Ethical guidelines shall be put in practice by Muslim counsellors in their counselling processes. It is not only a professional obligation for the Muslim counsellors but also a religious moral adherence. These are guidelines, which put the client’s interests on top of the counsellor. It is also protects the client’s rights and aids abundantly is establishing a collaborative relationship between the counsellor and the client.
Ethical considerations binding Muslim mental health professionals
Ethical guidelines of counselling are baseline moral principles of counselling which a counsellor shall adhere to for ensuring the best interest of the clients. It is not an easy task for a counsellor to put in practice the habit of giving priority to meet the needs of the client when there is a compelling personal objective and need. It is not wrong to meet the personal needs through our profession; however, a counsellor shall keep a professional perspective of it during the process of counselling. Being a Muslim counsellor, it becomes all the more important because of the moral and ethical guidelines set by Islam itself that shall govern the relationship between the counsellor and the client. These ethics ensures achievement of counselling objectives for a Muslim counselor with social welfare in mind.
Why Ethical Guidelines
The primary motive of having ethical guidelines in a counselling process is to keep the client protected from any possible harms. Client being in need for an external help is the one sharing his personal information and secrets with a counsellor, believing that he will help him find a solution for this life problems. So it becomes very much required professionally, morally and legally that the client’s interests are protected from being exploited. Accordingly, ethical principles of counselling have the following major objectives (Corey Gerald, 2009, the role of ethics, Theory and practice of counselling & psychotherapy):
- Used to convey the responsibilities of the counselor and the client
- Basis of professional accountability
- Protecting the clients from un-ethical practices
For a Muslim counsellor, the above are not just a professional code of conduct but a religious obligation. It was reported in the Hadith compilations of Tirmidi that “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) ascended the Minbar and called out with a raised voice: ’O you who accepted Islam with his tongue, while faith has not reached his heart! Do not harm the Muslims, nor revile them, nor spy on them to expose their secrets. For indeed whoever tries to expose his Muslims brother’s secrets, Allah exposes his secrets wide open, even if he were in the depth of his house.’” He (Nafl’) said: ‘ One day Ibn ‘Umar looked at the House- or – the Ka’bah and said: ‘What is it that is more honored than you, and whose honor is more sacred than yours! And the believer’s honor is more sacred to Allah than yours.’”
Also, it is reported authentically in hadith compilations of Abi Dawud from Prophet Mohamed (Peace be Upon Him) that “Everything of a Muslim is sacred to a Muslim: his property, honour and blood. It is enough evil for any man to despise his brother Muslim” Hence, it is clear that a practicing Muslim counsellor shall keep the above prophetic teachings in his mind all the time and shall follow the ethical guidelines of counselling to protect the honour of his client.
Following sections shall shed light onto such ethical guidelines formulated to achieve the above.
Beneficence & Non-maleficence – enhancing client’s well-being and doing no harm to the client
It is very important to understand that in a counselling relationship, it is the client’s need that is given importance. Counsellors shall have prior knowledge about their own needs, life positions and possibility of being drawn into the affairs of the client & making such situations for the benefit of their own benefits putting the client’s needs in jeopardy during the counselling process. According to Gerald Corey (2009), “it is crucial that we do not meet our needs at the expense of our clients”.
Autonomy & Informed Consent-–Decrease dependence and increase independent decision making for the client
It is not only ethical but also a legal obligation on the part of a counsellor to inform the client about the therapeutic approaches and processes being used in the counselling. The client shall be making autonomous decisions on the therapy process by means of informed choices. In the opinion of Gerald Corey (2009), “It also establishes a basic foundation for creating a working alliance and a collaborative partnership between the client and the therapist”. In helps building the required rapport between the counsellor and the client, as they are educated and empowered by the counsellor. However, it is challenge on the part of the counsellor to know and apply the limit of information he/she is imparting on the client.
Confidentiality–Keep clients information confidential at all circumstances
It is the paramount duty of the counsellor to keep all the information the client shares with utmost secrecy and confidentiality. It is not only an ethical guideline but also a legal obligation. The client shall be informed about the confidentiality clause in the counselling relationship. This will lift his confidence and will give him the assurance to be more open with the counsellor. However, there are certain premises; mostly legal, where the counsellor is permitted to break the confidentiality of the information he/she possess. They are:
- When it is required to produce it in a court of law
- When the client himself request to share it with somebody else. In this scenario, the counsellor shall seek a written consent from the client.
- When the client is a minor and the counsellor suspects that the client is a victim of abuse, rape etc.
- When the client is referred for hospitalization
(Corey Gerald, 2009, Dimensions of confidentiality, P.41 Theory and practice of counselling & psychotherapy):
Other Ethical guidelines at a glance
Many other ethical guidelines are also discussed in a counselling relationship. It shall be practiced in counselling believing that these are going to aid in the counselling relationship with the client and shall expedite the intended results. They are:
- Justice: equal and fair treatment to all
- Fidelity: honoring promise
- Self-respect: self-care and personal development
- Personal moral qualities: good qualities for the counsellor
- Empathy: accurate understanding of the clients thoughts, feelings and problems
- Sincerity: walk the talk, be sincere to the job in hand
- Integrity: straight forwardness, honesty and coherence
- Resilience: capacity to work with client’s concerns without being personality diminished
- Respect: Show equal humanitarian respect to the clients
- Humility: Accurate knowledge about own strength and weakness
The ethical guidelines are principles that shall be kept in mind all the time during a counselling process. When the situation arises, it shall be put in practice as applicable without any prejudice. That will help to sustain the healthy relationship between the counsellor and the client. It will establish a collaborative counselling relationship and will largely aid in achieving the intended remedy and results
- Corey Gerald (2009): Theory and Practise of Counselling and Psychotherapy.
- Putting Clients’ Needs Before Your Own, P.37
- Ethical Decision Making, P.38
- The Right of Informed Consent, P.40
- Dimensions of Confidentiality P.41
- The Value of Evidence-Based Practice P.47-48
- Jami` at-Tirmidhi :Chapters on Righteousness And Maintaining Good Relations With Relatives » Retrieved from. https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi/27/138
- Sunan Abi Dawud » Book of General Behavior (Kitab Al-Adab) » Hadith Retrieved from https://sunnah.com/abudawud/43/110