Today Dr. Diane Langberg and I will be presenting Spiritual Abuse and Toxic Systems in a 3 hour pre-conference seminar at the 2017 AACC World Conference. Take a look if you like.
Tag Archives: AACC
Continuing our review of the ACA and the AACC codes for counselors, let’s take a look at how both codes address the matter of multiple or dual relationships. (See first and second posts about comparing the ACA and AACC code of ethics for counselors and mental health professionals.)
Multiple or dual relationships between counselor and client (or client’s family) are those that combine the professional relationship with one of another sort. If a counselor of a client is also that client’s pastor, that would be a multiple relationship. Other types could combine counselor and friend, counselor and business partner, counselor and employer, and increasingly possible, counselor and social media “friend.” Both codes are concerned about the formation of dual relationships because they become fertile ground for counselor judgment bias and harm to the client. Both see that once a counseling relationship has been formed, that relationship ought to be clear take priority over all others.
The ACA code of ethics prohibits outright the following dual relationships:
- Counselor and sexual partner: Counselors may not have sex with clients or their family members
- Counselors may not start counseling work with former sexual partners
- Counselors must wait at least 5 years before engaging in sexual activity with former clients (and even then may be prohibited)
- Counselors may not provide services to friends and family
- Counselors are prohibited from engaging in personal virtual relationships (social media) with current clients
Beyond the sexual arena, the ACA code warns counselors to avoid dual relationships or “extending the boundary” of the counselor or supervisor relationship
Counselors avoid entering into nonprofessional relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members when the interaction is potentially harmful to the client. This applies to both in-person and electronic interactions or relationships. (A.6.e)
When a counselor agrees to provide counseling services to two or more persons who have a relationship, the counselor clarifies at the outset which person or persons are clients and the nature of the relationships the counselor will have with each involved person. If it becomes apparent that the counselor may be called upon to perform potentially conflicting roles, the counselor will clarify, adjust, or withdraw from roles appropriately. (A.8)
So, notice the focus: avoid “extending the boundary” or what we used to call forming multiple relationships with current or former counselees or their family members. Document when you do so to illustrate informed consent, limiting of potential harm, and efforts made to rectify harm when it unintentionally happens
What about the AACC code? It begins (ES1-140) with these paragraphs,
Dual relationships involve the breakdown of proper professional or ministerial boundaries. A dual relationship exists when two or more roles are mixed in a manner that can harm the counseling relationship and/or the therapeutic process. This includes counseling, as well as personal, fraternal, business, financial, or sexual and romantic relationships. Not all dual relationships are necessarily unethical—it is client exploitation that is wrong, not the dual relationship in and of itself. However, it remains the responsibility of the counselor to monitor and evaluate any potential harm to clients. (emphasis mine)
While in a counseling relationship, or when counseling relationships become imminent, or for an appropriate time after the termination of counseling, Christian counselors do not engage in dual relationships with clients. Some dual relationships are always avoided—sexual or romantic relations, and counseling close friends, family members, employees, business partners/associates or supervisees. Other dual relationships should be presumed as potentially troublesome and avoided wherever possible. (emphasis mine)
The AACC code then prohibits counseling relationships with family and close friends and warns against those “best avoided” (e.g., business associates, club members, etc.). Finally the code addresses counseling relationships within the church,
Christian counselors do not provide counseling to fellow church members with whom they have close personal, business, or shared ministry relations. Dual relationships with any other church members who are clients are potentially troublesome and best avoided, otherwise requiring justification. Pastors and church staff helpers should take all reasonable precautions to limit the adverse impact of any dual relationships. (ES-140-f)
This wording marks a change from the previous AACC code where dual relationships were more positively addressed. The old rule stated this, “Based on an absolute application that harms membership bonds in the Body of Christ, we oppose the ethical-legal view that all dual relationships are per se harmful and therefore invalid on their face. Many dual relations are wrong and indefensible, but some dual relationships are worthwhile and defensible.”
Agreements? Disagreements? Both codes ban the ending of counseling relationships for the purpose of changing the professional relationship to different relationship, or to engage in sexual activity with a client or a member of the client’s family. The AACC codes requires 3 years before marrying a former client (assuming all other concerns raised are not an issue) whereas the ACA code requires 5 years before engaging in an intimate relationship. The ACA code as extensive concerns about the teacher/student relationship as well as the supervisor/supervisee relationship. The AACC code says little about these (though some can be inferred). The biggest difference, however, is found in the stronger language banning dual relationships in the ACA code where the AACC code warns against possible harm but leaves the door open as long as the counselor knows they have to prove no harm happened and informed consent.
Over the next few post I plan to review similarities and differences between the ACA and AACC codes (see this post for the first in this mini-series). Today I want to look at how the two codes talk about counselors as they manage their own value systems with their clientele.
The ACA code raises the issue of values like this:
- Section A Introduction
Counselors actively attempt to understand the diverse cultural backgrounds of the clients they serve. Counselors also explore their own cultural identities and how these affect their values and beliefs about the counseling process.
- A.4.b. Personal Values
Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature.
In addition, the ACA clearly states that when there are significant values differences, a counselor is NOT to make referral on the basis of values differences alone. Values clashes cannot be treated as lack of competency in a particular area of counseling.
- A.11.b. Values Within Termination and Referral
Counselors refrain from referring prospective and current clients based solely on the counselor’s personally held values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature.
The AACC code addresses the value systems of the counselor in these sections
- ES1-010 Affirming Human Worth and Dignity
…Christian counselors express appropriate care towards any client, service-inquiring person, or anyone encountered in the course of practice or ministry, without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual behavior or orientation, socioeconomic status, age, disability, marital status, education, occupation, denomination, belief system, values, or political affiliation. God’s love is unconditional and, at this level of concern, so must that be of the Christian counselor.
- ES1-120 Refusal to Participate in Harmful Actions of Clients
Within this section are paragraphs discussing the application and limits of the “do no harm” virtue to certain client behaviors deemed not to fit within the biblical framework articulated at the beginning of the ethics code. The AACC code expressed an ethic to avoid supporting or condoning (while respecting and continuing to help) in the following areas: abortion-seeking, substance abuse, violence towards others, pre or extramarital sex, homosexual/bisexual or transgender behavior, and euthanasia. On this last issue, the ACA notes that the duty to breach confidentiality may be optional (thus indicating a values insertion since in all other cases we have a duty to breach confidentiality so as to warn others or protect the life of our client).
- 1-530: Working with Persons of Different Faiths, Religions, and Values
Counselors work to understand the client’s belief system, always maintain respect for the client and strive to understand when faith and values issues are important to the client and foster values-informed client decision-making in counseling. Counselors share their own faith orientation only as a function of legitimate self-disclosure and when appropriate to client need, always maintaining a posture of humility. Christian counselors do not withhold services to anyone of a different race, ethnic group, faith, religion, denomination, or value system.
- 1-530-a: Not Imposing Values
While Christian counselors may expose clients and/or the community at large to their faith orientation, they do not impose their religious beliefs or practices on clients.
- 1-550: Action if Value Differences Interfere with Counseling
Christian counselors work to resolve problems—always in the client’s best interest—when differences between counselor and client values become too great and adversely affect the counseling process. This may include: (1) discussion of the issue as a therapeutic matter; (2) renegotiation of the counseling agreement; (3) consultation with a supervisor or trusted colleague or; as a last resort (4) referral to another counselor if the differences cannot be reduced or bridged (and then only in compliance with applicable state and federal law and/or regulatory requirements).
Differences between codes?
There are many but let me identify two. Notice that the most significant difference between the two is on the basis of the AACC code biblical/christian ethic regarding what is good and what is harmful behaviors. Both codes express the need to respect persons without regard to their beliefs, values, identities, and actions. The AACC code differentiates between imposing of values and exposing of values. What is the difference between exposing and imposing? I suspect it will be in the eye of the beholder. However, I suspect that one of the results of the ACA code is that faith and spiritual values will be less likely to be brought up by counselors since “not imposing” is more emphasized than “exploring.” There is much literature out there suggesting that the failure to explore and utilize spiritual resources actually harms clients in that it slows recovery.
Both codes address the issue of values differences between client and counselor. Both point to a path (though different) about what to do when this happens. The ACA code places pressure on the counselor to work it out while the AACC code suggests a path to resolution either with re-negotiation or referral. Which one sounds better to you?
When the difference is with a colleague?
Both ACA and AACC codes addresses differences with colleagues. In section D (Relationships with other professionals), the ACA code states,
D.1.a. Different Approaches. Counselors are respectful of approaches that are grounded in theory and/or have an empirical or scientific foundation but may differ from their own. Counselors acknowledge the expertise of other professional groups and are respectful of their practices.
The AACC codes says something similar,
1-710-a: Honorable Relations between Professional and Ministerial Colleagues. Christian counselors respect professional and ministerial colleagues, both within and outside the church. Counselors strive to understand and, wherever able, respect differing approaches to counseling, and maintain collaborative and constructive relations with other professionals serving their clients—in the client’s best interest.
The ACA code never uses the word “faith”, does suggest counselors need to address self-care (includes spirituality), and does suggest counselors seek to utilize client’s spiritual resources…”when appropriate.”
Both the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) have published 2014 editions of their codes of ethics (links above to pdf of codes). Given these new documents, I highly encourage all Christian counselors (both professional and pastoral/lay) to review these two codes. Even if you do not belong to either the ACA or the AACC, you should spend some time with these documents. Here’s why:
- The codes represent the current thinking of the ACA and the AACC about best practices for counselors. Even if you disagree, you need to know where you diverge (both for integrity sake with clients and for protection from unnecessary risk)
- It is easy to become sloppy about ethical matters. We tend to believe what we do is good. Reviewing our practice habits against a standard can reveal slippage
- It can be helpful to clients to know what code of ethics you subscribe to. Reading codes can help you determine which code you subscribe to and your reasons for doing so
Comparing Values and Principles
The following chart shows similarities and differences regarding the bases for ethics codes. It is worth reviewing these to see how they compare and contrast. In the next post, I will compare a few specific standards.
|Mission||1. help advance the central mission of the AACC—to bring honor to Jesus Christ and promote excellence and unity in Christian counseling;
2. promote the welfare and protect the dignity and fundamental rights of all individuals, families, groups, churches, schools, agencies, ministries, and other organizations with whom Christian counselors work;
3. provide standards of ethical conduct in Christian counseling that are to be advocated and applied by the AACC and the IBCC, and are respected by other professionals and institutions; and
4. provide an ethical framework from which to work in order to assure the dignity and care of every individual who seeks and receives services.
|1. enhancing human development throughout the life span;
2. honoring diversity and embracing a multicultural approach in support of the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of people within their social and cultural contexts;
3. promoting social justice;
4. safeguarding the integrity of the counselor–client relationship; and
5. practicing in a competent and ethical manner.
|Principles||Compassion in Christian Counseling – A Call to Servanthood Competence in Christian Counseling – A Call to ExcellenceConsent in Christian Counseling – A Call to Integrity
Confidentiality in Christian Counseling – A Call to Trustworthiness
Cultural Regard in Christian Counseling – A Call to Dignity
Case Management in Christian Counseling – A Call to Soundness
Collegiality in Christian Counseling – A Call to Relationship
Community Presence in Christian Counseling – A Call to Humility
|autonomy, or fostering the right to control the direction of one’s life;nonmaleficence, or avoiding actions that cause harm;beneficence, or working for the good of the individual and society by promoting mental health and well-being;justice, or treating individuals equitably and fostering fairness and equality;
fidelity, or honoring commitments and keeping promises, including fulfilling one’s responsibilities of trust in professional relationships; and
veracity, or dealing truthfully with individuals with whom counselors come into professional contact.
Today, AACC’s World Conference begins at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. This morning, Dr. Diane Langberg and myself will be running a pre-conference workshop entitled: Narcissistic Leaders and Organizations: Assessment and Intervention. I will start us off with a meditation from 1 Kings 1 (ideas I first heard from a sermon by Phil Ryken last year). We will review current explanations of narcissism as well as an emerging model that may be helpful for those who are trying to move beyond seeing narcissists as only arrogant and exploitive.
Can a system be narcissistic?
Yes. Here are some of the features.
- Leader exudes god-like status and does not share power; surrounded by yea-sayers, unwilling to tolerate disagreement, accept mentoring and willing to scapegoat others when failures arise
- Constituents gain self-esteem/identity from the organization and love of the system is the highest priority; insider status provides immeasurable value
- There is an approved way of thinking, one must take sides for/against; constituents justify dictatorial behaviors of leaders
- No toleration for admiration of competitors
- Inability to assess own weaknesses
But, here is a most interesting fact: most collective narcissistic systems are NOT filled with individual narcissists! There is something “in the water” that brings non-narcissists together to develop these 4 features (as written about by Golec de Zavala and colleagues in 104:6 of the the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology):
- Inflated belief and emotional investment in group superiority
- Required continuous external validation and vigilance against all threats of loss of status
- Perception that intergroup criticism is a threat and exaggerated sensitivity to any form of criticism
- Intergroup violence can restore positive group image (violence may be verbal as well as physical
Why teach counselors about narcissistic systems?
Counselors often interact with church and parachurch systems by consulting with the system, counseling leaders, or advocating for an individual client. It is good to be able to (a) recognize some of the unhealthy egocentric patterns (blind spots) leaders and systems develop, and (b) offer help to individuals and systems that do not get the counselor sucked into the system or unnecessarily alienate the system. I have had the opportunity to work with a significant number of churches and have learned that there are ways to help and ways that I can get in the way, especially if I begin to attack a long held belief system. For example, if parachurch organization A has had a string of CEO/Board conflicts, then I as a counselor may have to navigate some long cherished beliefs about the system when asked to consult on their next hire.
[June 28-29, 2013, Kibuye to Kigali, Rwanda]
Since my little fire mishap in the middle of the night, this conference has gone ever so smoothly. Our only difficulty has been figuring out what to cut since our talks now take twice the time due to translation time. The cuts have been to case studies in order to protect the cherished small group times. I opened our morning session with a devotional on “the cup of sweet water” and our need to address the bitter water that flows out of us. In a conference like this where we talk about domestic violence and sexual abuse, it is easy to think about evil “out there” in its most grotesque images. However, we all have the roots of this evil even if it only show up as pride and arrogance. I ended our devotional reminding us of the grace and hope given us in 1 John 1:9.
Our morning session consisted of Dr. Beverly Ingelse giving a talk about caring and counseling children who have suffered abuse. After a break and a group picture, we returned to our small groups to respond to some of Bev’s questions and to discuss cases. In my group we went fairly off topic to hear how two of our group members survived the genocide and how they are now dealing with children who did not go through the genocide but have symptoms of traumatic reactions (depression over lost Aunts and Uncles, dissociation during memorial periods, chronic fear). Just in these two stories, they counted 115 murdered extended family members! It boggles the mind of those of us who have only read about such experiences.
Just before lunch I gave a brief talk about how to facilitate storytelling in ways that does not further traumatize the teller. We looked at common behaviors of counselors that support recovery and common behaviors that may hinder recovery. Look for those in an upcoming post!
We concluded our conference a few hours earlier than expected so that attendees could return home to manage household duties prior to Saturday’s Umuganda, or monthly required civil service. We concluded with a short “What’s next?” session led by Baraka. A couple of key ideas were proposed and repeated:
- One day set aside for hearing and responding to case studies
- Seminars about integrity for pastors and lawyers (apparently, some very public abuse cases (by pastors) have rocked the counseling community in recent months
- Network building: the attendees discussed formal or informal counselor network (to promote learning, peer supervision, and support. They requested technical assistance from AACC.
After our last lunch overlooking beautiful Lake Kivu, we boarded a bus and returned to Kigali. I sat next to Worship and her mother (a most precious toddler who batted her eyes at me and played peekaboo with me for 3 hours). Arriving in Kigali at dusk, we ended our day with a meal and good conversations.
Day Seven (the last)
The day started quiet and lazy with a savoring of my favorite breakfast: tropical fruit salad, coffee, and a croissant. It is good that it started this way because last night, neighbors of the retreat house decided that midnight to 5 am would be a good time to remove a sheet metal roof. The workers worked diligently and loudly, singing and laughing right outside my window. Around 5 I fell asleep for about 2 hours. These would be the only 2 hours for the next 40 or so.
As this was our last day in Rwanda, some wanted to get a bit of shopping done. I wanted to be sure to get some Rwanda tea and coffee. We hung around until about noon, when the required civil service was completed. Then, we struck out for good places to buy a few items. Though this is my third trip to Rwanda, it is my first to a shopping district. Some of our team looked for dresses, others for artistic work. I bought a few things but mostly enjoyed the people watching (and being people watched). Back at our Solace Ministries, we got our bags ready and watched a Rwandan wedding get underway. We were told after 3 hours that the bride had yet to make an appearance and that this is quite common–a good reminder of the differences in time culture!
By 9 pm we were boarding our plane to return home. I found it interesting that much of this flight (including the stop in Uganda) is filled with young (mostly female) adults looking to be college age. Some we spoke with had just spent 6 weeks with a professor and seeing various NGOs at work.
This has been a short but fulfilling trip. I look forward to returning in 1 year with our first round of Global Trauma Recovery students.
- Tuza 2.0: Day One (wisecounsel.wordpress.com)
- Tuza 2.0: Day Two (wisecounsel.wordpress.com)
- Tuza 2.0: Day Three (wisecounsel.wordpress.com)
- Tuza 2.0: Day Four (wisecounsel.wordpress.com)
- Tuza 2.0: Day Five (wisecounsel.wordpress.com)
- Trauma Recovery and Counseling Training in Rwanda (wisecounsel.wordpress.com)
I leave today for my second favorite place in the world–Rwanda. (1st favorite is wherever my wife and kids are). We are returning to do another level of training for counselors and caregivers (see this post for our previous Project Tuza reports) from a number of organizations caring for widows, orphans, HIV+ individuals, and trauma victims. [The photo at the top of this blog is from that last training] Our training this time will focus on domestic or family violence interventions, children and sexual abuse, and dealing with dissociation. In addition, we’ll focus on basic helping/listening skills and the features of good storytelling in counseling (not all efforts to tell trauma stories are helpful or healing).
Check back here to see posts about our training. I hope to be able to make some during our trip, but depending on connections, it may have to wait til we return. Here’s our itinerary:
6/21-6/22: Newark to Brussels to Kigali
6/23-25: church (preaching), visiting friends, important sites, meetings in preparation for this and future trainings; in both Kigali and Butare.
6/26-28: 3 full days and 2 nights of training, led and sponsored by World Vision Rwanda and AACC.
6/29: Participate in Umuganda (national required public service in Rwanda), final meetings, and boarding the plane to return home.
It is a short trip but we are able to,
- give our new team members experiences in listening to the strengths and challenges of a community (essential to provide help that is not harmful or useless)
- provide objective hands-on skill training (not mere information giving)
- seek advice of local leaders as to future trainings (we always need to improve our ability to train well)
- Enhance our relationships (Lord willing, we will continue to return year after year)
Check back for updates.
This marks the 6th trip to the Opryland Hotel for AACC’s World Conference. It is quite the spectacle. I love meeting up with old and new friends. I love the opportunities to teach and learn. I don’t love the Opryland. It is behemoth (though good for exercise) and feels fake after a day or two in the climate controlled indoor bubble. Nice greenery and all but still a bit stifling for my taste.
This year I will be present at the following
- Speaking to Salvation Army Officers on ministry challenges and spiritual renewal (slides on slides page)
- Speaking to golfers at the Project Tuza Golf fund-raiser and dinner about Rwanda and the work we will do there in a few weeks.
- Presenting with Diane Langberg on Complex Trauma (3 hour pre-conference seminar)
- Meeting with the American Bible Society, AACC, and others about supporting global trauma recovery
- Meeting with those going to Rwanda to make final plans on our 3 day training of World Vision workers
- 9/29 Conference opens!
- Attending as many plenary and breakouts as possible
- Representing Christian Psychology to counseling students at “Awakenings” event
- Pizza with Langberg & Associates staff who will be there!
- Presenting a 1 hour breakout with Carol King on international trauma recovery (slides on slides page)
- Making a pitch from the main stage to all attendees during the “ask” for support for Project Tuza.
I think I will be plenty busy. This doesn’t count all the interactions with friends and colleagues I often have. So, I look forward to it and look forward to it being over and returning home to family. Feel free to pray for their stamina as well!
Diane Langberg and I are scheduled to do a three hour webinar for the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) on the topic of complex trauma and sexual abuse. It will run live April 19, 2011 from 6p to 9p. You can learn more about the content of the webinar by visiting this link.
Use the above link to register. Cost is $59 to “attend” via your computer or $69 if you want CEUs. AACC is able to give 3 CEUs for those needing APA and NBCC approved continuing ed.
Our presentation will be broken into 4 segments with Q & A. Topics include: overview, differential diagnoses, 3 phase treatment approach, educating the church about trauma, connecting victims to God, counselor self-care, and next steps for church leaders.