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I will develop my professional identity as a mental counselor in many ways that will benefit the mental health profession and myself. To aid me in this endeavor, I will seek guidance from the American Counseling Association's (ACA) Code of Ethics for mental health counselors and work diligently to apply their five ethical principles. These five principles are: Beneficence, Nonmaleficence, Autonomy, Justice, and Fidelity (American Counseling Association, Code of Ethics, 2005). To apply these principles it will be necessary to not only play the role of a highly credentialed counselor, but also act as an educator, researcher, advocate, and example to others. Below, I will briefly describe each ethical principle, and follow with an in-depth explanation of how they will be applied through each role, and how each pertains to the development of my professional identity.
Beneficence means to do good and to take measures to prevent harm whenever possible. (ACA, Code of Ethics, 2005). I will apply the principle of beneficence by promoting the welfare of the client at all times. I will purposely act for the benefit of the client. I will advocate for my clients behalf and pursue their best interests at heart.
The principle of nonmaleficence means do no harm. This principle maintains the idea of not inflicting intentional harm, or engaging in actions that risk harming others (ACA, Code of Ethics, 2005). I will apply this principle by avoiding harming others, and instead will work to promote their well being. I will work to eliminate threats and remove any elements that would result in harm to my clients. I intend to develop treatment plans that will help and improve their situation. Great consideration will be given on weighing the risks and benefits of treatment plans. Additionally, I will never encourage my clients to take action that would harm others.
The principle of autonomy describes the freedom to make one's own choices and decisions (ACA, Code of Ethics, 2005). As a counselor, I will appropriately encourage my clients to act upon their own beliefs and values, and choose what they believe to be the best course of action. However, while it is important to promote the client's independence, I must also protect them from the potential harm of their decisions and actions. I will explain to the client the nature of being autonomous while at the same time provide reasoning as to how their decisions may negatively affect their lives and the lives of others. However, in some instances where the client is underage or not of sound mind, it will be necessary for me to intervene, especially if their decisions are irrational and may harm others.
The principle of justice simply means treating others fairly and equally (ACA, Code of Ethics, 2005). I will apply the principle of justice by respecting each and every client's rights. I will show appreciation for my clients and hold them in high regard. I will maintain awareness and strive to provide each and every individual with equal access to quality services, and in no circumstance discriminate or exploit my clients.
The principle of fidelity involves the concept of maintaining loyalty and an honoring of commitments (ACA, Code of Ethics, 2005. In my counseling practice, a client-centered approach will be used to develop a trusting and therapeutic relationship with my clients. Setting aside my personal concerns and needs, I will practice fidelity by actively listening and giving my clients my undivided attention. I will honor them by showing unconditional positive regard and acceptance. I will honor all commitments that I have made and will avoid leaving any obligation unfulfilled.
My plan of action first begins with building my credibility and continued pursuit of obtaining my counseling credentials. I will take advantage of every learning opportunity and obtain my master's degree counseling education through an accredited counseling program. Shortly thereafter, I will apply for licensure to become a mental health counselor through the Utahââ‚¬â„¢s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. In order to obtain licensure, I will pass the following examinations: (a) the Utah Professional Counselor Law, Rules and Ethics Examination;(b) The National Counseling Examination of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NCE) and (c) The National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination of the National Board of Certified Counselors. Once licensed, I will then be identifiable to the general public as a professional counselor who possesses the knowledge and skills set forth by governing boards and the counseling profession (The Utah Department of Occupational Licensing, 2010).
As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I will continue to strengthen my professional identity by carrying a sense of professional pride and openly acknowledging to others that I am a counselor. Seeking out and seizing every opportunity to educate others, I will be steadfast in correcting misidentifications of my profession by friends, family, clients, and the public. I will make a clear distinction between the counseling profession and other helping professions. Being a visible presence within the community, I will work in various settings and all populations. I will educate others on the roles and functions of a licensed professional counselor, as well as explain what it takes to become one.
Example to Others
I will carry a sense of social responsibility, act with integrity, and practice good ethics professionally and personally. To increase my effectiveness as I mental counselor, I will seek out personal growth and healing, and model a positive productive behavior to others. I will work to manage my stress and prevent burnout by maintaining a balance between work and play. I will address and resolve personal conflicts and will continually assess my own level of personal wellness, the areas in which I need to grow, and my professional goals.
I will work also to ensure that each client I serve has a positive experience with mental health counseling. I will put aside my own needs, and act only in ways that will benefit the client. I will strive to understand, accept, and acknowledge my own limitations, and seek out help when needed. I will show empathy for my clients and express a genuine concern for their well-being.
Research and Practice
To further foster my professional identity, it is of great importance for me to create a visible and positive image of mental health counseling and its professionals. Accomplishing this will require a demonstration of ethical competence and credibility. I will use an evidence-based approach within my counseling practice to give me a higher degree of ethical competence and credibility (Sexton & Whiston, 1997). I will work to advance my profession by contributing new knowledge to society at large and the mental health profession. In practice, I will conduct research and investigate the cause-and-effects of behavior in a scientific manner. I will share results of this research with other counselors, so that the mental health-counseling practice can be informed at a larger scale. I will evaluate whether or not treatment approaches are working and will strive to always find a better approach.
I will stay abreast on the changes within the mental health profession, but will be cautious, and critically minded when new information is presented
Advocacy will be an intricate part to the development of my professional identity.
As stated in my discussion posting:
My reason for choosing to be in the helping profession of mental health counseling is to
be a facilitator of positive change in others. On a grander scheme, my wish is to create
more positive social change within my own profession in the hopes that the mental
health profession will positively impact society at large. As a mental counselor, I will
support this vision by advocating for my clients, my profession, and myself. To
accomplish this objective, I will need to observe, listen, and recognize social barriers
that cause distress. To reduce such barriers, I will need to become actively involved, be
prepared to speak up for others, challenge rules and regulations, and be open to scrutiny.
I will need to be tenacious, patient, persistent, creative in problem solving and have the
ability to persevere when setbacks happen. Additionally, I will need to be somewhat
altruistic, and giving of my time and services for little or no compensation (Smith, 2010, February 16, COUN 6100-3 Discussion section).
I recognize and acknowledge that taking such a role will challenge my level of comfort. I am ready and willing to use every resource that I possess and look forward to collaborating with other mental health professionals to promote positive change.
With a collaborative spirit, I seek to work with such organizations that advocate for causes that affect the mental health profession in a positive way. I am planning to join both the American Mental Health Counseling Association (AMHCA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA). Their goals and mission have a lot in common with my professional values. Like myself, their mission is to enhance the health counseling profession through advocacy, professional development and education. They also seek to improve the standards of professional counseling, and distribute information that would further human development and the profession of counseling (AMHCA, 1995, ACA, 2005). Additionally, both professional associations are compatible with my professional values since they do not support the mistreatment of clients but seek to promote their welfare and provide the best service possible. Both organizations offer many services that will promote my values of growth and development, by providing opportunities for professional development, leadership training, advocacy services, continuing education classes, and access to publications (AMHCA, 1995, ACA, 2005).
Another association that I plan to be affiliated to is the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counseling (ALGBTIC). The ALGBTIC is a division of the American Counseling Association. The ALGBTIC allows any individual that has interest in LGBT issues to apply for membership. Its mission is to promote greater awareness and understanding of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues Their goals are to educate counselors on the unique needs of client identity development (ALGBTIC, 2009). They furthermore seek to strengthen counselors' professional skills relating to sexual minorities. The mission and goals of ALGBTIC are compatible with my values because they seek create positive social change within society. They are working to remove the social barriers of prejudices and biases, and additionally are promoting non-discrimination and cultural competence within the counselor.
In the interest of removing social barriers that can greatly inhibit the provision of quality counseling services, I am interested in joining ACA and AMHCA in their advocacy for insurance reform. I will begin working within these professional associations to influence policymaking and legislation of healthcare policies.
I will also continue to educate myself on the ethical and legal standards of mental health counselors, and work to prevent the occurrence of professional issues. I will research some of the common professional issues (informed consent, confidentiality, client autonomy, compromised client care) that have arisen as a result of managed health care and third party reimbursements, and work to develop a contingency plan as to how best approach such issues.
As stated in my discussion posting:
Additionally, I intend to focus on advocating for client needs, specifically those in
poverty. I would like to focus on helping these individuals get the help they need. First
by, educating these individuals about the benefits of mental counseling, secondly, by
getting more affordable or free counseling services provided to those who cannot afford
it, and lastly to work to increase visibility to these individuals that such resources exist.
To carry out such objectives, I will fundraise for treatment centers and work to get
government funding as well. I will need to devote my time and resources for gathering
data that supports my agenda. I will collaborate and network with other professionals
and community organizations in the hopes of raising funds and influencing
policymakers. I will need to educate policy makers and the public about the mental
health profession. Being a member of counseling organizations such as the American
Counseling Association (ACA) will support my advocacy process. ACA provides its
members with information as to what's going in all levels of government. They can
furnish me with the names of the key persons that can push my agenda (Smith, 2010, February 16 COUN 6100-3 Discussion section).
In the interest of removing social barriers that can greatly inhibit the provision of quality of life, I would like to also focus my efforts on reducing obesity in America.
As stated in my discussion posting:
I believe the addiction to food can be just as strong as an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
As we all know, the problem of obesity and weight related illnesses and disease
continue to grow. Many programs seem to address the mere symptoms of being
overweight by changing diet and incorporating exercise, but fail to address our
relationship with food. Healthy eating and exercise is only part of the battle. I truly feel
that the only approach to healing any problem is an honest examination of its symptoms
and roots, which is why I am interested in advocating for my public awareness of the
effects of emotional eating and how it should be treated (Smith, 2009, September 10, COUN 6000 Discussion Section).
The professional I interviewed in the mental counseling field is Sandy, a Licensed Professional Counselor for a very busy local counseling center. Sandy has been a licensed and practicing counselor for ten years. On an average workday, she services eight to nine private clients. Sandy describes her workplace as fast paced and quite stressful at times. Sandy's work schedule varies in time of day to accommodate the needs of clients. She works with individuals, couples, and groups. Sandy also works with a variety of populations with many different problems. However, Sandy specializes in working with individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders. She also spends a great deal of time working with individuals who have drug, alcohol, and domestic abuse problems. Sandy's work schedule varies in time of day to accommodate the needs of clients. She has group therapies on four evenings a week, consisting of seven to ten clients to a group.
Sandy disclosed that it can be frustrating when clients cancel or do not show up for their appointments, and that she only receives compensation for the counseling services she provides. However, this did seem to be of great concern for her. For instance, she mentioned the need for counselors to be altruistic and explicitly stated that providing therapy for Medicaid patients is not about making money, and that not much financial compensation is provided. On a side note, I was very surprised to learn that Sandy is not a member of any professional counseling organizations.
Sandy demonstrated a very positive attitude towards the mental health counseling profession, and a great sense of fulfillment in what she does. Her perspective and attitude towards mental health counseling was refreshing and inspiring. Sandy has an altruistic nature and is quite giving of her time. While discussing her feelings about the profession, she exhibited much passion, and little frustration.
The attitudes that Sandy and I carry towards the mental health profession are quite compatible. We both strive for positive social change and to bring out the best in others. Like myself, Sandy encompasses a philosophy of prevention and personal growth. We both share the belief that individuals can solve their problems. I have always believed that I can think my way out of anything, and to utilize every resource available to me. Sandy and I both tend to look at people and their situations in a holistic manner. Sandy conveyed a belief that a person's condition is temporary. I feel the same way; I believe we all go through season of productiveness and progression, as well as dysfunction and regression.
The common thread that I see between my attitude and Sandy's is that a career in counseling is more than just providing a financial income, it is a profession that nurtures our sense of purpose and valued connection to others.
I like that the profession of counseling allows me the freedom to use a combined approach of science and personal experience. What also appeals to me is that the mental health profession considers the psycho, social, and biological factors of a person's situation. I would rather focus on mental wellness rather than a narrow focus on mental illness, this is the main idea or attitude that I harbor towards the mental health counseling profession.