Ethics Corner Spring 2003

In each publication of Professional Issues in Counseling, we will present an ethical case vignette and ask for feedback from the journal readers. Responses can be sent by e-mail to The responses will be included in the next issue of piic.

Case Vignette:

Dr. Carlson, a marriage and family therapist, is counseling conjointly with a couple. This is a first marriage for the husband and a third for the wife. The couple has just celebrated their first anniversary and describes the first year of marriage as turbulent. On the morning of the couple's third appointment the husband calls Dr. Calloway and says that he wants to let Dr. Carlson know that he is planning to leave his wife at the end of the month. He requests the therapist keep this information a secret stating his wife has a medical procedure scheduled next week and he doesn't want her to be upset and worried about the separation until after her procedure. Dr. Carlson informs the husband that he cannot continue working with them as a couple unless the husband shares his plan with his wife during the session this evening. Dr. Carlson states that if the husband does not inform his wife he will be forced to disclose the information because it is unethical to keep a secret from either spouse during marriage therapy. Is Dr. Carlson's position ethical or unethical? Support your answer by referencing American Counseling Association Code of Ethics.

A middle school counselor is contacted by an art teacher who reports that Jessica, a student in the teacher's class drew a picture of herself laying on a bed with her wrists cut and bleeding. When the teacher talked with Jessica, the student admitted this was her plan. The counselor called Jessica into her office, and Jessica admitted to being very depressed and wanting to end her life. Jessica did not want to sign a no-suicide contract but requested the counselor not tell her parents or anyone else. The counselor is reluctant but agrees to keep Jessica's disclosures confidential. Is the counselor decision ethical or unethical? Refer to American School Counseling Association Code of Ethics to support your answer.

Responses to the Summer 2002 Vignette

Case Vignette:

Created by Lee Ann Miller, Stephanie Clements, Monica Polonyi, and Marcy Porter

A 17 year old male confesses to his school counselor that he has been having unprotected sex with his 17 year old girlfriend. She has just informed him that she is pregnant. He performed a preliminary HIV test and tested positive. He is unwilling to admit his HIV status to her out of fear of her anger.

Created by Terry Thompson, Avia Benzion, April Loeb, and Coralei Rodriguez

An LMFT is seeing a 15 year old female who disclosesthat she has been having unprotected sexual relations with 5 identified male students at her school. She has been tested and diagnosed as HIV positive and has not informed anyone else. She refuses to inform her parents of boyfriends.