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KEYWORDS: computer-based training; counseling; ethics; Hypercard; simulation.
Imagine you are a marriage and family counselor. One day a woman you have been counseling asks if she can see you privately for a few minutes, without her husband. Because it is your policy not to see one partner without the other, you opt not to see the client privately. A month later, you learn that the client wanted to discuss with you her HIV-positive status resulting from an affair. Her husband's health has been jeopardized, and the marital relationship is spiraling toward its final demise.
In light of this information, did you make the right decision to stick to your policy? If you had elected to see the woman privately and had she disclosed her HIV status, would you have been held liable for failing to warn her partner of a potential life-threatening situation?
In a world with multiple perspectives (Amatea & Sherrard, 1994; Anderson & Goolishian, 1988; Bateson, 1972; Gergen, 1985; Keeney, 1983) on what is the right thing to do, ethical decision making is not only complex, but it is also a potential mine field. Poor choices could harm clients or damage counselors' careers through malpractice suits. Helping professionals need more than acute guidance and empathy skills. They need the ability to analyze counseling situations and understand the possible consequences of their choices.
In response to this need, we developed a computer-based simulation tool based on Rest's (1986) four-component model of the moral decision-making process. Rest (1986) posited that to behave morally a person first must have interpreted the situation in terms of possible actions, the effects of such actions, and "how the interested parties would regard such effects on their welfare" (p. 3). Second, the person must be able to "make a judgment about which course of action is morally right (fair, just or good)" (Rest, 1986, p. 3). Third, a person must give priority to moral values above other personal values and must intend to do what is morally right. Fourth, a person must actually behave morally. By using the simulation, graduate-level counseling students used Rest's four-component model to make ethical decisions and witness their consequences in a controlled environment.
The purpose of the simulation is fourfold. First, students practiced ethical decision making with realistic counseling dilemmas in a nonimpact environment. Second, students learned to make the leap from merely knowing the ethical codes to being able to apply them to real-world situations. Third, students were encouraged to be metacognitive (Auerswald, 1985; Hoffman, 1990)--that is, to think about their thinking and to explain their thought process …