Goh Peng Hng
Assessments are an integral part in Career Counseling. As responsible and trained counselor, what are the professional and ethical responsibilities in conducting an assessment for career counseling throughout the process of intervention?
Assessment, as quoted in the American Counseling Association states it is “the process of collecting in-depth information about a person in order to develop a comprehensive plan that will guide the collaborative counseling and service provision process” ( “Code of Ethics, ” 2014. p20). It is known that assessment is an essential component in the process of counseling. If a proper assessment is not carried out, it could prove detrimental to the counseling process. But what purposes does the assessment strive to achieve that makes it so important? First and foremost, assessment serves the purpose of gathering background information for taking further action. According to the American Counseling Association, assessment is primarily utilized for the purpose of attaining information for other purposes such as client decision making or treatment planning ( “Code of Ethics, ” 2014. p11). Secondly, the information gathered from assessment helps the counselor gain a greater understanding of the client, which in turn benefits the client. For example, during counseling sessions, counselors carry out their duty while considering the clients’ personal and cultural circumstances ( “Code of Ethics, ” 2014. p11). This ensures the counseling provided is more effective for the client. Lastly, the well-being of individual is promoted through the usage of appropriate educational, mental health, psychological and career assessment carried out by competent and qualified counselors ( “Code of Ethics, ” 2014. p11). In general, what this means is that assessment provides clarity and aid in the client in understanding themselves and figuring out the steps for the future.
When assessing a client, there are various professional responsibilities involved. These responsibilities which are written in the code of ethics and are the general standards of any organization consisting of counselors and other healthcare professionals who administer assessments. One example of such a responsibility includes addressing to the clients about the assessment which is being administered, including the function, usage and results of the assessment. Additionally, the client also has the rights to information such as the people who will be able to acquire the results, how the results will be kept and distributed ( “Code of Professional Responsibilities, ” 1995. p6). Security is also a professional responsibility of great importance for counselors. Counselors are required to take applicable and necessary steps prior to, throughout, and following the assessment ( “Code of Professional Responsibilities, ” 1995. p6). The results of the assessment are to be strictly kept under a watchful eye and safe in a secure environment. This is to ensure that there is no breach of sensitive information as the client is promised privacy and confidentiality. It is also a responsibility of a counselor to use standardized assessments, strictly following the rules and regulations and alert the client if there are any abnormal conditions that arise ( “Code of Professional Responsibilities, ” 1995. p6 ).This guarantees that the results are valid and reliable and the success of the assessing procedure.
Besides professional responsibilities, ethical responsibilities are also taken into consideration when assessing a client. According to the National Career Development Association (NCDA), there are a multitude of ethical responsibilities. One of the many that are shown is the respect of the client’s confidentiality, or honoring the trust placed in the counselor. It is the counselors’ responsibility to gather solely information that pertains to the professional relationship between counselor and client during an assessment ( “Code of Ethics, ” 2007. p10). This is the respect for the client’s privacy, as asking any more could be due to the counselors’ curiosity. Which, however, would be unrelated to the assessment and thus, unethical. Another responsibility closely related to privacy is confidentiality. Although the two terms are similar, it is worth noting that they are not the same and have a great difference in the context of ethics. Respect for confidentiality is responsibility which means that counselors are strictly prohibited from sharing the results of their assessment or any other classified information without the informed consent of their client. The only exception is that if the counselor has any logical and appropriate legal or ethical reasons to justify the distribution of the information ( “Code of Ethics, ” 2007. p10). Being fair is also a ethical responsibility of a counselor. What this means is that counselors have to be unbiased and neutral when treating all clients. Clients must be given standardized assessments and treated as unique individuals with human rights. This responsibility expects the counselor to have the capacity to be non-judgemental and recognize the exclusive identities of each and every individual ( “Ethical Framework, ” 2010. p3). The British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy (BACP) suggests that counselors have the ethical responsibility of assessing the client without meaning any sort of harm to the client. Any harm to the client must be prevented be it sexual, financial, emotional or any other form of client exploitation. Included in this responsibility is also to be competent and all times and not providing services when the counselor is unfit to ensure that assessments are done correctly ( “Ethical Framework, ” 2010. p3). This is a vital point as ignoring these guidelines is likely to cause inaccurate assessment results, which might harm the client as a result.
Prior to assessment, there are responsibilities to be upheld by counselors. One of such is the maintenance of assessment security and integrity. This responsibility expects counselors to protect the assessment materials by preventing improper use and distribution. They should stored in a secure place that can be only accessed by the staff with authorization. The few people who are allowed to have access to qualified and competent counselors who can interpret the results in the proper manner ( “Administration Practices, ” 2004. p7). Reproduction of test results is also strictly prohibited. Another of one of the standard responsibilities of the counselor administering the assessment is the selection of a testing environment before assessment ( “Administration Practices, ” 2004. p7). This is due to the fact that if clients are comfortable in the testing environment, they will be able to answer the questions posed more accurately. Other than the location of the assessment, the testing period for the client brings about a similar purpose. The time at which the assessment is scheduled to take place must a time where the client is able to function best ( “Administration Practices, ” 2004. p7). Counselors must judge the client’s readiness and willingness to participate in the assessment and may then begin after in the responsibilities to be portrayed before an assessment.
Not only are there responsibilities prior to the assessment, there also various responsibilities to be taken note of during the process of assessment. One of the main responsibilities during the assessment is the observation of the client. This ensures that the client follows the instructions given and will thus be able to provide a more valid and reliable result. The client will also be able to alert the counselor if there is any problem that arises during the midst of the assessment. For example, if a client has difficulty understanding the directions given, the counselor would be present to explain it in a brief and concise ( “Administration Practices, ” 2004. p10). This comes hand in hand with reading the instructions of the assessment material. As the assessment begins, it is the responsibility of the counselor to read the instructions as written on the material. This should be done in a “natural, deliberate tone of voice and manner” ( “Administration Practices, ” 2004. p10). At the exact moment where the assessment ends, the counselor has to gather all of the materials used. This is vital as it affirms the security of the assessment ( “Administration Practices, ” 2004. p11). Failing to do so may cause a breach of confidentiality which will in turn affect the relationship between client and counselor. Counselors are obligated to give information in the event that the whereabouts of the materials are unknown.
Following the end of an assessment, responsible counselors should check the assessment material in detail. The answers provided should be clear and easy to be interpreted. For example, if there are faintly marked answers, counselor should darken it for clarity. The test must be confirmed to be completely finished and checked thoroughly before the documents can be interpreted ( “Administration Practices, ” 2004. p11). One of the most important responsibilities is the security of the documents ( “Code of Professional Responsibilities, ” 1995. p6). The client must have full knowledge of the safety of the results. The client must be able to make an informed decision regarding the release of the results. Lastly, it is the responsibility of the counselor to judge the client’s readiness before disclosing the results to the client. If the client is not ready, the results are not supposed to be released under any circumstances. This is done in the best interests of the client and it is to ensure the results will not harm them if disclosed prematurely.
Overall, it is clearly shown that the assessment is a complex and crucial part in the process of career counseling. There are a plethora of responsibilities to be upheld by the counselors during assessment, be it professional or ethical. The responsibilities discussed in this paper are based upon the standard codes of ethics and responsibilities created by renowned and recognized organizations. Following these responsibilities ensures that a counselor can accurately carry out an assessment and bring the margin of error to a bare minimum.