Most states in America allow professional workers such as teachers, physicians, nurses, counselors, social workers to report suspected abuse of disabled persons, children and older adults (Eisengart). The process of reporting neglect or abuse is a difficult task for both counselors and the clients. Some counselors actually describe the experiences of reporting, warning and protecting to be traumatic.
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Nevertheless, when faced with a dilemma of reporting, counselors are advised to share with their seniors and other counselors to prevent the possibility of developing depression. They are also supposed to consult the ACA Code of Ethics as well as the state laws, regulations, and statutes. If ethical guidelines are unclear, or if state laws, regulations, or statutes do not address the issue, counselors are expected to consult experts available in the field to make an ethically and legally sound decision. This report revisits a case involving an intern and his client (Shirelle). Shirelle has in this case expressed her depression, hurt and confusion following the sudden break up with her boy friend of three years. She contemplates on going to her boyfriend’s house and slapping him. Whereas it is ethically right to protect the client’s confidentiality, the intern is confused about the action to take considering that the planned action might be dangerous. In this case, what course of action should the intern take as a counselor to report, warn and protect based on the ACA code of ethics and based on Washington State’s laws, regulations and statutes?
Rather than being imposed by the federal trial law or federal legislation, laws of duty to protect and confidentiality requirements are usually imposed by individual states. In most states including Washington State, statutes have been enacted to specify the parameters of the duty and methods defined on how to discharge it (Simone & Fulero, 2005). In Washington, these statutes permit discharge of duty by warning the intended person or notifying the police if personal interventions fail. As illustrated in the case of Tarasoff v. Board of Regents of the University of California, failure to warn the police and the potential victim of any violent behavior exposes practicing counselors to a law suit (Lanning, 2004).
As a counselor in the case, the intern should first familiarize himself with the case, state and federal statutory laws as stipulated by the Federal State of Washington (Tapp & Payne, 2011). He should further make use of his own jurisdiction to protect the law. At this point, the intern may choose to seek the assistance from the colleagues, supervisors and other professional experts who may have a wider experience of dealing with the case. Considering that Shirelle has expressed her intention of harming her boyfriend, the intern should also consider developing a protocol using available consultations outlining how he is going to proceed with the treatment. The intern should in this case maintain an up-to-date understanding of managing violent clients and include this in the protocol.
The intern may also get and review past treatment records to see the actions which may have been taken by other successful counselors. After assessing if the situation might be dangerous if Shirelle confronts her boyfriend in his house, the intern may formulate an individualized treatment plan which should involve determining the appropriate action to be taken on Shirelle (Tapp & Payne, 2011). The intern should for instance determine if Shirelle should be hospitalized to avoid possible dangers. Shirelle can in this case be taken to the hospital or the intern can involuntarily take her through the court system. The treatment plan may also include warning her against her intended action, the intended victim or involving Shirelle’s relatives. Although this may bleach the confidentiality agreement between a client and a physician, the intern should always put it in mind that he has a duty to report, warn and protect.
Faiver, C., Eisengart, S., & Colonna, R. (2004). The Counselor Intern’s Handbook, Belmont,
CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.
Lanning, W. (2004). Law and Ethics. Continuing Psychology Education, 1-18.
Simone, S., & Fulero, S. M. (2005). Tarasoff And The Duty To Protect. Journal of Aggression,
Maltreatment & Trauma, 11(1/2), 145–168.
Tapp, K. & Payne, D. (2011). Guidelines for Practitioners: A Social Work Perspective on
Discharging the Duty to Protect. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 8(2), 1-13.