Code of Ethics
All members of the Queensland Guidance and Counselling Association are bound by its ethics. This code provides the fundamental ethical principles and values to guide professional practice and professional relationships, to protect the recipients of guidance services and the integrity of the association and the profession.
The Queensland Guidance and Counselling Association is the peak professional association for guidance professionals, school counsellors and school psychologists in Queensland. Our members work in state, independent and Catholic schools across Queensland.
To be the professional association that provides leadership and support in educational guidance and counselling.
- To contribute to excellence in education by promoting quality guidance and counselling practices
- To promote high ethical standards in the guidance and counselling profession
- To provide effective, accessible and cost effective professional support to members
- Promote quality practice
- by defining guidelines for standards of ethical practice
- by requiring continuing professional development
- by providing relevant, accessible, evidence-based professional development to members
- by maintaining rigorous membership criteria
- by developing strategic partnerships with members, schools and relevant stakeholders
- to ensure highly skilled and tertiary trained practitioners
- for effective service delivery and policy for the benefit of members, students and the wider community
- for the profession with government, employers, and relevant stakeholders
- Communicate and market
- the value of guidance and counselling services
- the value of membership of the Queensland Guidance and Counselling Association (QGCA) for school-based practitioners
- professional development opportunities and evidence based resources to all members
- Foster a research culture
- by promoting evidence-based practice
- by advancing the knowledge base of members
- by encouraging action-based research and publication
- Maintain accountable and responsible governance
- by electing a representative executive annually
- using participative decision making
- maintaining strong fiscal integrity
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The role of the guidance professional
Guidance professionals are experienced educators with Masters level post graduate qualifications in guidance and counselling, psychology or educational psychology. With their unique expertise, guidance professionals work in schools to help all students in the areas of academic achievement, social, personal and career development, assisting today’s students to become the productive well-adjusted adults of tomorrow, contributing to better communities.
Guidance professionals understand educational systems and the unique complexities of schools and classrooms. They know and understand the demands on teachers and school systems. As valued professionals in schools, guidance professionals contribute to the development, implementation and evaluation of student learning goals, programs and outcomes. Their tasks are proactive, responsive and prioritised to meet the needs of school communities, and include:
- Undertake educational and psychological assessment in child and adolescent development.
- Collaboratively plan and implement evidence-based interventions with other school staff, other professionals, interagency and parents.
- Provide counselling, therapy and programs for individuals and groups addressing a range of personal, mental health, emotional and family issues.
- Provide crisis counselling.
- Contribute to the development and implementation of career development programs.
- Provide career counselling and subject selection counselling.
- Understand the training provided by other registered training organisations and its interpretation within the curriculum offerings.
- Promote and run whole of school mental health promotion prevention and early intervention programs.
- Respond to suicide ideation and refer to outside agencies.
- As part of the leadership team, respond to emergencies and critical incident management.
- Provide advice and support to students, teachers, principals and parents with regard to behaviour management.
- Work collaboratively to develop whole school and individual assessment plans and interventions to re-engage students in learning.
- Conduct functional behaviour assessment.
- Collaboratively develop and implement crisis and risk management plans.
- Run intensive individual parenting programs e.g. Managing Young Children’s Program.
- Manage complex cases
- Link and network with interagency and community groups to provide ‘wrap around’ support for students and their families.
- Respond to and assist schools with the organisation and their response to critical and traumatic incidents and emergencies.
- Actively lead, contribute and consult with various school leadership teams.
- Provide advice and support to principals and staff regarding student protection issues and liaise with relevant government departments and community organisations.
- Gather and apply quality data to drive evidenced-based practice.
- Collate and maintain student information and records of intervention to meet legislative and systemic requirements.
- Deliver professional learning and information to build capacity of schools, staff and families to improve student learning, social, mental health and developmental outcomes.
- Provide professional development to schools concerning their legislative requirements in relation to student protection, code of conduct and students with disability.
- Provide professional development on topics such as mental health and wellbeing, building resilience, suicide prevention and intervention, grief and loss and inclusion and diversity.
QGCA recognises that the role definition and the work settings of its members vary according to institutional or agency arrangements.
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Code of ethics guiding principles
The development of this code is guided by the belief that guidance professionals exemplify the profession’s values and principles. For the purpose of this code, the term guidance professional has been used to represent titles such as guidance officer, school counsellor, student counsellor, school psychologist and educational psychologist.
It is inherent in the definition of a Profession that a code of ethics governs the activities of each Profession. Such codes require behaviour and practice beyond the personal moral obligations of an individual. They define and demand high standards of behaviour in respect to the services provided to the public and in dealing with professional colleagues. Further, these codes are enforced by the Profession and are acknowledged and accepted by the community. (Australian Council of Professions 2019, What is a Profession? Accessed 22 January 2019, http://www.professions.com.au/about-us/what-is-a-professional)
The values and guiding principles of the Queensland Guidance and Counselling Association’s Code of Ethics are based on integrity, and respect. Integrity and respect guide the ethical practice related to our professional competencies, professional development, supervision and life-long learning, informed consent, confidentiality, assessment, diversity and relationships.
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Guidance professionals recognise that their knowledge, their professional standing, and the information they gather place them in a position of power and trust.
- responsibly use their power and authority and honour this position of trust
- keep faith with the nature and intentions of their professional relationships
- maintain a high quality of professional conduct and behave with dignity and responsibility
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Guidance professionals respect the rights and dignity of people.
- respect the dignity and worth of individuals
- promote and maintain human rights
- promote each person’s right to self-direction, self-development, self-choice and self- responsibility
- protect and promote the welfare of children and youth and the quality of their development through educational, psychological and related services
- act in the best interests of the student
- protect the welfare of students, their parents, and educators
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Guidance professionals work within their professional competencies
- offer only services which are within their area of professional competence
- do not misrepresent their competence, qualifications, training and experience
- recognise their professional limitations
- enlist the assistance of other professionals in a consultative or referral role when appropriate
- recognise the expertise and competence of other professionals
- maintain current knowledge of relevant legislative requirements and employer’s policies and procedures
- respond in a timely and appropriate matter to ensure the safety of the student, self and others
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Professional Development, Supervision and Life Long Learning
Guidance professionals continually maintain, improve and broaden their professional knowledge, expertise and competence.
- recognise the need for and participate in continuing professional development and supervision
- seek supervision and collaboration particularly when working on complex issues and those with which they are less knowledgeable
- maintain knowledge of current scientific and professional information in the field by reading current research, attending workshops and conferences, and becoming active in professional organisations.
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Except when there are legal obligations or when a student may be a danger to themselves or to others, guidance professionals safeguard the confidentiality of client information collected in the course of their practice, teaching or research in line with the Privacy Principles under which the information was collected.
- explain the confidentiality of client information obtained in their practice, including limits of confidentiality in line with legal and ethical obligations
- do not require consent from the student or his or her parent or guardian to share information where the immediate welfare, health or safety of the student or of others is at risk.
- make provision for maintaining confidentiality in the collection, recording, accessing, storage, dissemination and disposal of information
- ensure that confidential information obtained on children and youth is discussed only for professional purposes and only with persons clearly concerned with the case
- ensure that the identities of all persons are adequately disguised when case studies are utilised in professional supervision, lectures or professional publications
- obtain written informed consent before releasing confidential student information to professionals in other agencies
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Except in a crisis situation (e.g. when a student may be a danger to themselves or to others), guidance professionals require informed consent to
- provide services to students
- share private information with external support personnel/agencies
- collect private information from external support personnel/agencies
Informed consent must be given by a parent, guardian or student deemed to be mature enough to be able to give consent.
- A student aged 16 or over is considered to have the capacity to give consent unless found to be incapable by reason of maturity, injury, disease, illness cognitive or physical impairment.
Note: ‘Gillick’ competence: Young people under the age of sixteen can be competent to provide informed consent without parental permission or knowledge under certain circumstances. Given that the determination whether a younger student has the capacity to give consent is a subjective consideration made by the guidance professional based around
- The young person’s ability to understand the nature of the proposed service
- The benefits and risks of the proposed service
- The consequences of receiving or not receiving the proposed service
- The limits to confidentiality
- Having considered this, it is advisable that there are comprehensive notes about a decision to progress without parental consent.
For consent to be valid it must be:
- consent must be freely given
- take into account factors such as the alternatives available to the individual
- include what personal information will be collected, used, or disclosed and for what purpose
- who the information may be given to
- identify the consequences of agreeing and the consequences of refusing agreement
- fully inform clients regarding the services they intend to provide
- use plain language
- related to a particular service;
- the more sensitive the information might be, the more specific the consent needs to be
- reasonably close in time to the services being proposed by the same guidance professional for the specific service being consented to
- agreement given at a particular time for a particular purpose cannot be assumed to continue indefinitely
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Guidance professionals ensure they choose, administer, interpret and report assessments appropriately and accurately.
- administer only the assessments for which they have appropriate training and skills
- maintain the physical security of assessment instruments to maintain the validity of tests
- administer and interpret tests according to publisher guidelines in order to maintain the validity of the results.
- note when modifications are made or the validity of a test is questioned, and address these in the assessment report along with interpretation of the possible effects of these factors
- follow test developers guidelines when utilising computer assisted scoring and interpretative programs
- guard against misinterpretation or misuse of assessment data
- are accountable for assessment techniques they use and are able to defend their use
- discourage utilisation of psychological assessment instruments by inappropriately trained or otherwise unqualified persons
- use plain language to explain the assessment, results and recommendations
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Guidance professionals value diversity and recognise that their culture and background may impact on the counselling relationship.
- understand the limits of their competencies when working with diverse groups
- undertake to learn as much as possible about the diverse groups with which they work.
- do not stereotype individual students and their families.
- understand how oppression, racism, discrimination and stereotyping can influence students and their families and can impact the counselling process.
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Guidance professionals strive to develop harmonious and cooperative working relationships with colleagues, school staff, parents and students. They provide a high standard of service and evidence-based practice to ensure best outcomes. They recognise the need to function as a member of a team within schools, other organisations and communities.
- strive to establish cooperative working relationships with professionals from related fields, other agencies and their community
- understand and respect the areas of competence and limitations of professionals in related fields
- use their best professional judgement when making referrals to other professionals.
- do not offer professional services to a person who is receiving similar assistance from another professional except by agreement
- familiarise themselves with the goals and philosophies of the families to work effectively with them
- work effectively within their organisation taking into account the relevant legislation, policies, procedures and guidelines
- seek professional supervision to resolve problems and discrepancies when administrative codes and regulations conflict with ethical principles
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Guidance professionals ensure they maintain appropriate professional relationships with students, their families and staff.
- recognise and avoid situations where there may be a potential or perceived conflict of interest
- declare an unavoidable conflict of interest to relevant parties including their line manager and professional supervisor
- recognise and avoid dual relationships (e.g., counselling family members or children of close friends or colleagues) which might impair their objectivity
- declare unavoidable dual relationship to relevant parties including their line manager and professional supervisor
- avoid relationships with students and their families through social networking sites
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Guidance professionals participate in research to contribute to the development of evidence based practice to improve outcomes for students and school communities.
- operate within the approved ethical guidelines of the particular research
- ensure that the employing authorities have approved the research
- ensure informed consent has been obtained for a student to participate in a research study including their right to withdraw from it at any time.
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Career Guidance and Counselling
Guidance professionals’ career guidance and counselling practice is underpinned by knowledge and skills in the core competencies in the Professional Standards for Australian Career Development Practitioners, specifically
- Career development theory
- Labour market
- Advanced communication skills
- Ethical practice
- Information and resource management
- Professional practice
- perform only career guidance and counselling tasks for which they have appropriate training and skills
- provide accurate and up-to-date career and course information to clients
- are responsible to ensure that materials and resources held for client use are stored and maintained in an accessible manner and are regularly updated
- place the career counselling needs of clients within the context of the client’s life
- select career guidance and counselling assessment instruments appropriate to the client
- ensure that other school personnel involved in career education are appropriately trained and supported to the level of functioning required by the program.
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When a member becomes aware of possible unethical practices by another member, they should attempt to resolve the issue informally by bringing the behaviour of concern to the attention of the individual in a constructive manner. If informal efforts do not resolve the issue, other steps should be taken such as:
- seeking professional supervision
- utilising the channels established by the employer or employing organisation
- discussing the issue with the supervisor of the member concerned
- keeping documentation of all steps taken to resolve the issue
If the matter is unresolved, refer in writing to the QGCA President. QGCA may form an Ethical Conduct Sub-committee to review the reported ethical breach and ensure that the reporting member has attempted to resolve the alleged unethical practices.
QGCA does not endorse the lodging of trivial or vexatious ethical complaints against colleagues.
If a breach of the Code of Ethics is determined, educative processes could be implemented by the sub-committee to address the behaviour of the member concerned. Where the breach is extreme and/or cannot be resolved through educative processes, their QGCA membership may be terminated. All breaches of the Code of Ethics will be treated in a confidential manner by the Executive and the sub-committee, unless there is a legislative requirement to report to another authority.
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