In the Best Interests of the Child: Ethical Challenges for Counsellors and Psychotherapists

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Sally v. Hunter[1] University of New England


In their Code of Ethics, Early Childhood Australia [2] state ‘the protection and wellbeing of children is paramount, and therefore speaking out or taking action in the presence of unethical practice is an essential professional responsibility’. All clinicians would agree with this statement but, in the complex world in which we live and work, taking action in the best interests of the child is often easier said than done. This article reviews some of the recent literature and explores the main ethical dilemmas that arise for clinicians when working therapeutically with children, rather than working with families. These relate to competence, consent, confidentiality and competing interests (Koocher, 2008) and to child maltreatment. These ethical dilemmas are discussed in relation to a case scenario along with suggestions for professional conduct when working therapeutically with children and young people.

Keywords: Ethical dilemma, Counselling, Psychotherapy, Children


Contact for correspondence
Dr Sally V Hunter
Senior Lecturer, School of Rural Medicine,
University of New England,
Armidale, NSW 2351
Ph: 0467 060 358
e-mail: drsallyvhunter@gmail.com