Professional Counseling Standards: Ethics, Accreditation, And Credentials

A. Ethics

Professional counselors are not enough just to have knowledge, skills, and personality, but must also understand and apply the counseling code of ethics (KEK). The need for a code of ethics becomes urgent when we are faced with cultural diversity. This background has been recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) which published a code of ethics in 1953. Not long after, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) adopted the code of ethics in 1960. And in 1961, the American Counseling Association (ACA) developed the code of ethics (Neukrug, 2007: 55). 

According to Brace, 1992 (in Neukrug, 2007: 55), ethical standards are a reflection of several social changes in society. In the development and revision of the code of ethics guidelines, setting based on people's behavior becomes a difficult task. Instead, their ethical relationship believes that moral roles are central to their culture. Therefore, they believe that ethical opinions vary from culture to culture or situation to situation.

According to Bergin, 1985 (in Neukrug, 2007: 55), decisions in making a code of ethics should be based on general agreement. According to Gert (2005), other beliefs believe that ethical decisions are based on general beliefs with almost everyone agreeing with these beliefs (in Neukrug, 2007: 55). Based on some of the opinions above, the determination of the code of ethics is based on the results of negotiations which refer to general beliefs over various situations and cultures.

According to Corey et al., 2006, Dolgoff, Loewenberg, & Harrington, 2005, Mabe & Rollin, 1986, (in Neugkrug, 2007: 57), the benefits of ethical guidance to assist the counseling profession, include:

  1. They prevent clients and professionals from only being in professional organizations
  2. They provide a statement of professional and mature professional identity
  3. They guide the profession toward the type of reward-based behavior that is considered a desirable profession
  4. They offer a framework for some ethical-making processes
  5. They can offer as a measure of defense in case of professional malpractice

According to Corey et al, (2006); Dolgoff, Loewnberg & Harrington, (2005); Mabe & Rollin, (1986) (in Neugkrug, 2007: 57), there are negative aspects in the use of a code of ethics, including:

  1. The code does not emphasize some issues and offers less clear travel responses to others
  2. There are some conflicts with the same code, between the code and the law, and between the code and the counselor reward system
  3. It is sometimes difficult to violate the code of ethics
  4. Codes are not always focused on solving issues

B. Accreditation

One mechanism to ensure the best training is through an accreditation program. In the last 30 years, the counseling profession has made great strides in its pursuit of accreditation. The council for the accreditation of counseling and related educational programs is the Council For The Accreditation of Counseling Related Educational Program (CACREP).

a. Overview of the CACREP Standard

CACREP offers standards for doctoral degrees in counselor education and for master's degrees in school counseling community counseling, college counseling, mental health, career counseling, geological counseling, student counseling/therapy, marriage, couples, and family. With the exception of mental health counseling which requires a master's degree 60 hours/semester. Each program requires a minimum of 48 hours/semester for a master's degree. For all master's programs seeking CACREP accreditation, curriculum requirements include work programs in the areas of professional identity, social and cultural diversity, human growth and development, career development, relationship assistance, assessment, group, and research and evaluation.

b. Other Accreditation Agencies

A number of other accreditation bodies set standards in related fields. For example, the Council for Rehabilitation Education (CORE, 2006), an accreditation program for rehabilitation counseling. In other related fields, there are several pastoral counseling programs and are accredited by the American Association of Pastoral Counseling (AAPC).

C. Credentials

One method of ensuring that professionals are competent in their field is through accreditation. Another intent is through credentials. The following are the advantages of having credentials (Neukrug, 2007: 73), including:

  1. Improve professionalism. Credentials enhance the status and identity of members in the profession about who the members of the profession are.
  2. There is balance. The credential helps counselors strike a balance in professional status, salary, insurance reimbursement, and more with close mental health professional relationships.
  3. There is clarity of roles and tasks in the field. The process of passing laws/regulations to obtain credentials that can help the profession clearly describe who we are and where we are.
  4. Community protection. Credentials help identify the community in each individual to be able to carry out training and skills in counseling appropriately.

There are three forms of credentials, namely:

        a. Registration

A simple form of credential and involves the registration of members of a particular professional group (Sweeney, 1991). This registration is generally regulated by the respective country, in the sense that each registered individual acquires minimum competencies, such as a bachelor's degree, professional, and/or internship in a particular area. A certificate involves the formal acknowledgment that an individual is in a profession, although more stringent than registration, a certificate is less demanding than a license.

        b. Certificate

A certificate is often seen as degree protection, it proves a person of a certain level of competence. In contrast, licenses tend to protect titles and define the professional practice, not only proving a certain level of competence but defining what a person can do and where he can do it. An annual fee usually has to be paid to maintain the certificate. Certificates can be offered by state or national boards. Finally, certificates can also balance continuing education for an individual who maintains the credentials.

        c. License

The most restrictive form of a credential is a license. Generally regulated by the state, a license signifies that a person has a license that meets strict standards. Without a license can not practice in a particular professional arena, (ACA, 2005) the license generally defines the scope in which an individual can and cannot do. A counselor license has become a fact that almost every state has a license and is a requirement mandated by law. 


Neukrug, Ed. 2007. The world of the counselor: an introduction to the counseling profession.United States: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

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