Revitalizing the NCDA Code of Ethics

By Keley Smith-Keller and Julia Panke Makela

The NCDA Code of Ethics is being revamped for the first time in seven years. The NCDA Code of Ethics (2007) is designed to reflect the association’s current best thinking on ethical situations and dilemmas faced by career development professionals. The document serves as an educational tool to guide career professionals in making effective decisions in practice, as well as an advocacy tool to support client needs.

To be relevant and meaningful, codes of ethics must be “living documents” – evolving over time and adapting to new environments. Over the past six months, the NCDA Ethics Committee has reviewed the 2007 NCDA Code of Ethics, an effort spearheaded by Ethics Committee Co-chair and NCDA President Elect-Elect, David Reile. Describing proposed revisions to the NCDA Code of Ethics, Reile shared: “We’ve updated language in the Code to reflect current research.  We’ve also reorganized sections to make them easier to use. While these revisions are minor, NCDA members will see major revisions to the Technology section.”


What follows is the  Highlight Of Proposed Changes To NCDA Code Of Ethics 2014, (see below or click on the link for the pdf), then proceed to read the detailed paragraph about the technology changes.




Added a Professional Values and Principles section, outlining NCDA’s values and fundamental principles of ethical decision-making

A. The Professional Relationship

A1. Changes recommended to address record keeping across various media types
A2. Added subsections regarding:
­ working relationships with mandated clients,
­ working relationships when dual relationships exist, and
­ self-referrals and unacceptable business practices

B: Confidentiality, Privileged Communication, and Privacy

B1. Updates made to subsections on:
­ court-ordered releases,
­ confidentiality of current and prospective clients,
­ record retention,
­ confidential settings, and
­ disclosure of information about clients with life-threatening health conditions

C: Professional Responsibility

C1. Minor changes made to the introduction and subsections on:
­ boundaries of competence,
­ consultation,
­ testimonials, and
­ implying doctorate-level competence and professional memberships 
C2. Added subsection on termination of practice

D: Relationships with Other Professionals

D1. Updates made to the introduction and subsections on coaching and consultation

E: Evaluation, Assessment, and Interpretation

E1. Added subsection on diagnosis and recommendations
E2.  Changes to subsections on:
­ cultural sensitivity,
­ diagnosis,
­ the selection of appropriate assessment instruments, and
­ provision of favorable testing conditions

F: Distance Counseling, Technology, & Social Media

F1. Major changes made throughout this section, including revising structure, updating language, and adding a section on social media

G: Supervision, Training, and Teaching

G1. Revised or added language to subsections regarding:
­ sexual relationships,
­ harassment, and
­ supervision of close relatives and friends
G2.Added subsections regarding:
­ online supervision,
­ ethical responsibility,
­ monitoring for impairment,
­ multicultural/diversity competence, and
­ professional disclosure


Focus on Technology and Career Services
As mentioned, the most significant changes can be found in Section F. Distance Counseling, Technology, and Social Media (formerly titled: Section F: Use of the Internet in Career Services). NCDA has long been a leader in the development of guidelines for the use of technology in counseling and career services. In fact, NCDA was among the first (if not the first) associations in fields related to career development, counseling, and psychology to develop an ethical code for professionals related specifically to the use of the Internet back in 1997 (Makela, 2009). Those initial guidelines were adapted and integrated into the NCDA Code of Ethics during 2007 revisions.

In this most recent review of the Technology section, the team carefully compared NCDA guidelines to the technology sections of Codes of Ethics from related professional associations. They determined that the core ideas behind much of the guidance provided in the 2007 NCDA Code of Ethics were still quite accurate, yet the language and organization of the section were outdated. The team got to work and recognized strong parallels between the 2007 NCDA Code of Ethics and the 2014 Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association. While ACA had clearly updated their structure and language, much of their foundation matched the roots of NCDA’s Code. Finally, the review team added a substantial section addressing the ethical use of social media in career services. These guidelines go beyond what was found in other organizations’ codes and come out of research the NCDA Ethics Committee has been conducting over the past two years to explore the ethical use of social media in the field (i.e., literature reviews, focus groups, policy reviews). The proposed social media section provides guidance on the following topics:

  • Reflecting on when to create and maintain a virtual presence
  • Separating professional and personal online presences
  • Identifying professional roles and expertise
  • Maintaining confidentiality in virtual spaces
  • Respecting privacy of clients’ virtual presence
  • Including social media in informed consent
  • Considering fair and equitable treatment in social media policies
  • Being sensitive to the permanence of information, accuracy, and audience
  • Respecting copyright and original sources
  • Educating clients about the role of social media in the career development process.

Next Steps
A draft of the proposed 2015 NCDA Code of Ethics is set to be reviewed by the NCDA Board of Directors early this spring. Please monitor the NCDA website for future announcements regarding this exciting work.

[Ed. Note: The new Code of Ethics 2015 was approved by the NCDA Board in February 2015.  It is linked on the website under Standards.]

American Counseling Association. (2014). 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/docs/ethics/2014-aca-code-of-ethics.pdf?sfvrsn=4

Makela, J. P. (2009). A case study approach to ethics in career development: Exploring shades of gray. Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association.

National Career Development Association. (2007). National Career Development Association Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://careerconvergence.org/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/3395?ver=504566/code_of_ethicsmay-2007.pdf

 Keley Smith KellerKeley Smith-Keller, Ed.D., MCC, is the past co-chair of the NCDA Ethics Committee. She is the postsecondary education specialist for the South Dakota Division of Career and Technical Education and she has worked in career development at the postsecondary and secondary level for 17 years. You can contact Keley at keley.smithkeller@yahoo.com

Julia Panke MakelaJulia Panke Makela, Ph.D., NCC, is the Associate Director for Assessment and Research at The Career Center at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has served on the NCDA Ethics Committee since 2005, and served as the committee Chair between 2009-2012. You can contact Julia at jpmakela@illinois.edu.

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