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Counseling standards of practice and ethics are not only determined by laws of the state in which a counselor practices, but by various associations/organizations that articulate their basic values, ethical principles and standards in their codes of ethics. Many of these regulations are understood to be universal; some are designed to incorporate the issues and concerns of a particular belief system. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the respective ethical codes of the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). Of the topics addressed by code, three areas were chosen for comparison: competence, fees, and sexual intimacies. Numerous similarities between the two codes are noted; differences are attributed to respective worldviews.
As of the law, ignorance of the respective codes of organizations to which a counseling professional belongs is no excuse. The American Counseling Association (ACA) and American Association for Christian Counselors (AACC) implicitly state that member counselors have a duty to adhere to the regulations set forth in their codes. At the core of the both codes is the universal moral principle of nonmaleficence. Though, theoretically, all principles are given equal weight, nonmaleficence, is considered by some to be the most critical (Forester-Miller & Davis, 1996) and is covered in depth by the AACC (2004) standard ESI-100, to “First, Do No Harm”.
One of the many safeguards against doing harm is professional competence. With regards to competence, both the ACA and AACC caution against working beyond the limits of one’s education, training, accreditation and professional experience. Both codes emphasize a duty to refer to competent professionals when client needs are beyond the scope of a counselor’s practice. The AACC directs its members to seek Christian help first, when making referrals, and to refer to other…