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ODU Doctoral Counseling Team Wins Second Place in National Ethics Contest

A team of Old Dominion University doctoral level counseling students has won second place in an ethics contest sponsored by the American Counseling Association.

The students - Rebecca McBride, Sonya Lorelle, Stephanie Crockett and Julia Forman - finished second out of 10 doctoral-level teams in the ACA Graduate Student Ethics Competition.

"What they had to do was evaluate an ethical dilemma and send in a way of dealing with it," says their adviser, Professor of Counseling Dr. Edward Neukrug, of the Darden College of Education.

The foursome produced an essay, based on a case study related to insubordination, substance abuse and compassion fatigue. Their essay finished second, a single point behind the winning doctoral essay submitted by a team from the University of Toledo. The Old Dominion University team's score was 278, out of a possible 300. The University of North Texas finished third.

The contest is designed to support the ACA Ethics Committee's job of helping educate the members of the association regarding ethical issues. Organizers want to challenge grad students to critically analyze a potential ethical case and create an appropriate decision-making plan to respond to the situation.

Here was the case study: The students were placed in charge of a community mental health organization.

One of the center's "employees" was refusing to administer a battery of tests the center requires for intake of all clients. She based her refusal on the ACA ethical codes regarding competency issues and assessment, as well as her own discomfort with testing.

At the same time, the student "directors" were informed that the employee was working with a high-risk population of adolescents, and two of her clients had completed suicide in the past year. She was involved in the trauma work with the community for both their deaths, providing individual and group counseling services after the trauma at the schools where the adolescents were students.

The employee had not had any time off since these deaths, had no vacation time accrued and said she couldn't take any time off without pay because of significant financial responsibilities at home. Her elderly father, who is terminally ill, was living with her.

Finally, the counselor's supervisor relayed concerns about the employee's drinking. She has repeatedly discussed various binge drinking episodes in passing conversations with co-workers, and is known as a heavy drinker by other staff members.

The students were required to craft their plan of action using the ACA's 2005 Code of Ethics, and information from relevant course literature.

The use of outside sources was encouraged for the case study, but the graduate students were not allowed to consult with anyone outside of their team, including their faculty adviser.

"I wasn't even allowed to see it," Neukrug says of the case study scenario. "They had to wrestle with it themselves, and it was difficult."

McBride is from Chesapeake. Her specialty is in community counseling. Forman is originally from Jackson, MS. Also a community counseling specialist, Forman's areas of interest include the geriatric population and survivors of sexual assault.

Originally from Missouri, Lorelle lives in Portsmouth. Her areas of specialty are school and community counseling. She has worked as a children's counselor in a homeless shelter and has an interest in play therapy. Crockett is from Wytheville, VA, and specializes in college student counseling. She is currently co-authoring a study guide under contract with Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall, on mastering the NCE and the CPCE.

The winning essays will be published on the ACA's website in the coming weeks. And the winning team members will be recognized at the ACA Annual Conference in March in Charlotte, NC.

This article was posted on: January 29, 2009

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