion?

Scenario Six

Eileen G. is a licensed clinician, specializing in bi-polar disorder. Her new intake, Adam D. has brought along records from a prior assessment by a psychologist. The assessment included psychological testing, and the results indicate that Adam has bi-polar disorder. Adam presents as very distressed, as well as somewhat obsessive and grandiose in his thinking. Early in the session, he asks Eileen if she provides Rational Emotive Therapy (R.E.T.), which he insists is the "most effective and successful therapeutic approach", and the only thing that could help him. Eileen, who does not specialize in R.E.T., attempts to discuss with Adam the implications of bi-polar disorder, but Adam continues to return to his request for R.E.T., and becomes increasingly belligerent. Eileen knows there is no other provider in her area who works both with bi-polar and R.E.T. What would be the most ethical way to proceed with this case? Upon what principles do you base your decision?

Scenario Seven

Joseph R. is a clinical director for a company that provides Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). He has received an urgent request from one of his client companies for an immediate Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD). The only staff member available to do this is a new hire, Lynn R. While Lynn has many years of counseling experience, she has not had much experience in providing EAP services, and has neither received any formal training in CISD, nor ever done one. Joseph is concerned that if Lynn does not do the CISD, it will not get done. Under the circumstances, is it ethical for Joseph to ask Lynn to provide this service? Upon what principles related to ethics in counseling do you base your opinion?

Scenario Eight

Ellen P. is a clinical professional specializing in substance abuse issues. Among her other clinical tasks, she runs a co-educational relapse prevention group. Many of the members of that group are current or former individual clients. The group has a non-fraternization policy, where group members make a commitment not to date each other. One of her group members, Jill C., has recently stopped coming to the group, and asks to return to individual counseling with Ellen. In the first individual session, she reports that she stopped coming to group so she could have a romantic relationship with Gary M., another member of the relapse prevention group. Gary and Jill have, in fact, gone out with each other on a couple of occasions. Ellen is concerned, because Gary is HIV+, a fact he disclosed to Ellen in individual treatment, but which he did not disclose in the group. Ellen is aware that if the couple becomes sexually active, Gary's HIV status holds serious risks for Jill. Ellen must make a decision about how to protect Jill's well being in light of the risks possibly presented by Gary's HIV status. What are the ethical issues present here and how would you advise Ellen to proceed? Under what principles related to the ethical code for your profession do you base your decision?

This completes our first group of scenarios. For now, please put your answers aside. Before we discuss the scenarios in detail, we will take some time to look at the ethical decision making process. This will help to explain the reasons why our panel of experts made the ethical decisions that they made.