Describe two dilemmas that counselor might face in attempti…

Describe two dilemmas that counselor might face in attempting to plan research with special populations (e.g., seriously mentally ill, children, persons with disabilities, elderly, other members of a marginalized group of people). Why are the ethical dilemmas? What principles of ethical research are involved? How would you handle these dilemmas in planning your research? Be sure to include references to justify your responses. Just need 135 words


When planning research with special populations, counselors may encounter ethical dilemmas that require careful consideration and adherence to the principles of ethical research. This paper will discuss two dilemmas faced by counselors in conducting research with special populations and the principles of ethical research involved. The first dilemma involves informed consent and confidentiality, while the second dilemma pertains to the potential harm that could result from the research. To handle these dilemmas ethically, counselors must balance the rights and well-being of the participants with the need for valid and reliable data.

Dilemma 1: Informed Consent and Confidentiality

One ethical dilemma counselors may encounter when planning research with special populations is the issue of obtaining informed consent and maintaining confidentiality. Special populations, such as seriously mentally ill individuals or persons with disabilities, may have diminished capacity to provide informed consent due to their conditions. In such cases, obtaining consent becomes a complex issue that requires careful consideration of autonomy and protection from harm (Houser, 2012). Furthermore, ensuring confidentiality can be challenging, as special populations may face stigma, discrimination, and potential negative consequences if their identity or personal information is revealed.

The ethical principle of autonomy is involved in this dilemma. Autonomy suggests that individuals have the right to make informed decisions about their participation in research and have control over their personal information (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2014; National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 2017). However, when working with special populations, their ability to provide informed consent may be compromised. Therefore, counselors must carefully assess the capacity of individuals to comprehend the research purpose, risks, benefits, and their right to withdraw (Houser, 2012). In some cases, obtaining proxy consent from legal guardians or obtaining assent from individuals who cannot provide full informed consent may be necessary (Houser, 2012; NASW, 2017).

To handle this ethical dilemma, counselors should engage in a comprehensive and ongoing process of informed consent. This process involves providing clear and easily understandable information about the research purpose, procedures, risks, benefits, and participants’ rights (NASW, 2017). Counselors should also address the issue of confidentiality and assess the potential risks associated with disclosing participants’ personal information. It is essential to obtain consent documents that are appropriately tailored and ensure participants are aware of their rights to withdraw at any time (Houser, 2012). Additionally, counselors should establish safeguards to protect participants’ confidentiality and involve them in the decision-making process regarding the level of privacy protection they desire.

Dilemma 2: Potential Harm

Another ethical dilemma that counselors may face when planning research with special populations relates to the potential harm that participants might experience. Special populations, such as children or marginalized individuals, may be particularly vulnerable and at risk for experiencing harm due to their circumstances (ACA, 2014; NASW, 2017). Therefore, counselors must carefully consider the potential physical, psychological, social, and economic risks associated with the research and take steps to minimize harm.

The principle of nonmaleficence, which emphasizes avoiding harm, is central to ethical research with special populations (ACA, 2014; NASW, 2017). Counselors have an ethical obligation to thoroughly assess the potential risks and benefits of the research, ensuring that the potential benefits outweigh any potential harm (Houser, 2012). This requires conducting a comprehensive risk assessment and implementing appropriate safeguards to protect participants (NASW, 2017). Additionally, counselors should closely monitor participants during the research process and be prepared to intervene in cases where harm may occur.

To address this ethical dilemma, counselors should develop a detailed risk management plan. This plan should include strategies to minimize potential harm, such as providing appropriate support and resources to participants throughout the research process (NASW, 2017). It is crucial to obtain the necessary approvals and adhere to professional guidelines and legal requirements to ensure the participants’ safety and well-being. Furthermore, counselors should establish a mechanism for ongoing monitoring and evaluation to identify and address any unexpected risks or adverse effects that may arise during the research (Houser, 2012).


The dilemmas posed by planning research with special populations require counselors to navigate complex ethical considerations. Informed consent, confidentiality, and the potential for harm are key areas where ethical principles come into play. By carefully balancing the rights of participants and the need for valid and reliable data, counselors can address these dilemmas ethically and with the participants’ best interests in mind. Adhering to the principles of autonomy and nonmaleficence, counselors should ensure full informed consent, protect confidentiality, minimize potential harm, and continuously monitor the research process for the well-being of individuals in special populations.