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Section 7
National Board for Certified Counselors Code of Ethics:
Appropriate Action to Prevent Harm
History and Evolution of Values and Ethics in Social Work
3 Key Legal Requirements and Considerations

Question 7 | Test | Table of Contents

National Board for Certified Counselors Code of Ethics

DIRECTIVES
NCCs take appropriate action to prevent harm.
10. NCCs shall create written procedures regarding the handling of client records in the event of their unexpected death or incapacitation. In recognition of the harm that may occur if clients are unable to access professional assistance in these cases, these procedures shall ensure that the confidentiality of client records is maintained and shall include the identification of individual(s) who are familiar with ethical and legal requirements regarding the counseling profession and who shall assist clients in locating other professional mental health providers as well as ensure the appropriate transfer of client records. These written procedures shall be provided to the client, and the NCC shall provide an opportunity for the client to discuss concerns regarding the process as it pertains to the transfer of his or her record.

15. NCCs who seek consultation (i.e., consultees) shall protect client’s confidentiality and unnecessary invasion of privacy by providing only the information relevant to the consultation and in a manner that protects the client’s identity.

19. NCCs shall recognize the potential harm of informal uses of social media and other related technology with clients, former clients and their families and personal friends. After carefully considering all of the ethical implications, including confidentiality, privacy and multiple relationships, NCCs shall develop written practice procedures in regard to social media and digital technology, and these shall be incorporated with the information provided to clients before or during the initial session. At a minimum, these social media procedures shall specify that personal accounts will be separate and isolated from any used for professional counseling purposes including those used with prospective or current clients. These procedures shall also address "friending" and responding to material posted.

21. NCCs who use digital technology (e.g., social media) for professional purposes shall limit information posted to that which does not create multiple relationships or which may threaten client confidentiality.

NCCs promote the welfare of clients, students, supervisees or the recipients of professional services provided.
34. NCCs shall protect the confidentiality and security of tests or assessments, reports, data and any transmission of information in any form.

NCCs communicate truthfully.
45. NCCs who provide supervision services shall present accurate written information to supervisees regarding the NCC’s credentials as well as information regarding the process of supervision. This information shall include any conditions of supervision, supervision goals, case management procedures, confidentiality and its limitations, appraisal methods and timing of evaluations.

NCCs recognize that their behavior reflects on the integrity of the profession as a whole, and thus, they avoid actions which can reasonably be expected to damage trust
55. NCCs shall retain client records for a minimum of five years unless state or federal laws require additional time. After the required retention period, NCCs shall dispose of records in a manner that protects client confidentiality.

56. NCCs shall act in a professional manner by protecting against unauthorized access to confidential information. This includes data contained in electronic formats. NCCs shall inform any subordinates who have physical or electronic access to information of the importance of maintaining privacy and confidentiality.

NCCs recognize the importance of and encourage active participation of clients, students or supervisees.
67.NCCs conducting counseling with more than one client at a time (e.g., group or family counseling) shall discuss with clients the nature, the rights and responsibilities as well as the possible additional limitations of confidentiality. NCCs shall also describe the steps that they will take in the event that having multiple clients in session creates issues between or concerning clients.

69. NCCs shall inform clients of the purposes, goals, procedures, limitations, potential risks and benefits of services and techniques either prior to or during the initial session. NCCs also shall provide information about client’s rights and responsibilities including billing arrangements, collection procedures in the event of nonpayment, confidentiality and its limitations, records and service termination policies as appropriate to the counseling setting. This professional information shall be provided to the client in verbal and written forms (i.e., the counseling services agreement). NCCs shall have a reasonable basis for believing that the information provided is understood. NCCs shall document any client concerns related to the information provided in the client’s record.

84. NCCs shall carefully consider ethical implications, including confidentiality and multiple relationships, prior to conducting research with students, supervisees or clients. NCCs shall not convey that participation is required or will otherwise negatively affect academic standing, supervision or counseling services.
- National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates. (2016, October 7). NBCC Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.nbcc.org/Assets/Ethics/NBCCCodeofEthics.pdf

Evolution of Social Work Ethics by Mary Rankin, J.D.

The change in a social worker’s approach to ethical concerns is one of the most significant advances in our profession.  Early in the 20th century, a social worker’s concern for ethics centered on the morality of the client, not the ethics of the profession or its practitioners.  Over the next couple of decades, the emphasis on the client’s ethics began to weaken as social workers began developing new perspectives and methods that eventually would be fundamental to the profession, all in an effort to distinguish social work’s approach from other allied health professions. 

The first attempt at creating a code of ethics was made in 1919, and by the 1940s and 1950s, social workers began to focus on the morality, values, and ethics of the profession, rather than the ethics and morality of the patient.  As a result of the turbulent social times of the 1960s and 1970s, social workers began directing significant efforts towards the issues of social justice, social reform, and civil rights.
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In the 1980s and 1990s, the focus shifted from abstract debates about ethical terms and conceptually complex moral arguments to more practical and immediate ethical problems.   For example, a significant portion of the literature from the time period focuses on decision-making strategies for complex or difficult ethical dilemmas.   More recently, the profession has worked to develop a new and comprehensive Code of Ethics to outline the profession’s core values, provide guidance on dealing with ethical issues and dilemmas, and also to describe and define ethical misconduct.  Today, ethics in social work is focused primarily on helping social workers identify and analyze ethical dilemmas, apply appropriate decision-making strategies, manage ethics related risks, and confront ethical misconduct within the profession.

Reamer, F. (1998). The Evolution of Social Work Ethics. Social Work, 43(6), 488-500. Retrieved June 10, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23717765

The following contains thee key Legal issues for mental health professionals: Tarasoff - Duty to Warn, Duty to Protect; and Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse

Tarasoff - Duty to Warn, Duty to Protect
Most states have laws that either require or permit mental health professionals to disclose information about patients who may become violent – often referred to as the duty to warn and/or duty to protect. These laws stem from two decisions in Tarasoff v. The Regents of the University of California. Together, the Tarasoff decisions impose liability on all mental health professionals to protect victims from violent acts. Specifically, the first Tarasoff case imposed a duty to verbally warn an intended victim victim of foreseeable danger, and the second Tarasoff case implies a duty to protect the intended victim against possible danger (e.g., alert police, warn the victim, etc.).

Domestic Violence – Confidentiality and the Duty to Warn
Stemming from the decisions in Tarasoff v. The Regents of the University of California, many states have imposed liability on mental health professionals to protect victims from violent acts, often referred to as the duty to warn and duty to protect. This liability extends to potential victims of domestic violence. When working with a client who has a history of domestic violence, a social worker should conduct a risk assessment to determine if whether there is a potential for harm, and take all necessary steps to diffuse a potentially violent situation.

Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse
All states have laws that identify individuals who are obligated to report suspected child abuse, including social workers – these individuals are often referred to as "mandatory reporters." The requirements vary from state to state, but typically, a report must be made when the reporter (in his or her official capacity) suspects or has reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected. Most states operate a toll-free hotline to receive reports of abuse and typically the reporter may choose to remain anonymous (there are limitations and exceptions that vary by state so please review your state’s laws).
- Barker, R. L. (1998). Milestones in the Development of Social Work and Social Welfare. Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Conrad, M. (2019). Moving upstream in the post-Hoffman era: When ethical responsibilities conflict with the law. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 50(6), 407–418.

Rowe-Johnson, M. (2018). Achieving ethical mentoring and mentee professional integrity through formal mentor training for practicing psychologists. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 12(3), 203–209.

Williams, Izaak & O'Connor, Peg. (2019). Power in the Counseling Relationship: The Role of Ignorance. 4. 1-37.

QUESTION 7
Under, NBCC Code of Ethics, what appropriate action should NCCs take to prevent harm? To select and enter your answer go to Test
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