Ethical Issues in Group Counseling
COUN 612: Mental Health Ethics, Law and Practice
April 28, 2011
Group counseling offers multiple relationships to assist an individual in growth and problem solving. Groups are an excellent treatment choice for numerous intrapersonal and interpersonal issues, and in helping people to change. Groups provide a sense of community to its members allowing them to see that they are not alone. In group therapy sessions, members are encouraged to discuss the issues that brought them to therapy openly and honestly. It is the responsibility of the counselor to work to create an atmosphere of trust and acceptance that encourages members to support ...view middle of the document...
Each and every member of a group enjoys the status of primary client. It is the responsibility of the counselor to respect the basic rights of all members. Because of this responsibility, counselors must carefully select members and hold individual consultations with each member to discuss informed consent. This dialogue must also include the risks and benefits of group work (Israel, 2002). During this time it is important for the counselor to stress the importance of confidentiality within the group. A counselor cannot prevent a group member from speaking out during their personal lives, however a counselor must stress the importance of maintaining confidentiality as a way of demonstrating respect for protecting the disclosures of others in the group (Corey et al., 2010). It is a difficult task for the therapist to uphold the legal rights of each individual within the group especially since they have no control over the activities of members outside of the group. Therapists also may interact with group members away from the group setting and have to toe the line of what is and is not appropriate to discuss outside of the group setting (Israel, 2002). Many times counselors encounter less than enthusiastic clients.
Participation is sometimes an issue within the actual group. Some dilemmas might include involuntary participation, a member’s right to leave the group, and mandatory participation in various activities that take place during group. More and more counselors are dealing with and treating clients that are there against their will or are reluctant to participate (Corey et al., 2010). Counselors must still seek informed consent from all members, even involuntary members. According to Corey et al. (2010), the purpose of group is to help group members find their own answers through group, not do what others feel is appropriate. Many may feel coerced into disclosing private information if not informed and protected (Corey et al., 2010). When a group is made up of voluntary and involuntary members, conflict may arise because of the distinct levels of commitment and motivation of the two sub groups within the group. Voluntary members may resent involuntary members because they are not as invested. Counselors should strive to build group consensus on the types of participation expected of the group (Barsky, 2010).
Group Work with Diverse Populations
The American Counseling Association Ethical Code notes Multicultural/Diversity Considerations under B.1.Respecting Client Rights (ACA, 2005). It mentions that counselors must be sensitive, respectful and aware regarding different cultures. The Association for Specialists in Group Work has developed a workbook on the Principles for Diversity-Competent Group Workers. In it, ASGW describes a diverse-competent group worker as “recognizing the limits of their competencies and expertise with regard to working with group members who are different from them” (ASGW, 1998, p. 1)....