American Counseling Association Code of Ethics Excerpt
Section A. The Counseling Relationship
A.3. Clients Served by Others
When counselors learn that their clients are in a professional relationship with other mental health professionals, they request release from clients to inform the other professionals and strive to establish positive and collaborative professional relationships
A.5.c.Sexual and/or Romantic Relationships With Former Clients. Sexual and/or romantic counselor–client interactions or relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members are prohibited for a period of 5 years following the last professional contact. This prohibition applies to both in-person and electronic interactions or relationships. Counselors, before engaging in sexual and/or romantic interactions or relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members, demonstrate forethought and document (in written form) whether the interaction or relationship can be viewed as exploitive in any way and/or whether there is still potential to harm the former client; in cases of potential exploitation and/or harm, the counselor avoids entering into such an interaction or relationship.
A.5.e. Personal Virtual Relationships With Current Clients. Counselors are prohibited from engaging in a personal virtual relationship with individuals with whom they have a current counseling relationship (e.g., through social and other media).
A.6.d. Role Changes in the Professional Relationship. When counselors change a role from the original or most recent contracted relationship, they obtain informed consent from the client and explain the client’s right to refuse services related to the change. Examples of role changes include, but are not limited to
1. changing from individual to relationship or family counseling, or vice versa;
2. changing from an evaluative role to a therapeutic role, or vice versa; and
3. changing from a counselor to a mediator role, or vice versa.
Clients must be fully informed of any anticipated consequences (e.g., financial, legal, personal, therapeutic) of counselor role changes.
A.6.e.Nonprofessional Interactions or Relationships (Other Than Sexual or Romantic Interactions or Relationships). Counselors avoid entering into non-professional relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members when the interaction is potentially harmful to the client. This applies to both in-person and electronic interactions or relationships.
A.7.a.Advocacy. When appropriate, counselors advocate at individual, group, institutional, and societal levels to address potential barriers and obstacles that inhibit access and/or the growth and development of clients.
A.7.b. Confidentiality and Advocacy. Counselors obtain client consent prior to engaging in advocacy efforts on behalf of an identifiable client to improve the provision of services and to work toward removal of systemic barriers or obstacles that inhibit client access, growth, and development.
A.8. Multiple Clients. When a counselor agrees to provide counseling services to two or more persons who have a relationship, the counselor clarifies at the outset which person or persons are clients and the nature of the relationships the counselor will have with each involved person. If it becomes apparent that the counselor may be called upon to perform potentially conflicting roles, the counselor will clarify, adjust, or withdraw from roles appropriately
A.9. Group Work
A.9.b. Protecting Clients
In a group setting, counselors take reasonable precautions to protect clients from physical, emotional, or psychological trauma.
A.10.c. Establishing Fees
In establishing fees for professional counseling services, counselors consider the financial status of clients and locality. If a counselor’s usual fees create undue hardship for the client, the counselor may adjust fees, when legally permissible, or assist the client in locating comparable, affordable services.
A.10.f. Receiving Gifts. Counselors understand the challenges of accepting gifts from clients and recognize that in some cultures, small gifts are a token of respect and gratitude. When determining whether to accept a gift from clients, counselors take into account the therapeutic relationship, the monetary value of the gift, the client’s motivation for giving the gift, and the counselor’s motivation for wanting to accept or decline the gift.
A.11. Termination and Referral
A.11.a. Competence WithinTermination and Referral.
If counselors lack the competence to be of professional assistance to clients, they avoid entering or continuing counseling relationships. Counselors are knowledgeable about culturally and clinically appropriate referral resources and suggest these alternatives. If clients decline the suggested referrals, counselors discontinue the relationship.
A.11.c. Appropriate Termination. Counselors terminate a counseling relationship when it becomes reasonably apparent that the client no longer needs assistance, is not likely to benefit, or is being harmed by continued counseling. Counselors may terminate counseling when in jeopardy of harm by the client or by another person with whom the client has a relationship, or when clients do not pay fees as agreed upon. Counselors provide pretermination counseling and recommend other service providers when necessary.
A.11.d. Appropriate Transfer of Services
When counselors transfer or refer clients to other practitioners, they ensure that appropriate clinical and administrative processes are completed and open communication is maintained with both clients and practitioners.
A.12. Abandonment and Client Neglect, Counselors do not abandon or neglect clients in counseling. Counselors assist in making appropriate arrangements for the continuation of treatment, when necessary, during interruptions such as vacations, illness, and following termination.
Section B: Confidentiality and Privacy
B.4. Groups and Families
B.4.a. Group Work In group work, counselors clearly explain the importance and parameters of confidentiality for the specific group.
B.4.b. Couples and Family Counseling. In couples and family counseling, counselors clearly define who is considered "the client" and discuss expectations and limitations of confidentiality. Counselors seek agreement and document in writing such agreement among all involved parties regarding the confidentiality of information. In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the couple or family is considered to be the client.
B.6. Records and Documentation
B.6.b. Confidentiality of Records and Documentation. Counselors ensure that records and documentation kept in any medium are secure and that only authorized persons have access to them.
B.6.c. Permission to Record. Counselors obtain permission from clients prior to recording sessions through electronic or other means.
B.6.g. Disclosure or Transfer. Unless exceptions to confidentiality exist, counselors obtain written permission from clients to disclose or transfer records to legitimate third parties. Steps are taken to ensure that receivers of counseling records are sensitive to their confidential nature.
B.7.a. Respect for Privacy. Information shared in a consulting relationship is discussed for professional purposes only. Written and oral reports present only data germane to the purposes of the consultation, and every effort is made to protect client identity and to avoid undue invasion of privacy.
Section C: Professional Responsibility
C.2. Professional Competence
C.2.a. Boundaries of Competence. Counselors practice only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience. Whereas multicultural counseling competency is required across all counseling specialties, counselors gain knowledge, personal awareness, sensitivity, dispositions, and skills pertinent to being a culturally competent counselor in working with a diverse client population.
C.2.f. Continuing Education
Counselors recognize the need for continuing education to acquire and maintain a reasonable level of awareness of current scientific and professional information in their fields of activity. Counselors maintain their competence in the skills they use, are open to new procedures, and remain informed regarding best practices for working with diverse populations.
Counselors monitor themselves for signs of impairment from their own physical, mental, or emotional problems and refrain from offering or providing professional services when impaired. They seek assistance for problems that reach the level of professional impairment, and, if necessary, they limit, suspend, or terminate their professional responsibilities until it is determined that they may safely resume their work. Counselors assist colleagues or supervisors in recognizing their own professional impairment and provide consultation and assistance when warranted with colleagues or supervisors showing signs of impairment and intervene as appropriate to prevent imminent harm to clients.
C.3. Advertising and Soliciting Clients
C.3.a. Accurate Advertising. When advertising or otherwise representing their services to the public, counselors identify their credentials in an accurate manner that is not false, misleading, deceptive, or fraudulent.
C.3.d. Recruiting Through Employment
Counselors do not use their places of employment or institutional affiliation to recruit clients, supervisors, or consultees for their private practices.
Counselors claim only licenses or certifications that are current and in good standing.
Counselors do not condone or engage in discrimination against prospective or current clients, students, employees, supervisees, or research participants based on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law.
Section D Relationships With Other Professionals
D.1.f. Personnel Selection and Assignment
When counselors are in a position requiring personnel selection and/or assigning of responsibilities to others, they select competent staff and assign responsibilities compatible with their skills and experiences.
D.1.h. Negative Conditions
Counselors alert their employers of inappropriate policies and practices. They attempt to effect changes in such policies or procedures through constructive action within the organization. When such policies are potentially disruptive or damaging to clients or may limit the effectiveness of services provided and change cannot be affected, counselors take appropriate further action. Such action may include referral to appropriate certification, accreditation, or state licensure organizations, or voluntary termination of employment.
Section F Supervision, Training, and Teaching
F.10. Roles and Relationships Between Counselor Educators and Students
F.10.b. Sexual Harassment. Counselor educators do not condone or subject students to sexual harassment.
Section I: Resolving Ethical Issues
I.2.e. Unwarranted Complaints:
Counselors do not initiate, participate in, or encourage the filing of ethics complaints that are retaliatory in nature or are made with reckless disregard or willful ignorance of facts that would disprove the allegation.
I.3. Cooperation With Ethics Committees
Counselors assist in the process of enforcing the ACA Code of Ethics. Counselors cooperate with investigations, proceedings, and requirements of the ACA Ethics Committee or ethics committees of other duly constituted associations or boards having jurisdiction over those charged with a violation.
- American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics http://www.counseling.org/docs/ethics/2014-aca-code-of-ethics.pdf?sfvrsn=4
Board for Certified Counselors
Code of Ethics - Excerpt
The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) provides national certifications that recognize individuals who have voluntarily met standards for general and specialty areas of counseling practice. Counselors certified by NBCC may also identify with different professional associations and are often licensed by jurisdictions that promulgate standards of behavior. Regardless of any other affiliation, this Code of Ethics is applicable to all NBCC applicants and National Certified Counselors (NCCs).
This Code establishes the minimum ethical behaviors and provides an expectation of and assurance for the ethical practice for all who use the professional services of NCCs. Furthermore, it provides an enforceable set of directives and assures a resource for those served in the case of a perceived violation.
NCCs are required to adhere to all of the directives.
Sanctions of applicants and credential holders under this Code are issued by NBCC only if the provisions of the NBCC Code of Ethics are found to have been violated.
NCCs take appropriate action to prevent harm.
1. NCCs, recognizing the potential for harm, shall not share information that is obtained through the counseling process without specific written consent by the client orlegal guardian except to prevent clear, imminent dangerto the client or others or when required to do so by a court order.
2. NCCs shall respect client’s privacy and shall solicit only information that contributes to the identified counseling goals.
3. NCCs generally shall not accept goods or services from clients in return for counseling services in recognition of the possible negative effects, including perceived exploitation. NCCs may accept goods, services or other nonmonetary compensation from clients only in cases where no referrals are possible or appropriate and if the arrangement is discussed with the client in advance, is an exchange of a reasonable equivalent value, does not place the counselor in an unfair advantage, is not harmful to the client or their treatment and is documented in the counseling services agreement.
4. NCCs shall not accept gifts from clients except in cases when it is culturally appropriate or therapeutically relevant because of the potential confusion that may arise. NCCs shall consider the value of the gift and the effect on the therapeutic relationship when contemplating acceptance. This consideration shall be documented in the client’s record.
5. NCCs shall not engage in harmful multiple relationships with clients. In the event that a harmful multiple relationship develops in an unforeseen manner, the NCC shall discuss the potential effects with the client and shall take reasonable steps to resolve the situation, including the provision of referrals. This discussion shall be documented in the client’s record.
6. NCCs shall discuss important considerations to avoid exploitation before entering into a non-counseling relationship with a former client. Important considerations to be discussed include amount of time since counseling service termination, duration of counseling, nature and circumstances of client’s counseling, the likelihood that the client will want to resume counseling at some time in the future; circumstances of service termination and possible negative effects or outcomes.
7. NCCs shall not engage in any form of sexual or romantic intimacy with clients or with former clients for two years from the date of counseling service termination.
8. NCCs shall not engage in sexual harassment, which is defined as a single act or multiple occurrences of verbal, nonverbal or physical actions that are known to be unwelcome or that are of the severity to be perceived as harassment by a reasonable person.
9. NCCs shall take proactive measures to avoid interruptions of counseling services due to illness, vacations or unforeseen circumstances. To prevent the harm that may occur if clients are unable to access professional assistance, such measures shall identify other professionals with whom the NCC has a working agreement or local emergency service agencies that can respond to clients in a mental health crisis.
10. NCCs shall create written procedures regarding the handling of client records in the event of their unexpected death or incapacitation. In recognition of the harm that may occur if clients are unable to access professional assistance in these cases, these procedures shall ensure that the confidentiality of client records is maintained and shall include the identification of individual(s) who are familiar with ethical and legal requirements regarding the counseling profession and who shall assist clients in locating other professional mental health providers as well as ensure the appropriate transfer of client records. These written procedures shall be provided to the client, and the NCC shall provide an opportunity for the client to discuss concerns regarding the process as it pertains to the transfer of his or her record.
11. NCCs who act as counselor educators, field placement or clinical supervisors shall not engage in sexual or romantic intimacy with current students or supervisees. They shall not engage in any form of sexual or romantic intimacy with former students or supervisees for two years from the date of last supervision contact.
12. NCCs who provide clinical supervision services shall keep accurate records of supervision goals and progress and consider all information gained in supervision as confidential except to prevent clear, imminent danger to the client or others or when legally required to do so by a court or government agency order. In cases in which the supervisor receives a court or governmental agency order requiring the production of supervision records, the NCC shall make reasonable attempts to promptly notify the supervisee. In cases in which the supervisee is a student of a counselor education program, the supervisor shall release supervision records consistent with the terms of the arrangement with the counselor education program.
13. NCCs who provide clinical supervision services shall intervene in situations where supervisees are impaired or incompetent and thus place client(s) at risk.
14. NCCs who provide clinical supervision services shall not have multiple relationships with supervisees that may interfere with supervisors’ professional judgment or exploit supervisees.
Supervisors shall not supervise relatives.
15. NCCs who seek consultation (i.e., consultees) shall protect client’s confidentiality and unnecessary invasion of privacy by providing only the information relevant to the consultation and in a manner that protects the client’s identity.
16. NCCs shall not release the results of tests and assessments to individuals other than the client without prior written consent except as required to prevent clear, imminent danger to the client or others; by written agreement with the client; or when legally required to do so by a court order or governmental agency.
17. NCCs shall protect the welfare of research participants by taking reasonable precautions to prevent negative psychological or physical effects.
18. NCCs shall protect the identities of research participants by appropriately disguising data except when there is a detailed written authorization.
19. NCCs shall recognize the potential harm of informal uses of social media and other related technology with clients, former clients and their families and personal friends. After carefully considering all of the ethical implications, including confidentiality, privacy and multiple relationships, NCCs shall develop written practice procedures in regard to social media and digital technology, and these shall be incorporated with the information provided to clients before or during the initial session. At a minimum, these social media procedures shall specify that personal accounts will be separate and isolated from any used for professional counseling purposes including those used with prospective or current clients. These procedures shall also address "friending" and responding to material posted.
20. NCCs shall not use social media sources (e.g., updates, tweets, blogs, etc.) to provide confidential information regarding client cases that have not been consented to by the client. To facilitate the secure provision of information, NCCs shall inform clients prior to or during the initial session about appropriate ways to communicate with them. Furthermore, NCCs shall advise clients about the potential risks of sending messages through digital technology and social media sources.
21. NCCs who use digital technology (e.g., social media) for professional purposes shall limit information posted to that which does not create multiple relationships or which may threaten client confidentiality.
NCCs are accountable in their actions and adhere to recognized professional standards and practices.
85. NCCs shall comply with all NBCC policies, procedures and agreements, including all disclosure requirements.
86. NCCs shall adhere to legal standards and state board regulations.
87. NCCs shall not engage in unlawful discrimination.
88. NCCs who make statements in a public manner shall state that their opinions represent their personal views and not another organization unless officially authorized to do otherwise.
89. NCCs providing public presentations by any means, shall ensure that statements are consistent with this Code of Ethics.
90. NCCs who act as university, field placement or clinical supervisors shall require that supervisees provide the supervising NCC’s name, credentials and contact information to the supervisee’s clients.
91. NCCs shall follow administration and interpretation protocols for tests and assessments, including the use of appropriate software if using electronic measures.
92. NCCs shall comply with identified security protocols when using published tests and assessments.
93. NCCs shall comply with intellectual property laws and other accepted publication guidelines.
94. NCCs shall comply with applicable guidelines when designing, conducting or reporting research, including those of an institutional review board.
95. NCCs shall credit the work of others who have contributed to research or publication either through joint authorship, acknowledgment or other appropriate means.
Approved by the NBCC Board of Directors: June 8, 2012
2012 National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates (NBCC)
- National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), Code of Ethics http://www.nbcc.org/assets/ethics/nbcc-codeofethics.pdf
Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Therapists
Ethics - Excerpt
The Board of Directors of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) hereby promulgates, pursuant to Article 2, Section 2.01.3 of the Association's Bylaws, the Revised AAMFT Code of Ethics, effective January 1, 2015.
The Board of Directors of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) hereby promulgates, pursuant to Article 2, Section 2.01.3 of the Association's Bylaws, the Revised AAMFT Code of Ethics, effective January 1, 2015.
Honoring Public Trust
The AAMFT strives to honor the public trust in marriage and family therapists by setting standards for ethical practice as described in this Code. The ethical standards define professional expectations and are enforced by the AAMFT Ethics Committee.
Commitment to Service, Advocacy and Public Participation
Marriage and family therapists are defined by an enduring dedication to professional and ethical excellence, as well as the commitment to service, advocacy, and public participation. The areas of service, advocacy, and public participation are recognized as responsibilities to the profession equal in importance to all other aspects. Marriage and family therapists embody these aspirations by participating in activities that contribute to a better community and society, including devoting a portion of their professional activity to services for which there is little or no financial return. Additionally, marriage and family therapists are concerned with developing laws and regulations pertaining to marriage and family therapy that serve the public interest, and with altering such laws and regulations that are not in the public interest. Marriage and family therapists also encourage public participation in the design and delivery of professional services and in the regulation of practitioners. Professional competence in these areas is essential to the character of the field, and to the well-being of clients and their communities.
The absence of an explicit reference to a specific behavior or situation in the Code does not mean that the behavior is ethical or unethical. The standards are not exhaustive. Marriage and family therapists who are uncertain about the ethics of a particular course of action are encouraged to seek counsel from consultants, attorneys, supervisors, colleagues, or other appropriate authorities.
Both law and ethics govern the practice of marriage and family therapy. When making decisions regarding professional behavior, marriage and family therapists must consider the AAMFT Code of Ethics and applicable laws and regulations. If the AAMFT Code of Ethics prescribes a standard higher than that required by law, marriage and family therapists must meet the higher standard of the AAMFT Code of Ethics. Marriage and family therapists comply with the mandates of law, but make known their commitment to the AAMFT Code of Ethics and take steps to resolve the conflict in a responsible manner. The AAMFT supports legal mandates for reporting of alleged unethical conduct.
Marriage and family therapists remain accountable to the AAMFT Code of Ethics when acting as members or employees of organizations. If the mandates of an organization with which a marriage and family therapist is affiliated, through employment, contract or otherwise, conflict with the AAMFT Code of Ethics, marriage and family therapists make known to the organization their commitment to the AAMFT Code of Ethics and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict in a way that allows the fullest adherence to the Code of Ethics.
The AAMFT Code of Ethics is binding on members of AAMFT in all membership categories, all AAMFT Approved Supervisors and all applicants for membership or the Approved Supervisor designation. AAMFT members have an obligation to be familiar with the AAMFT Code of Ethics and its application to their professional services. Lack of awareness or misunderstanding of an ethical standard is not a defense to a charge of unethical conduct.
The process for filing, investigating, and resolving complaints of unethical conduct is described in the current AAMFT Procedures for Handling Ethical Matters. Persons accused are considered innocent by the Ethics Committee until proven guilty, except as otherwise provided, and are entitled to due process. If an AAMFT member resigns in anticipation of, or during the course of, an ethics investigation, the Ethics Committee will complete its investigation. Any publication of action taken by the Association will include the fact that the member attempted to resign during the investigation.
Aspirational Core Values
The following core values speak generally to the membership of AAMFT as a professional association, yet they also inform all the varieties of practice and service in which marriage and family therapists engage. These core values are aspirational in nature, and are distinct from ethical standards. These values are intended to provide an aspirational framework within which marriage and family therapists may pursue the highest goals of practice.
The core values of AAMFT embody:
Acceptance, appreciation, and inclusion of a diverse membership.
Distinctiveness and excellence in training of marriage and family therapists and those desiring to advance their skills, knowledge and expertise in systemic and relational therapies.
Responsiveness and excellence in service to members.
Diversity, equity and excellence in clinical practice, research, education and administration.
Integrity evidenced by a high threshold of ethical and honest behavior within Association governance and by members.
Innovation and the advancement of knowledge of systemic and relational therapies.
Ethical standards, by contrast, are rules of practice upon which the marriage and family therapist is obliged and judged. The introductory paragraph to each standard in the AAMFT Code of Ethics is an aspirational/explanatory orientation to the enforceable standards that follow.
I Responsibility to Clients
Marriage and family therapists advance the welfare of families and individuals and make reasonable efforts to find the appropriate balance between conflicting goals within the family system.
1.1 Marriage and family therapists provide professional assistance to persons without discrimination on the basis of race, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, gender, health status, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.
1.7 Marriage and family therapists do not abuse their power in therapeutic relationships.
1.8 Marriage and family therapists respect the rights
of clients to make decisions and help them to understand the consequences of these
decisions. Therapists clearly advise the clients that they have the responsibility
to make decisions regarding relationships such as cohabitation, marriage, divorce,
separation, reconciliation, custody, and visitation.
1.9 Marriage and
family therapists continue therapeutic relationships only so long as it is reasonably
clear that clients are benefiting from the relationship.
and family therapists assist persons in obtaining other therapeutic services if
the therapist is unable or unwilling, for appropriate reasons, to provide professional
3.8 Marriage and family therapists do not engage in the exploitation
of clients, students, trainees, supervisees, employees, colleagues, or research
3.9 Marriage and family therapists attend to cultural norms when considering whether to accept gifts from or give gifts to clients. Marriage and family therapists consider the potential effects that receiving or giving gifts may have on clients and on the integrity and efficacy of the therapeutic relationship.
3.10 Marriage and family
therapists do not diagnose, treat, or advise on problems outside the recognized
boundaries of their competencies.
3.11 Marriage and family therapists,
because of their ability to influence and alter the lives of others, exercise
special care when making public their professional recommendations and opinions
through testimony or other public statements.
7.7 Marriage and family therapists avoid conflicts of interest in treating minors or adults involved in custody or visitation actions by not performing evaluations for custody, residence, or visitation of the minor. Marriage and family therapists who treat minors may provide the court or mental health professional performing the evaluation with information about the minor from the marriage and family therapist’s perspective as a treating marriage and family therapist, so long as the marriage and family therapist obtains appropriate consents to release information.
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Code of Ethics http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/Legal_Ethics/Code_of_Ethics.aspx
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Exercise #2
The preceding section contained information
about the ACA, NBCC, and AAMFT Codes of Ethics regarding the ethical use of recall.
Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this
section in your practice.
Ethics CEU QUESTION
What three functions cannot be performed by the counselor without proper
training or supervision? Record the letter of the correct answer the