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Aca Ethics

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Autor:  anton  15 November 2010
Tags:  Ethics
Words: 1489   |   Pages: 6
Views: 2858

Running head: Ethics Paper

ACA Code of Ethics and AACC Code of Ethics;

what are the Similarities and Differences?


The American Counseling Association Code of Ethics (ACA Code) and the American Association of Christian Counselors Code of Ethics (AACC Code) has many similarities as well as differences. Codes of ethics are designed to protect the client, counselor and the profession. This report will compare and contrast three separate areas within each of the two ethics codes. All areas of the ethics codes are important; however the three that have been chosen are of particular interest to the writer. Two of the areas that are addressed, confidentiality and sexual intimacies, come from duties to the client and the last area, reporting colleagues, comes from duties to the profession.



In the field of counseling, either secular counseling or Christian counseling ethics play a large and vital role. The ACA Code serves five main purposes. The five purposes are summed up as, clarification to members the nature of ethical responsibilities, helps support the mission of the association, establishes principles that define ethical behavior, serves as an ethical guide to help members construct a professional course of action and the ACA Code serves as the basis for processing ethical complaints and inquiries initiated against members of the association (American Counseling Association, 1995).

The mission of the American Association of Christian Counselors, AACC Law and Ethics Committee (2004), AACC Code of ethics is to

1. help advance the central mission of the AACC-bring honor to Jesus Christ and promote excellence and unity in Christian counseling;

2. promote the welfare and protect the dignity and fundamental rights of all individuals, families, groups, churches, schools, agencies, ministries and other organizations with whom Christian counselors work;

3. provide standards of ethical conduct in Christian counseling that are to be advocated and applied by the AACC( and ABCC and CCN) and that can be respected by other professionals and institutions.

As shown earlier, the Code of ethics for both the AACC and ACA are primarily a guide for current and future counselors and Christian counselors. The code of ethics for both organizations provides a reference for counselors when ethical issues arise, however the AACC Code of Ethics provides a little more guidance based the Christian foundation.

Sexual Intimacies

The AACC and ACA Code of Ethics contains a code for do no harm. AACC code is ES1-100 First, Do No Harm (American Association of Christian Counselors, AACC Law and Ethics Committee, 2004). The ACA code is A.4 Avoiding Harm and Imposing Values (American Counseling Association, 1995). Within the ACA Code the topic of sexual intimacies is listed under code A.5 Roles and Relationships with Clients, specifically A.5.a Current Clients and A.5.b. Former Clients (American Counseling Association, 1995). The AACC Code addresses sexual intimacies in codes 1-130. Sexual Misconduct Forbidden, 1-131 Sexual Relations with Former Clients Forbidden, 1-132 Counseling with Marital /Sexual Partners and code 1-133 Marriage with Former Clients/Patients (American Association of Christian Counselors, AACC Law and Ethics Committee, 2004). Both the AACC and ACA Codes plainly state that sexual interactions with current clients is prohibited. The AACC Code goes into more depth and explains exactly what is meant by sexual misconduct. This appears to add clarification and close any loopholes that could be used for rationalization of unethical behavior.

The ACA Code allows a counselor the ability to engage in sexual relations with a former client after five years following the last professional contact (American Counseling Association, 1995). The counselor must document that the relationship is not exploitive and will cause no harm to the former client. In contrast to this the AACC Code forbids sexual relations with former clients. The AACC Code 1-133 provides an exclusion to code 1-131. A counselor is allowed to marry a former client after two years after termination of therapy. This can only happen under the following circumstances, the termination of therapy was not to pursue marriage or sexual relations, the client is provided referral to others for future counseling and no harm or exploitation of the client has happened (American Association of Christian Counselors, AACC Law and Ethics Committee, 2004). In the eyes of God sexual relations outside of marriage are a sin, so this exclusion keeps the counselor from committing a sin


Confidentiality in the counseling session is of great importance to the client. He or she wants to know that what is shared will not be revealed to anyone. Both the AACC Code and the ACA Code do a good job describing what information and under what circumstances it can be revealed. Both the ACA and AACC Codes, address the discussion of confidentiality and the limitations with the client. The ACA Code goes into more detail about Exceptions, code B.2 and Information Shared with Others, code B.3. The ACA Code contains code B.2.b Contagious, Life-Threatening Diseases, which is not discussed in the AACC code. This code allows for the counselor to disclose information to identified third parties if there is high risk for this person to contract the disease (American Counseling Association, 1995). This code protects third parties from the intentional or unintentional spread of a communicable, life-threatening disease.

Another aspect of confidentiality that is better addressed in the ACA Code is B.5. Clients Lacking Capacity to Give Informed Consent (American Counseling Association, 1995). Within this code and the subsections, permission to disclose information comes from an appropriate third party in the event that the client is either a minor child or and adult that lack the ability to give voluntary consent (American Counseling Association, 1995).

The last area of confidentiality that is addressed in both codes, but is better explained in the ACA Code, is working with groups and family counseling. Understandably, it is difficult to maintain confidentiality within a group setting, and both codes’ discussion of this is similar. The difference is within family work. The ACA Code (1995) goes on to state that,

In couples and family counseling, counselors clearly define who is considered “the client” and discuss expectations and limitations of confidentiality. Counselors seek agreement among all involved parties having capacity to give consent concerning each individual’s right to confidentiality and any obligation to preserve the confidentiality of information known.

The AACC Code instructs counselors to explain to clients the problems of keeping confidences in group and family counseling and then refers back to ES1-400 Confidentiality, Privacy and Privileged Communication (American Association of Christian Counselors, AACC Law and Ethics Committee, 2004). Out of all the codes within the ACA Code and the AACC Code, issues’ regarding confidentiality is the one that is most addressed and thoroughly explained.

Reporting of Colleagues

As counselors, the first rule of ethics is, do no harm. When an ethical violation happens other counselors have an ethical duty to intervene. The reporting of colleagues is one situation that most counselors would rather avoid. According to the AACC Code, a Christian counselor must have credible knowledge of a legal or ethical violation before action is taken (American Association of Christian Counselors, AACC Law and Ethics Committee, 2004). The ACA Code requires counselors to have reasonable belief to start and informal resolution process. Should an ethical violation have happened, both the ACA and AACC Code support, consultation with another professional, discussion of the violation with the offending counselor, provided that confidentiality is not broken and reporting to state ethics committees and certification or licensing boards. One area that is vaguely mentioned in the AACC Code is assisting a client that may have been violated against to take action. This section of the code does not specify what is meant by take action. When reporting an ethical violation, both codes are careful to watch out for client confidentiality.


The aforementioned sections of this paper are a small comparison of the ACA Code of Ethics and the AACC Code of Ethics. The spirit of the two codes is very similar. Many times the only differences are the subtle wordings of the various codes. Other times one code does a better job of explaining a specific code that the other.

A Christian counselor who is following the AACC Code of Ethics generally follows the same codes as a counselor in the ACA. The one exception is that the Christian counselor must remember that his or her actions must always honor God first.


American Counseling Association. (1995). Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Alexandria, VA: Author.

American Association of Christian Counselors, AACC Law and Ethics Committee. (2004). AACC Code of Ethics: The Y2004 Final Code Forest, VA: Author.

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