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of Ethics: NASW, AAMFT, APA, NBCC, and ACA
National Association of Social Workers
Code of Ethics Excerpt
1.01 Commitment to Clients
Social workers’ primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients. In general, clients’ interests are primary. However, social workers’ responsibility to the larger society or specific legal obligations may on limited occasions supersede the loyalty owed clients, and clients should be so advised. (Examples include when a social worker is required by law to report that a client has abused a child or has threatened to harm self or others.)
Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals. Social workers may limit clients’ right to self-determination when, in the social workers’ professional judgment, clients’ actions or potential actions pose a serious, foreseeable, and imminent risk to themselves or others.
1.05 Cultural Awareness and Social Diversity
(a) Social workers should understand culture and its function in human behavior and society, recognizing the strengths that exist in all cultures.
(b) Social workers should have a knowledge base of their clients’ cultures and be able to demonstrate competence in the provision of services that are sensitive to clients’ cultures and to differences among people and cultural groups.
(c) Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, political belief, religion, and mental or physical disability.
(d) Social workers who provide electronic social work services should be aware of cultural and socioeconomic differences among clients and how they may use electronic technology. Social workers should assess cultural, environmental, economic, mental or physical ability, linguistic, and other issues that may affect the delivery or use of these services.
1.06 Conflicts of Interest
(b) Social workers should not take unfair advantage of any professional relationship or exploit others to further their personal, religious, political, or business interests.
1.07 Privacy and Confidentiality
(a) Social workers should respect clients’ right to privacy. Social workers should not solicit private information from clients unless it is essential to providing services or conducting social work evaluation or research. Once private information is shared, standards of confidentiality apply.
(c) Social workers should protect the confidentiality of all information obtained in the course of professional service, except for compelling professional reasons. The general expectation that social workers will keep information confidential does not apply when disclosure is necessary to prevent serious, foreseeable, and imminent harm to a client or other identifiable person. In all instances, social workers should disclose the least amount of confidential information necessary to achieve the desired purpose; only information that is directly relevant to the purpose for which the disclosure is made should be revealed.
(e) Social workers should discuss with clients and other interested parties the nature of confidentiality and limitations of clients’ right to confidentiality. Social workers should review with clients circumstances where confidential information may be requested and where disclosure of confidential information may be legally required. This discussion should occur as soon as possible in the social worker-client relationship and as needed throughout the course of the relationship.
(k) Social workers should protect the confidentiality of clients when responding to requests from members of the media.
(a) Social workers should seek the advice and counsel of colleagues whenever such consultation is in the best interests of clients.
(b) Social workers should keep themselves informed about colleagues’ areas of expertise and competencies. Social workers should seek consultation only from colleagues who have demonstrated knowledge, expertise, and competence related to the subject of the consultation.
(c) When consulting with colleagues about clients, social workers should disclose the least amount of information necessary to achieve the purposes of the consultation.
Social workers should not practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, political belief, religion, or mental or physical disability.
- National Association of Social Workers. (2017). NASW Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Code of Ethics (excerpt)
1. Responsibility to Clients
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.
1.6 Marriage and family therapists comply with applicable laws regarding the reporting of alleged unethical conduct.
1.7 Marriage and family therapists do not abuse their power in therapeutic relationships.
2.1 Marriage and family therapists disclose to clients and other interested parties at the outset of services the nature of confidentiality and possible limitations of the clients’ right to confidentiality. Therapists review with clients the circumstances where confidential information may be requested and where disclosure of confidential information may be legally required. Circumstances may necessitate repeated disclosures.
2.2 Marriage and family therapists do not disclose client confidences except by written authorization or waiver, or where mandated or permitted by law. Verbal authorization will not be sufficient except in emergency situations, unless prohibited by law. When providing couple, family or group treatment, the therapist does not disclose information outside the treatment context without a written authorization from each individual competent to execute a waiver. In the context of couple, family or group treatment, the therapist may not reveal any individual’s confidences to others in the client unit without the prior written permission of that individual.
3. Professional Competence and Integrity
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.
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. (2015, January 1). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/Legal_Ethics/Code_of_Ethics.aspx
American Psychological Association
Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (excerpt)
1.02 Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority.
If psychologists’ ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations or other governing legal authority, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.
2.06 Personal Problems and Conflicts
(a) Psychologists refrain from initiating an activity when they know or should know that there is a substantial likelihood that their personal problems will prevent them from performing their work-related activities in a competent manner.
(b) When psychologists become aware of personal problems that may interfere with their performing work-related duties adequately, they take appropriate measures, such as obtaining professional consultation or assistance and determine whether they should limit, suspend or terminate their work-related duties. (See also Standard 10.10, Terminating Therapy.)
3.01 Unfair Discrimination.
In their work-related activities, psychologists do not engage in unfair discrimination based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status or any basis proscribed by law.
3.03 Other Harassment.
Psychologists do not knowingly engage in behavior that is harassing or demeaning to persons with whom they interact in their work based on factors such as those persons' age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language or socioeconomic status.
4.01 Maintaining Confidentiality.
Psychologists have a primary obligation and take reasonable precautions to protect confidential information obtained through or stored in any medium, recognizing that the extent and limits of confidentiality may be regulated by law or established by institutional rules or professional or scientific relationship. (See also Standard 2.05, Delegation of Work to Others.)
(a) Psychologists may disclose confidential information with the appropriate consent of the organizational client, the individual client/patient or another legally authorized person on behalf of the client/patient unless prohibited by law.
(b) Psychologists disclose confidential information without the consent of the individual only as mandated by law, or where permitted by law for a valid purpose such as to (1) provide needed professional services; (2) obtain appropriate professional consultations; (3) protect the client/patient, psychologist, or others from harm; or (4) obtain payment for services from a client/patient, in which instance disclosure is limited to the minimum that is necessary to achieve the purpose. (See also Standard 6.04e, Fees and Financial Arrangements.)
- American Psychological Association (APA). (2017, January 1). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code
National Board for Certified Counselors Code of Ethics (excerpt)
NCCs promote the welfare of clients, students, supervisees or the recipients of professional services provided.
27. NCCs shall discuss with prospective clients the appropriateness of counseling services offered and shall not offer services if there is reasonable cause to believe clients will not benefit.
28. NCCs who provide supervision services shall present supervisees with feedback according to a schedule with
identified evaluation dates as well as on appropriate occasions throughout the process.
29. NCCs shall promote the welfare of supervisees by discussing ethical practices relating to supervision as well as
the legal standards that regulate the practice of counseling.
30. NCCs who provide supervision services shall establish with their supervisees procedures for responding to crisis
situations or expressing concerns regarding the supervision process. This information shall be provided in verbal
and written formats.
31. NCCs who seek consultation (i.e., consultees) shall promote welfare by selecting appropriate professionals who
can specifically respond to the identified issue with the client, supervisee or student.
32. NCCs who provide consultative services (i.e., consultants) shall establish a written plan with the professional
seeking assistance. This plan shall include the identification of the primary client concern or issue, consultation
goals, potential consequences of actions, evaluation and other future steps. The consultant shall document this
information in their professional records. Brief collaborative conversations between an NCC and other professionals are not considered consultations as long as no identifying client information is provided.
33. NCCs shall limit the use of tests and assessments to those that are current, specifically necessary for the provision
of quality services, and that have been carefully considered in terms of the instrument’s validity, reliability, psychometric limitations and appropriateness for use in a given situation or with a particular client.
34. NCCs shall protect the confidentiality and security of tests or assessments, reports, data and any transmission of
information in any form.
35. NCCs shall recognize results that are outside the norms for a given test and assessment, and shall document in the client’s record how those results will be appropriately used in the counseling process.
36. NCCs who develop tests or assessments for measuring personal characteristics, development, diagnoses, goal
attainment or other similar clinical uses shall provide test users with written information regarding the benefits
and limitations of test instruments, including appropriate use, test results and interpretation.
37. NCCs who develop tests and assessments for measuring personal characteristics, development, diagnoses, goal
attainment or other similar clinical uses shall identify other potential sources of appropriate information and shall
emphasize to test users the importance of basing decisions on multiple sources rather than a single criterion.
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.
- National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates. (2016, October 7). NBCC Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.nbcc.org/Assets/Ethics/NBCCCodeofEthics.pdf
American Counseling Association Code of Ethics Excerpt
Section C: Professional Responsibility
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 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. (2014). ACA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/docs/ethics/2014-aca-code-of-ethics.pdf?sfvrsn=4
Reflection Exercise Explanation
Goal of this Home Study Course is to create a learning experience that enhances
your clinical skills. We encourage you to discuss the Personal Reflection
Journaling Activities, found at the end of each Section, with your colleagues.
Thus, you are provided with an opportunity for a Group Discussion experience.
Case Study examples might include: family background, socio-economic status, education,
occupation, social/emotional issues, legal/financial issues, death/dying/health,
home management, parenting, etc. as you deem appropriate. A Case Study is to be
approximately 125 words in length. However, since the content of these Personal
Reflection Journaling Exercises is intended for your future reference, they
may contain confidential information and are to be applied as a work in
progress. You will not
be required to provide us with these Journaling Activities.
Reflection Exercise #1
The preceding section contained Codes of Ethics
for mental health professionals. Write two case study examples regarding applications
of Ethical Principles you feel might be in conflict with national terrorist activities
such as the September 11, 2001 attack on the New York World Trade Center. Much
fear was generated by these attacks; thus, patient symptoms in many cases were
amplified. An anxiety disordered client may have experienced heightened feelings
of anxiety and a mood disordered client may have experienced increased depression.
These may include Major Depressive Episode, Manic Episode, Mixed Episode, Hypomanic
Episode, Major Depressive Disorder, etc. Conflicts with your professions
code of ethics may arise regarding the therapists personal feelings concerning
a certain religion or cultural ethnicity related to clients viewpoints.
Ethical principles of self-determination, cultural competence, conflict of interest,
and perhaps personal problems may present some ethical questions in your mind.
NOTE: sentences and phrases are in bold type, in each
section of this manual, for the purpose of highlighting key ideas for easy reference.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Mac Giollabhui, N., Hamilton, J. L., Nielsen, J., Connolly, S. L., Stange, J. P., Varga, S., Burdette, E., Olino, T. M., Abramson, L. Y., & Alloy, L. B. (2018). Negative cognitive style interacts with negative life events to predict first onset of a major depressive episode in adolescence via hopelessness. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 127(1), 1–11.
Salman, N. L., & Gill, P. (2020). A survey of risk and threat assessors: Processes, skills, and characteristics in terrorism risk assessment. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 7(1-2), 122–129.
Tschantret, J. (2021). The psychology of right-wing terrorism: A text-based personality analysis. Psychology of Violence, 11(2), 113–122.
When a clients condition indicates that there is a clear and imminent
danger to the client or others, the certified counselor must do what? To select
and enter your answer go to .