Philosophy 318: Professional Ethics
Theodore Gracyk

Outline of KUPFER and KLATT Essay


The basic issue is the common conflict of valuing both integrity and autonomy.

  • Integrity = acting consistently with one’s commitments

  • Empowerment = increased capacity to act autonomously

Clients’ claims/requests often conflict with those commitments

Specifically, when the client’s values differ from the professional’s values, client empowerment may reduce professional integrity

EXAMPLE: counselors aim to develop the client’s capacity “to resolve their own problems” and not merely the immediate ones that brought them to the counselor. In counseling, the professional/client relationship is based on the professional’s goal of CHANGING the client’s behaviors. Solving a client’s problem for them is a dereliction of duty.

But changing behaviors is normally tied to a change in attitudes and values.

  • Ability to objectively assess situations (COGNITIVE self-awareness)

  • Ability to recognize options and determine which are realistic

  • Willingness to take initiative.

  • Willingness to change.

 But why is autonomy valuable?



(2) LACK OF AUTONOMY IS HARMFUL BECAUSE NEEDS DON'T GET MET. (Put positively: Autonomy helps us thrive.)

People should function as autonomously as is realistically possible.

This list of abilities and attitudes recognizes both external and internal barriers to problem solving.

Additional COMPETING VALUES embraced by counselors:

  • Individuality

  • Equality


Three sources of conflict between professional and client: 

  1. Particular choices 

  2. Attitudes 

  3. Basic values

  • PARTICULAR CHOICE EXAMPLE: Client wants a divorce, and wants help in moving toward it.

    Suppose the counselor sees this as a foolish, destructive, or otherwise mistaken goal. The counselor will usually insist on a PROCESS that requires the client’s examination of this goal, by setting intermediate goals (e.g., joint counseling about the marriage).

  • PARTICULAR CHOICE EXAMPLE: Client wants to give up child for adoption. [Suppose the client wants this because the client wants to enhance his/her personal freedom, and the child limits that freedom.]

  • PARTICULAR CHOICE EXAMPLE: Client wants to declare bankruptcy and wants help in doing so. However, the client is responsible for the financial problems.

  • ATTITUDE EXAMPLE: Overtly sexist male blames pro-female system for current situation.

  • ATTITUDE EXAMPLE: Client wants lawyer’s help to sue former employer for sexual discrimination. Lawyer believes the loss of job was justified and the client is blind to her own shortcomings, falsely blaming others for everything.

  • BASIC VALUES EXAMPLE: Client has a problematic value derived from his/her religion, limiting the client’s autonomy.

The move to SECOND ORDER AUTONOMY: accept/reject those values on the basis of explicit understanding of them: one is more autonomous because one has now chosen one’s own values.

HOWEVER, there are two kinds of second order autonomy.

  1. The weak kind, where the person becomes clear what their value commitments are. (Call it "values-clarification")

  2. The strong kind, where the person has constructed a defense or justification of their value commitments. (Call it "justification")

Should the counselor engage in values-clarification, or in justification?

Justification is not a problem if the client is already bothered by her/his existing values.

Justification may be necessary if the client is restricted by authoritarian values (e.g., military and religious values of obedience applied to non-military and non-religious situations)

THESIS OF THIS ESSAY: Values-clarification is not a problem if the client CANNOT solve immediate problems without engaging in it, or if the client invites discussion of them. But justification is too much to ask of clients; this can only be done if the client wants it.

But WHAT if the gap between client and professional causes the professional to become incapable of helping the client? In this case, the professional must engage in second order-autonomy, to determine whether their difference in values is, in fact, a barrier to client empowerment.

In short, values-clarification  is required of all counselors, and it should be typical for all professionals. However, the strong version cannot be imposed on clients.


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            Last updated Feb. 17, 2009