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Aca and Aacc Code of Ethics Comparison and Contrast

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ACA and AACC Code of Ethics Comparison and Contrast

Carol McSpedon

Liberty University


This paper explores the similarities and differences between the Codes of Ethics for the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). Both are associations organized for counseling professionals. These associations are guided by their own code of ethics that outline the standards of ethical behavior and practice when working with clients. Although both codes of ethics are similar in numerous ways, the mission statements that guide the individual associations are direct representations of the underlying foundations. The ACA is built on "promoting respect for human dignity and diversity" (American Counseling Association, 2005), whereas the AACC's "primary goals are to bring honor to Jesus Christ and his church, promote excellence in Christian counseling and bring unity to Christian counselors" (American Association of Christian Counselors, 2004). The AACC is governed by its Christian foundation and consequently all specific values are centered on this. The first section of this paper will discuss the general similarities and differences between the two ethics codes. Section two will discuss the three specific areas to be compared and contrasted, which are as follows: Competence, Sexual Intimacies and Governmental Law and Regulations.

Keywords: ethics, ACA, AACC, competence, sexual intimacy, legal

ACA and AACC Code of Ethics Comparison and Contrast

A code of ethics is a specific outline for an organization that defines its mission statement or purpose and the acceptable standards of professional behavior expected by members of the organization. It is a governing document that holds all members accountable for upholding the outlined standards and values of ethical behavior, with the primary intention of protecting the client, as well as the professional. Corey states, "the primary purpose of a code of ethics is to safeguard the welfare of clients by providing what's in their best interest" (Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 2011, p.9). Both the ACA and the AACC have individual codes of ethics that guide the professional counselors in the association. A code of ethics allows a counselor the ability to establish a professional relationship with a counselee and provide care within an ethical framework.

General Similarities and Differences

Based on the premise of protecting the client while conducting an ethical relationship, both the ACA and the AACC code of ethics outline the standards for behavior when dealing with a plethora of relevant issues and probable situations. In each code, the association's mission and purpose are stated and outlined. The ACA's mission "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" (American Counseling Association, 2005). Although the AACC's mission is similar, it is religious based. It "defines biblical based values and universal standards for ethical Christian counseling" (American Association of Christian Counselors, 2004). The introduction of religion into the code allows for a more detailed and specific code of ethics. It is more lenient in its writing style, yet, stricter in many areas guiding ethical behavior. The greatest difference between the two is the significant impact religion has on guiding the various principles outlined in the respective codes.

Specific Comparisons and Contrast


When discussing the principle of competence, both associations emphasize the importance of the professional being educated, well trained, knowledgeable in the specific areas they are working and mentally and emotional healthy. It is clear that both associations are encouraging the professional to be the most well rounded individual they can be in order to provide the most successful counseling experience. The ACA code of ethics (2005) C.2.a. states that counselors should "practice only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training and supervised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience". It stipulates the need for on-going training to remain current in the field. The American Association of Christian Counselors states in the code of ethics (2004) section 1-230 that Christian counseling "maintains an active program of study, continuing education, and personal/professional growth to improve effectiveness and ethical practice".

The codes of ethics differ when referencing the physical, mental and emotional well being of the professional. The difference in the two codes is apparent when discussing the situation of an individual's personal issues interfering with their professional capabilities. "Impairment" is discussed in section C.2.g of the ACA code (2005) and requires counselors to be "alert to the signs of impairment from their own physical, mental, or emotional problems and refrain from offering or providing services when such impairment is likely to harm a client or others. They seek assistance from problems...and, if necessary, they limit, suspend, or terminate their professional responsibilities until such time is determined that they may safely resume their work". Unlike the strict definition of the ACA, the AACC is more lenient and personal in its approach. Although it acknowledges the effect of personal issues on a professional relationship, it is not as strict in its outlined position of addressing the problem. As noted in AACC's code of ethics, section 1-230, "When personal problems flare to a level that harm to one's clients is realized or is highly likely, the Christian counselor will refrain from or reduce those particular professional-ministerial activities that are or could be harmful. During such times, the counselor will seek out and use those reparative resources that will allow for problem resolution and



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