ACA Code of Ethics:
A.4.b. Personal Values Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature.
C.1. Knowledge of and Compliance With Standards Counselors have a responsibility to read, understand, and follow the ACA Code of Ethics and adhere to applicable laws and regulations.
C.2.a. Boundaries of Competence 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. Whereas multicultural counseling competency is required across all counseling specialties, counselors gain knowledge, personal awareness, sensitivity, dispositions, and skills pertinent to being a culturally competent counselor in working with a diverse client population.
C.5. Nondiscrimination Counselors do not condone or engage in discrimination against prospective or current clients, students, employees, supervisees, or research participants based on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/ partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law.”
The grand ole states of Mississippi and Tennessee have recently passed anti-LGBTQI legislation, particular in TN (petition opposing it can be signed here), where counselors are permitted, because of religiously-held beliefs, to deny LGBTQI clients service based simply on the fact they are LGBTQI. I won’t bore you with links to the details, but if you want to the information is out there; these laws are being passed. So this is my letter to any mental health professional and/or counselor supporting these discriminatory laws that are in place:
Dear Fellow Professional and Counselor,
I’m sure you mean well, or at least think you do, by supporting these recent laws, which you probably think protects you. Or perhaps you feel these laws stand up for you in that it allows you a cop out for seeing clients you don’t want to see or help. Perhaps, you even feel justified in supporting these laws and regulations. I’m sure you probably feel as a counselor you should be able to discriminate or pick and choose clients based off your religious preferences and the client’s lack thereof or disagreement.
However, as counselors, we are guided by the ACA Code of Ethics, which if we break or violate means we could face suspension of our licenses or completely having it revoked.
Counselors are to help promote the health and well being of ANY client regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or whatever. Counselors are specifically trained to lay aside our religious beliefs and values in order to help any client.
The laws allowing counselors to discriminate against the LGBTQI community by right out protecting them when they refuse services based on a client’s lifestyle or different beliefs is incredibly offensive, hurtful to clients, and unethical. It is a form of violence, discrimination, and hatred that not only lessens the credibility of the counseling world, but also sets up a dangerous precedent for discrimination and the cheapening of the ethical guidelines counselors must uphold; once we can discriminate and refuse LGBTQI clients where does it end? And those guidelines are clear: we do not have the freedom to turn away clients based on difference of beliefs, religion, values, or worldviews and must do everything in our power to be free of value-laden judgments and to educate ourselves on the client’s worldview in order to provide the services we’re trained and licensed to provide.
Let’s take this allowing to refuse clinical help (which is medical) over to physicians. Question: should doctors, nurses, and surgeons be allowed to discriminate against their patients/clients because they are gay and don’t match their beliefs? Should doctors and such be able to say, “This person is different and that difference violates my beliefs, so I can’t and won’t help because my religious beliefs are different”? With medical and clinical situations, it is quite clear these laws are harmful and dangerous.
We can make referrals to clients, but still have to offer therapeutic services to them and learn the best we can to serve them while understanding, albeit maybe even disagreeing/not condoning, their worldview.
My question to those who want to say professionals guided by ethical codes can be able to deny services to certain people is what violates their religious values and beliefs by offering someone help? Why is seeing an LGBTQI client about their addictions, relationship issues, depression, etc. a violation of conscious or beliefs or even a condoning of a differing worldview? No one is forcing counselors to change their beliefs. I’m arguing that a refusal to see a certain client is not only unethical, but also it’s more harmful and dangerous than what ever belief it is that the client with which the counselor disagrees or sees as wrong.
So again we can refer clients, but not on the basis of their lifestyle not suiting our own, worldviews not matching, etc. I can’t say, “You’re gay I don’t believe in that, so I’m passing you off.” I am bound by ethical guidelines as well as my conscious and faith about things to help all clients, explore and understand their worldview, to not discriminate against them in any fashion, and educate myself in what ways it requires to help them, counsel them, and provide care. That is my job and my ethical duty. It is YOUR job and ethical duty.
If a counselor cant obey those ethics, which promote the health, wealth, and the well-being of all clients despite their own values and beliefs (which aren’t and shouldn’t be violated just by helping them) then such a person shouldn’t be a counselor. The only ethical reason we can deny service is if we aren’t qualified and are incapable of help based on our skill set. Denying clients based on LGBTQI issues is harmful, unethical, dangerous, and discriminatory.
The ethics are clear. The education is clear. Our ethics are perfectly sensible and of common sense. There isn’t any medical profession allowed to deny anyone service because worldviews don’t match; not a single profession offering a form of healthcare can do that. At all. We go into a field where people come to us. If we want to chose clients we are in the wrong field and need to re-evaluate our profession.
I hope you’ll think this through deeply and come to oppose these laws that are a danger to our clients and profession.