Discuss ethical and multicultural considerations in program evaluation and consultation

Consultation always involves more than two people. While some consultations remain triadic in nature (i.e., consultant, counselor, client), most consulting relationships engage the consultant(s), clients, and other stakeholders, which- at times- can number well into the thousands (Dougherty, 2014). To that end, consultants must be fully competent to navigate the many complex ethical and legal areas that often arise during consultation work (Kirmayer, Groleau, Guzder, Blake, & Jarvis, 2003). In this post, the author will discuss one ethical, one legal, and one multicultural issue that represent only a small number of the many intersecting components that can arise when working with and among consultees, clients, and stakeholders in a university setting.
Ethical Issue
The American Counseling Association (ACA) (2014) Code of Ethics sections D.2.a. and D.2.b. address ethical issues in consultation. Although only two standards specifically address consultation, the entire Code applies to consultants who straddle both the counseling and consulting professions. Therefore, the consultants’ ethical character remains the foundation for delivering ethical consultation services. What stands as paramount to ethical consulting is the expectation that consultants will only work within areas of competence (ACA, 2014, D.2.a.). Because consultants bring a level of experience and expertise to the consulting relationship, competences implies not only understanding the processes, stages, and models of working as a consultant, but also the scope of consultation services to areas and settings with which they have experience and supervised training (Dougherty, 2014). For example, the current author intends to work within a university setting and will likely be called to apply consultation activities within the university to meet the needs of the student body. As a mental health counselor, the current author has some expertise in counseling for mental health issues and preventative and wellness counseling that can assist students in the often stressful campus environment. Furthermore, my knowledge of cultural issues and challenges increasingly are needed to resolve the growing cultural tensions within institutions (Ali, Atkin, & Neal, 2006; Kirmayer et al., 2003). However, the current author must take care to not imply competence where she currently does not have extensive experience and knowledge. For example, although she has worked with families and youth working through the coming-out process, she does not hold vast experience and expertise in counseling skills specific to LGBT clients. As noted by Jeltova and Fish (2005), continuing to gain supervision in this specialty area would be important for working in a university setting where students often explore sexuality and complete the coming-out process. To suggest competence due to general knowledge betrays the standards of the Code and can result in consultants and clients not receiving optimal help (ACA, 2014). Therefore, remaining forthcoming about the differences among areas of (a) expertise, (b) general working knowledge, (c) mild awareness, and (d) insufficient knowledge must be continually discerned and presented so as to only consult in areas of true competence.
Legal Issue
Legally speaking, consulting on a university campus requires awareness of state laws regarding issues of confidentiality and informed consent (ACA, 2014). Some of the legal issues discussed by Wesley and Buysse (2005) also remain potential challenges when working in a university setting. For example, a university consultant may be asked to assess current health and wellness of the student body in order to inform program directors (the consultees, in this case) about how to maintain and improve the emotional, psychological, and physical health of their students. The assessment may include a survey sent to the student body as well as a smaller number of qualitative interviews with several students (Dougherter, 2014). Should an interviewee discuss emotional stress to the point of suicidal intent, the consultant’s responsibilities to the student and to the students’ parents becomes legally and ethically challenging (ACA, 2014). If the student is less than 18 years old, the consultant must locate the parents while nearly all states require counselors to be mandatory reporters when issues of dangerousness arise no matter the student’s age. Furthermore, the consultant’s informed consent process must include documentation to address student confidentiality and risk, as well as documents for parents for those students are still minors (ACA, 2014). Although some consultants decide to not interview minors, the consultant on a university setting may require such data to provide sufficient assessment data for campus decision-making. Therefore, the consultant must be prepared to meet the legal requirements of protecting stakeholders, minors, and any identified others when significant safety concerns becomes manifest (ACA, 2014). Although this task remains standard in the counseling practice, consultants may overlook the importance of such issues due to the larger scope of assessment processes on campus; therefore, diligence, preparation, and thoroughness must be applied in all situations (Dougherty, 2014).
Multicultural Issue
In terms of other issues that must be addressed by consultants, multicultural issues stand out as paramount to the current author. To that end, Sue’s (2008) insights shed much insight into how consultants can assist in various settings to enhance cultural competence. More specifically, he addressed the need for consultants to provide in-service training for leaders in various organizations to increase multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills (Sue, 2008). In a university setting, diversity is a given. Therefore, less informed administrative leadership must attend to their own deficits of cultural knowledge and skills in order to provide culturally sensitive leadership on campus. With that idea, however, comes the challenge of the inevitable resistance that often accompanies status-quo behaviors (Sue, 2008). Historically, institutional policy-makers protect the status quo and, thereby, maintain an attitude of subtle biases and discrimination even though they profess otherwise (Sue, 2008). To deal with the challenge of resistance, the current author recognizes how her own cultural development must continue so she can increase not only her knowledge and skills, but also maintain an attitude of humility toward her consultees and stakeholders. Being able to approach consultees, clients, and stakeholders with a non-judgmental perspective can assist with building rapport, even in the most challenging situations (Dougherty, 2014). By modeling empathy, openness, and concern, the consultant can provide expertise in cultural competence training and also provide an example to university leadership of how to build rapport and trust with those from diverse backgrounds, as has been shown to offer significant assistance to working in diverse contexts (Ali et al., 2006).
In this post, the author discussed consultation tasks within a university setting. Through discussion of the potential ethical, legal, and cultural challenges when working in such a diverse environment, several solutions to meeting the identified challenges were presented. Furthermore, the need for the consultant’s ongoing training to enhance consultation skills in each of these areas manifested as a main theme throughout the discussion.
Ali, N., Atkin, K., & Neal, R. (2006). The role of culture in the general practice consultation
process. Ethnicity & Health, 11(4), 389–408.
American Counseling Association. (ACA). (2014). The 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Alexandria,
VA: Author.
Dougherty, M. A. (2014). Casebook of psychological consultation and collaboration in school
and community settings (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Jeltova, I., & Fish, M. C. (2005). Creating school environments responsive to gay, lesbian,
bisexual, and transgender families: Traditional and systemic approaches for consultation. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 16(1/2), 17–33.
Kirmayer, L., Groleau, D., Guzder, J., Blake, C., & Jarvis, E. (2003). Cultural consultation: A
model of mental health service for multicultural societies. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry / La Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, 48(3), 145–153.
Sue, D. W. (2008). Multicultural organizational consultation: A social justice
perspective. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 60(2), 157–169.
Wesley, P., & Buysse, V. (2006). Ethics and evidence in consultation. Topics in Early
Childhood Special Education, 26(3), 131–141.

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