The Institute of Guidance Counselors’ Code consists of four overall ethical principles that subsume a number of specific ethical standards:
Principle 1. Respect for the rights and dignity of the client
Guidance counselors honor and promote the fundamental rights, moral and cultural values, dignity, and worth of clients. They respect clients’ rights to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination and autonomy, consistent with the law. As far as possible, they ensure that the client understands and consents to whatever professional action they propose.
Principle 2: Competence
Guidance counselors maintain and update their professional skills. They recognize the limits of their expertise, engage in self-care, and seek support and supervision to maintain the standard of their work. They offer only those services for which they are qualified by education, training, and experience.
Principle 3: Responsibility
Guidance counselors are aware of their professional responsibility to act in a trustworthy, reputable, and accountable manner toward clients, colleagues, and the community in which they work and live. They avoid doing harm, take responsibility for their professional actions, and adopt a systematic approach to resolving ethical dilemmas.
Principle 4: Integrity
Guidance counselors seek to promote integrity in their practice. They represent themselves accurately and treat others with honesty, straightforwardness, and fairness. They deal actively with conflicts of interest, avoid exploiting others, and are alert to inappropriate behavior on the part of colleagues.
Many other similar codes exist with the same expectations for ethical conduct. The fundamental principles include the following:
- Respecting human rights and dignity
- Respect for the client’s right to be self-governing
- A commitment to promoting the client’s well-being
- Fostering responsible caring
- Fair treatment of all clients and the provision of adequate services
- Equal opportunity to clients availing counseling services
- Ensuring the integrity of a practitioner-client relationship
- Fostering the practitioner’s self-knowledge and care for self
- Enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its application
- Responsibility to the society
The Code of Ethics goes into specifics to detail professional behavior from respect for fundamental rights, moral and cultural values, dignity and worth of clients to respect for rights to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination and autonomy, consistent with the law, and ensuring that the client understands and consents to whatever professional action they propose. Hence, Codes define parameters for general respect, privacy and confidentiality, informed consent and freedom of consent, and recognition of limits of competence.