Although all counsellors, religious and secular alike, face ethical issues in their practice of counselling clients, Christian counsellors face special concerns. A Christian or pastoral counsellor must exhibit an understanding of moral values in addition to emotional sensitivity, cultural awareness and professional competency. Learn more about the key ethical issues facing Christian counsellors as they provide guidance for clients.
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Some individuals and mental health organisations question the ethics of conversion therapy in Christian counselling. Conversion therapy, also called "sexual reparative therapy," is used to refer to the practice of attempting to "cure" a patient of his sexual orientation. Homosexual patients may visit Christian counsellors by choice or by force, seeking help in changing their sexual orientation. The American Counseling Association opposes counselling practices that treat homosexuality or bisexuality as abnormal psychological behaviours. Christian counsellors must carefully consider the ethics of conversion therapy before agreeing to treat clients who wish to change their sexual orientation.
Like all counsellors and psychotherapists, Christian counsellors are obligated not to disclose anything a client reveals to them during a counselling session, including the fact that the client is seeking counselling. The American Association of Christian Counselors directs counsellors to maintain client confidentiality to the fullest extent allowed by law, church and denominational rules, and professional ethics. In limited, rare situations---such as reasonable suspicion that a client plans to harm another---a Christian counsellor might have the right to disclose confidential information about a client to the proper authorities or another health professional.
Christian counsellors may face a situation in which the best course of action for a client conflicts with Christian moral values. While most Christian counsellors will only counsel toward divorce in extreme cases that involve physical abuse or adultery, there may be other situations in which a Christian marriage counsellor might feel compelled to suggest divorce, such as psychological abuse. When encountering these issues, Christian counsellors must prayerfully consider their options and, with written consent of the clients, request external advice from another Christian counselling professional.
Just as there may be a case in which a counsellor is tempted to counsel a client to take a course of action she might usually oppose, there may be situations in which a client disagrees with the counsellor on a major ethical issue. For example, if a client wants a counsellor to guide her through a divorce or counsel her toward an abortion, a Christian counsellor might not be able to do so in good conscience. Even if the counsellor is able to refer her to another professional, the client might interpret the decision as rejection, particularly if she has a long-standing relationship with the counsellor.
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