Is there a specific ethical code that addresses the issue of recommending biblical verses to clients?


Listed below is a situation that may or may not violate codes of ethics when working with families. Study the scenario carefully and then go to the codes of ethics for AAMFT, IAMFC, AACC, and ACA to find the ethical answers to the dilemmas presented. Be sure to record the code location on each ethical code where the violation or permission is given for the counselor to do what had been done (ex: AAMFT 2.2 or ACA B.7.2).
You have been counseling a family of Korean origin for the past 5 weeks. Specific family members have been suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, which is connected to family discord and what you see as blurred boundary issues. In your fifth counseling session, the teenage daughter tells you that her parents do not understand American culture and how it affects family rules. Having worked with over a hundred clients struggling with anxiety, you feel she needs to set clear boundaries with her parents. You instruct her to exercise more independence from her family and seek to become self-actualized.
As a competent Christian counselor, you also give her Mark 10:69 and Luke 14:2627 and ask her to study them this week to see how individuals must distance themselves and become self-differentiated. In your reply, look for other confirmations in the codes that the therapist either did well or violated competent practice.


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Working with families from diverse cultural backgrounds can present unique challenges for counselors. In addition to navigating the family dynamics and individual struggles, counselors must also be mindful of cultural differences in beliefs, values, and practices that may impact their clients’ well-being. It is essential for counselors to adhere to codes of ethics that provide guidelines for professional conduct and decision-making in various situations. In the following scenario, we will examine a situation where a counselor’s actions may or may not have violated ethical codes.


The scenario involves a counselor who has been working with a family of Korean origin for five weeks. The family is dealing with generalized anxiety disorder, which the counselor believes is linked to boundary issues within the family. During the fifth counseling session, the teenage daughter tells the counselor that her parents do not understand American culture and how it affects family rules. The counselor advises the daughter to exercise more independence from her family, becoming self-actualized, and provides biblical quotes for further study.

In this scenario, there are several ethical dilemmas for the counselor. The first is the potential for cultural insensitivity. The counselor assumes that the family’s struggles stem from cultural differences without fully exploring the issue. The second dilemma is the potential violation of AAMFT 1.1 and AACC 3.1 codes of ethics that require therapists to respect clients’ autonomy and promote their well-being. While the counselor’s advice may be well-intentioned, it may not be appropriate or helpful for this particular family. The counselor may have crossed a boundary by providing religious advice to the client and interjecting their personal beliefs. In contrast, the counselor’s actions may align with the ACA B.7.2 code of ethics, which allows therapists to incorporate their expertise and training into the counseling process.


To identify ethical dilemmas in a counseling session with a family of a different origin.
To understand the codes of ethics applicable to the counseling profession and how they relate to working with families.
To describe how ethical standards were met or violated in a given counseling session with a family.
To learn how to handle conflicts related to family discord and blurred boundaries.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this exercise, the learner will be able to:
Identify ethical concerns when working with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Explain the ethical standards that apply in a counseling relationship with families.
Analyze the given scenario to identify ethical violations or standards met according to the codes of ethics for AAMFT, IAMFC, AACC, and ACA.
Design counseling strategies that are ethical and sensitive to cultural differences in addressing family conflicts.

Solution 1:

In this scenario, the counselor violated the ethical codes of AAMFT, IAMFC, AACC, and ACA. It is vital to understand that any action taken by the counselor should always prioritize the client’s welfare. It is inappropriate for the counselor to impose their religious beliefs on the client, hence giving Mark 10:69 and Luke 14:2627 to the teenage daughter is a violation of the ethical codes. This can lead to the client feeling uncomfortable during future counseling sessions.

The ACA code of ethics, section A.1 states that members will not impose their cultural values on clients. From this, it is clear that the counselor violated the ACA ethical code. Additionally, section C.2.f states that counselors must not advise clients on how they should act or behave, which the counselor did when instructing the teenage daughter to exercise more independence from her family and seek to become self-actualized.

Solution 2:

It would have been more appropriate for the counselor to explore the negative impact of blurred boundaries and family discord on the family, encouraging healthy communication and promoting a better understanding of the differences between her client’s Korean culture and American culture. The counselor can also refer the family to other professionals who may be competent in areas where assistance is needed. It is vital to understand that imposing one’s cultural beliefs or religious beliefs is inappropriate and can lead to harm. It is best to be aware of the ethical codes of conduct when working with clients to ensure ethical and competent practice.

Suggested Resources/Books:
1. “Ethics and Professional Issues in Couple and Family Therapy” by Megan J. Murphy and Timothy J. O’Neil
2. “The American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics: A Reference Guide” by Frederic C. Reamer
3. “Christian Counseling Ethics: A Handbook for Psychologists, Therapists and Pastors” by Randolph K. Sanders

Similar Asked Questions:
1. How should a therapist navigate cultural differences in family therapy?
2. What ethical codes should be followed when working with families?
3. How should a therapist handle blurred boundary issues in family therapy?
4. What are the ethical considerations when instructing a client to study religious texts?
5. How does a therapist balance the needs of individual family members with the needs of the family as a whole?

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