The 2014 ACA Code of Ethics is meant to be a living document, applicable to a growing, changing and active profession.

It would make sense, then, for counselors to familiarize themselves with the code through the lens of real-life scenarios that might arise in their office.

Barbara Herlihy and Gerald Corey have provided that lens in the seventh edition of their ACA Ethical Standards Casebook.

The book fleshes out each standard of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics with a case vignette and discussion points. Readers are exposed to various aspects of counseling, from issues that might Ethical-Standards_branding-boxarise with record keeping to whether a counselor should be friends with a former client.

“The work of the counselor is fraught with ambiguities. When we find ourselves navigating in waters not clearly charted by the code of ethics of our profession, we must be guided by an internal ethical compass,” write Herlihy and Corey in the book’s introduction. “… We believe that ethics is best viewed from a developmental perspective. We may look at issues in one way as students; later, with time and experience, our views are likely to have evolved. Ethical reasoning takes on new meaning as we encounter a variety of ethical dilemmas. Professional maturity entails being willing to question ourselves, to discuss our doubts with colleagues and to engage in continual self-monitoring.”


Q+A: ACA Ethical Standards Casebook

Responses by co-authors Barbara Herlihy and Gerald Corey


In this new edition, you mention that a counselor’s perspective on ethical issues may change over the course of his or her career. Besides revisiting the ACA Code of Ethics and related resources such as your book, what are some ways counselors can stay “fresh” regarding the ethics of the profession?

Ongoing supervision, seeking consultation when needed and self-reflection are essential routes in keeping current. Counselors can gain new ideas from attending conferences and participating in workshops, by reading professional books and journals, having dialogue with colleagues, keeping a personal journal, making efforts to write about topics that matter to them, developing a network of support, finding ways to engage in personal development, consulting on matters related to their practice and engaging in self-care.

The casebook can serve as a vehicle for continuing education that experienced counselors can use to further their aspirational ethics. Counselors with many years of experience can read and reflect on the material in the casebook and can discuss the material with their colleagues. They can also ask themselves: How can I best monitor my own behavior? How can I apply relevant standards to situations I encounter? How can I ensure that I am thinking about what is best for my clients, my students or my supervisees?


What do you hope students, recent graduates and new counselors take away from this book?

Our hope is that this casebook can be a tool to assist recent graduates and new counselors in obtaining a clearer idea of what is involved in the practice of aspirational ethics. Ideally, readers will not think about doing the minimum to avoid malpractice actions but will think of how they can always keep the best interests and welfare of their clients in mind.

Rather than foster a rule-based approach to ethics, our aim has been to help readers think of ways they can develop their own perspective on ethical practice. The variety of perspectives of the contributors and the case studies will help students think about their position of the issues. Each of the 12 chapters in the casebook is followed by two case studies that illustrate some of the issues examined in a given chapter. Each case study presents an ethical dilemma and is followed by questions for thought and discussion and an analysis of the case.

Students have often told us that they had never thought about certain ethical questions until they were confronted with cases that raised difficult issues or posed dilemmas that could not be neatly resolved. This casebook gives students an opportunity to examine many ethical issues before they confront them in practice.


What do you hope more veteran, experienced counselors take away from the book?

We hope that more experienced counselors will realize that ethical practice is a journey in which one never arrives at a destination. We believe that ethics is best viewed from a developmental perspective. As counselor gains experience, their views are likely to evolve. Ethical reasoning takes on new meaning as practitioners encounter a variety of ethical dilemmas. Becoming an ethical and competent professional entails being willing to question ourselves, to discuss our doubts with colleagues and to engage in continual self-monitoring.


What prompted you to release a seventh edition of this book? Please talk about the updates and changes readers will see in the new edition.

It was time for the new edition. The casebook is always updated so that it matches revisions to the ACA Code of Ethics. Thus, when the 2014 code was adopted, a new casebook was needed. Readers will find several new chapters in this seventh edition of the casebook that reflect new standards and sections of the 2014 code. There is a new emphasis on social justice and counseling across cultures, and new chapters on managing value conflicts; technology, social media and online counseling; research and publication; and the intersection of ethics and the law. Almost all the case studies are new and reflect the complexities of real-world counseling practice.


As you mentioned, this edition of the casebook coincides with the release of the revised ACA Code of Ethics. What are some topics from the revised code that you felt were most important to flesh out in your book?

There are 34 contributors to this edition of the casebook. The chapters have been revised, and many new case studies are presented. Some topics that were given particular attention (to reflect the changes in the revised ACA 2014 code) include:

  • Implications of recent court cases and dismissal of students who refused to bracket their values
  • Avoiding value imposition
  • Avoiding referral based on the counselor’s personal values
  • Implications of technology on the practice of counseling
  • Issues of privacy and confidentiality associated with social media
  • Ethical issues involving research
  • Ways that ethics and the law are both related and different
  • Becoming a culturally competent counselor in an increasingly global profession
  • Ethical aspects of addressing social justice concerns

The contributors provided a wide range of case studies that are geared to the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. These case studies have reflection questions aimed at assisting readers to become actively engaged in the issues they raise. Each case study is followed by an analysis of the case based on the ACA code and further questions for discussion. These cases help translate sometimes-abstract concepts into practical and concrete terms. The depth of the case studies challenges readers to formulate their own perspectives on ethical issues involved.


Explain the thought process that went into the way you broke up the subject matter from the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics in your book.

We wanted to incorporate all aspects of the current code in the revision of the casebook. For example, in Part II of the casebook, we include the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics, yet we also have an illustrative vignette for each of the standards. The aim here was to provide concrete examples of ethical and effective implementation of the spirit of each standard. Many of these illustrative vignettes are new to this edition or are revised. Part II presents a kind of “micro” perspective on the code, illustrating each individual standard with a brief vignette.

We also thought it would be useful to readers to have a “macro” perspective, or a section that gives focused attention to larger issues such as values, confidentiality and implications of new technologies and boundaries. Part III presents chapters on these and other issues, and each chapter is accompanied by two case studies that demonstrate how the code of ethics can be applied to resolve ethical dilemmas that arise around these issues. These case studies, written by counselors with widely diverse experience and expertise, represent the complexities of real-world practice.


What originally inspired you to collaborate and write a book on this topic? What made you want to include case studies?

We have a common interest in ethics and have co-presented at conferences many times over the years. We agreed that writing about our views and experiences would be a meaningful endeavor. Thus, we have collaborated on various editions of two books [Boundary Issues in Counseling being the other] with ACA for over two decades, and we always find it challenging, interesting, rewarding and fun to work jointly in this manner.

We also have found it meaningful to involve our colleagues and students in contributing to the evolution of these books on ethics. The decision to include case studies in our books was based on feedback from students who consistently stated that actual cases stimulated their thinking and promoted discussion in class. This helped them to see the actual implementation of ethical standards into counseling practice.





About the authors

Barbara Herlihy is a licensed professional counselor and university research professor in the counselor education graduate program at the University of New Orleans.

Gerald Corey is a national certified counselor and professor emeritus of human services and counseling at California State University at Fullerton.




The ACA Ethical Standards Casebook is available from the American Counseling Association bookstore at or by calling 800-422-2648 x 222.





Herlihy and Corey will be at the 2015 ACA Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida, to give a talk on both the ACA Ethical Standards Casebook and Boundary Issues in Counseling, another book that they co-authored for ACA.

They will be speaking Friday, March 13, at 4 p.m. and signing books Thursday, March 12, at 4:30 p.m. For more information, see




Interested in learning more? ACA recently produced a webinar with Herlihy and Corey about boundary issues, ethics and their two books, Boundary Issues in Counseling and the ACA Ethical Standards Casebook. More information here:





Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at


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