Counseling Code of Ethics


In my studies thus far the topic of ethics has been mentioned in nearly every class. In my undergrad program I took a Counseling Ethics class and then I took another one in graduate school. We have been instructed and quizzed on ethical dilemmas, we have been asked how we would respond in certain situations in the counseling office. We have been told what the right answer is, as well as what the wrong answer is.

The thing is, in my extracurricular reading, I am finding many of the renown therapists of today and yesterday have taken a completely different tack with when it comes to ethics.

Dr. Irv Yalom writes in his book, The Gift of Therapy,

“The first model posited of thr ideal therapist-patient relationship was the new superannuated ‘blank screen,’ in which the therapist remained neutral and more or less anonymous in the hopes that patients would project onto this blank screen major transference distortions” (Yalom, 2022, p. 75)

Yalom, I. D. (2022). Gift of Therapy : An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients. HarperCollins.

The idea of the blank slate therapist was taught by Sigmund Freud. According to Freud’s own writing (Studies in Hysteria) he generally did not follow this blank screen model. Yalom goes on to say, “he (Freud) contrived to attend social functions to see his patients in other settings” (p. 76).

When I read that, I stopped short. You see, one thing that has been pounded home to me is multipicity of relationships with clients cannot happen under almost any and all circumstances.

In the 1950s Carl Rogers put together a model of nondirective therapy. He “instructed therapist to offer minimal direction, often limiting interventions to the echoing of the patient’s last phrase” (Yalom, 2022, p.76) This is a form of therapy that does not allow for the therapist to self-disclose anything. But Rogers did not always follow this model. As he grew as a therapist, he eventually abandoned the idea altogether. He moved from a near silent blank slate to a more interactive approach.

Therapists are not to attend any function of their client’s life that is outside of their scheduled session. They cannot go to school plays, little league games, graduations, etc because that is “unethical.”

I live in a small rural area. It is nearly impossible to not see clients outside of the office. Clients work at the grocery store, the bank, the gas station, the city offices, the library, the movie theater.

Here are three therapists. They are considered to be greats in the field. And yet, according to some they were unethical. How are young therapists to wrap their mind around this dichotomy?


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