Code of Values

April 2017
Download the full ProChoices Code of Values for Ethical Decision Making

CONTENTS:
1. Introduction
2. Using the Code of Values for Ethical Decision Making
3. Explanation of Values
4. Values in Conversation
5. Working Definitions of the Values
    1: Reflexivity
    2: Social Justice
    3: Experiential Learning
    4: Ecosystem Perspective
6. Acknowledgments

1. INTRODUCTION
Our mission is to provide affordable, quality therapy to those who may have limited financial means and to ensure that therapy remains an accessible option for everyone. As a learning clinic, we also work to provide rigorous professional development, counseling practice, and experiential learning to our therapists.

This Code is intended to act as support for ProChoices Therapists and Council in the development of sustainable ethical protocols as they continue to respond to the demands of the community. The values outlined in this code are built on the three pillars that have always been the clinic’s foundation: Narrative, Feminisms, and Collectivism. Each of the values can be understood through the lenses of each of these three pillars.

On Narrative
Narrative Therapy’s non-pathologizing approach credits the client as the expert of their experience and as the authority on what will constitute meaningful change and resolution. Narrative therapists take a co-research position that invites alternative ways of perceiving, responding to, and resolving individual challenges.

On Feminisms
The clinic’s understanding of social justice is formed through the lens of intersectional Feminisms. This places particular attention on the raising of consciousness and promotion of choice, change, empowerment, and possibility in response to patriarchal systems of power. Our Feminisms honour the resistance, resilience, and strengths in our clients stories that too often get minimized, dismissed, pathologized, or made invisible.

On Collectivism
While we do not operate as a collective, we are in an ongoing process of working with collectivist intention. For us, working with a collectivist intention is about shared responsibility, ownership, intention, and values. These things that we share are what have brought us together and what sustain our commitment to this work. Our intention is to embody a non-authoritarian decision-making structure where everyone’s voice is heard and valued. This intention supports multifaceted interpretation of our work and promotes ongoing growth. Working with this collectivist intention, we are weaving together a rich, unique tapestry that is ever changing and will continue to grow from each person who touches it.

2. USING THE CODE OF VALUES

Council, Clinic Director, and Cohort will attend regular meetings where the Code will be consulted as a support in resolving and exploring questions of how to proceed in an ethical manner.

Not all ethical dilemmas can be anticipated, the notion of what constitutes ethical decision-making is subjective and context dependent, and more than one decision may be considered ethical. This code exists as a resource to guide the Council to make decisions and protocols that reflect the clinic’s values. It also exists as a resource to support ProChoices participants as they explore what it means to consistently work and relate in ways that embody the stated values.

As a continuation of this exploration, ProChoices values a culture of continuous learning and reflexivity. As such, we want it to be common practice for participants to engage with and share questions of ethical disagreement or tension with one another. As a learning clinic, we want it to be known that these questions are part of the process of collectively enhancing our ways of working, rather than reflections of personal considerations.

We view struggle as a meeting point for collaborative reflection. As such, we reflect that it can be easy to enter struggle from a place of defending assumptions, personal beliefs, and values. The Code of Ethics therefore supports us to step back and see our assumptions as information, rather than absolutes and invites our values to be heard and respected. In instances of struggle, community members are encouraged to consult the PC Relational Process resources, as well as this Code and the Council itself.

3. EXPLANATION OF VALUES

The ProChoices Code of Values for Ethical Decision Making is comprised of the following values:

1. Reflexivity
2. Social Justice
3. Experiential Learning
4. Ecosystem Perspective

These values intend to reflect the ethical orientation that is preferred at ProChoices. They are a response to ProChoices existing within a greater context of hegemonic problems such as Euro-Centrism, Colonialism, and Patriarchy. They are intended as guidance for Council discussion as well as for internal relational dynamics, and work in the room with clients.

4. VALUES IN CONVERSATION

When presented with an ethical dilemma, Council members and other ProChoices participants are encouraged to ask, “What do our values have to say to this dilemma?” In this way, we can engage values in conversation rather than individuals with positions in conversation. In doing so, systematic inequities and power dynamics can become more visible and less influential in the discussion. Council members are encouraged to acknowledge these power dynamics and systematic inequities in order to account for their impacts and effects. As such we can be accountable to one another while supporting each other.

The four values are not weighted in order of importance, rather they work together to situate us in a field of possibilities. Like the four points of a compass, they help us locate ourselves and the directions in which we want to move. Using this compass of values, the Council exists to create protocols that guide us in a prefered direction.

5. WORKING DEFINITIONS OF THE VALUES

Value 1: Reflexivity

Reflexivity, as we understand it, involves acknowledgment of our privileges, subjectivities, and relational positions and curiosity about them. This includes systematic structures that we may be a part of or participating in, and patterns or rhythms of thinking and relating we may subscribe to at this time. It also includes reflecting on where structures of oppression might be replicating themselves in the room with us.

It is the practice of decentering our power as therapists as a means of holding space for the dignity and validity of the experiences of our peers, fellow community members, and clients.

It is the practice of decentering our understandings and assumptions, and being curious about where they come from. We acknowledge that these understandings and assumptions may be the products of our respective experiences, that they may not be shared by others, that they may not be congruent with others’ narratives, and are not necessarily more definitive than another’s.

Reflexivity opens us, from a place of curiosity, to richer ways of understanding and being in the world. It also facilitates communication among us and encourages us to move beyond taken-for-granted notions or assumptions.

Value 2: Social Justice

Social Justice, as we understand it, is about promoting choice and agency, and inviting alternative responses to hegemonic, oppressive systems of power. In order to do this we approach these systems of power, and all of the taken-for-granted notions that come with them, with a critical lens and from a place of non-assumption.

Part of our engagement with Social Justice involves holding space for the inclusion of underrepresented voices and for calling in of community members for collaboration. Additionally and perhaps most importantly, it is about listening to the needs and demands of our diverse communities and directing our work in response to these needs and demands. We see it as our responsibility to creatively explore opportunities for collaboration with and for our communities in this way. Similarly it is our responsibility to bring about systematic and social change by eliminating organization practices that may contribute to oppression.

As practitioners, it is about maintaining courage in the midst of dominant narratives and ideologies. This courage is made possible through the solidarity that we share with one another. We work in solidarity with
the varied members of our community who face oppression every day. We work in solidarity with our clients, against the problems that they face. We honour their experiences and perspectives with curiosity and appreciation.

Value 3: Experiential Learning

Experiential learning, as we understand it, is learning through the exercising, embodiment, and practice of theories and ideas. As a learning clinic, our model is built on this Praxis.

Our value of Experiential Learning speaks to how we pay attention to ‘process’ over[LO1] ‘product’. When we are learning through practice we can attend to the varied and many lessons that the process has to offer us. These lessons may come from the experiences themselves, from the people we share with, from our own responses to the process etc. Process, rather than a discrete state, can be understood as the experience of working. As such, we welcome learning with humility in any and all environments and dynamics, including during Supervision, Council discussion, in the room with clients, and at Cohort supervision.

Valuing Experiential Learning also reminds us to center ‘the learner’ in each of us as we explore process. Centering ‘the learner’ in each of us acknowledges each of us as the expert of our own experience, invites respect for our stories and openness for others to learn from them. It also invites the same learning in us, from the experiences and stories of our peers, clients, and community members with non-judgment, humility, curiosity.

Centering learning through process in this way supports us working away from authoritative dominant narratives about the expert clinician. It supports us to practice bravely while taking risks and exploring the unknown with sincere curiosity.

Value 4: Ecosystem Perspective

An Ecosystem Perspective, as we understand it, is about understanding ourselves as part of a community ecosystem. As arts of this ecosystem, we are in relationship with one another through a number of different relationalities, interconnectivities, and interdependencies. When we reflect on our community as an ecosystem, we are able to explore how our actions and decisions may affect the rest of the ecosystem. This is particularly valuable in the context of ethical decision-making.

Part of valuing an Ecosystem Perspective at ProChoices is about prioritizing inclusivity. We believe it is important to be an inclusive community for all as we understand that in our ecosystem, different people can engage and contribute in a number of different ways. This means welcoming new voices with
non-judgment, listening carefully and being attuned and inclusive to the perspectives and contributions that each voice offers. When we enlist our community in this way we are able to have a richer array of perspectives and are also able to invite community development through conversation and shared ownership of ideas and endeavors.

6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ProChoices would like to thank the following members of our ecosystem…

Thank you to the members of all past Cohorts for your trailblazing work. Without you none of our current or future work would be possible. We hope that you might feel proud to see all that has grown from your efforts and dedication. Thank you to each of the members of current Cohorts and Cohorts to come for maintaining and caring for this little clinic that could. Thank you to our Supervisors for your support, wisdom, and humility in learning with us. Thank you to our Community Partners for helping us build our network of clients and therapists. Thank you to our Academic Allies for helping us find a footing for our programs, for your contributions co-training our therapists, and foremost for initiating and continuing the world-opening discourses that we find ourselves in. Thank you to the Our Town community for nourishing and fueling us, and for providing a safe and welcoming home for us and our clients. Thank you to Poke Community Acupuncture for their inspiration and shared community. Thank you to all of the Narrative Practitioners and Feminist Practitioners who have come before us and paved the way for all of our inquiry.

Special thanks to our founder, Hilda Nanning for your courage and persistence in holding space for all of this to be possible. We thank you for showing us how we can always find a prefered way forward. Thanks also to our Council Developer, Laura, for facilitating the writing of this Code as well as the formation of the ProChoices Council.

Lastly, we would like to thank our clients for being the inspiration for all of our learning and this work.