Ethics: Cultural Competency and Social Justice Obligations

Ethics: Cultural Competency and Social Justice Obligations

This should be completed during the time you are not directly in client sessions and turned in same day via email, or at the latest prior to start time of your next week’s precept day.

Area of Emphasis: Ethics, Assessment, Treatment

Lesson and Exercise: Professional Obligations of Cultural Competency, Recognition of Differences, and Social Justice to Clients and Patients

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Due to the complexity of the human brain and behavior, the understanding of cultural and social dynamics is vital in ensuring accurate and ethical healthcare assessment and treatment. You’ve probably already learned in your classes that psychological professions have ethical codes which address cultural competency and social justice obligations to clients.
The American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics reads, for example: “Counselors recognize historical and social prejudices in the misdiagnosis and pathologizing of certain individuals and groups and strive to become aware of and address such biases in themselves.”
Without a solid understanding and implementation of this component of healthcare, inaccurate conceptualizations of clients and even inadvertent perpetuation of social injustices will inevitably occur.
For this assignment, please respond to the following prompts below to further explore and to implement into your observations, case conceptualizations, and mock treatment plans of the clients you observe this week and to follow.

Review and Reference:
Refer to your own professional code of ethics for this assignment and list it here:

Code of Ethics: ________________________________________________________________

One for counseling is the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics which can be found at

It is vital to become very familiar with your profession’s code of ethics as you begin to work with clients/patients. It’s a great idea to keep it downloaded for easy reference on your laptop, or a link on your phone, etc.

Watch and Reflect:
Sometimes ethics and law may even conflict. There is a difference between your freedom to think differently about a client/patient and your professional obligation to “Do no harm” psychologically to them, which is what professional codes of ethics ensure.

Recent ACA President whom I know personally, Richard Yep, gives a good example of this:

It’s important to proactively identify any emotions or biases that might arise for you in your work with clients of different backgrounds and belief systems and how you will handle this within yourself and in your interactions with clients/patients so not to affect your work.

Within your profession’s code of ethics, list below a few examples of cultural competency and/or social justice obligations you have to your clients.
(Example, ACA code of ethics contains statements like “promoting social justice…honoring diversity…supporting the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of people…counselors explore their own cultural identities and how these affect their values and beliefs…” etc etc.

1. 3.
2. 4.

Application Exercise:
List examples of how a professional or healthcare system might (purposefully or inadvertently) misdiagnose or pathologize a client based upon bias or poor application of cultural competency:

1. 3.
2. 4.

Watch this video of a speaker who shares her unique experiences which taught her of the many limitations of truly understanding another person’s experience when they are different.

Choose and list below an aspect of a client that will be different from you. (Examples include sex, gender, sexual orientation, significant age difference, ethnicity)

Chosen characteristic: _____________________________

Based on the fact that you are different, list below examples of possible limitations you might have or might be distracted by that could potentially affect diagnosis:

1. 3.
2. 4.

Of the three possible limitations listed above, what can/will you do to address these and to minimize the likelihood of them limiting the accuracy and effectiveness of your work?