08 Feb 2010
Professional identity is an imperative psychological resource that assists counselors to develop and sustain the motivation to attain maximum productivity and produce meaningful results even in the presence of untoward changes that occur in the domain of the work place. The essence of understanding or developing professional identity is supported by the fact that there exist enormous changes that bring along with them uncertainties, uncharted pressures and challenges on the professionals consequently eroding their capability to promote public good. Additionally a strong sense of such identity is a vehicle that enables counselors to constantly reflect about their work lives, the works of the people that they supervise and their personal achievements. It is thus without saying essential for a counselors to construct their own professional identity if they are to achieve self actualization.
As a mental health counselor the key to outstanding work results would be to not only have an understanding of the profession and its requirements but to moreover have insights about how professional identity is achievable. The tasks of a mental health counselor are enormous since it is generally not that easy to constantly be in a position to counsel families, groups, individuals, and couples in a quest to helping them attain optimal mental well being and health. As a mental health counselor it is my responsibility to help persons to deal with various issues that include stress management, addictions, marital problems, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, self esteem problems, parenting problems among other family or personal tribulations. At the end of the counseling sessions it is expected that the client would have been helped to rectify or prevent the problems or conflicts. The insights and information given during the sessions must enable the clients to make positive choices and changes that would be crucial in assisting them to realize their future goals. In such an environment where infinite problems are presented and solutions developed then there is no doubt that I would have to face countless ethical dilemmas and a long list of other challenges. To be able to comfortably deal with the problems, changes and at the same time realize self actualization and maximum productivity I must develop a strong professional identity sense. This paper gives detailed descriptions of how I plan to create my professional identity as a mental health counselor. In line with that this document shall give explanations of how the five ethical principles that are the backbone of the ACA code of ethics will be operationalized. Furthermore it would be necessary to have mentors or work closely with other professionals that would help me sharpen my identity. To facilitate this cause then affiliations to renowned organizations in the profession would be essential. The paper thus intends to let the reader understand how these organizations’ missions and visions are aligned with my personal professional values and therefore how they would contribute in my growth in the field. In addition the paper will indicate how social change would be operationalized together with a comparison of my attitudes about mental health counseling with those of another professional in the field.
As earlier mentioned mental health counselors are confronted with infinite ethical dilemmas in their daily practice. In fact Aiken (2004) notes that the nature of situations that a mental health counselor handles make it hard for them to avoid encountering conflicting issues. Nonetheless, even when confronted with such situations the counselor must always acknowledge that their primary responsibility is to enhance the well being of the client and thus provide solutions that align with this objective. Sometimes however in a quest to promote the objective the client’s life or that of persons close to him may be endangered. Such a case would include for instance where the client requests for non disclosure of their HIV status to their spouses or when the patient’s family members request for non disclosure regarding his terminal prognosis. In similar conflicting situations the five ethical principles provide nonnegotiable ethical standards that would be of assistance in getting better understanding of the issues and thus making rational decisions. The moral principles include justice, autonomy, fidelity, beneficence and nonmaleficence.
Autonomy describes the freedom to make binding and discretionary decisions which are consistent with the scope of practice. A clear understanding of the principle would be imperative in helping me to comprehend the freedom that I posses to choice and action. With the principle in mind then it becomes easier to distinguish and discern the choices that are wrong and those that are right for the client. The concepts of the principles clearly showcase the responsibility that I have as a counselor to appropriately encourage the patient to act upon their own convictions or values or make their own decisions. The concept gives me as the leader reason to explain to the patient the essence of being autonomous but at the same time issue explanations of how their decisions may impinge on other people rights or how they may not be in line with societal values.
Nonetheless this principle would also give me as the professional the right to make decisions that override client’s choices especially when they are not of sound mind and thus have little chance of making rational decisions. Therefore in a scenario where the client is not capable of coming up with competent decisions may be since she or he is handicapped mentally or is underage and yet she or he insists on having their decisions followed the principle would allow me stop them from acting on those decisions that would definitely harm them or others.
Furthermore with the principle in mind I would be able to allow the client to have a right to self rule but at the same time protect him from unwanted intrusions (Lewis and Sterling, 2006). In scenarios where I have several reasons to believe that disclosure for instance would result to incapacitation of a client who is severely depressed then in protecting the client the principle would require me to pursue non disclosure.
In addition operationalizing this principle would require that I do not necessarily turn to others for me to know the requisite information that I need to give to the client. Essentially no one apart from me needs to give me the approval to take action or to make decisions based on my assessments. Comprehension of the principle including the education that I have attained from classroom training is enough to allow me to independently interpret the patient’s symptoms, initiate, develop and enact therapeutic solutions or care plans. In practice I would be aware that if I consistently support non binding and nondiscretionary decisions then I would not be supporting autonomy and therefore I would have no sense of professional identity and thus may not have the chance to attain self actualization or significantly contribute to practice. Proper understanding of the concept moreover would be imperative in allowing me to comprehend that working collaboratively with other mental health counselors does not preclude me from acting or functioning autonomously. In fact collaboration with others will merely allow me to be better informed to autonomously counsel newly diagnosed clients.
The principle of beneficence reminds me of the moral obligation that I have to purposely act for the benefit of other people, act with kindness, promote goodness and charity. Beneficence simply reflects the responsibility to significantly contribute to the client’s welfare when possible.
Nonmaleficence on the other hand implies the ability to abstain or refrain from injuring other persons and furthering their well being by eliminating threats or removing those elements that would result to harm. Inflicting intentional harm or encouraging patients to take up actions that would risk harming other people is thus unethical. It may seem that it is always natural to promote or further good every time but that is not always the case and thus an understanding of these moral principles becomes imperative.
Essentially understanding the concepts would encourage me to undertake only those actions or develop only those care plans that would be imperative to prevent the client from harm or generally be of help in improving his situation (Edwin, 2009). I would refrain from initiating actions that I am aware would cause the patient needless suffering. For example, if I perceive that disclosure of terminal prognosis would harm the patient’s mental well being then non disclosure would be a rational and ethical alternative. Beneficence and nonmaleficence concepts encourage me to consistently weigh the possible risks of care plans or problem solutions against their possible benefits before settling for one plan of action. The selected courses of actions must never at anytime have more or greater risks than the perceived benefits.
Justice simply describes universal fairness and demands the respect of individuals’ rights. In practice the principle necessitate that I will have to observe fairness and provide the different clients with equal opportunity for quality service and outcomes. In observance of justice I would under no circumstances discriminate or exploit my clients for reasons of their social class, religion, gender, race or age. Nonetheless I am also aware that the application of the principle may in crisis require that the rights of a patient be curtailed for the common good of the public. This is for instance in a scenario that requires health measures be developed to ensure that the client is quarantined due to his mental condition and violent acts in order to prevent him from causing harm to the public. The action undertaken in such a set-up would favor distributive rather than retributive justice. The principle thus enables me to understand the situations where I would need to further redistributive or distributive interests. As a professional with knowledge of the principle I am would be in a better position to understand where social controls for example that are imposed on individuals with diseases such as AIDS are inappropriate and thus offer the ideal remedies. The balance between redistributive or distributive justice interests is slim and thus it would be imperative that I do not loose sight of the essence of any.
Additionally in pursuance of the same principal and the development of my identity, I would have to ensure fair distribution and access to the health resources that I offer by all persons in the community. That means that I will find a way of time to time I becoming of service to both the rich and the poor including those that are in deprived areas even if it implies having to travel now and then and personally going to their communities in order to reach them.
Fidelity encompasses the notions of faithfulness, honoring commitments and loyalty. In furthering its requirements I must generally promote the goals of moral autonomy and patient advocacy values that include care and accountability to the client instead of the profession itself, the hospital or myself. The principle refers to the obligation that I have to honor the contracts created with the client, keep the promises therein and truth tell in all the appropriate situations in an attempt to provide the best care solutions. Fidelity requires that the client needs come before my personal interests. The service offered therefore becomes client centered and the solutions developed are customized to the specific needs of the patient (Cherry and Jacob, 2005). On the same note I would take care to as much as possible leave no obligations unfulfilled or act in a manner that would threaten the existing therapeutic relationship.
Practicing fidelity would ensure that clients trust me the counselor, and thus have faith in and apply the therapeutic solutions that have been offered. This way it would be possible to achieve optimal outcomes with each and every client that I encounter, implying that my practice as a professional would be marked with a lot of success cases thus enhancing the growth of my professional identity and professional reputation.
Working together collaboratively with other mental health counselors is imperative in helping me to grow as a professional and obtain an outstanding professional identity sense. Apart from my local hospital setting the other professionals can be found at the various associations that are available for mental health counselors. The insinuation is thus that I intend to become a member of organizations such as AMHCA in order to be within an environment that would be of help in the development of my professional identity.
AMHCA is an organization with approximately six thousand mental health counselors who work together to ensure the growth of the profession and impact the lives of Americans in general. The association has been existent for a period of twenty five years and has assisted mental health counselors to network with their fellow professional peers, expand their knowledge professionally and be of better service to clients.
The mission of the organization is to enhance the mental health counseling profession through advocacy, licensing, professional development and education (AMHCA, 2002). The goals of AMHCA include helping professionals to serve the community, promoting the worth and the dignity of their clients through best practice, freedom of inquiry, competence and objectivity. Their goals and mission have a lot in common with my professional values and thus will solely serve to promote them. For instance just like them I believe in optimally carrying out professional responsibilities, competence, confidentiality and protecting the client’s welfare. I furthermore also support the provision of quality and unmatched mental health counseling that is also consistent with professional values and ethics. In my practice it would also be imperative to constantly upgrade or advance my professional knowledge. AMHCA provides professionals with the opportunities and education programs to further this cause. Moreover I believe in working collaboratively with other professionals, an objective AMHCA’s mission and goals support since they endeavor to create an active forum that will foster cooperation among providers for comparable professional standards in order to improve care and services to clients.
Another association that I plan to be affiliated to is the NDCA. The association allows any individual that has interest in human development or health counseling to apply for membership. Its mission is to enhance the health counseling profession through advocacy, professional development and education. Their goals include the promotion of public trust and confidence in professional counseling and uniting under one organization people that are engaged in the various phases of professional counseling. They furthermore seek to improve the standards of professional counseling, encourage the development or initiation of creative activities and programs in the counseling profession and the dissemination of information that would further human development and the professional counseling (NDCA, 2007). All this is however promoted in line with practice that aligns with stipulated professional ethical standards.
The mission and goals of NDCA are compatible with the my professional values additionally since they do not support the misuse of the clients but seek the provision of quality service with keenness to uphold professional integrity and application of rational when confronted with various ethical dilemmas. They also promote cooperation and networking of their professionals in order to allow exchange of knowledge, experiences and discovery of new facts through combined research efforts. They furthermore support the application of justice, autonomy, fidelity, beneficence and nonmaleficence principles which form the backbone of my professional values.
While mental health counseling may not fix or solve all the problems in the lives of individuals it still has the ability to bring about social change. I intend to realize social change since mental health is influenced and can influence social elements and behavior and thus by promoting its well being then it becomes feasible to utilize it as an agent for societal change. For instance by initiating group therapy for stress management purposes then I can be able to assist a huge number of community members to deal with or cope with their emotional problems consequently making them to become more productive for the benefit of the society at large.
Offering addiction counseling on the other hand will enable various individuals to get rid of their addictions to alcohol, heroin, cocaine or other dangerous substances. As a result I would be playing an important role in the community by preventing the occurrence of these habits since such addicts are usually responsible for many social evils in the community. With the existence of such people in the community criminal activity that includes property theft, shoplifting, murders or burglary increases. There is also the promotion of immoral habits such as prostitution which lead to the spread of deadly diseases such as AIDs in the community. By assisting these individuals to deal with their challenges, then social change becomes imminent because the root cause for the social evils that were available would have been dealt with. The community thus becomes a better and safer place to live and work in.
Furthermore assisting families to deal with their marital problems, suicidal ideations or self esteem problems will help in the promotion of happier and healthier families. This way disorders and medical conditions that would have otherwise cropped up courtesy of the environment provided by these situations are prevented from occurring. Generally through my services social change would be inevitable since my clients with their different problems would be encouraged to make healthier and positive choices and therefore become more productive members of society.
Mental health counseling must assist individuals, families and groups to experience overall wellbeing and attain good mental health; that is actually the main idea or attitude that I harbor towards this field. Generally the counseling offered therein does not necessarily target those people that suffer from major mental disorders but rather is also mainly designed for persons that do not enjoy good mental health and thus are unable to lead wholesome or healthy lives.
Seligman (2004) also a professional in the field agrees with the sentiments affirming that the path and practice of this field is diverse and even individuals with suicidal tendencies, abuse problems including other the family problems are eligible for this services. The ideas of this professional are in consistent with the attitudes that I have that as a professional in this field one must be able to diagnose a client’s problem, suggest a remedy path that is customized and personalized to the client in question. Additionally my position that is seconded by various professionals in the field include the fact that I believe mental health counseling is even more effective than counseling that is availed by psychologists, social workers or psychiatrists. This is since counselors in mental health are well trained on the utilization of psycho educational models which they combine with traditional diagnosis approaches when handling their clients. Through this approaches they are able to look at presented problems from various angles and issue the most appropriate and relevant treatment methodology and judgments. Mental health counselors are better able to unearth the complexities involved in the issues that their clients experience since they have the competence and training to assist them to overcome the problems. Exposure to the services of a mental health counselor who understands the requirements of the field and who is familiar with his professional identity can be very helpful in assisting individuals to avoid serious mental health problems later and have a more positive outlook of life.
Aiken, T.D. (2004). Legal, ethical, and political issues in nursing. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) (2002). Code of ethics. Retrieved on November 12,2009, from http://www.amhca.org/about/default.aspx
Cherry, B., and Jacob, S. (2005). Contemporary nursing: issues, trends and management. USA: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Edwin, A.K. (2009). Non-Disclosure of Medical Errors an Egregious Violation of Ethical Principles. PubMed Journal, 43(1), 34-39.
Lewis, F., and Sterling, E. (2006). Autonomy in nursing. Ishakawa journal of nursing, 3 (2),1-6.
Seligman, L. (2004). Diagnosis and treatment planning in counseling. New York: Springer.
North Dakota Counseling Association (NDCA) (2007). Constitution. Retrieved on12th October, 2009 from http://www2.edutech.nodak.edu/ndca/constitution.html