Ethics in LPC License Training and Supervision

Ethics Demystified: Ethics LPC License Training and Supervision

Ethics in Clinical Supervision

Ethics is the foundation of professional practice as well as LPC licensure training and supervision. Ethics isn’t a component of your practice: all aspects of your practice are based upon ethics. It is the cornerstone of the practice of psychotherapy. Your practice can’t survive if you don’t have a solid grasp of what is right and wrong. Morally, clinically and legally. Without that foundation, even the most sophisticated counseling skills are of little value.

None of us are automatically ‘ethical’. You must learn it from more experienced peers. Either through consultation or professional continuing ed workshops. In a broader sense, LPC licensure training and supervision involves getting a license, maintaining it, and receiving/giving help to our peers.

The Task Of An Ethical Supervisor

A Supervisor’s task is to develop and monitor clinical skills. In other words, competent supervisors are obligated to nurture the growth of those new to the counseling profession. 

The state of a profession is determined by those to whom it gives birth.

Supervision credential ethics for example the CPCS or NBCC ACS provide guidelines for therapist supervision ethics.

However, in this article I will address specifically which ethical violations can have a negative impact on your license and supervision credential. 

Good license hygiene requires a mastery of ethics.

This should start from the time we begin pursuing a license. It transcends professional identity or orientation: this guide applies to everyone licensed to practice psychotherapy.

Ensuring You Are An Ethical Supervisor

Supervision credential ethics for example the CPCS or NBCC ACS provide guidelines for therapist supervision ethics.

However, in this article I will address specifically which ethical violations can have a negative impact on your license and supervision credential. I observed the negative impact on supervisor licensees due to unethical supervision.

Why ethics should be your top priority

Some of the most common ethical violations are found to be boundary crossings.

For therapists, the greatest job hazard is managing human contact. When our helping turns into rescuing, we have engaged in a boundary crossing. This type of boundary crossing is a common blind spot for new or inadequately trained therapists.

Sometimes therapists lack a capacity to see they have crossed a boundary. This is very concerning and it is compounded when their clinical supervisor doesn’t see it either.

Supervisors must be skilled not only in recognizing boundary crossings, but they must use those skills so together you can get your work back on track.

As you can see, you need a solid foundation in ethics in order to practice safely and fortify where you are most vulnerable. 

There is A Power Differential With Your Supervisee

Even though Supervisor/Supervisee relationships may be casual and relaxed, your supervisee idealizes you. In addition, they usually work hard and expect that will be acknowledged by the supervisor recommending them for licensure. 

One of the most common licensing board complaints against Supervisors originates from a supervisee not being recommended for licensure.

Supervision is not a task to be taken lightly. When you have completed their supervision consider the following:

1) Is your supervisee ethical or simply a mediocre therapist?

The public is not entitled to an exceptional therapist. They are however entitled to a therapist that is not harmful. Have you carefully considered their ethics versus competence? 

A rule of thumb is if they harm clients, this is an ethical concern. If your supervisee is simply not very effective, do not draw a conclusion that you shouldn’t recommend them for licensure. 

If a Supervisor does not fully understand the power of their position, they are more likely to abuse that power. 

Remember that you also have the power to cost them years and money in their licensure pursuit. Would you be upset if your Supervisor cost you thousands of dollars and two years by not recommending you for licensure?

Work With Confidence and Conviction

A supervisor needs to be competent and confident in order to exert positive authority with a supervisee.

Asserting yourself with conviction will empower your supervisees and aid them in developing self confidence. It will also reduce the chances of you becoming panicked when working with complex supervisee clinical or ethical issues. 

If you work with conviction, it will also reduce the frequency of actively intervening and gatekeeping your supervisees’ professional mental health practice. 

This confidence and ability to influence your supervisees will also aid you in meeting your state licensing board’s mandates for Supervisor activities.

In general, working with confidence will enable you to work with reduced stress and increased enjoyment.

Know Your State Board’s Licensing Requirements

Whereas the burden of understanding licensing requirements is on your supervisee, you can save yourself headaches when they apply for licensure if you know the LPC requirements rules.

There are instances where a Supervisor is not eligible to supervise, provides the supervision and the supervisees license application is therefore denied. Not understanding your board rules is trouble waiting to happen. 

What is good license hygiene

Hi-giene (ˈhīˌjēn) noun: conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness. synonyms: cleanliness, sanitation, sterility, purity.

First, hygiene is prevention. As you proceed towards licensure, you should be proactive in ensuring a clean and unblemished license history. You accomplish this by incorporating a system for addressing areas where you need to strengthen your license.

There are 7 essential elements to gaining a solid grasp of ethics and good license hygiene.

7 essential elements of ethics and good license hygiene

Read the Composite Board Code of Ethics

Review the Composite Board Code of Ethics. Georgia professional counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists are all bound by this same code. I cover it with participants line-by-line in my ethics workshop, Understanding the Composite Board Complaints and Investigations Process.

Supervision by a Well-Trained Supervisor

Having a state practice license is a serious matter.  Select your supervisor carefully. For example, if you are working with children, they need to have worked with children. They should state to you their approach to supervision.

Your supervisor should know the board rules and ethics. They need to stay on top of rule changes as well as board policies. They need to be competent in guiding you on ethical dilemmas.

There should be a ‘click’ between you. There is too much at stake to put your pursuit of licensure in the hands of someone you don’t fully trust. You are paying them for your service. They should work on your behalf and in your best interests.

Nonetheless, they should be someone who will also kindly yet bluntly challenge your work. But, if you can’t share challenging ethical situations with your supervisor, it will be difficult for you to develop as an ethical therapist.

Rethink Definitions of Boundary Crossings

We all know the obvious boundary violations. For example, we know not to engage in intimate relationships and barter with clients. However, there are subtle boundary crossings we tend to miss.

Consider how this can roll down hill very quickly. The client begins work. After several months they become disgruntled with their boss who is your friend who gave you the “hook-up” on the job. At this point a breach has occurred. The client further becomes upset with you for connecting them with a job where they have a legitimate harassment case. The client files a licensing board complaint against you for the breach and unprofessional conduct.

Do you want to avoid these types of complaints? Note the following best practices:

Continuing Ed Workshops on Boundary Management

From the above illustration it is easy to see why you can never get too much education in boundaries. Research the workshops and presenters thoroughly. It is important the information you learn is accurate and comprehensive.

Presenters/trainers should be in active clinical practice. The workshops should be empowering! You shouldn’t leave with your head spinning feeling more confused and frightened.

Peer Relationships That Are Friendships.

Perhaps the best way to achieve this is to carefully screen and select practice partners and office mates. Having a trusted peer on-site is invaluable.

Working through your ethical dilemmas often requires a non-judgmental third party and the bond of friendship can facilitate this.

Personal Psychotherapy

It is very difficult to effectively practice psychotherapy if you have not been a client in therapy. Personal therapy compliments supervision. It also helps you recognize projections and transference/countertransference. Further, your supervisor will likely confront you when they believe that personal issues are impacting your work and you need to be able to respond to your supervisor.

Putting it all together

Now you can develop a personal system to ensure good license hygiene.

1) On even numbered years, you are required to complete 35 hours of continuing education. Take plenty of ethics courses especially boundaries. 10 hours is good. Choose topics that will help correct weak areas of your practice. Approved ethics courses can be used to fulfill all of your board ce requirements. You can the round out our requirements with elective workshops.

2) As you encounter ethical dilemmas, you have at least two resources for help: your trusted supervisor and trusted peers. Through ce training you will have skills to interact in an educated manner with your trusted peers.

3) Incorporating and sharing your personal psychotherapy can be very helpful for your development. **More often than not, struggles with a client are related to personal issues and not sheer lack of clinical skills.**

Closing Comments

I have tried to thoroughly cover ethics of LPC licensure training and supervision. If you have questions about this article, feel free to contact me by phone. If it is simple question, I am happy to offer a free phone consultation. Best wishes wherever you are in your career as a therapist!

You deserve a former licensing board president on your side.

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