An Overview of Ethical Dilemmas in School Counseling

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) highlights ethical standards that school counselors must maintain when counseling minors. Ethics training for counselors in education is crucial due to their interaction with age groups undergoing emotional and cognitive development.

Speaking of, here are the ethical dilemmas a school counselor might come across during their career.


ASCA is pretty cut-direct about confidentiality. They want counselors to establish a relationship based on trust with the students by keeping the details of their conversation to themselves. However, they might have to break that trust when the alternative goes against the law or the student’s best interest.

For example, a counselor would have to alert the authorities or relevant third party if a student is threatening to harm themselves or another person.

However, things aren’t always this clear-cut, and there might be times when counselors don’t know whether breaching confidentiality would be in the student’s best interest. To prepare for such instances, it’s best to start by establishing the limits of confidentiality in front of the student and their parents. That way, they would know beforehand how much they can share with the counselor.

Professional Boundaries

Professional boundaries apply to all counselors. School counselors must maintain a professional distance with the students they’re assisting. The students may not know the first thing about professional distance, but the counselor is specially trained in this area.

Therefore, the burden to stay professional in and outside the counseling room is on them, not the students. Not all personal relationships are against the law, but many are a serious violation of ASCA’s ethical standards.

Computer-Generated Image of a Silhouette Taking Notes While Another Silhouette Lounges on a Sofa in Front of ThemRespect

School counselors are obligated to respect all students regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion, values, and orientation. The US population is extremely diverse, and a school counselor may encounter students from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Under no circumstances are they allowed to impose their biases on students. They can, however, try to understand the impact of these aspects.


The general code of ethics advises school counselors against dual relationships, meaning relationships with the student’s parents, friends, and other acquaintances. Such links may blur professional boundaries and affect the counselor’s ability to think and counsel objectively.

If such a scenario is unavoidable, counselors may take extra caution by documenting their sessions or agreeing to supervised counseling sessions. These are only two of the many ways school counselors in dual relationships can make sure they’re doing right by the student.

Take Online Ethics Courses for Counselors at E Care Behavioral Health Institute

Attend live webinars for social workers or purchase recorded webinars for mental health professionals at E Care Behavioral Health Institute. Prepare for a career in school counseling and tackle all dilemmas through our sessions and online ethics courses for counselors.

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