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Athabasca University

Professional expectations for counsellors

The Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology (GCAP) is a community of learners, committed to excellence in counsellor education. We use innovative instructional practices to deliver accessible, flexible, and inclusive educational opportunities. Together we foster the advancement of the professions of counselling and psychology to benefit individuals, communities, and society.

GCAP provides high-quality distance education programming for individuals wishing to prepare for a career as a professional counsellor or counselling psychologist. Graduates of the Master of Counselling program who have a strong psychology background may want to become licensed as a Counselling Psychologist. Counselling Psychologists work in a wide range of colleges and universities, mental health, government, and community settings, as well as in private practice.

Other students may prefer to move towards the role of Professional Counsellor, seeking, for example, Canadian Counsellor Certification through the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). The GCAP program has been designed to allow students to meet the certification criteria of the CCPA, which is a national association of professionally trained counsellors. These counsellors work in the diverse areas of education, employment and career development, social work, business, industry, mental health, public service agencies, government, and private practice.

As a program that prepares graduates to fulfill demanding roles of responsibility for the welfare of others in the community, we are committed to developing a sense of professionalism in all participants of the GCAP learning community. We share the common goals of gaining knowledge, skills, and professional judgment. We do this by working through a curriculum that forms the core of the professional practice of counselling psychology. As we collaborate in this work, all faculty and students must develop and maintain a sense of identity as professionals, a practice that embodies CCPA and CPA professional standards of conduct.

Our profession demands the development of and adherence to a set of values that are embodied by the Codes of Ethics and are articulated through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Graduate training is often thought of as the acquisition of knowledge and skills. In a professional training program, it is equally important to recognize that this process is also about identifying with and incorporating the values of the profession.

Section A6 of the CCPA Code of Ethics (2007) notes that, "Responsibility to Counsellors and other Professionals: Counsellors understand that ethical behaviour among themselves and with other professionals is expected at all times" (p. 5). The CPA's Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (2000) states that "responsibility for ethical action depends foremost on the integrity of each individual psychologist; that is, on each psychologist's commitment to behave as ethically as possible in every situation." (p. 4).

Students and faculty demonstrate an understanding of these ethical and professional guidelines through their everyday interactions in our learning community. Students and faculty demonstrate professional and ethical behaviour when they:

  1. Respect the dignity and rights of all persons without prejudice as to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, sexual orientation, physical characteristics, age, ancestry or place of origin.
  2. Maintain positive interpersonal relationships and interacting in a positive and solution-oriented manner when dealing with each other, whether this is with a peer, a work group, a professional, technology, or admin support staff member, or a member of the faculty.
  3. Behave in a manner that is consistent with the virtues that best characterize the profession of psychology; these virtues include honesty, wisdom, modesty, temperance, courage, good judgment, and justice.
  4. Recognize that attendance online in the weekly forums, in practicum courses, and in the summer institute(s) is a professional responsibility, and that unavoidable absences will be rare. Not unlike being employed as a counsellor or psychologist, all members of the learning community manage their time and their commitments as if their professional reputation rested on their consistency and their congruence with ethical principles. This includes behaving in a manner that would have others describe you as being punctual, dependable, trustworthy, consistent, and reliable.
  5. Show empathy for others by showing concern for and understanding of others' feelings and/or ideas.
  6. Seek and respond to personal and professional feedback in a manner that promotes growth and contributes to a safe and nurturing learning environment.
  7. Show enthusiasm and initiative by being actively involved as a participant, while encouraging the involvement and participation of others. This active involvement also involves making space for others to express their views. Develop and maintain maturity and judgment.
  8. Commit to an ongoing process of developing a professional identity as a counsellor/psychologist.
  9. If there is a need to address concerns, related to a course, the competence or professional reputation of others, or the program as a whole, members of the GCAP community do so in a manner that is consistent with the CPCA Code of Ethics (in particular, but not limited to, Section A and Section F) and the CPA Code of Ethics (in particular, but not limited to, Principle III.)
  10. If there is a need to address concerns, do so in a manner that respects the roles and responsibilities of each member of the learning community.

Updated May 26 2015 by Student & Academic Services

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