Grad students win ethical competition, publish article in American Counseling Association online journal

November 22, 2013 | News, Research, UToday, — Languages, Literature and Social Sciences
By Kevin Bucher

A group of graduate students had their ethical dilemma article published in the American Counseling Association’s VISTAS 2013 online journal after taking first place in an ethics competition last summer.

Robin Dufresne, Jill Haar, Andrew Intagliata and Nicole Rybarczyk, all master’s degree students in the Department of School Psychology, Higher Education and Counselor Education last year, used an ethical decision-making model to break down a situation and wrote what they thought were the most important parts to focus on and how to resolve them ethically.

The group was given the scenario in October 2012 and had until the first week of December last year to complete its work.

“Our scenario was about a counselor who was seeing two young boys whose parents were divorcing. The parents had joint custody, but the mother had physical custody,” Dufresne said.

“The children reported that their father was locking them in a closet and had hit them. They did not want the counselor to tell their parents. The counselor chose not to report the incident; a few weeks later, the father requested the records, and the mother asked the counselor to testify in the custody hearing.”

The team determined three central issues: reporting suspected child abuse, a request to testify in a custody hearing, and the release of records to parents.

After addressing these concerns, the group used an ethical decision-making model to frame their arguments.

They argued that the male counselor should have reported the suspected abuse when the children told him about it. Additionally, the students argued that the counselor should have explained to the mother that he cannot serve as a witness in the custody hearing as he has no information to provide regarding who would be the better parent.

Out of 48 submissions and teams competing from across the country, the UT group was victorious. The students were sponsored by Dr. Nick Piazza, UT professor of school psychology, higher education and counselor education.

“We are extremely grateful to Dr. Piazza for all the support he gave throughout the whole process,” Dufresne said.

“The faculty of the UT Counselor Education Program is immensely proud of these four students,” said Dr. Nick Piazza. “They are serious scholars and professionals who deserve every accolade for what they have accomplished. It was a privilege to be their sponsor.”

“I feel very proud. I’ve never been published before, so it’s very surreal,” Intagliata said. “At first I didn’t know how to feel, but now I realize how much of an honor it is. And it’s great for the University that we were the first master’s team to enter and ended up winning. I think that reflects well on us and our program. And it’s great for us to be able to say we’re all published authors.”

UT doctoral students have competed before and in 2008 took first place, but this was the first time University master’s degree students argued and won.

Intagliata, who graduated in May, is a first-year doctoral student at UT, as is Dufresne, who graduated in December.

Rybarczyk graduated in May and is employed at Unison Behavioral Health Group, and Haar works at Harbor Behavioral Healthcare after graduating in May.

“I feel a little more prepared being out there and being a counselor,” Haar said. “Knowledge of ethical practice increases my confidence.”

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