Counseling Depression: Ethical Aspects


Giving counseling services plays a critical role in the restoration of an individual’s psychological equilibrium after s/he experiences disturbing events or a crisis in life. The aging population requires unique approach to facilitating the execution of successful treatment since it is a vulnerable group. George, aged 71 years, is a widower after the wife passed away recently. George’s son, Michael, decided to take him for a counseling session following his diminished passion for quality food, secluding himself in the house, and portraying signs of depression. Given the manifestations, it would be appropriate to intervene through counseling to curtail the deterioration of George’s condition. For this reason, this paper will explore the ethical aspects required to work with George before setting the counseling goals. Furthermore, a strategy for incorporating George’s input would be done by considering his support systems.

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Ethical Issues

Dealing with the elderly requires the consideration of various ethical issues to administer the counseling session effectively (Remley & Herlihy, 2007). The ethical responsibilities that necessitate consideration for George’s case include trustworthiness, beneficence, non-maleficence, and autonomy. Working with George requires the creation of trustworthiness or fidelity that would enhance his buildup of confidence that the practitioner would solve the problem he is experiencing.

Additionally, the issue of beneficence would enhance George’s belief in the professionalism of the counselor concerning his commitment to improving his well-being. Besides, the consideration not to induce harm to the client through the application of the non-maleficence ethical responsibility would be of the essence regarding George’s situation. Moreover, upholding the autonomy principle would secure George’s committed participation in the counseling session by allowing him to govern the process.

Treating George requires the development of a plan that focuses on his problem. In this light, the plan would focus on the creation of a collaborative experience that bolsters the client’s motivation since George was non-communicative during the first meeting. The treatment plan should also prepare George for change concerning manifestations like social detachment and the lack of enthusiasm. Furthermore, the plan would incorporate the services of other agencies through referrals since the various problems experienced by the client might require specialized treatment. Discussing the efficiency of the treatment plan with George would as well enrich the monitoring and evaluation strategies for the program.

Gerontological counseling necessitates the attention to unique ethical issues for the process to achieve maximum results (Corey, Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 2014). The unique ethical considerations when working with individuals like George include respect, autonomy, and beneficence. The elderly expect utmost respect from the practitioner due to the age difference as the counselor in turn upholds self-respect by observing all the required ethical issues. The uniqueness of the autonomy aspect ensures that the elderly clients have their say in the counseling process by openly pointing out what they like or dislike about the treatment (Remley & Herlihy, 2007). Clients like George ought to be assured that they would reap maximum benefits through the sessions, which requires the practitioner to uphold the essential beneficence ethical element.

Counseling Goals

The overall goals of the counseling sessions should be geared towards the improvement of the clients’ well-being (Corey et al., 2014). In George’s case, the demise of his wife seems to have induced similar emotions to those experienced when he was young after his father committed suicide. Thus, the goals would seek to counter the psychological shake up that led to the reduced passion towards good food, social interaction, and the development of depression signs. One of the initial goals of the session would be the instillation of sound coping mechanisms associated with the demise of his wife. Additionally, restoring George’s passion for good food would constitute the initial goals of the treatment since it has great implications for his health. Besides, the initial goals of the counseling sessions would purpose to enhance George’s social interaction through improved communication and association with significant others.

The counseling process should consider why individuals behave in a particular manner. In this regard, the psychoanalytic theory would be considered in the initial theoretical approach for the case of George. The rationale for selecting this theory is because the personality of an individual is usually based on the id, ego, and the superego. Therefore, George’s childhood experiences might have induced his current behavior. The initial treatment plan would involve relationship building to create a good rapport with the client. Since the initial meeting with George portrayed him as a quiet, sullen, and non-communicative individual, it would be appropriate to embrace empathy and genuineness at the initial disclosure to bolster the relationship with the client.

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The collection of crucial data that enhances the realization of valid and reliable conclusions regarding a particular problem is crucial for a successful counseling activity (Remley & Herlihy, 2007). Thus, an in-depth appraisal of the problems that George experiences would consider an initial assessment that seeks to collect the identifying data and the problem presentation. The identifying data would focus on the client’s name, contact information, marital status, age, gender, and any other relevant identification information. The presentation of George’s problem would deliberate on how the problem has altered his life, the pattern of the problem, the period it has existed, and the behaviors linked to the problem (Corey et al., 2014). The two areas of focus would provide relevant background information concerning the client’s identity and the nature of the problem.

Incorporating George’s Inputs

Remley and Herlihy (2007) argue that incorporating the client’s input in a particular treatment process is essential for the attainment of solutions that suit their needs. Therefore, I think the clients’ input would foster the design of the treatment plan that envisions the attainment of particular goals. In this respect, George’s input would assist in designing the plan since his reactions to treatment would help the practitioner to tailor the approach according to the behavioral manifestations acquired after the first meeting. Besides, the goals of the program would seek to restore things that brought happiness to George including his passion for quality food and loving his family and relatives. For these reasons, active involvement of the clients enhances the planning of the treatment according to their unique needs and setting of attainable goals.

Convincing George to participate actively in the therapy requires the integration of creative strategies. Involving the client in the development of desirable and realistic goals could improve his/her commitment to participate in the counseling process. Additionally, the client could be given success stories that involved a similar situation to foster their participation. Assuring George confidentiality would also develop trustworthiness thus enhancing his participation. In so doing, the counselor triggers the client’s input in the therapy process thereby facilitating its efficiency.

George’s Support Systems

Support systems enhance a client’s recovery process throughout the administration of therapy. Thus, the practitioner should consider the support systems for effective treatment (Corey et al., 2014). George’s support systems include his family as depicted by Michael’s concern regardless of the abandonment and detachment concerns. Therefore, more concern from the family would enhance his recovery process. George’s greatest assets for improvement include his personality and the input of the family. Through the rekindling of his appetite for good food, George would manage the depression thereby turning his passion into a coping mechanism.

Remley and Herlihy (2007) posit that the challenges that a counseling client experiences have great implications on the treatment outcomes. The biggest challenges that George experiences include poor dieting habits, poor communication, social detachment and abandonment, and the lack of enthusiasm towards social relationships. In the light of the mentioned challenges, the essence of mitigating the challenges through strategic therapeutic approaches would make the program successful. Moreover, integrating George’s advantages would also lower the weight of the challenges thus resulting in effective treatment.

Therefore, the development of a treatment plan through the incorporation of George’s advantages and disadvantages is suitable for alleviating the crisis that he is experiencing. In this sense, the plan would seek to improve George’s appetite for good food, his out-going behavior, enthusiasm, communication, and social life. Moreover, strengthening the social ties he has with his family would trigger his quick achievement of psychological balance.


The elderly require a unique approach to the administration of a successful therapy program. Ethical considerations like autonomy, trustworthiness, beneficence, and non-maleficence are unique for clients like George considering their old age. The collaborative development of counseling goals through encouraging the client’s input is important for motivating his/her commitment to the therapy process. Moreover, identifying the client’s support systems and challenges is crucial for the development of a plan that addresses the prevalent needs.

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Corey, D., Corey, M., Corey, C., & Callanan, P. (2014). Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions. Boston, MA: Brooks Cole.

Remley, P., & Herlihy, B. (2007). Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

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