Mental health counselors often work with children and adolescents; people who have cognitive, emotional, and/or physical disabilities; and people in prison or on probation. It is important to keep in mind the issues of informed consent and assent fortreatment with all clients, but especially those clients from vulnerable populations. Other ethical issues that may require special attention when working with vulnerable populations relate to confidentiality (e.g., exclusions to confidentiality), parameters to disclosure (e.g., HIPAA and working with minors in school and non-school settings), and the legal status of relationships within a family (e.g., legal dependents, legal guardianship, marriage, and custodial/non-custodial parent).The ethical issues related to working with minor clients can also apply when working with adults who may be legally defined as having diminished capacity. In addition, many states now have statutes that guide mandated reporting for suspected abuse or neglect of vulnerable persons.
Provide a brief description of two vulnerable populations, including details on why these groups are considered vulnerable. Then, evaluate the related ethical issues and challenges, citing the relevant ethical codes. Finally, discuss the steps you would take if a client’s legal status changed during the course of treatment.