Ethical Practice as an Addiction Counselor

Following the Code of Ethics is an essential requirement for addiction counselors, as it benefits their practice and the profession as a whole. Comprehensive ethical guidelines contain a host of recommendations, from setting the physical space to interacting with colleagues. Counselors should abide by the ethical standards of the profession, even outside the clinical setting, to protect the professional community. In this paper, I will discuss policies, procedures, and standards I would implement in my practice as an addiction counselor.

The setting plays a pivotal role in counseling, as it can affect a client’s mood and perception of the counselor. Most of the time, an addiction professional works with people under a lot of stress, and an uncomfortable space can only add up to the tension. Arguably, it might be difficult to predict factors that can trigger a client’s anxiety because all people have different stressors. However, some strategies that I would avoid are making the space too personal or difficult to navigate. Berton (2014) states that the office “must be decorated in a manner that will appeal to the majority” (p. 188). Hence, I would ensure that the furniture is comfortable, decorations are neutral and not excessive, and the pathway to the door is clear for a client and a counselor. Soundproofing the office in a building with thin walls might also prove a good idea, as confidentiality is an essential element of our work.

Counselor’s compensation represents yet another critical topic of the ethical guidelines. If I started a private practice, I would ensure that my pricing is clearly stated and all clients are charged equally. Providing discounts to the members of underserved communities or war veterans might sound like a good idea, but it leads to an ethical dilemma. Choosing the categories of clients eligible for discounts can be very controversial, as such policies imply that some clients are more deserving of special treatment than others. Treating all clients equally is an essential requirement for a counselor, and I believe that financial policies should be determined by this principle.

Addiction counselor has to be especially conscious of their relationships with clients and colleagues. Setting clear boundaries in therapy is essential to ensure its success. Moreover, it plays a crucial role in preventing clinician burnout. It is equally important to follow ethical guidelines in relationships with colleagues. Poaching or exploiting colleagues will likely create a toxic workplace environment, which might also influence the quality of counseling. Hence, the lack of respect between employees affects the effectiveness of the practice and the clients’ experiences. If I opened a practice, I would ensure that all employees are familiar with ethical guidelines and follow them precisely.

Another critical aspect of setting boundaries is making sure personal relationships do not affect one’s commitment to the Code of Ethics. Sometimes, it might be challenging to choose between maintaining a good relationship with a colleague and reporting their inappropriate behavior. Talking to the colleague might often prove the best option, as they may not be aware of their mistake, have an alternative point of view, or be better informed in the particular situation (Berton, 2014). I would resort to reporting someone to a higher authority only when that person is reluctant to cooperate. In this case, the situation is likely to happen again at some point, damaging the reputation of the practice and the community as a whole.

Following ethical standards in relationships with both clients and colleagues is critical for addiction counselors. Failure to comply with the guidelines can have a significant negative impact on the practice and the community. Even seemingly small details, such as setting a space for counseling, can affect the outcomes of the therapy. Therefore, addiction professionals must know the Code of Ethics well and abide by its principles.


Berton, J. D. (2014). Ethics for addiction professionals. John Wiley & Sons.

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