Different populations require different approaches in counseling. Counseling is a mean of attending to a person’s situation or condition using techniques, systems and approaches that differ among the groups of individuals. For instance, a raped teenager should be counsel in a different way as a homeless teenager. Conversely, African-American clients should be treated in a unique way as the Asian clients (cited in Miller, Leukefeld & Jefferson, 1994; Cook 1993). Nevertheless, just like the other populations, religious clients have unique characteristics and experiences that need a unique counseling approach.
Likewise, religious clients have also unique needs for their mental health care. However, unlike the common people being counseled, religious people have sets of belief systems and values that, for a number of conditions, may interfere to the counseling program being implemented to them (Carpenter, 2003). In order to practice professionalism and ethics, counselors behave legally, morally and ethically. They are aware that they can only win the client’s trust and secure client’s protection by practicing high level of professional conduct (APA Ethics Code, 1992, 18).
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Principle D, Respect for People’s Right and Dignity, as stated in the Ethical principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct highlights: Psychologists are aware of cultural, individual, and role differences, including those due to age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone unfair discriminatory practices (1992).
Counselors take into consideration the client’s personal and cultural background before deciding on the assessment instrument that he will be using in the counseling process (APA Ethics Code, 1992, 11). One of the characteristic-factors that should be checked is religion. There are no religion restrictions in the counseling activity. Nonetheless, from among the mentioned factors or clients’ considerable backgrounds, religion—the foundation of people’s moral and faith—is the most controversial.
The Code of Ethics of 2005 by the Governing Council of the American Counseling Association gives light to the five overlapping ethical principles that guide the counseling practices with religious clients. The principles that can be applied focus on the counseling relationship, freedom of choice, confidentiality and privacy in counseling process, professional responsibility, and evaluation, assessment and interpretation. Counseling Relationship In counseling, clients may have diverse cultural backgrounds.
In order for the counselor to practice good counseling, he must need first to understand the cultural identity that each of his clients possesses. Section A. 2. c of the Code of ethics states that “counselors communicate information in ways that are both developmentally and culturally appropriate. ” Counselors must deal with clients in the most culturally appropriate way. The counselor’s approach to a religious client depends highly on the knowledge he or she has about the culture and religion of the client.
People restrict their thinking on the concepts of races and ethnic groups when dealing with culture—yet this broad concept also includes the religious groups. As cited by Gardner, in the 1992 edition of Counselor Education and Supervision authored by Pate and Bondi, “the term culture includes religious beliefs and practices and that religion is understood to be intimately tied to ethnic identity” (1996). From this, in understanding the values of the religious clients, the counselor takes into consideration an approach that is culturally motivated.
Freedom of Choice In the macro-perspective of culture, one reason for the disagreement, difference or dissonance between the counselor and the religious client, is the values and belief systems of the client which for the counselor, are inappropriate. There are set of beliefs that the religious clients have, that may intervene in the counseling process. “Clients have the freedom to choose whether to enter into or remain in a counseling relationship and need adequate information about the counseling process and the counselor” (Section A.
2. a, 2005). Part of this principle is the right of the client to know the counselor’s values and beliefs, especially if these values may result to the restriction of the counselor’s range and ability to conduct the counseling process due to the conflicting views and beliefs between the religious client and the counselor. If this is so, clients should be given freedom to look and choose another counselor that has similar or directly related values with that of his (client). Confidentiality and Privacy in Counseling Process
Getting the clients’ trust is one of the goals of the counselors. To achieve this, establishing and upholding boundaries, and maintaining confidentiality are given high considerations. Section B. 1. a states that “counselors maintain awareness and sensitivity regarding cultural meanings of confidentiality and privacy; counselors respect differing views toward disclosure of information” (2005). It is very crucial for the counselors to give respect and show sensitivity to the culture of the religious persons they counsel.
Inquiry is important before the counselor acts on whether or not to disclose the information derived from counseling the religious client. Professional Responsibility “Counselors practice only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience” (Section C. 2. a, 2005). Understanding religious client means having an adequate learning and understanding of their cultural beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral patterns.
If the counselor can achieve this, then, it will be easier for him to understand the condition of his client. Moreover, for the success of the counseling process, the counselors should gain appropriate knowledge, awareness, sense of sensitivity, and skills relevant to the activity of working with the population of diverse backgrounds. Without good milieu and specialized training, the counselors who treat religious clients may neglect their condition and situation.
With better understanding of the set of beliefs of the client, the counselor will be sensitive and intelligent enough to know what approach is to give the religious client. Evaluation, Assessment and Interpretation As summarized in Section E. 3. a of the Code, for the achievement of the goals, the counselors consider the client’s background in terms of his personal and/or cultural identity, his ability to understand the results based on his beliefs, and his possible reaction or the impact of the results to him.
Moreover, “counselors recognize the effects of age, color, culture, disability, ethnic group, gender, race, spirituality, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status on test administration and interpretation, and place test results in proper perspective with other relevant factors” (Section E. 8, 2005). This is a process—first; the counselor needs to consider what counseling program is applicable to the client given sets of standards. Second, the counselor weighs all contributing factors to the possible outcome before considering results.
Third, the results will be interpreted depending on the accuracy of the outcomes. Furthermore, Section A. 5. a says that “counselors avoid actions that seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients. ” This concept, when applied to religious clients, means that the counselor must be aware of his or her personal opinion about the religious issues that may lead to certain reactions and overreactions—causing emotional harm to the client. Working with Religious Clients On his article, Gardner enumerated some ethical guidelines on how to work with religious clients.
First, therapy in the context of evangelistic activities that promotes particular political and spiritual ideology and worldview must be avoided. Second, in the attempt to change some of the beliefs of the client that have direct effect on his or her disorder, the counselor must try to narrow down the approach and inform the client on the program he wants to implement. Third, a help from other professionals is better if dealing with the religious issue of the client is quite difficult to comprehend and accept.
Fourth, counselors must try to include and integrate the religious beliefs of the client with the treatment she or he is undertaking. References American Counseling Association. (2005). ACA Code of Ethics. Retrieved June 19, 2008, from http://www. counseling. org Carpenter, D. (2002). Ethical Considerations in Working with Religious Clients. Retrieved June 19, 2008, from Gestatalt-Global Corporation website: http://www. g-gej. org/1-2/religious_clients. html Gardner, J. N. (1996). Ethical Issues in Counseling Religious Clients. Retrieved June 19, 2008, from http://www. g-gej. org/1-2/religious_clients. html
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