Posted: September 6th, 2023
Reflecting on Personal Attitudes and Beliefs in Counseling
The Standard A.4.b. of the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) 2014 Code of Ethics mandates the following regarding personal values:
“Counselors are aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors and avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants” (ACA, 2014, p. 5).
Therefore, it is important that counselors and counselor trainees spend time identifying their own values, understanding the origin of these values, and honestly owning how personal values may adversely affect the counselor’s ability to work with certain populations or mental illnesses.
Step 1: Read and complete the Attitudes & Beliefs Inventory below (see p. 2). When you are finished, go back over the inventory and select three questions you had the strongest reactions to and/or you had the most difficult time answering.
Your paper should be 5-7 pages, (excluding title page, abstract, reference page), written in APA format, including a title page, abstract, introduction, body, conclusion, and references. Your paper should be well thought out and demonstrate critical thinking, self-evaluation, and practical application. Your paper must include at least 5 scholarly references published within the last 5 years. All sources must be scholarly journal articles outside of course materials, materials from other classes, and applicable to the counseling profession. No websites or direct quotes. This assignment should be written in 1st person.
Step 2: Divide your paper into the three required headings below and address the following questions within each section:
State the 3 questions that evoked the strongest reaction in you, and/or, you found most difficult to answer. Why? What personal value(s) and/or belief(s) did each question seem to contradict or seemed to cause some personal incongruence within you?
When, from whom, and how, did you learn this (these) value(s)/belief(s)?
What personal or professional work do you still need to do around this issue?
Step 3: When you have completed your paper, save it as a Microsoft Word document under your name and assignment title (Example: Doe_J_Attitudes and Beliefs_Paper). Submit your paper via the assignment submission link in Canvas. If the final paper you submit contains entire sentences or paragraphs that have a high similarity index to other sources, it may indicate either unintentional or intentional plagiarism. You may be contacted by your instructor.
Note: Your assignment will be checked for originality via the Turnitin plagiarism tool.
Attitudes & Beliefs Inventory*
Directions: Using the scale below, rate each item to indicate how comfortable you would be working with this population or problem.
5= Very Comfortable 4= Somewhat Comfortable 3= Comfortable
2= Somewhat Uncomfortable 1= Very Uncomfortable
1. A person with fundamentalist religious beliefs.
2. A woman who says that if she could turn her life over to Christ she would find peace.
3. A person who shows little conscience development, is strictly interested in his/her own advancement, and uses others for personal gain.
4. A gay or lesbian couple wanting to work on conflicts in their relationship.
5. A man who wants to leave his wife and children for the sake of sexual adventures with other women.
6. A woman who has decided to leave her husband and children to gain independence.
7. A woman who has decided to get an abortion but wants to process her feelings around it.
8. A teenager who is having unsafe sex and sees no problem with the behavior.
9. A high school student who is sent to you by his parents because they suspect he is using drugs.
10. A person who is very cerebral and is convinced that feelings are a private matter.
11. A man who believes the best way to discipline his children is through spanking.
12. An interracial couple coming for premarital counseling.
13. A high school student who believes she is a lesbian and wants to discuss how to “come out” to her parents.
14. A gay or lesbian couple wanting to adopt a child.
15. A man who has found a way of cheating the system and getting more than his legal share of public assistance.
16. A woman who comes with her husband for couples counseling while maintaining an extramarital affair.
17. A man who believes internet sex can be a creative way to express sexuality.
18. A couple who believe that sex with multiple partners is okay.
19. A man convicted of pedophilia and court-ordered for counseling.
20. A woman who makes her living as an exotic dancer.
21. A man convicted of domestic violence.
22. A woman whose children have been removed by Child Protective Services.
23. A man recently released from jail after serving a sentence for rape.
24. A man with terminal cancer who wants to discuss stopping all treatment to hasten his death.
25. A woman who believes in an egalitarian marriage.
*Modified from Corey, G., Cory M.S., & Callanan, P. (2011). Issues and ethics in the helping professions, (8th ed.). Brooks/Cole.
Reflecting on Personal Attitudes and Beliefs in Counseling
As counselors, it is imperative that we are aware of our own values, attitudes, and beliefs and how they may impact our work with clients. The American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics mandates that counselors must avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals and respect the diversity of clients (ACA, 2014). To adhere to this standard, counselors must take time to identify their personal values, understand where they originated, and acknowledge how certain values could negatively affect work with specific populations or issues. This paper will reflect on my responses to an attitudes and beliefs inventory, examining three questions that elicited strong reactions or were difficult to answer honestly. Through this self-evaluation, I aim to increase my cultural competence and ability to provide ethical, unbiased counseling.
The first question that provoked reaction was about working with a person with fundamentalist religious beliefs. As someone who does not strongly identify with any particular faith, counseling someone with very conservative views felt uncomfortable. My value of open-mindedness conflicts with rigid religious doctrines. The second difficult question involved working with a man convicted of domestic violence. Having known victims of intimate partner abuse, the idea of counseling the perpetrator triggered feelings of anger and judgment. Safety of clients is paramount in counseling, so overcoming biases is essential. The final question I struggled with was about a man seeking counseling after serving time for rape. Processing such a traumatic crime would take immense empathy, yet my natural inclination is still one of protection over compassion in this case. These reactions reveal personal values around religion, abuse, and harm that could hinder effective counseling if not addressed.
My attitudes in these areas stem from both nature and nurture. A predisposition toward liberal, non-dogmatic thinking was likely inborn. However, environmental influences also shaped my values. I was raised in a secular home that emphasized open-mindedness, questioning authority, and defending the vulnerable. Later life experiences, such as witnessing the impact of abuse on loved ones, further cultivated protective instincts. While these values are not inherently negative, they can become biases if not consciously managed in counseling. It is also possible that societal prejudices seeped into my views through prolonged exposure over time.
To overcome value-laden reactions and uphold ethical practice, ongoing self-reflection and education are needed. First, I will seek supervision to process strong feelings and replace them with empathy, neutrality, and belief in clients’ capacity for change. Reading literature from diverse perspectives can broaden my worldview. I will also commit to actively learning about other cultures and experiences unlike my own to challenge assumptions. Additionally, focusing counseling on the present concerns and goals of each unique client, rather than attributes like religion or criminal history, helps keep the therapeutic relationship objective. With diligent self-awareness work, I believe my natural inclinations can be managed so as not to interfere with providing culturally-sensitive, non-judgmental counseling.
The attitudes and beliefs inventory revealed personal values requiring address to maintain competence across diverse populations. Through identifying value-laden reactions, understanding their origins, and committing to self-reflection, education, and clinical supervision, biases can be mitigated. Counselors have an ethical duty to engage in ongoing evaluation of how personal worldviews may influence work with clients and take action to become culturally sensitive practitioners. With diligence, counselors can overcome value conflicts to offer empathic, non-biased counseling respecting the diversity of all individuals seeking help.
American Counseling Association. (2014). 2014 ACA code of ethics. https://www.counseling.org/Resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdf
Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Callanan, P. (2011). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Brooks/Cole.
Ratts, M. J., Singh, A. A., Nassar-McMillan, S., Butler, S. K., & McCullough, J. R. (2016). Multicultural and social justice counseling competencies: Guidelines for the counseling profession. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 44(1), 28–48. https://doi.org/10.1002/jmcd.12035
Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2016). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (7th ed.). John Wiley & Sons.
Worthington, R. L., Soth-McNett, A. M., & Moreno, M. V. (2007). Multicultural counseling competencies research: A 20-year content analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54(4), 351–361. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-018.104.22.1681