American Counseling Assocation & American Assocation of Christian Counselors Code of Ethics Comparison

American Counseling Assocation & American Assocation of Christian Counselors Code of Ethics Comparison

The following content is a reflective display of the code of ethics for the American Counseling Association(ACA), and the American Association of Christian Counselors(AACC). It contains the purpose, sources, and both similarities and differences of both organizations. The missions are supportive of appropriate client care and personal integrity, however, the fundamentals vary in some capacities. These concepts will be explored.

The mission of the American Counseling Association is:
To enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity (ACA, 2005, p. 1).
The mission statement reinforces the importance of personal and professional development and growth. It has 5 main purposes which are a) clarifying ethical responsibilities; b) supports the mission; c) establishes and defines ethical expectations for members; d) provides a guide for developing counseling methods based upon values and ethics; e) provides a basis for dealing with ethical complaints and inquiries ( ACA, 2005). The American Association of Christian Counseling Code of Ethics provides a guide that is comprehensive with a biblical, clinical, systematic, ethical and legal basis. The mission statement is “to better serve the clients and congregants and to improve the work of Christian counseling worldwide. It will help achieve the primary goals of the AACC to bring honor to Christ and His church, to promote excellence in Christian counseling and bring unity to Christian counselors.” ( AACC, 2004)

The objective is to provide clarity for the structure of both organizations and to synthesize an analysis of how they are similar and different. There are personal aspects involved in the code of ethics and are specified in the ethics code for both organizations. Three of these elements will be elaborated upon and carefully contrast. Conflict of interest, discrimination, and fees will be defined and contrast.

Section I
The American Counseling Association code of ethics consists of 8 sections. They are as follows: 1) the counseling relationship; 2) confidentiality, privileged communication, and privacy; 3) professional responsibility; 4) relationships with other professionals; 5) evaluation, assessment, and interpretation; 6) supervision, training, and teaching; 7) resolving ethical issues ( ACA, 2005). The American Association of Christian Counselors consist of 7 ethical standards. They are as follows: 1) do no harm; 2) competence in Christian counseling; 3) informed consent; 4) confidentiality, privacy, etc.; 5) ethical practice in Christian counseling evaluation; 6) ethical relations in the professional workplace; 7) ethics in advertising and public relations (AACC, 2004). The introduction of the ACA discusses the importance of counselor roles and responsibilities in relation to ethical standards as defined by the organization. The AACC opens with the same exhortations, however, it also encloses a list of 7 biblical foundations. Both are encouraging excellence in counseling practice and reinforcing the importance of counselor integrity.

Each of these explore the rights of both the client and the counselor and how these rights protect both parties. It also provides a strong sense of guidance in the area of personal preservation and relational boundaries. Relational boundaries are essential in counselor and client development, in that , these boundaries ensure that openness, communication, and respect are among top priority in the process of building the relationship. This is applicable both in client/counselor relationships as well as from colleague to colleague. There are ethical standards that provide guidance in reference to dual relationships, fees, termination, client autonomy, etc.. These are generally the same in both organizations. There are differences as it relates to issues such as divorce, abortion, confidentiality, etc.. Christian counselors have a responsibility to expose Christ but as is common in both organizations, should never impose on a client’s personal beliefs or values.

In the AACC, if there are conflicting values, then proper termination is required which consist of adequate referral and the need to still maintain respect for the client. ACA, states that the primary responsibility is to “respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients” (ACA, 2005, Sec. A1). Section A4 of ACA code of ethics deals with not imposing values and avoiding harm to clients as does section ES1-100 of AACC code of ethics.

Section 2
Conflict of interest. Based on the ACA code of ethics, section A5, there are to be no inappropriate relationships with current clients, former clients for up to 5 years after, nonprofessional interactions or relationships except when beneficial to the client and thus must be documented and role changes. This is to ensure that the welfare of the client and counseling agency are protected. In the ES1-140, dual and multiple relationships involve the breakdown of proper professional or ministerial boundaries. There are other regulations in section ES1-100, that advise against playing multiple roles even after counseling has been terminated. According to ACA code of ethics, section A5, counselors are not permitted to engage in marriage or relationships with former clients until after 5 years. In the AACC code of ethics, section 1-133, marriage should take place two years or more after the counseling relationship has been terminated and also after other protocol has been followed. It argues this point by stating, “since marriage is honorable before God, the lone exception to this rule is marriage to a former client…”

Discrimination. Section C5 of ACA code of ethics states that “nondiscrimination means that there is no discrimination on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status/partnership, language preference, socioeconomic status, or any basis proscribed by law.” Clients rights are respected and supported unless those decisions are intentionally harmful to others as in cases of pre-meditated murder, molestation, etc.. Issues such as abortion, marital affairs, homosexuality, etc., are all a matter of the client’s right to choose and are held to the highest level of confidentiality. In the Christian sector, there are certain values that are held to the highest esteem such as the sanctity of life. Section 1-121/122,states that Christian counselors refuse to participate in, condone, advocate for, or assist the abortion activities…. active forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The AACC encourages client autonomy as well and requires openness to diverse client needs, however, a counselor is not demanded to abandon personal values and is encouraged to, in some cases, respectfully refer the client.

Fees. Both the ACA and the AACC code of ethics support that fees should be established in advance and contractually agreed upon by both the client and agency. It enforces that all policies and procedures should be disclosed initially and that any bartering, non-payment of fees, gifts, etc., should be discussed upon initiating treatment. In both, if the client is unable to pay, there should not be a rapid decline of service but a plan of action should be negotiated in the process of termination ( ACA, 2005, sec. A10 and AACC, 2004, ES1-512-513). The AACC, request that pro bono work be an option and sliding scale fees are encouraged. Each of these organizations are concerned with doing no harm to the client.

In conclusion, the code of ethics in the field of psychology is used as a road map for the practice of counsel. The American Counseling Association and the American Association of Counselors, implore knowledge from various sources in order to ensure that the regulations are standard, concise, and inclusive for those who serve clients. Both organizations use empirical data as a foundation, though the AACC, also incorporates the use of 7 biblical principles. The focus is always the client, however, the evaluation and development of character is in encouraged throughout the course of practicing counseling. Three key elements were explored and contrast. Conflict of interest, discrimination and fees, were important issues in both organizations though views and approaches varied. Counselors are to be well educated and accountable to these standards in order to effectively serve others.

American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC, 2004) AACC Code of Ethics. Retrieved January 29,2012, from

American Counseling Association (ACA, 2005). ACA Code of Ethics. Retrieved January 29, 2012 from