Ethical Decision-Making Tools

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Professional counselors are confronted with ethical decision making on a regular day-to-day basis. This could be both nerve-racking and challenging. In order for a counselor to face these ethical decisions, it is important for them to have guidelines in place for when an ethical or legal situation occurs. The first step is to recognize there is an ethical dilemma, once this is recognized the process to resolve it can be started (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2008).

For a new substance abuse counselor it can be difficult to recognize an ethical dilemma. Not that substance abuse counselor’s are ignorant, but most counselors are oblivious to the fact that everything an individual does, has an ethical dimension. Discovering if the dimension is ethical or unethical is a dilemma the substance abuse counselor may have. To help counselors make a decision when faced with an ethical or legal situation, and determine if there is an ethical dilemma the counselor should follow the guidelines that have been put into place for ethical decision-making. For a counselor to recognizes there is an ethical dilemma they should first take the current situation and consider all ethical and legal issues involved and be sensitive to the ethical dilemma at hand. A counselor is not born with sensitivity therefore; it takes time for the mind to develop ethical sensitivity. If a counselor is unable to develop ethical sensitivity, they run the risk of coming to an unethical conclusion in as much, risking their client’s welfare.

Once it has been recognized an Ethical dilemma exist a counselor should then consult the proper code of ethics and laws relevant to the current situation such as the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Code of Ethics....

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...counselor is later on confronted or challenged about the case.

The importance of having good decision-making tools in place is essential to both the counselor and the client. The guidelines help to provide guidance to a counselor when faced with an ethical dilemma. As well as providing protection for the client and the counselor. While counselors should guard themselves from needless lawsuits, they should also find solution for their constant ethical struggles towards the best service to clients.


American Counseling Association. (). (2005). Code of ethics [PDF]. Retrieved from

Capuzzi, D., & Stauffer, M. D. (2008). Foundations of addictions counseling. Boston, M.A: Pearson Education.

National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors []. (2011, March 28). Retrieved from
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