December 2018

From the Executive Director: Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s

By Matthew McClain
As counselors in the educational setting, we are reminded repeatedly that we are leaders. Is there an expectation that we are perfect? No. Do we need to be situationally aware of our circumstances and others’? Absolutely. Legal and ethical awareness is an absolute necessity in the roles we fulfill in schools, colleges, early learning centers, early colleges, etc. Every one of us needs to be especially aware of legal and ethical issues. Brand new counselors, fresh from legal and ethical courses, are still trying to navigate their way in the school setting and their work with students and can fall vulnerable to situations in an effort to be helpful. Veteran counselors become comfortable in their routines and may forget to remain vigilant, and also can become vulnerable to compromising situations.

If you have ever had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Carolyn Stone, Ed.D., you know she immediately draws you in. Stone is a professor at University of North Florida and is the ASCA ethics chair. She frequently jokes about the situations she speaks of, saying, “You can’t make this up!” She knows case after case of legal and ethical issues that counselors were involved in because of lapses in personal judgement. When was the last time you reviewed the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors? According to the ethical standards document, “ASCA specifies the obligation to the principles of ethical behavior necessary to maintain the high standards of integrity, leadership and professionalism. The ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors were developed in consultation with state school counseling associations, school counselor educators, school counseling state and district leaders and school counselors across the nation to clarify the norms, values and beliefs of the profession.” In this document, guidelines are laid out regarding responsibility to students, responsibilities to parents/guardians, school and self, school counselor administrators/supervisors, school counseling intern site supervisors, maintenance of standards and ethical decision making. These topics are critical to help us as counselors keep students and ourselves safe. Reviewing this document regularly can help us keep our focus on maintaining boundaries and healthy relationships with those we serve. Personally, I have grown to be more and more interested in the legal and ethical issues surrounding our field. Part of this is general experience, but the other part is relationships I have built with that were built with Stone and Rhonda Williams, Ed.D. (former CSCA executive director and professor at UCCS).

One ethical obligation is to belong to professional organizations, so congratulations on being a member of CSCA! We have many ways to receive support – colleagues, work groups, Facebook groups, etc. Having someone with whom you can talk over situations and gain insight will not only help you investigate new perspectives, it will help you stay grounded by discussing your own circumstances. This type of supervision can also keep you fresh throughout the school year. As you navigate ways that work for you, just remember to remain vigilant for students, our profession and ourselves.

Contact Matthew McClain, CSCA executive director, at mmcclain@coloradoschoolcounselor.org.