Tag Archives: ACA essay contest winners

Kristy Gerke of Spring Arbor University wins grand prize in 2022 Future School Counselor Essay Contest

October 20, 2022

The American Counseling Association’s Future School Counselor essay competition recognizes graduate counseling students with exceptional insight and understanding about the school counseling profession and the work of professional school counselors who interact with elementary, middle school or high school students.


Future School Counselor: Grand prize essay 2022

By Kristy Gerke of Spring Arbor University


School Counselors can Advocate for Themselves and Save Lives

A parent glances at her phone and reads the following message: “We are in lockdown. This is real Mom. Kids are getting killed” (E.C. Gerke, personal communication, November 30, 2021). This is something a parent never wants to read. It strikes terror into those involved and leaves a community grief stricken and looking to the school for answers. Invariably, if the perpetrator is a student, school counselors come under scrutiny and, at times, are outright blamed.

The blame game is often the result of parents and the community being unware of the role school counselors play within the school and the community at large. This is just one example of why it is crucial for school counselors to advocate for themselves, their programs, and their profession in order to affect social change for schools, families, and communities, especially in regard to mental health and trauma programs.

Advocacy in Action

One of the first steps to begin advocating for the profession is to develop a unified definition of a school counselor’s role. This is essential because the responsibilities of a school counselor can vary within a single school district. Parents, school board members and state legislators often assume that school counselors are responsible for academic testing and class scheduling when, in fact, they are managing those tasks in addition to trying to meet students’ mental health needs.

School counselors should develop a comprehensive advocacy plan to promote their roles and programs across all organizations that serve to potentially define, fund, or restrict the school counselor’s role. In this particular case, school counselors can lobby for funding to implement mental health programs, and trauma assessments and interventions. In addition, school counselors can promote their programs’ successes to those organizations by providing data that identifies student needs and evidence-based outcomes.

Finally, school counselors have the ability to develop advocacy action plans by joining professional organizations and attending conferences. This not only allows school counselors to learn best practices in student mental health and trauma response, but it also brings members together in order to advocate for the profession itself.

Advocacy Advances the Profession

By implementing advocacy methods, school counselors not only raise awareness of their roles within the district and community but also at the state board and government levels. This is critical to advancing the profession because it provides valuable information to support policies that increase funding and will allow for the hiring of more school counselors, which will lower student-to-school counselor ratios. Increased funding will also allow school counselors to implement mental health and trauma programs that have proven to be effective.

The increased visibility of school counselors and the promotion of their mental health and trauma programs garners publicity for the profession. This illustrates the value that school counselors bring to students, families, and the community. That value can translate into increased partnerships with community mental health programs as well as bring a greater appreciation of the school counselor’s role.



Kristy Gerke of Spring Arbor University

Kristy Gerke is an alumni of the University of Arizona and a graduate student at Spring Arbor University who is currently in her second year pursuing dual specializations in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Her professional background includes working for 20 years as a journalist before switching to education where she ran a middle school language arts mentoring program designed for students reading below grade level.

She resides in Oxford, Michigan with her husband, two teenage children and their three cats. Her vision as a school counselor is to support high school students in promoting a culture of openness while providing safe spaces for students struggling with anxiety, panic disorders, and post traumatic stress disorder.



Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Erin Gellings of Minnesota State University wins grand prize in 2022 Tomorrow’s Counselor Essay Contest

October 14, 2022

The American Counseling Association’s Tomorrow’s Counselor essay competition recognizes graduate counseling students with exceptional insight and understanding about the counseling profession and the work of professional counselors in mental health, private practice, community agency, agency, organization or related counseling settings.


Tomorrow’s Counselor: Grand prize winning essay 2022

By Erin R. Gellings of Minnesota State University, Mankato


According to the 2010 census, approximately 19% of the United States population live in rural areas (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Further, almost 60% of people in rural areas reside in a mental health designated health professional shortage area (HRSA, 2022). Rural populations present as an overlooked vulnerable group. Rural areas continue to have higher suicide rates than urban areas, with the gap continuing to widen (Pettrone & Curtin, 2020). Additionally, there are ongoing concerns about the accessibility, acceptability, and availability of mental health care in rural areas (Morales et. al., 2020). As the profession considers where to focus advocacy efforts, it’s clear rural populations need greater access to mental health providers and resources. One way to advocate for greater resources in rural areas is to promote these areas to young professionals, thereby expanding the reach of the field and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the profession.

To attract counselors to rural areas, the counseling profession must turn inward. Professionals are shaped by the topics discussed in graduate programs. Increasing graduate program emphasis on rural areas may result in increased interest in rural populations. CACREP specifies that all curriculum in its accredited programs must address certain social and cultural diversity standards. Though helpful to have these broad guidelines as program guidance, rural communities should be explicitly named as a diverse group for counselor education. The counseling profession can begin its advocacy efforts by lobbying for rural communities to be named in CACREP competencies.

Multiple federal and state programs offer tuition remission or waivers for clinicians who agree to work in rural areas. These programs should be advertised to future counselors and promoted as means to pay for education. Additionally, counseling programs should recruit more from rural areas, as individuals from rural areas are more likely to return to their home communities to practice. Finally, the counseling profession can increase access to mental health care in rural areas by supporting mental health clinicians who are working there. Counseling organizations such as ACA and APA can create virtual consultation groups for rural providers to reduce feelings of isolation and encourage providers to seek consultation for ethical and clinical problems unique to rural areas.

I grew up in rural Wisconsin and, through my work at an outpatient behavioral health practice in my hometown, I saw the shortage of mental health providers firsthand. I witnessed community resources stretched to the breaking point and knew people who fell through the cracks created by limited resources. It was troubling to see individuals with low-level mental health concerns end up in the emergency room or jail because there was no inpatient mental health facility in the county. My graduate education has affirmed my belief that, as a profession, we can do better.  This cause is worthy of advocacy because it is actionable and attainable if the counseling profession is willing to first identify the resources and capabilities it already has to address how future practitioners are trained and take steps in the right direction on this issue.



Erin R. Gellings

Erin R. Gellings is a pre-independently licensed therapist who recently graduated with her master of science in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She specializes in working with rural populations and has experience in outpatient behavioral health and college settings. Erin’s research interests include rural populations and disparities in mental health service access. Erin is passionate about eliminating barriers to care and increasing awareness of how rural communities constitute a diverse population.




Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Team from DePaul University wins first place in master’s ethics competition

October 7, 2022

This award recognizes exceptional, demonstrable understanding of the ACA Code of Ethics, the foundation of ethical professional counseling practice. Each year, ACA honors top-ranking teams in both Master’s and Doctoral level graduate degree programs.


Supervision, Disclosure and Self-Reflection in Preventing Counselor Impairment: An Ethical Exploration

By: Courtney Griffin, Veronica McMillion, Anya Ross and Angela Sundstrom

Department of Counseling, DePaul University, Chicago

Faculty advisor: Alexandra Novakovic



Prompt: Lila is a Limited Licensed Professional Counselor who, for the past five months has been working in federally-assisted, outpatient mental health and substance abuse counseling agency. For the past month, Lila has been counseling Stephen, a 56-year-old, White male, who has been living with HIV for the past two years. To date, she has had four sessions with Stephen. Stephen started seeing Lila because one month prior to his first session with her, he completed a brief stint in rehab for his cocaine and methamphetamine use disorders. So far, Lila has felt very positive about the progress Stephen has made. He has maintained his sobriety, he has complied with his HIV medications and his viral load is undetectable, and he actively engages in therapeutic work. Lila feels a lot of empathy for Stephen because she has been sober for over five years, but she has started to notice that when Stephen talks about his urges to use, she has felt her own old cravings reemerge. Lila has not discussed this issue in supervision because she has not disclosed her personal addiction history with her supervisor due to fear that it would impact her ability to get her full license.

In a recent session, Stephen shared with Lila that he just started a new relationship with a woman. He expressed that when he has sex with her, it triggers him to want to use coke and meth again. Hearing this, Lila became concerned and asked Stephen if he had disclosed his HIV-status to the new girlfriend. Stephen defensively replied, “That’s none of your business! She doesn’t need to know anyway.” Because it was toward the end of the session, Lila did not pursue the discussion any further. She also realized that she never told Stephen that she may have to report that. In her next session with Stephen, before Lila could bring up the HIV disclosure issue, Stephen stated he was struggling with feelings of guilt about something he did just before he decided to stop using drugs. Lila listened non-judgmentally as Stephen disclosed that about two and a half months ago, to get money to buy drugs, he broke into several houses in the area. In one of the break-ins, the owner unexpectedly walked in on Stephen. Out of fear, Stephen attacked the man who ended up in the hospital in a coma. Stephen was able to get away and was never caught by the police. Lila recalled seeing this story on the local news and remembered that the victim was still in a coma in the hospital. In that moment, Lila felt her strongest urge to drink that she has felt in years, and thought to herself, “I have no idea what to do.”



The supervisory relationship is a foundational tool in preparing recently graduated, unlicensed counselors for independent practice. According to the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics (2014), a counseling supervisor’s “primary obligation […] is to monitor the services provided by supervisees” to ensure that all clients receive competent care. A novice counselor’s ability to effectively use counseling techniques, adhere to the ACA ethical code, and seek consultation where necessary impacts the effectiveness of the therapeutic services they provide. Additionally, supervisees must be able to self-assess for possible impairment and commit themselves to regular self-care. This paper will examine a multi-faceted ethical dilemma regarding the importance of the supervisory relationship using the seven steps of the Practitioner’s Guide to Ethical Decision Making (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016).

Identify the Dilemma

The scenario presents a Limited Licensed Professional Counselor named Lila who has worked for a federally-funded substance abuse facility for five months. Lila has a history of substance use disorder and has been sober for five years. She fears that this could prevent her from obtaining her license, so she has not disclosed it to her supervisor. Lila has had four sessions with Stephen, a middle-aged, HIV-positive, White man with a history of cocaine and methamphetamine abuse. Stephen has maintained sobriety since a recent stay at a rehabilitation facility, and is taking HIV medication to maintain an undetectable viral load. Still, Lila feels concerned that Stephen has not disclosed his HIV status to his girlfriend. Furthermore, she learns that Stephen’s decision to attend rehab was precipitated by a break-in he committed during which he assaulted a man, leaving him in a coma. The authorities have not yet discovered who is responsible for the crime. These revelations, in addition to discussions of Stephen’s urges to use drugs, have triggered intense alcohol cravings for Lila.

There are multiple dilemmas in this case: Lila’s concern about Stephen’s HIV status in relation to his partner, Stephen’s admission of guilt in the assault case, and Lila’s reluctance to disclose her increasingly urgent cravings to her supervisor. This paper will apply the ACA Code of Ethics (2014) and legal standards to each dilemma before selecting a recommended course of action.

Apply the ACA Code of Ethics and Determine Dimensions of the Dilemma


HIV Disclosure

HIV is not considered transmissible if there is no viral load, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Legally, there is little federal oversight in regard to HIV transmission, and the state of Illinois, where the authors of this paper will practice, repealed the Illinois Criminal Transmission of HIV Statute on July 27, 2021 (The Center for HIV Law and Policy, 2021). Therefore, no laws compel Stephen to disclose his HIV status to his partner. Additionally, Lila works for a federally-funded agency which is subject to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) laws, including Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (HIPAA) (2004) and the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records (2017). Here, it would be wise for Lila to seek legal consultation for clarification of these and all laws pertaining to the case.

Ethically, Lila did not discuss the potential limits of confidentiality with Stephen, which she must do immediately in order to maintain transparency and honesty in the therapeutic relationship (ACA, 2014, Section A.2.). Perhaps the most significant aspect of the counselor- client relationship, Lila must protect Stephen’s confidentiality, including the release of his records (ACA, 2014, Sections B.1.c., B.6.b.). Lila has no proof that Stephen has a communicable disease nor that he is putting his partner at risk; thus, she has a legal and ethical duty to maintain Stephen’s confidentiality (ACA, 2014, Section B.2.).

Past Crime Disclosure

Lila must be aware of Stephen’s legal rights and any legal mandates for disclosure of his crime. The Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (1994) allows disclosure at the therapist’s discretion when there is a specific threat of violence “where there exists a therapist-recipient relationship or a special recipient-individual relationship.” In this case, Lila has no legal duty to warn because there is no threat of future violence, nor a special relationship with the assault victim. Additionally, according to the Professional Counselor and Clinical Professional Counselor Licensing and Practice Act, privileged communications are still protected because the crime was already committed and there is no new imminent risk of injury (2012). Finally, the confidentiality of Stephen’s records is federally protected (Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records, 2017).

Ethically, Lila must have ongoing conversations with Stephen about potential limits to confidentiality (ACA, 2014, Section A.2.a.). Lila should consider possible negative outcomes of disclosure, such as harm to the therapeutic relationship, legal repercussions for Stephen and herself, and value imposition (ACA, 2014, Sections A.4.a, A.4.b.). Ultimately, Lila must maintain client confidentiality because there are no conditions under which disclosing a previous crime is ethically or legally mandated (ACA, 2014, Section B.1.c.). Lila should focus on clinical work with Stephen regarding the past crime, while prioritizing consultation, documentation and self-care.

Examination of Moral Principles

Lila must examine Kitchener’s moral principles (1984) in relation to the personal conflicts she experiences while working with Stephen. Nonmaleficence, or the concept of doing no harm to her client, should be considered in relation to Stephen’s confessions regarding his HIV status and past crime. Lila feels a strong negative reaction to these admissions, but must consider the possible harmful consequences of breaking client confidentiality, such as jail time for Stephen or the dissolution of his personal relationship. Beyond preventing harm, Lila has a duty to uphold beneficence, or work for the good of her client and greater society. Lila could achieve this goal by assisting Stephen in processing the effects of his crime, thereby reducing the likelihood of a recurrence. However, Lila’s negative reaction to his confessions could signal internal conflict between honoring fidelity to her client versus protecting his partner and bringing justice to the man that he gravely injured. She must examine the conflict between these impulses and explore her resulting emotional response and urge to use alcohol. In doing so, she will honor the principle of veracity; honesty with herself, her supervisor, and her client about professional impairment she may be experiencing.

Lila’s Sobriety and Impairment

While Lila fears unfair treatment due to her substance use disorder, her status is protected by federal law. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which includes substance abuse disorders as a protected disability, “No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment” (1990). Furthermore, while the ADA applies to state and local governmental units, the Rehabilitation Act protects federal employees of organizations that receive governmental grants, such as Lila, from discrimination based on “information learned about an individual’s disability” (1973). Per the ACA Code of Ethics (2014):

Supervisors must endorse supervisees for certification, licensure, employment, or completion of an academic or training program only when they believe that supervisees are qualified for the endorsement. Regardless of qualifications, supervisors do not endorse supervisees whom they believe to be impaired in any way that would interfere with the performance of the duties associated with the endorsement. (Section F.6.d.)

According to the ACA Task Force on Impaired Counselors, “Therapeutic impairment occurs when there is a significant negative impact on a counselor’s professional functioning which compromises client care or poses the potential for harm to the client” (Lawson & Venart, 2005). Vicarious trauma (VT), or emotional and psychological symptoms experienced by counselors that work with clients addressing trauma, may contribute to Lila’s impairment in this case (Lanier & Carney, 2019). Vicarious traumatization can be viewed as “a cumulative process of personal change in helpers that happens through empathic connection with clients” (Lawson & Venart, 2005). Novice counselors like Lila are at elevated risk for experiencing VT for several reasons. Lila may have limited experience and training in helping clients to process trauma, and she may not have established appropriate boundaries with her clients in this early stage of her career development. Furthermore, her inexperience may affect her ability to recognize her own symptoms of VT as they develop (Lanier & Carney, 2019).

Supervisor Non-Disclosure

At the core of Lila’s dilemma lies her failure to inform her supervisor of her previous substance use and her current challenges treating Stephen. Lila should be involved in ongoing consultation with her supervisor, especially when ethical or professional questions arise (ACA, 2014, Section C.2.e.). Not only does she risk making poor, uninformed ethical decisions, she could possibly harm her client by providing incompetent treatment. Furthermore, Lila’s supervisor is obligated to monitor services she provides to clients (ACA, 2014, Section F.1.a.) in order to assess her professional development and performance. She risks her own professional growth and relationship with her supervisor in withholding key information about her triggers and substance use disorder. In time, she could face remediation, as it is her supervisor’s ethical duty to monitor her competency and effectiveness (ACA, 2014, Section F.6.b.).

Lila’s dynamic with her supervisor, termed “supervisee intentional nondisclosure,” is common, with one study indicating that of 107 prelicensed counselors, 95.3% reported withholding some degree of information from their supervisors, while 53.3% completely withheld a concern from their supervisors (Cook et al., 2020). This is significant in that supervisors are legally responsible for the services rendered to their supervisees’ clients (Magnuson et al., 2000, as cited in Cook et al., 2020). The same study noted that several factors contribute to the likelihood of nondisclosure: self-directed supervision, a more evaluative supervisory relationship tied to professional progress, reduced access to supervisors compared to university settings, and less direct monitoring of supervisees’ work. These considerations may shed light on Lila’s hesitance to discuss negative triggers she experiences in her sessions with Stephen.

Impairment and Self-Care

Above all, this case highlights the importance of vulnerability awareness, wellness monitoring, self-care and supervision in preventing counselor impairment, especially in prelicensed counselors. The ACA Task Force on Counselor Impairment promotes these exercises as a means of increasing counselor resiliency in the face of professional stressors (Lawson & Venart, 2005). Lila meets the standard of impairment as defined by the Task Force; her personal crisis regarding alcohol use and possible VT compromise her effectiveness as a counselor. Counselors should regularly perform self-assessments such as The Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL- III) to measure their vulnerability to burnout, as well as the Self-Care Assessment, which provides examples of various self-care techniques (Lawson & Venart, 2005). Lila must monitor her reactions and emotions, obtain consultation and process her triggers in treatment. Ultimately, “counselors engage in self-care activities to maintain and promote their own emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being to best meet their professional responsibilities” (ACA, 2014). Lastly, the Task Force maintains that “An active supportive relationship with supervisors and peers is an especially important component of self- care for counselors” (Lawson & Venart, 2005).

Generate Potential Courses of Action

Legal and ethical codes pertaining to Stephen’s HIV status and his past crime demonstrate that Lila should maintain confidentiality in these areas. Therefore, possible courses of action outlined here will focus on Lila’s sobriety and resolving impairment. One possible course of action is exclusive consultation with peers, which may provide Lila with a sense of confidentiality and safety outside of the supervisory relationship. Having recently finished her graduate studies, Lila may have a robust network of counselors with whom to consult. However, other inexperienced prelicensed counselors may not advise Lila with the same level of insight and expertise as her supervisor. Furthermore, Lila does not have legal or ethical basis to resist disclosure to her supervisor, so this course of action is not a comprehensive solution.

Another potential course of action is to refer Stephen to a different counselor. The immediate benefit of this solution is that Lila’s triggers may be reduced or altogether eliminated, but this is not a long-term solution. Removing the source of stress does not constitute an in- depth understanding of the dilemma, and will not help Lila maintain confident sobriety going forward. Additionally, referring Stephen to another counselor may be detrimental to his recovery and mental health. Stephen may experience feelings of rejection or abandonment if he is invested in the support he receives from his therapeutic relationship with Lila. Referral should be a final resort if all other paths fail.

Select Recommended Course of Action

The recommended course of action is that Lila disclose her sobriety status to her supervisor and speak candidly about her compromised mental health, sobriety, and ability to provide competent care. She is legally protected from discrimination due to her substance use disorder, but may not receive her license if she remains impaired due to non-disclosure. Lila will be honest with her supervisor about how sessions with Stephen trigger cravings, and how she fears being judged for her substance use history. Additionally, she will prioritize her mental health and sobriety, possibly calling on resources such as personal counseling, 12 step programs and support groups that previously helped her reach and maintain sobriety. She will also perform regular self-assessments such as the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL- III) to check for signs of burnout and impairment. By pursuing this chosen course of action, Lila takes steps to resolve impairment and ensure that Stephen and other clients receive quality care.

Evaluate Recommended Course of Action

Before implementation, the chosen resolution must be evaluated for appropriateness using Stadler’s tests of justice, publicity, and universality (1986, as cited in Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016). The justice test examines whether the counselor would take the same action in parallel situations; the publicity test judges if she would deem it acceptable for her choices and actions to be reported by the news media; and the universality test asks if she would encourage counselors in similar situations to follow this course of action. The proposed solution adheres to recommendations from the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics and meets the conditions of all three tests.


As has been discussed in this analysis, the supervisory relationship is fundamental to the education and growth of new counselors. Counselors will encounter various challenges and ethical questions as they work toward licensure. It is their responsibility to apply relevant laws and ethical codes to their dilemmas, as well as consult their supervisors. In this case, Lila’s fear of personal disclosure isolated her from a fount of support, insight, and guidance that could have prevented her impairment. No counselor is an island, and from novice prelicensed counselors to experienced practitioners, all members of the counseling profession benefit from seeking new perspectives and networks of support.



Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

HBCU students take first place in ACA’s doctoral ethics competition

September 30, 2022

This award recognizes exceptional, demonstrable understanding of the ACA Code of Ethics, the foundation of ethical professional counseling practice. Each year, ACA honors top-ranking teams in both Masters and Doctoral level graduate degree programs.


Graduate Student Ethics Awards for Doctoral Degree Students

By Anitra Y. Powell, Sylvester R. Smith and Ulisha L. Fraser Reese

Department of Counseling, North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, North Carolina

Faculty Advisor: Shea Dunham


Prompt: James is a third year, full-time, doctoral student in a counselor education and supervision program. James identifies as a cisgender, white, male. He is providing weekly telehealth supervision to a master’s level internship student, Selena, who is enrolled in his Practicum course. Selena identifies as a Hispanic, female.

Selena has been receiving weekly supervision with James for the past 2 months and has planned to show a recording of a new client during their weekly scheduled supervision session. James asks Selena for verification that all informed consent documents and client’s permission were obtained to record the session. Selena verifies that she has used the informed consent intern forms from her practicum site and has obtained permission from the client. These forms disclosed that Selena was a student under supervision, but it did not specifically state what university Selena is enrolled in, or who her faculty supervisor was.

Selena shows the recording of the counseling session to James for review. In the recording, Selena’s client, Henry, is discussing a recent affair that he had and how he plans on leaving his spouse in the near future. James is visibly upset as he watches the recording with Selena. James begins to give Selena advice on how she needs to strongly encourage the client to tell their spouse about the affair. Selena does not feel comfortable with this guidance from the supervisor but follows through with the recommendation due to feeling pressure from her supervisor.

Fifteen minutes prior to their next scheduled supervision session, James informs Selena that his Doxy.me account has not been working properly and states that he will FaceTime her instead for supervision just this once, because he does not want to miss their weekly supervision. During this supervision session, James then focuses only on this case and continues to give advice on how Selena should be protecting the client’s spouse in this situation. Selena is uncomfortable with this direction and the attention that James is giving to this case. She decides to consult with her site supervisor who encourages her to focus on the client’s perspective. In the next session with the client, he stated that he is apprehensive about how his spouse and in-laws will treat him if he discloses the affair. In this meeting Selena finds out that James is the father-in-law of her client. Selena is now unsure how to approach this situation.


Abstract: Defining ethics of clinical supervision as an area of specialization involving supervisor, supervisee, and the client is key in ethical decision making. The essay discusses areas of responsibility, informed consent, values, and decision making, ethics and technology, ethics and diversity/multiculturalism, responsibility to colleagues, confidentiality, privacy, due process, and competence. The authors further explain the ethical violations and the legal issues that arise while providing strategies for their prevention. Lastly, the essay applies the Tarvydas Integrative Decision-Making Model for formulating decision making to avoid ethical violations down to enforcement; while seeking to give insight, adding to a collaborative relationship, and serve as competent stakeholders and gatekeepers for best practice (Cottone & Tarvydas, 2006).


Doctoral Prompt and Tarvydas Integrative Decision-Making Model

The prompt describes James (cisgender, white male) a third year, full-time doctoral student in the role of educator and supervisor to Selena (master’s level Hispanic female student enrolled in her practicum) for over 2 months. All preliminary documents such as informed consent appears to be verified via her practicum site to show telecommunication recordings of her sessions for supervision; however, documents did not specify her university or faculty supervisor invalidating the documentation. Consents should discuss the nature of the procedure, risk and benefits of the procedure, reasonable alternatives, risk and benefits of alternatives, and assessment of the consumers understanding of the elements of the consent form, confidentiality, and contacts.
James and Selena either out of incognizance or oversite proceed their course of action and inevitably confronts a dilemma. James witnesses his son-in-law’s infidelity in the video where he confronts his personal values with his ethical obligations. Selena is clearly uncomfortable as noted by her confronting her site supervisor. James advances a line of decisions that continues to blur his objectivity as a supervisor essentially harming the client, supervisee, distorting his role, and compromising the code of ethics.
The authors will use the Tarvydas Integrative Decision-Making Model to explore our prompt and reach a resolution of the present prompt. The model is chosen because it blends and reflects on personal and moral sensitivity of persons impacted, respects the philosophy of the American Counseling Association (ACA) profession, gauges objectivity and perspectives stakeholders (Cottone & Tarvydas, 2006). It incorporates multiple contexts such as social, cultural, political, legal, and economic factors while also analyzing the efficiency and competence of ethical considerations (Cottone & Tarvydas, 2006).

Awareness and Fact-Finding

The purpose of the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics (ACA, 2014) is to have a written understanding to help counselors with the process of analyzing limits and competing interest. This agreed upon “handbook” facilitates for the counseling professional ways to help promote the welfare of the consumer, make sure we are “doing no harm,” practicing with competence, respecting confidentiality and privacy, acting in an ethical and responsible way, and avoiding exploitation of consumers (ACA, 2014).
As we engage in the fact-finding process, we consider reasonable sequences of actions on all involved in the dilemma to help with analyzing thoughts, feelings, expectations, motivations, concerns, the reaction on others, as well as ourselves as counselors. We reflect our ethics and professional etiquette while taking into consideration basic consumer principles: do no harm, beneficence, nonmaleficence, veracity, fidelity, justice, and autonomy (ACA, 2014). These principles are pillars in counseling and provide a fair and balance weighing to situations. It is necessary that as supervisor and supervisee work to enhance the lifespan of the client while considering multicultural lens, diversity approaches, social justice advocacy; together, safeguard counseling, counseling relationship, and demonstrating competence in an ethical manner (ACA, 2014).

Diversity and Multiculturalism

Understanding cultural differences and diversity amongst professionals is essential in respecting individuals’ cultural mores and gaining greater insight on an individual’s professional identity. Belief systems can assist with identifying how individuals are shaped and influenced in which create ideologies that help interpret our daily reality (Smith, 1966). Social norms within the Hispanic culture emphasize the importance of both verbal and nonverbal communication (Smith, 1966). This could have assisted with the interpersonal relationship between the supervisor and supervisee.
In reviewing the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics many ethical concerns were observed. However, the most prevalent are listed below with justifications:

  • A.1.a. Client Welfare – Although James is aware, he knows Selena’s client upon reviewing the video recording, he pushes Selena to provide guidance to the client based off his own personal feelings and agenda. Therefore, neglecting the best interest of the client and possibly causing an unhealthy relationship between Selena and the client and Selena and himself.
  • A.2.a. Informed Consent – James only verbally verified Selena’s informed consent form, leaving gaps in the documentation process. Counselors have an obligation to review this form in writing and verbally with the client. This hindered the client’s freedom of choice whether to enter into or remain in the counseling relationship. If provided with the adequate information such as Selena’s faculty supervisor, the client would have been aware that he was related to Selena’s supervisor.
  • A.4.a. Avoiding Harm – Once James was aware that the client was his relative, he should have removed himself from the counseling process to prevent bias and imposing his personal beliefs onto Selena. James also created discomfort in the supervisor/supervisee relationship and caused Selena to seek additional support from her site supervisor.
  • A.4.b. Personal Values – When James met with Selena for supervision, he only focused on the current ethical dilemma. James imposed his personal opinion and provided unsolicited advice on how Selena should assist the client which was opposite of Selena’s views.
  • A.5.d. Friends or Family Members – James was aware when watching the recorded session that the client was his daughter’s husband and his supervision direction to Selena and body language towards the session convey how he is unable to remain objective.
  • B.1.b. Respect for Privacy – James knew before finishing the recorded session that the client was his son-in-law, however watched it to the end. At this time James violated the client’s privacy and watching the entire recording was only for his personal benefit.
  • B.1.c. Respect for confidentiality – Selena shared the recorded session of her client to her supervisor without appropriate consent.
  • B.3.e. Transmitting Confidential Information – James should not have conducted supervision through an unsecured method such as FaceTime when his Doxy.me account was not working properly. James should have additional consents in place to use alternative secure method and a reschedule policy.
  • B.6.d. Permission to Observe – Although Selena received permission to record the session, no permission was received for any other person to observe the counseling session.
  • C.2.e. Consultation on Ethical Obligations – While Selena sought out assistance from her site supervisor after her weekly supervision meeting, Selena should have considered the fact she was unconformable when receiving guidance from her supervisor prior to and would have known to consult with other counselors as per the ACA Code of ethics.
  • F.11.d. Multicultural Competence — In Hispanic traditional patriarchal structure women are expected to be submissive to older male adults, therefore James should have been more cognizant of this. Although Selena was uncomfortable with James’ advice, she still followed through with telling the client. If Selena understood the body language queues, she would have noticed her supervisor was visibly upset after watching the recorded session. Selena should have used a cultural developmental model such as A.S.Ruiz (1990) to be more aware of Western society and cultural barriers. This could have assisted in her understanding of cultural identity, forced assimilation and freedom to advocate for her client (Sue & Sue, 2008).

Distance Counseling and Technology

The Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselors (LCMHC) Act NC GS Article 24 (2019) surrounding counseling via technology are centered around protecting the client. These laws do not specify system qualifications in distance counseling except services must be provided via an encryption platform (NCBLCMHC, 2019, Article 24). James recognized an issue with his secure platform Doxy.com before his meeting with his supervisee. However, James proceeded to use FaceTime as a platform to meet with Selena for supervision. James did not consider ethical and legal ramifications for this change in their confidential platform Doxy.com. North Carolina General Statutes does not identify specific platforms in which counselors can provide distance counseling (NCBLCMHC, 2019, Article 24). When technology is utilized as a part of counseling services it has to be maintained and regular maintenance checks are required (H.5.c.). One focus of the law is encryption of technology platforms (NCBLCMHC, 2019, Article 24). Encryption serves as a safeguard against breaches in the confidentiality (H.2.b.). FaceTime does not meet the qualifications as an encrypted platform and should not have been used for this meeting. It is the responsibility of James and Selena to protect their client’s information (H.5.a.).
In addition to encryption of technology platforms the General Statutes stresses the importance of educating the client in the ramifications and procedures of participating in counseling via the internet (NCBLCMHC, 2019, Article 24). Safeguarding information surrounding the encrypted platform address how the client’s records will be maintained over time (H.2.b). During the initial meeting with the client to obtain informed consent the counselor should educate the client and include in their handbook how session records will be preserved and disclosed (H.5.c.). It would have been best ethical practice for James and Selena to provide the client with the details on how recorded sessions are shared and preserved through Doxy.com. Client education on the use of technology details how long records are saved and consist of permission from the client on exactly who this information can be disclosed to (H.2.a.).
James and Selena are obligated to follow the laws of practicing counseling at the state level when utilizing technology for counseling services (NCBLCMHC, 2019, Article 24). The implications of the use of a session recording and platforms should have been addressed through their supervision and with the client (H.1.b.). James did not maintain professional boundaries once he viewed the recording and saw his son-in-law in session with Selena (H.4.a.). It was an inappropriate use of technology when did not disclose his dual relationship with Henry but viewed the recording as means to direct Selena on how to get the affair shared with his daughter (I.1.c.).

Reflective Analysis

Due to a dual relationship, (A.5.d.) James interrupted his ability to be an objective supervisor (A.4.a., A.6.d.). James’ personal values and loyalties ran counter to the welfare of the client and his ability to be impartial as a supervisor (A.4.a). James should have consulted with his colleagues (B.7.a. B.7.b.) in efforts to eliminate nonmaleficence. James’ blind spot and personal bias for his daughter created competing loyalties.
James unwittingly engages in cultural marginalization and negates his role as a supervisor. The dual relationship forced him to become an arbitrator playing favorites rather than delivering best ethical practice in a culturally sensitive and objective manner with respect to the supervisee and client (A.6., A.6.a.). Cultural competence amongst professionals is essential in respecting individuals’ cultural differences within their social and cultural contexts (A.4.b.).
In the prompt, James never accounts for the systematic influence that his role as a white male supervisor plays in the supervisory role at the university level or within society (A.7.). He never takes account of his personal or professional position in the hierarchy and how it contrasts with her cultural foundations. He never acknowledges the implications of Selena’s family structures, sex-role expectations, acculturation conflicts, educational characteristics, linguistic context, intrapsychic issues of society such as suspiciousness of outside authorities (Sue & Sue, 2008). James in the prompt never allow Selena to state her own words to the problem as she sees them. Also, he does not evaluate whether Selena has a grasp of her responsibilities as a supervisee. It seems James is oblivious to the power differential that exist between them on multiple levels (C.2.d.).

Planning and Executing the Selected Course of Action

It would benefit James to discuss with his university ways to manage confidentiality, privacy, video (G.5.) consent at various stages to prevent further intrusion into matters that may challenge his own personal biases and cause harm to the client. It would help if James utilized case consultation to discuss and review documentation to respect privacy, protect the client’s identity and to avoid undue invasion of privacy. James then can monitor the effectiveness of the case and provide reasonable steps to evaluate before viewing the videos (G.5.). Video consent and review of documents could have been reexamined to make sure all pertinent information was in place to protect the identity of the client.
In becoming culturally competent it is feasible for James to start exploring his own historical roots, beliefs, and values. It would benefit him to learn about diverse cultures, interact with diverse groups, attend diverse focus conferences, and talk with his university about his blind spots and biases. Cross-cultural competency training is a preferred course of action to help him gain knowledge of supervision models to learn sensitive interventions and strategies to heighten awareness of culturally different populations.
Suspending James of his role as a supervisor until he can receive evidence base training in a conceptual model of supervision is recommended. James showed critical issues in supervision around areas of competence, theoretical identity, respect for individual and cultural differences, direction and purpose of goals, personal meaning and motivation for the supervisee, and professional values (Bernard & Goodyear, 2018). James never demonstrated he understood Selena’s developmental level within the supervisory process. Selena supervision would have been enhanced by integrating counseling theory, academic coursework, overlapping steps of counseling principles in the parameters of supervisee and supervisor related issues such as professional disclosure, tracking development, and evaluation statements for feedback and parallel process (Bernard & Goodyear, 2018).

Concluding Thoughts

The counseling profession can often be complex and intricate. Therefore, having a set of rules and expectations that can be followed for not only ethical obligations, but also ethical decision making is of the upmost importance. While the mission of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics emphasizes the importance of professional counselors’ development and advancement of the counseling professional, it also highlights how professionals should uphold professional values that primarily safeguard the client’s interest.
In maintaining the standards of the profession supervision is needed. Supervision is an intervention with its own models and techniques. Training is structured in a progressive way so supervisee can development from a novice to a professional with skills acquired along the path (Bernard & Goodyear, 2018). It is wholly the supervisor and supervisee task to support the developmental stages by scaffolding prior knowledge and skills (Bernard & Goodyear, 2018). As a competent supervisor or aspiring supervisor, it is important to understand the clinical supervision domains of client’s and supervisee’s supervision to help with the overall orientation of the counseling process (Bernard & Goodyear, 2018). Committing to competency-based supervision recognizes the importance goals being served by clients, supervisees, supervisors, accredited programs, the professions, and society at large.

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Team from Montclair State University wins ACA’s 2021 Doctoral level ethics competition

June 21, 2021

This award recognizes exceptional, demonstrable understanding of the ACA Code of Ethics, the foundation of ethical professional counseling practice. Each year, ACA honors top-ranking teams in both Masters and Doctoral level graduate degree programs.



Culturally Responsive Ethical Decision-Making During COVID-19

By Rebecca Randall, Sunanda Sharma and Matthew Tirrell

Department of Counseling, Montclair State University

ACA Graduate Student Ethics Competition – Doctoral Category

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Dana Heller Levitt



The COVID-19 pandemic imposes novel conditions on counseling supervisors and extends the boundaries of ethical considerations. Remote supervision of counselors-in-training, as described in the current case, poses unique challenges to the supervisory triad. To evaluate the proposed scenario for potential ethical dilemmas, the authors consulted and applied the Transcultural Integrative Model (TIM) for ethical decision-making (Garcia et al., 2003). The authors identified several concerns that involve the stakeholders in the case, including: client welfare, counselor impairment, the supervisory relationship, the praxis of virtual supervision during COVID-19, and professional gatekeeping. The case content was examined from a multicultural lens and assessed for congruence with the foundational principles and standards of the counseling profession. Proposed courses of action include remediation for the counselor-in training, support for the supervisor-in-training, and collaborative, culturally responsive communication among the stakeholders.


Culturally Responsive Ethical Decision-Making During COVID-19

COVID-19 prompted professional counselors to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances with no advanced preparation. Despite this, the counseling profession responded by shifting: how counseling services are delivered, how counselor educators and supervisors are preparing counselors-in-training, and how counselors-in-training are working with clients under these challenging circumstances (Bray, 2020). In this context, Caila, a doctoral level supervisor and student, encounters a number of ethical concerns which impact several stakeholders. We will assess the case and offer recommendations for the most appropriate course of action through use of the Transcultural Integrative Model (TIM) for ethical decision-making (Garcia et al., 2003).

Transcultural Integrative Model of Ethical Decision-Making

The TIM is an ethical decision-making model that accounts for personal, professional, and collaborative perspectives on ethical dilemmas (Garcia et al., 2003). The TIM is the most conducive model to explore the various dimensions of this case, due to its focus on cultural context and its utilization of social constructivist strategies to collaboratively formulate an ethical response. Caila’s intersecting identities (e.g., race, gender, ability status) and the issues of power and privilege between all the stakeholders inform a number of concerns within this case. We will use the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (MSJCC) to examine each stakeholder’s positionality with respect to their marginalized and privileged identities (Ratts et al., 2016). We will analyze this case through a multicultural lens, informed by the MSJCC, which will permeate our use of the TIM: interpreting the situation, formulating an ethical decision, weighing competing nonmoral values, and planning and executing the selected course of action (Garcia et al., 2003; Ratts et al., 2016).

Interpreting the Situation Through Sensitivity, Awareness, and Fact-Finding

The first step in the TIM (Garcia et al., 2003) is to seek a deep understanding of the potential ethical dilemmas posed in the case. Identification begins with a close examination, informed by the cultural perspectives of each stakeholder, attention to the foundational ethical principles of the profession, and commitment to accurate interpretation (Garcia et al., 2003). There are several ethical considerations in this case: client welfare, counselor impairment, the supervisory relationship, virtual supervision during COVID-19, and professional gatekeeping. The stakeholders in this case are Kyle, Caila, Dr. Smith, Kyle’s clients, and the site supervisor.

Client Welfare

Kyle reported to Caila that his site is not following recommended COVID-19 safety guidelines, which puts his clients at risk. Although Caila attempted to contact the site, her inability to conduct a live site visit precludes her from effectively evaluating client well-being. Caila did not inform Dr. Smith of Kyle’s safety concerns, which exacerbates the clients’ vulnerability. Dr. Smith’s lack of awareness exposes problematic relational patterns in the supervisory triad that may further threaten client well-being.

Counselor Self-Awareness and Self-Advocacy

Counselors are called to grow in self-awareness and to self-monitor for potential impairment (ACA, 2014). Caila has not been fully transparent in her supervisory relationships about her compromised self-efficacy amid the stress of quarantine. Similarly, as counselors and supervisors are charged with advocating for client welfare, they are also called to self-advocate for their wellness. Caila’s difficulty with self-monitoring and self-advocacy is a significant concern with implications for her supervisory relationships and client welfare.

Supervisory Relationships

Transparency and cultural awareness in the supervisory relationship, which appear to be challenges for these stakeholders, are essential to competent supervision and counseling (ACES, 2011). Kyle and Dr. Smith met for supervision without informing Caila, and Caila withheld critical information from Dr. Smith regarding her tenuous mental and physical states. Additionally, ​Kyle draws on commonly used microaggressions against Black women (Moody & Lewis, 2019), which warrants an exploration of his intent and meaning.​ ​Culturally-informed ethical concerns extend to Caila and Dr. Smith’s relationship as well, given its cross-cultural and hierarchical nature. Attention to sociocultural positionality and power differentials appears to be of concern in the supervisory relationship dynamics.

Informed Consent in Virtual Supervision

Supervisors must provide comprehensive informed consent to supervisees prior to engaging in virtual supervision. It is unknown to what extent Caila has met this responsibility. It is unclear if Caila communicated her decision to conduct virtual supervision exclusively in her professional disclosure statement, as suggested by Kyle’s reported dissatisfaction with the absence of in-person supervision.


Caila and Dr. Smith are responsible for monitoring Kyle’s patterns of behavior to ensure adherence to professional and ethical counseling standards (ACA, 2014). Dr. Smith is also obligated to continually assess Caila’s competence as a supervisor. Caila’s and Dr. Smith’s struggle to communicate transparently about their respective responses to Kyle’s resistance (e.g., his hesitance to address safety concerns at his site and his response to Caila’s feedback) raises concerns about their efficacy as gatekeepers. Ultimately, Dr. Smith is responsible for ensuring both Caila and Kyle act in ways that safeguard their clients’ well-being.

Formulating an Ethical Decision

Once counselors have fully engaged in a thorough process of exploration, reflection, and fact-finding, they review the ethical dilemma, guided by the ACA ​Code of Ethics​ (2014) and other pertinent guidelines, and seek collegial consultation (Garcia et al., 2003). A review of all of these resources inform possible courses of action.

Relevant Ethical Standards

A.1.a. Primary Responsibility.​ ​Congruent with the fundamental principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence, the primary responsibility of counselors is to “respect the dignity and promote the welfare of clients” (ACA, 2014). Perhaps the most significant concern in this case is client welfare at Kyle’s site. All of the stakeholders in this case have a responsibility to act in the best interest of their clients and ensure their safety.

A.7.a. Advocacy.​ ​Counselors and supervisors are responsible to act as advocates when they identify barriers to clients’ and supervisees’ well-being. Kyle identifies safety concerns at his site and is called to advocate on his clients’ behalf, yet he is hesitant to do so. Likewise, Dr. Smith is responsible for inquiring into the well-being of and advocating for his students and supervisees.

F.5.b. Impairment. Supervisors hold the dual responsibility of ensuring client welfare and fostering supervisee growth. Caila must engage in ongoing self-reflection and self-monitoring to recognize how COVID-related challenges have compromised her ability to carry out her supervisory responsibilities.

F.2.b. Multicultural Issues/Diversity in Supervision.​ ​Supervisors are responsible for broaching issues related to multiculturalism and diversity in their work with supervisees. Given the differences in their racial identities, as well as the hierarchical nature of the supervisory relationship, Caila must broach cultural differences with Kyle, as well as issues pertaining to power and privilege, in order to model effective broaching in the counseling relationship.

F.4.a. Informed Consent for Supervision.​ ​In their use of virtual platforms, counselors and supervisors maintain the responsibility to adhere to established standards of care. As Caila decided to utilize online supervision, it is imperative that she discuss this choice, as well as its implications, in the ongoing process of informed consent with Kyle.

F.6.a. Evaluation and F.6.b. Gatekeeping and Remediation.​ ​As a supervisor-in-training, Caila has the responsibility to give Kyle concrete feedback about his performance and to keep her faculty supervisor apprised of challenges she experiences. As a counselor educator and faculty supervisor, Dr. Smith is responsible for supporting and empowering Caila in her work with supervisees. He will further attend to his supervisees’ developmental needs and tailor his interventions accordingly.

Possible Courses of Action

Once counselors have identified and explored the implications of professional standards, they generate potential courses of action, attending to the positive and negative consequences of each, and engage in consultation (Garcia et al., 2003). Caila is the catalyst for an ethical course of action because, as the case stands, Dr. Smith and Kyle have decided to work together without consulting her. Possible courses of action either include Caila not taking action or addressing Kyle or Dr. Smith separately. ​Caila’s inaction maintains the status quo, leaves Kyle’s clients at risk, and misses an important opportunity for her and Kyle to grow as culturally responsive advocates and counselors.​ Another consequence of Caila’s inaction might be that Kyle would not receive remediation necessary for his development, and he will be at risk of “gateslipping”, a phenomenon in which counseling students who require additional support and education continue through their program without remediation (Gaubatz & Vera, 2006). If Caila chooses to address Dr. Smith or Kyle individually, there would be limited accountability for ethical action and remediation. It is possible Caila will encounter resistance by enacting an ethical course of action; however, there is overwhelming positive value if she chooses to address the identified concerns.

Planning and Executing the Selected Course of Action

Caila, Dr. Smith, Kyle, and Kyle’s site supervisor have contributed to the issues in this case in different ways, and each party will have varied ethical responsibilities. There are common factors to each party’s action: transparent communication, consultation, critical reflection, broaching race and culture, safeguarding client welfare, and documentation. The concrete actions outlined for each stakeholder are based on considerations from the TIM (Garcia et al., 2003).


COVID-19 pandemic conditions necessitate that counselors “practice what they preach” by engaging in self-care and protecting their health, just as they would recommend to their clients (Bray, 2020, p. 21). As an individual at higher risk, Caila is conducting her work remotely in order to remain safe; however, she is not impervious to the psychological toll of the pandemic. It is imperative for Caila to reflect upon how her marginalized intersecting identities as a Black woman with compromised health inform her worldview, value system, and actions (Chan et al., 2018; Fickling et al., 2018) through the pandemic. ​The contrast between Caila’s sociocultural status and her positional authority in her evaluative role as a supervisor-in-training (Rapp et al., 2018) may have led to a tentative approach to her gatekeeping responsibilities.​ C​ aila must reflect upon why she is reticent to disclose her emotional struggles and recognize that her silence jeopardizes her standing in her doctoral program, her supervisory relationships, and the welfare of her supervisees’ clients.

Caila will benefit from consultation with a departmental advisor or mentor to receive support as she navigates this process and so she may receive guidance about how to engage Dr. Smith and Kyle in a productive dialogue. Caila should schedule a virtual meeting with Dr. Smith to disclose how COVID-related challenges have impacted her supervisory practice. Caila must also address Dr. Smith’s decision to supervise Kyle without consulting her, suggest a meeting between the three of them to address concerns in their supervisory relationship, and work collaboratively with the field placement coordinator to investigate COVID-related concerns at Kyle’s site.

Dr. Smith and the remediation committee at the university will determine specific interventions for Caila; however, crucial components to be infused throughout are: increasing her personal awareness (Roach & Young, 2007), implementing strategies to aid in her development as a supervisor and gatekeeper, (Henderson & Dufrene, 2017; Rapp et al., 2018), and learning how to broach race and culture (Day-Vines & Holcomb-McCoy, 2013). In order to become a culturally responsive counselor educator and supervisor, Caila must acknowledge that effective counseling begins with her self-awareness (Day-Vines & Holcomb-McCoy, 2013). She must recognize how cultural context impacts clients’ concerns and how important it is to model broaching race and culture with her supervisees (Day-Vines & Holcomb-McCoy, 2013). Through her critical reflection and professional development process, Caila will take steps to protect client welfare at Kyle’s site, strengthen her self-monitoring skills, and further develop her identity as a supervisor (Fickling et al., 2018).

Dr. Smith

Dr. Smith can engage in critical reflection using the MSJCC (Ratts et al., 2016) to increase his self-awareness about his power and privilege in his roles as a male counselor educator, supervisor, gatekeeper, and faculty member (Chan et al., 2018). It is crucial for him to respond to his diverse students’ needs and leverage his privilege to support the stakeholders in this case (Chan et al., 2018; Fickling, et al., 2019). Dr. Smith must also reflect on what contributed to his decision to circumvent Caila by offering Kyle supervision, rather than empowering them to address their working alliance directly (Rapp et al., 2018). After this reflection process, Dr. Smith must meet with Caila to follow-up about her experience in quarantine, how she is balancing her responsibilities, and how he can support her. Dr. Smith and Caila should also schedule a meeting with Kyle to: address the challenges in Kyle and Caila’s working alliance, collaboratively create an action plan with the field placement coordinator to address the challenges at Kyle’s site, and integrate the MSJCC into the counseling and supervisory relationships (Fickling et al, 2018).

Dr. Smith should inform Caila and Kyle that he will approach the remediation committee to create plans that are grounded in guidelines such as the ACA​ Code of Ethics​ (2014), the CACREP (2016) standards, and the university’s gatekeeping policies in the student handbook (Shuermann et al., 2018). Dr. Smith must ensure that the plans address Caila’s and Kyle’s specific needs in a way that fosters their professional development (Henderson & Dufrene, 2017). Finally, as a counselor educator and faculty member, Dr. Smith has an ethical duty to advocate for his diverse students. As he engages in critical reflection, recommends remediation, and documents this process from his perspective, it is incumbent upon Dr. Smith to share his experience with his colleagues, department chair, and university officials to implement more inclusive policies that support Black and minoritized counselor education doctoral students like Caila (Henfield et al., 2013).


Kyle’s contribution to his personal and professional growth will depend on his personal “reflective stance,” defined as the counselor’s willingness to seek self-reflection opportunities and openness to change (Pompeo & Levitt, 2014, p.85). Accordingly, Kyle will agree to meet with Caila and Dr. Smith to discuss their concerns. Through a balance of challenge and support, Caila and Dr. Smith will guide Kyle’s process of critical reflection to promote his self-awareness. Kyle must reflect on his reluctance to advocate for his clients. Caila and Dr. Smith can validate his fear of negative evaluation but firmly remind him of his primary ethical responsibility and commitment to the foundational principles of the profession.

Cultural responsiveness is an ethical mandate for counselors, and therefore Kyle must reflect more on his cultural identities and how his assumptions, values, and biases inform his decision-making as a counselor and supervisee. For example, Dr. Smith and Caila can challenge Kyle to reflect more on his resistance to Caila’s feedback, as well as his inappropriate response to it (e.g., enlisting Dr. Smith for supervision without Caila’s knowledge). Some resistance to supervisors’ critical feedback is normative (Bernard & Goodyear, 2019), but it is curious that Kyle initially was unable to provide concrete examples of what he reports as “aggressive and too critical.” Such terms are examples of gendered racial microaggressions often applied to Black women in work and school settings (Moody & Lewis, 2019), and Kyle must reflect upon his statements to determine if they accurately represent his work with Caila. The depth of Kyle’s critical reflection, as well as his responsiveness to the specific actions recommended by the remediation committee, will encourage his ethical development.

Site Supervisor

Finally, the proposed action plan must include consideration of Kyle’s internship site. Dr. Smith, Caila, and the department’s field placement coordinator should collaborate on the creation of a plan for addressing the COVID-related safety concerns at Kyle’s site. At minimum, this plan should designate a field coordinator or faculty supervisor who can conduct an in-person investigation. Based on these findings, additional measures can be discerned. Dr. Smith or Caila will further communicate to the site supervisor the importance of open and timely communication. Optimally, faculty, students, and site supervisors will commit to “collaborative gatekeeping” (Dean et al., 2019), which helps to prevent “gateslipping” (Gaubatz & Vera, 2006), in addition to meeting counselors’ fundamental responsibility: to respect client dignity and promote client welfare.


Caila, Dr. Smith, and Kyle are involved in a case with myriad issues, and there are serious ramifications if proper ethical action is not taken. Although COVID-19 has posed several challenges, counselors, supervisors, and counselor educators must still promote ethical practice through transparent communication and collaborative supervision in service of client welfare. We have identified the ethical concerns and the relevant standards from the ACA ​Code of Ethics (2014), and we have proposed an ethical course of action using the TIM (Garcia et al., 2003). The course of action was rooted in foundational counseling principles, racial and cultural awareness, and the counseling literature. Caila, Dr. Smith, and Kyle may all learn from this situation and grow in their professional development which will serve them and their future students, clients, and supervisees well.



Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.