Examining the Effects of Ethical Knowledge and Values on Ethical Decision-Making in Counselors

Ariel Maria, Pace University


Ethics have long been deemed as a cornerstone of the counseling profession and a core component in counseling training. Yet the research on professional counseling ethics is relatively limited, often yielding mixed results. Even with more recent increased attention to the ethical decision-making process among counselors, much remains unknown about what counselors know and how and why they make ethical decisions. This study sought to add to the current literature by providing a clearer understanding of the relationship between counselor ethical knowledge and ethical decision-making. Moreover, the study sought to further understand whether personal values (religiosity and political ideology) influence a counselor’s ethical decision-making behavior. In a sample of 246 counseling students and professionals, ethical knowledge was found to be the best predictor of ethical decision-making behavior. A significant effect was also found for membership in a professional counseling organization. Findings indicated that personal values also played a role in ethical decision-making. Political conservatism, more so than religiosity, was found to have a small yet significant effect in certain ethical scenarios designed to conflict with traditional moral norms. Findings also provided some support for the moderating role of religiosity and political ideology on the relationship between knowledge and ethical decision-making. Ethical knowledge had less influence on ethical decision-making when counselors were presented with value-laden ethical dilemmas. This study’s findings provide support for the importance of ethical training and continued participation in the profession, yet also suggest that in certain instances such knowledge might be countered by personal beliefs.

Subject Area

Mental health|Medical Ethics|Counseling Psychology

Recommended Citation

Maria, Ariel, "Examining the Effects of Ethical Knowledge and Values on Ethical Decision-Making in Counselors" (2021). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI28316728.



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