Ethics in Therapy
We believe it is important to become familiar with the basic ethical guidelines that therapists should follow before you start therapy with a new therapist, and we encourage you to do so.
Although all the therapists and counselors listed in GoodTherapy.org certify that the therapy they provide accords in orientation and attitude to the Elements of Good Therapy, GoodTherapy.org does not provide a specific code of ethics for therapists to follow. However, ethical codes have been developed by mental health associations for the purpose of setting professional standards for appropriate behavior, defining professional expectations, and preventing harm to people who go to therapy. Mental health professionals have an obligation to be familiar with their professional code of ethics and its application to their professional services.
We provide links to ethical codes below because we feel it is very important for consumers of psychotherapy to know the difference between ethical and unethical behavior. Most therapists intend to “do no harm” and strictly follow ethical guidelines. Overall, mental health professionals are a good bunch. However, not only do good therapists make mistakes, there are some providers who, unfortunately, are careless and unaware of the importance and purpose of some ethical guidelines. We believe it is in everyone’s best interest to become familiar with basic ethical guidelines before beginning psychotherapy. Here are links to the code of ethics for some of the most common mental health professions:
- American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Code of Ethics
- American Psychological Association (APA) Code of Ethics
- American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics
- United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP) Code of Ethics
You can discuss questions you may have about the code of ethics your therapist follows with them during your initial consultation or in your therapy sessions. If you believe a mental health professional has acted unethically during your treatment process, there are different ways you can respond. You may choose to discuss the questionable behavior directly with your therapist. You may also choose to seek consult with a different mental health professional and/or a lawyer about your unethical therapy experience. You also can contact the licensing board and/or professional association governing the therapist's license to ask specific questions regarding ethical guidelines or to report complaints. If you are in crisis or life-threatening danger, call your local law enforcement immediately (911).
Last Update: 04-15-2014
Ethics Continuing Education for GoodTherapy.org Members
Cutting-Edge Ethical Issues in Psychotherapy
October 21, 2016 by Frederic Reamer, PhD
I Never Meant to Hurt You: Recognizing Personal Bias and Deepening Your Cultural Sensitivity
May 6, 2016 by Michael Kahn, LPC, JD
Preparing for the Worst: Continuity of Care in the Event of Retirement, Death, or Disability
February 26, 2016 by Rob Reinhardt, LPCS, MEd, NCC
Confidentiality and Duty to Warn: Ethical and Legal Implications for the Therapeutic Relationship
October 9, 2015 by James R. Corbin, MSW, LSW
Ethics of Trauma Treatment
June 5, 2015 by Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP