We believe it is important to become familiar with the basic ethical guidelines that therapists should follow before you begin therapy with a new therapist, and we encourage you to do so. Unfortunately, media portrayals of therapy do not always provide examples of ethical, effective therapy experiences and many myths about therapy persist.
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 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.
Professional Code of Ethics
Here are links to the code of ethics for some of the most common mental health professions:
- American Art Therapy Association (AATA) Code of Ethics
- American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Code of Ethics
- American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics
- American Psychiatric Association (APA) Code of Ethics
- American Psychological Association (APA) Code of Ethics
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics
- United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP) Code of Ethics
Concerns About Unethical Behavior
You can discuss questions you may have about the code of ethics your therapist follows 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, lawyer, or other professional 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).
Topics Related to Therapist Ethics
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Child Protective Services (CPS)
- Client Confidentiality
- Compassion Fatigue
- Dual Relationship
- Duty to Warn
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Informed Consent
- Job Burnout
- Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA)
- Right Use of Power
- Tarasoff vs. Regents
- Therapeutic Impasse
- Therapeutic Relationship
- Treatment Plan