Ethical Implications of a Legal Case for the Counseling Profession

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Ethical Implications of a Legal Case for the Counseling Profession

This essay will analyze the ethical implications of a specific legal case for the counseling profession. It will discuss how legal decisions can impact ethical standards, client confidentiality, and professional practice in counseling. The piece will explore the intersection between law and ethics in the therapeutic context. Also at PapersOwl you can find more free essay examples related to Counseling.

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This article presents the official position of the American Guidance Association (AGA) on a seminal legal case for skilled counseling – Ward v. Wilbanks. The case hinges on three major premises spanning permissibility of denying counseling services to a homosexual due to counselor values and availability of trials in cases where the counselor and counselee values contradict. The case revolved around Julea Ward who got expelled from the Eastern Michigan University’s counseling program for an alleged decline to provide counseling services to a student contrary to her religious faith.

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She instead attempted to adopt the patient referral mechanism that only student counselors used (Ward v. Wilbanks, 2009). At the lower courts, she lost, and upon appeal, the sixth circuit court ruled that the University was in violation of Ward’s constitutional rights, which protected personal beliefs.

The above case depicts a typical example of institutions use of duress to compel members into ideological conformity contrary to their beliefs and principles. Section C of the ACA Code of Ethics provides for the creation of a plan to transfer client and records to colleagues in cases of death, termination, or incapacitation of the counselor. The above provision justifies Ward’s action of not providing counseling services to a homosexual and instead opting to use the referral option (American counsel Association (ACA), 2005, p. 10). The case sets a precedence that the company has no rights to compel workers into conforming to actions contrary to their cultural and social beliefs.

Considering the case from a personal point of view, the decision by the sixth circuit court against the University was justified. Cultural beliefs constitute significant bonds in the life of an individual and determine the extent of their interactions within the social setting (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, 2009). Ward’s claim of inability to offer counseling services to a homosexual was justified (Hermann & Herlihy, 2006). Universities and similar employers should consider diversity within the workplace and place minimum restrictions on the social and cultural beliefs of the members.


  1. American Counseling Association. (2005). ACA code of ethics. Retrieved from
  2. American Personnel and Guidance Association. (1961). Ethical standards. Washington, DC: American Personnel and Guidance Association.
  3. Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2009). 2009 accreditation manual. Alexandria, VA: Author.
  4. Hermann, M. A., & Herlihy, B. W. (2006). Legal and ethical implications of refusing to counsel homosexual clients. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84, 414–418.
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Ethical Implications of a Legal Case for the Counseling Profession. (2021, May 14). Retrieved from