K.Rajeswari Prince
Manager-MLOP Training Division
Aravind Eye Care System,Madurai

Ethics may be defined as right conduct. Basic elements of ethical behavior for counselors are:

Self- Awareness : A counselor is also a human being with needs, values, feelings and biases.  Unless she/he knows himself/herself, he/she will not understand the client. Unless he/she recognizes and understands his/her own bias, prejudices, personal interest and emotional hotspots he/she will never be able to understand why the clients behave or react as they do.  To effectively assist his/her clients, the counselor needs to know himself/herself well and also continually work for self-assessment and development. 

Self-awareness enables the counselor to be honest to himself/herself and to their clients. It assists the counselor in avoiding unethical use of his/her clients for his/her self-satisfaction.
Developing self-awareness is an on going process. Effective counselors would continue the process of self-awareness through his/her career.

There are three components of self-awareness.

Competence: The counselor should be competent enough to put aside his/her personal needs in favor of his/her cli ents’ needs. It requires special training and experience .  There should not be any hesitation in discussing a complicated and specialized case with expert(s) as well.  A counselor should expand and strengthen his/her knowledge and skills continuously through learning, practice and research.

Power: In a counselling relationship there is a lot of scope for misuse or abuse of power.  The counselor must avoid the trap of using his/her position and skills to  try to control and dominate the client.

Intimacy: A counselor should be a well-balanced person.  He /S he needs to welcome intimacy with his/her client.  If he/she is afraid of intimacy, he/ she will create distances which would affect the counselling process.

Transference and Counter transference : Sometimes clients may transfer their needs such as to have a parent or a lover, or a guru to a counselor.  As a result the client may suddenly direct his/her feelings towards him/ her.  This is called transference.  Here the relationship is not real: however it does reveal the deep need of the client.  When the counselor displays the same feeling towards his/her client, it is called counter transference .  These emotions and situations have to be dealt with carefully.

Objectivity :The counselor’s actions should not be limited or blocked by his/her personal feelings, bias and prejudices.  He/ S he should make sure that cultural, ethnic, religious, linguistic, gender, class, ideological, institutional, caste, regional and other differences do not interfere in his/her counselling relationship with the client.  The counselor has to assist his/her client to make decisions based on the client’ s belief and not on those of the counselor.

Confidentiality : The popular definition of confidentiality is “keep your mouth shut and don’t blab your clients’ personal affairs.” T he counselor should not divulge information shared by his/her client, including the clients’ name.  He/She must be honest and sincere in maintaining confidentiality . However absolute or total confidentiality may not always be possible or available.  It is often relative. 

Rights of the clients : The counselor should inform the client about his/her rights.  The clients have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.  They have the right to be informed about the go als or purpose of the counselling relationship.  The counselor needs to maintain open communication with his/her client.  Counselling is not a mysterious process. It involves the application of effective communication and problem- solving skills.  The counselor should show an active interest in assisting the client resolve the problem.

Values : There are two basic values in counselling. Belief in the uniqueness and dignity of the individual (c lient).  People are not objects.  There is a wide diversity of cultures, religions, languages, life styles, values etc. , and we need to respect them.  It is necessary to be sensitive and aware of this fact and express our dignity and respect in all possible ways.  Clients should be assisted to discover and make use of their strengths and they should be drawn to participate in solving the problem. 

Self-determination of the client : This may be defined as “respect for human individuality and freedom of choice.”  The counselors, without imposing their own values or solutions to problems, should assist the client in developing the alternatives and solutions to his/her problems.