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COUN106 Introduction to Counselling, COUN110 Counselling Theories and Interventions

Teaching organisation

3 hours per week of lectures tutorials per week

Unit rationale, description and aim

Counsellors need to be skilled, autonomous practitioners, who exhibit ethical and informed decision making. This unit deals with issues in ethics and professional practice in counselling. Students will examine the nature of moral philosophy, and theories of ethics such as utilitarian, deontological, natural law, Socratic, feminist, and virtue ethics. Ethics of professional practice and research will be studied including the ethical guidelines of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia. The Codes of Ethics and Guidelines of bodies such as the American Counselling Association, Ethical Principles National Association of Social Workers, British Counselling and Psychotherapy Association and the Australian Psychological Society will be utilised to highlight ethical obligations. Primary moral principles such as autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, justice and fidelity will be discussed. Issues related to counselling such as interviewing, report writing, working with minors, record keeping and access, mandatory reporting, supervision and case preparation will also be considered. Statutory and legal obligations on the counsellor within Australia will be covered. The aim of this unit is to assist students to identify ethical issues as well as to develop ethical and informed decision making.

This unit is part of the University Core Curriculum.

At the heart of counselling is an interpersonal encounter, making it necessary to understand the nature of the human person. This is particularly analysed in the University Core unit, Understanding Self and Society: Contemporary Perspectives as it recognises the centrality of the human person in the Catholic intellectual tradition and deepens understanding of what it is to be human. The unit further links the professional with the ethical which renders ACU's mission explicit.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Examine different approaches to conceptualising issues within ethical & moral philosophy (GA1,GA3,GA4,GA8);  

LO2 - Demonstrate the primary ethical obligations underpinning counselling practice (GA1,GA3,GA4,GA5,GA8); 

LO3 - Explain the current Australian federal and state legislative frameworks and relevant acts, regulations and guidelines that apply to counselling practice (GA5,GA8);  

LO4 - Demonstrate knowledge of the Ethical Guidelines of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) (GA3,GA5);  

LO5 - Describe the social and cultural implications of the counselling role (GA1,GA4,GA5);  

LO6 - Demonstrate the capacity to apply ethical and legal requirements of interviewing, writing, maintenance of records and report writing (GA3,GA4,GA5,GA8); and 

LO7 - Recognise the need for and role of ongoing professional development (GA5).  

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include: 

  • Introduction to moral philosophy and Professional Ethics;  
  • clients’ moral decision making; 
  • relevant current acts;  
  • regulations and guidelines within the Australian legislative framework;  
  • privacy legislation;  
  • PACFA Ethical Guidelines and the ACA Code and their relevance to the many roles of the counsellor;  
  • critical analysis of ethical codes; 
  • confidentiality, privacy and duty of care;  
  • identifying ‘the client’, professional relationships and responsibilities;  
  • informed consent;  
  • ethics of psychological testing;  
  • dual and multiple relationships;  
  • common dilemmas in professional practice - professional competence, role of consultation and supervision, groups and families, academic freedom, research and training, employer/employee relationships;  
  • the complexities of ethical decision making in terms of the person and the context; 
  • advertising and soliciting clients;  
  • attraction in the counselling relationship;  
  • a framework for practice/legal issues involved in psychological practice - registration, confidentiality, record keeping;  
  • writing reports;  
  • acting as an expert witness in court; and 
  • the forensic report 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Learning and teaching strategies include active learning, case-based learning, individual and group activities, and cooperative learning. The unit is delivered in face-to-face mode with 3 contact hours per week: each week there will be a 2-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial. This mode of delivery is designed to enhance discussion and engagement in the content covered in the unit. The lectures are to aid students with the acquisition and understanding of knowledge while the tutorials are designed to enhance application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of that knowledge.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, students will need to complete and submit all Assessment Tasks. In addition, they must obtain an aggregate mark of at least 50%. The assessment strategy for this unit allows students to demonstrate their acquisition of knowledge, as well as the application of that knowledge. In order to best enable students to demonstrate Learning Outcomes and develop Graduate Attributes, standards-based assessment is utilised, consistent with University assessment requirements. The reflective task will enable students to demonstrate their ability to reflect upon the issues associated with counselling clients from a range of backgrounds, relevant therapeutic techniques, and personal responses that surface as a result of case content. This reflection will be informed by reference to the relevant code of ethics and associated conceptual frameworks. The Case Study will allow students to demonstrate that they are able to understand ethical issues, apply legal and ethical principles and enage in optimal ethical decion making. Finally, the exam will allow students to demonstrate their understanding of information and key concepts. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Reflective Task   

develops understanding of ethical principles and their application in counselling through personal reflection.  



GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8 

Case Study  

develops the ability to identify legal and ethical issues encountered in counselling practice and apply optimal ethical decision making  


LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4,LO5, LO6 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8 

Final Exam   

develops understanding of information and key concepts 


LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4,LO5, LO6, LO7 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8  

Representative texts and references

Australian Counselling Association (2012): Code of ethics and practice. Grange, QLD: Author. 

Australian Psychological Society (2007). Code of ethics. Melbourne: Author. 

British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). (2013). Ethical framework for good practice in counselling and psychotherapy. London: Author. 

PACFA. (2012). Code of ethics: The ethical framework for best practice in counselling and psychotherapy. Melbourne: Author. 

Pope, S., & Vasquez, M. (2011). Ethics in psychotherapy and counselling: A practical guide (4th ed.). New Jersey: Wiley. 

Remley, T.P., & Herlihy, B., (2013). Ethical, legal and professional issues in counseling (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. 

Reynolds Welfel, E. (2012). Ethics in counseling and psychotherapy. Belmont, CA: Cengage. 

Rosenstand, N. (2012). The moral of the story: An introduction to ethics (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill. 


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