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Michael Lebeau
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By Michael Lebeau / ALCA President 2004-05


Counselors are bound by the ethical standards and practices of the counseling profession.  The American Counseling Association delineates ethical behavior for counselors in its ACA Code of Ethics. 


Counselors in leadership roles especially are expected to represent the counseling profession with integrity and in a manner that fully reflects the ACA Code of Ethics.  Leaders in the counseling profession are role models who are held to a high standard of ethical behavior and should take the lead in setting a good example, enforcing the ethical behavior of their colleagues, and confronting unethical actions.


As expressed by ACA, ethical behavior is exemplified when counselors encourage growth and development, foster the welfare of others, and promote the formation of healthy relationships.


Counselors are expected to actively attempt to understand the diverse cultural backgrounds of others.  Counselors are expected to explore their own cultural identities and how they affect their values and beliefs as they interact with others.


According to ACA, the primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity of others and to promote the welfare of others.  Counselors are expected to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs, contribute to society, and defend and advocate for the rights of the disenfranchised.


Ethical counselors are sensitive to the differences in others. They should be aware of the diversity that exists around them and communicate information in ways that are developmentally and culturally appropriate. 


They should recognize, respect, and affirm the variety of experiences represented in the people they interact with.  They should attempt to understand the pluralistic society they live in and the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives expressed through such elements as race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, sexual identity, religion, and politics.


Ethical counselors are aware of their own values, attitudes, and beliefs and avoid imposing them on others.  Counselors should examine their biases and avoid causing harm to another person through intolerant, prejudicial, racist, sexist, chauvinist, ethnocentric, homophobic, and heterosexist language or behavior. 


Counselors should never act in a way that demeans, belittles, minimizes, or marginalizes another person.  Counselors should intervene in situations and confront behavior that fosters oppression.



Handouts from Ethics Content Session at ALCA Fall Conference 2011 Bham
Slideshow from Ethics Content Session at ALCA Fall Conference 2011 Bham



“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it and the tree is the real thing.”



"Managers are people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right thing."



"Attitude is not a philosophy.  It is not a strategy you can implement.  It is a stance.  It is a posture.  It is a personal array of positions.  It takes incredible strength and ability. There's no room for a display of bad attitude."



Character is the inherent complex of attributes that determine a person’s moral and ethical actions and reactions. There are all types of words that provide examples of good character. These include such terms as: honesty, inspiring, courageous, unselfish, competent, tact, loyal, integrity, trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.


Trustworthiness: Be honest, be reliable, have the courage to do the right thing, build a good reputation, and be loyal.


Respect: Treat others with respect, follow the Golden Rule, be tolerant of differences, use good manners, be considerate of the feelings of others, do not threaten, and deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements.


Responsibility: Do what you are supposed to do, always do your best, use self-control, be self-disciplined, think before you act, and be accountable for your actions.


Fairness: Play by the rules, take turns and share, be open-minded; listen to others, do not take advantage of others, and do not blame others carelessly.


Caring: Be kind, be compassionate, show you care, express gratitude, forgive others and help people in need.


Citizenship: Do your share to make your community better, cooperate, get involved in community affairs, stay informed, be a good neighbor, obey laws and respect authority.


As a leader concerned with character and integrity, when making ethical decisions, ask yourself four simple questions: Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build good will?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned?



By Michael Lebeau / ALCA President 2004-05


"The specification of a code of ethics enables the association to clarify the nature of the ethical responsibilities held in common by its members"
-ACA Code of Ethics


It is important for professionals to not only do things right but to also do the right thing. Ethics are necessary for all counselors without regard to setting, specialty or technique. Ethical behavior is the framework upon which the profession is built. Counselors are expected to be knowledgeable about the ACA Code of Ethics. Counselors must be able to consistently apply the ACA Code of Ethics to the complex issues they encounter in their daily practice.


Ethics are the recognized rules of conduct with respect to a particular group.  They are the accepted actions of a particular group or culture and the rules and principles that govern actions, conduct and behavior. Ethics are a code of behavior considered correct by a particular group or profession.  They represent the character of a community.  They delineate the responsibilities held in common by a specific group.


By being a member of ALCA, you are agreeing to adhere to the ACA Code of Ethics.  More importantly, leaders in the profession are expected to be role models who uphold the ACA Code of Ethics and exhibit ethical behavior as an ongoing example to all counselors.


Key among the ethical expectations of counselors are issues of counselor congruence and diversity considerations.


Counselors must recognize that culture affects the manner in which clients’ problems are defined.  Clients’ socioeconomic and cultural experiences must be considered when diagnosing mental disorders.


Counselors do not discriminate.  Counselors do not condone or engage in discrimination based on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status/partnership, language preference, or socioeconomic status.


Counselors respect differences. Counselors will actively attempt to understand the diverse cultural backgrounds of the clients with whom they work, including learning how the counselor's own cultural, ethnic, and racial identity impacts her or his values and beliefs about the counseling process. Counselors communicate information in ways that are developmentally and culturally appropriate.


Counselors exhibit a multicultural awareness and sensitivity. Counselors should  select appropriate techniques, approaches, activities, and assessment tools with sensitivity to culturally diverse populations. Counselors recognize historical and social prejudices in the misdiagnosis and pathologizing of certain individuals and groups and the role of mental health professionals in perpetuating these prejudices through diagnosis and treatment.


Counselors do not impose their values on their clients or insert them into the counseling process. Counselors should be aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals


The responsibility of counseling professionals is to help clients make the most appropriate choices for themselves without the counselor imposing her/his values.  The focus of ethical counseling is always on the client’s own feelings and thoughts, not on those of the counselor.


Counselors are expected to give unconditional positive regard. Counselors are expected to be non-judgmental. Counselors are expected to be empathetic. The counselor accepts the  client unconditionally and non-judgmentally.  The client is free to explore all thoughts and feelings, positive or negative, without danger of rejection or condemnation.


Counselors avoid an attitude of self-interest. Counselors should always act in the best interest of the client and not in their own self interest.  Counselors must never place personal interests ahead of those of the client.  Counselors should not take advantage of others or exploit others in their professional relationship.


Counselors recognize when they are impaired. 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.  Counselors may be impaired due to substance abuse or chemical dependency, mental illness, personal crisis or trauma, insufficient knowledge, skill, or training regarding the client’s particular issue, burnout from the stress of a heavy or demanding workload, vicarious trauma or counter transference, discomfort with client’s background, values, attitudes, and lifestyle, or unresolved emotional or attitudinal issues.


When necessary, counselors make appropriate referrals. If counselors determine an inability to be of professional assistance to clients, they avoid entering or continuing counseling relationships.  Counselors are knowledgeable about culturally and clinically appropriate referral resources and suggest these alternatives. When counselors transfer or refer clients to other practitioners, they ensure that appropriate clinical and administrative processes are completed and open communication is maintained with both clients and practitioners.  While making a referral, counselors must avoid communicating judgment, abandonment, neglect, rejection, disdain, disgust, or condemnation.


Counselors utilize treatment modalities that are scientifically based.  Counselors use techniques, procedures, and modalities that are grounded in theory and have an empirical or scientific foundation. 


Counselors refrain from using unethical therapy methods. Among the unethical treatment modalities are the questionable practices regarding treatment for homosexual clients attempting to change a client’s sexual orientation.  Reparative Therapy (Also called Conversion Therapy, Re-Orientation Therapy, and Transformational Therapy) is regarded by the ACA, APA, and AMA as unethical.


Moreover, reparative or conversion therapy is not effective. No empirical scientific support exists for this approach.  And it can be harmful to clients.  Counselors who conduct this type of therapy view same-sex attractions and behaviors as abnormal and unnatural and, therefore, in need of "curing."  The belief that same-sex attraction and behavior is abnormal and in need of treatment is in opposition to the position taken by national mental health organizations, including ACA.  ACA opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation.  According to the DSM-IV-TR, homosexuality is not a mental disorder in need of being changed.



Ethics for Leaders
ACA Code of Ethics & Professional Standards
Ethics in Therapy
ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors



by Warren Bennis


Research points to seven attributes essential to leadership. Taken together they provide a framework for leading knowledge workers:


Technical competence: business literacy and grasp of one's field

Conceptual skill: a facility for abstract or strategic thinking

Track record: a history of achieving results

People skills: an ability to communicate, motivate, and delegate

Taste: an ability to identify and cultivate talent

Judgment: making difficult decisions in a short time frame with imperfect data Character: the qualities that define who we are


Senior executives seldom lack the first three attributes; rarely do they fail because of technical or conceptual incompetence, nor do they reach high levels of responsibility without having a strong track record. All these skills are important, but in tomorrow's world exemplary leaders will be distinguished by their mastery of the softer side: people skills, taste, judgment, and, above all, character.


Character is the key to leadership, an observation confirmed by most people's personal experience, as it is in my 15 years of work with more than 150 leaders, and in other studies I've encountered. Research at Harvard University indicates that 85 percent of a leader's performance depends on personal character. Likewise, the work of Daniel Goleman makes clear that leadership success or failure is usually due to "qualities of the heart". Although character is less quantifiable than other aspects of leadership, there are many ways to take the measure of an individual.


Research shows not only the characteristics of effective leaders but also the expectations that followers have of their leaders. Whether in a corporation, a Scout troop, a public agency, or an entire nation, constituents seek four things: meaning or direction, trust in and from the leader, a sense of hope and optimism, and results. To serve these constituent needs -- and ultimately to unleash an organization's intellectual capital -- leaders can foster four supporting conditions, which in turn can create four respective outcomes.




To satisfy followers' needs and achieve positive outcomes, leaders must provide four things.


In Service of Constituent Needs for:  Meaning and direction                               

Leaders Provide: Sense of purpose

To Help Create: Goals and objectives


In Service of Constituent Needs for: Trust                                                                

Leaders Provide: Authentic relationships        

To Help Create: Reliability and consistency


In Service of Constituent Needs for: Hope and optimism                                          

Leaders Provide: Hardiness (confidence that things will work out)        

To Help Create:  Energy and commitment


In Service of Constituent Needs for: Results                               

Leaders Provide: Bias toward action, risk, curiosity, and courage

To Help Create:  Confidence and creativity


Providing purpose


Effective leaders bring passion, perspective, and significance to the process of defining organizational purpose.


Every effective leader I've known is passionate about what he or she is doing. The time and energy devoted to work demand a commitment and conviction bordering on love.


One starts with passion; perspective is harder to come by -- but is essential in a world of rapid change. For most people in organizations, the question is not only what happens next, but what happens after what happens next. As hockey great Wayne Gretzky explains, "It ain't where the puck is, it's where the puck will be." One Fortune 500 CEO puts it differently: "If you're not confused, you don't know what's going on." Because the fog of reality is so pervasive, constituents want not just a vision of where we're heading but also where they've been and where they are now. People want leaders to provide context.


Finally, people want a sense of significance. What is the meaning of our work? What difference or larger contribution does it make to others? How do we measure success? And what are the positive outcomes of that success? By making time for such reflection leaders build support for organizational goals and objectives.


Generating and sustaining trust


These are the factors that generate trust -- at work or in a partnership, a marriage, or a friendship: competence, constancy, caring, candor, congruity.


What I call congruity -- or authenticity, feeling comfortable with oneself -- is a further reflection of character. It is at the heart of any honest relationship. But congruity goes beyond simply knowing yourself; it is being consistent, presenting the same face at work as at home.


Candor is perhaps the most important component of trust. When we are truthful about our shortcomings, or acknowledge that we do not have all the answers, we earn the understanding and respect of others.


Exemplary leaders create a climate of candor throughout their organizations. They remove the organizational barriers -- and the fear -- that cause people to be guarded about their communication. They treat candor as one measure of personal and organizational performance, which can be gauged through employees' response to such statements as, "My organization encourages people to take the time to communicate openly, even about difficult questions." Or, "There is little fear of speaking openly about important issues." Without candor there can be no trust. And by building trust, leaders help create the reliability and consistency customers demand.


Fostering hope


Exemplary leaders seem to expect success; they always anticipate positive outcomes. The glass for them is not simply full but brimming.


Hope combines the determination to achieve one's goals with the ability to generate the means to do so. Hopeful people describe themselves with such statements as:  I can think of ways to get out of a jam…  I energetically pursue my goals…  My experience has prepared me well for the future…  There are ways around any problem.


One example of a hopeful leader is Intel Chairman Andrew Grove, who told me 15 years ago that he grew up with a "Nobel complex." He emigrated from Hungary speaking little English, with no money, but his parents imbued in him a sense that he would succeed in whatever he attempted. If he went into science, he told me, he felt he could win the Nobel Prize. That psychological hardiness, the sense that things generally work out well, creates tremendous confidence in oneself and in those around one. And that kind of confidence influences others. It builds energy and commitment, and that in turn influences outcomes. In short, every exemplary leader that I have met has what seems to be an unwarranted degree of optimism -- and that helps generate the energy and commitment necessary to achieve results.


Getting results


As leaders we can provide meaning, build trust, and foster hope, but all of that counts for little unless an organization produces results.


Most leaders coming into a new position or facing a moment of truth are afforded some time and resources to deliver. That is what makes a collective sense of purpose, trust, and hope so important -- they can carry people through what they know will be a difficult time. But these assets will dissipate if leaders do not get results. And of course we deliver results only by taking action.


That does not mean that every action will be successful. But, as Gretzky reminds us, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Exemplary leaders never forget that they must ultimately take their best shots -- and create a climate that tolerates missed shots yet demands that everyone continue to take them. Moving from talk to action is imperative, but, especially in the times we live in, it requires commitment, enterprise, curiosity -- and courage. It requires leadership.


Results-oriented leaders see themselves as catalysts. They expect to achieve a great deal, but know that they can do little without the efforts of others. They bring the zeal, resourcefulness, risk-tolerance -- and discipline -- of the entrepreneur to every effort of the organization. Nothing less will get break through the noise, clutter, and competitive pressure of today's marketplace.


Exemplary leaders believe they have a responsibility to extend people's growth and to create an environment where people constantly learn. Those are the surest ways to generate intellectual capital and to use that capital to create new value. In the next century, that will be every leader's ultimate task.


The Anatomy of Character


There are many definitions of character, but for exemplary leaders character goes beyond ethical behavior (although that is essential). For the leaders I have studied, character has to do with who we are, with how we organize our experience. The great psychologist William James described it as "the particular mental or moral attitude [that makes one feel] most deeply and intensively active and alive ... a voice inside which speaks and says, 'This is the real me.'"


Effective leaders -- and effective people -- know that voice well. They understand that there is no difference between becoming an effective leader and becoming a fully integrated human being.


Many aspects of character -- such as our degree of energy or our cognitive skill -- are probably determined at birth; others are influenced by our family life, our birth order, our relationships with parents, teachers and friends. Yet character develops throughout life, including work life. Leaders can help others become more aware of their innate capacities. For example, by examining the kinds of decisions they make and don't make, senior executives and those they manage can develop their own character and cultivate new leadership throughout the organization.


For executive leaders, character is framed by drive, competence, and integrity. Most senior executives have the drive and competence necessary to lead. But too often organizations elevate people who lack the moral compass. I call them "destructive achievers." They are seldom evil people, but by using resources for no higher purpose than achievement of their own goals, they often diminish the enterprise. Such leaders seldom last, for the simple reason that without all three ingredients -- drive, competence, and moral compass -- it is difficult to engage others and sustain meaningful results.