Legal And Ethical Issues In Human Services: Applying A Decision-Making Model

According to Campos and Goldfried (2001), “Until the late 1970s, when working with gay or lesbian patients, psychotherapists spent nearly all of their time and effort trying to reduce homosexual and increase heterosexual attraction in homosexuals (and for the most part, the target population was men only)”.

The case I have chosen to discuss focuses on a middle-aged married man named Bernard. This man has a family and has lived a whole other life before being confronted by his wife. Bernard has had a relationship with a person of the same sex for 5 years. Even though homosexuality is frowned upon to some, Bernard and others deserve to be approached and treated as normal human beings.

Ethical Issues

The first ethical issue in Bernard’s case is him coming out as gay, while his therapist Sara is a religious woman who doesn’t believe in gay relationships. Kanel (2015) states, “gay persons have been socialized in a culture that fears homosexuality on moral grounds” (p. 43). There are four main focuses a counselor needs when working with a client: good judgment, sincerity, honesty, and good will. Sara was honest, but her approach in pressing her religion on the client and her personal judgment was unnecessary. The reasoning for Sara taking Bernard to church is to show a clear image that marriage is meant for man and woman. Another approach the counselor took was taking Bernard to a restaurant where they were surrounded by straight couples. Today the acceptance of gays is becoming more acceptable as a lifestyle that counselors have centered their attention on problems, confining the “ifs” and “how’s” of making their sexual preference public.

Bernard needs support in determining whether he wants to let everyone know of his homosexuality, which could possibly not be enough. His wife and his counselor know of his current situation and are both unsupportive. Bernard may also be confused with his sexual orientation, he could possibly be bisexual. Being bi-sexual can complicate situations even more by making it a challenge for people to understand and support his sexual identity. The second ethical issue is Sara breaking confidentiality and discussing Bernard’s current situation with others who are familiar with this type of situation. Though Sara was honest, Bernard’s personal information should not be shared with others. This will make it even more difficult for Bernard to come out. The client may feel embarrassed, upset, confused and isolated from others.

It is important for me as a counselor to allow the client to decide how making everyone aware of his lifestyle.

Ethical Decision Making

If I were handling this case as a human service professional, first I would be aware of the current issue. The current issue is Bernard has been living a secret life with another man for 5 years. Not only is he hurting right now but he has also negatively affected his family. As a counselor I would offer support that he is lacking from his support system. The client needs to be assured that his family will still love him, and he shouldn’t feel ashamed. The second step in the ethical decision-making process is making a moral judgment of the client.

Bernard is no longer happy in his marriage and has found his happiness with someone other than his wife. Though Bernard wasn’t being honest with his wife, it isn’t something that is easy to come out and say. There is going to be a point where he needs to sit down and talk to his wife. The third step in ethical decision making is aiming to fix the moral worry before other concerns. The client needs to be approached in a normal way when trying to treat them. I have my own religious beliefs but that should not be brought into the work environment. I do not live the client’s life but as a human service worker it is my responsibility to assist in bettering their situation.

Drescher (2002) states, “Since the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders, most mental health practitioners have shifted their clinical focus from "the cure" of homosexuality to treating the concerns of gay and lesbian patients”. Sara tried to “cure” the patient by taking him to church with her. Lastly is acting on the moral worries of the client. After approaching Bernard, I would cautiously write down the ethical decision-making process I have chosen and the various options that I considered and others I have crossed out.

It is crucial in writing out the results and any alternative ways that were utilized in solving the problem. Reviewing the notes will be helpful in determining if further actions are necessary. The aim for an ethical decision-making process to assist the counselor in taking in consideration all information, available resources, and work through the situation properly. Going over the assessment is beneficial for the counselor in seeing the actions taken and motivating a person to speak with clients.


Even though homosexuality is frowned upon to some, Bernard and others who have a sexual preference besides the social norm, deserve to be approached and treated as normal human beings. Good counselors are driven to do what is virtuous because they view it as right and not for it being right. They depend on seeing and understanding that contains sensitivity, and judgment that results in taking action. Counselors show compassion to their clients and others in need within a mission of decreasing the clients suffering. Most importantly they are cautious of how stereotyping and assumptions either positively or negatively affect others. For one to flourish as a professional they need to utilize the four virtues identified by Meara and colleagues.

03 December 2019
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