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Code of Ethics

 

THE AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATION OF GROUP PSYCHOTHERAPISTS

INCORPORATED

ARBN O53 459 322

CODE OF ETHICS FOR MEMBERS, ASSOCIATE MEMBERS AND TRAINEES

 

This Code of Ethics seeks to provide a guide to good professional conduct for Members, Associate Members and Trainees in their capacities as psychotherapists and group psychotherapists[1]. This Code of Ethics is neither a statute nor a Code of Practice; it is based on the principles of beneficence, non-malfeasance, justice and respect for autonomy. lt should inform professional conscience and judgment.

 

This Code of Ethics does not release any member, associate member or trainee from the obligations and responsibilities laid upon them by law or statute or the recognised codes of ethics of other professional bodies to which they belong.

 

 

PRINCIPLE ONE

 

The first responsibility of the psychotherapist is to have respect for the essential humanity and dignity of each of their patients/clients[2] and to act always in best interests of their patients.

 

  1. Psychotherapists shall not discriminate against nor exploit their patients on grounds of age, gender race ethnicity, sexual orientation, creed, political affiliation and religion, nor impose their values (for example social, spiritual, political and ideological).

  2. Psychotherapists’ interventions shall respect patients’ autonomy and foster patients’ self-determination and freedom of choice, except where these may cause harm to self or others.

  3.  Psychotherapists shall not exploit their patients in any way including financially or try to influence them in any way which is not related to the aims of the treatment.

  4. It is an ethical principle that psychotherapists shall not engage in sexual relationships with patients. This principle applies at the conclusion of psychotherapy and for an indefinite time thereafter given the continuing influence of unresolved transferences and counter-transferences from the therapeutic relationship.

  5. Patients must not be observed by anyone for any purpose including teaching without having given prior informed consent. This applies to both direct and indirect observation and to any form of audio or visual transmission or recording.

 

 

PRINCIPLE TWO

 

Psychotherapists shall provide the best possible therapeutic care for their patients.

 

  1. Psychotherapists shall serve the best interests of their patients by engendering mutual trust avoiding intentional or foreseeable harm and treating them under the best possible conditions.

  2. Psychotherapists shall have a basic right to choose whom they will accept for treatment. They shall provide continuity of care for their patients, by being reasonably available or, when required, arranging suitable substitute care. In the event that a psychotherapist discontinues his or her services, he or she shall provide ample and adequate notice (written as required) to patients and make suitable and adequate provision for patients’ ongoing care where needed. 

  3. Psychotherapists shall only practice within the limits of their expertise and support their patients' right to the potential benefits (in terms of assessment and/or treatment) to be derived from referral to other colleagues and/or other relevant health professionals.

  4.  Further to 3c, psychotherapists should be aware of their own values and limitations and shall consult with experienced colleagues and other relevant health professionals about unusual, challenging or complex clinical problems.

  5. Psychotherapy shall include an ongoing evaluation of the patient's physical and mental health and attention to the treatment implications of such an evaluation. This provision may apply especially where a medical considerations need to be made and in these cases written consent should be obtained from the patient and written referral made where needed.

  6. Psychotherapists shall have records sufficient for the purposes of treatment. These records must be stored in a secure place.

  7. Psychotherapists shall be aware of the interests of the patient's family and relevant other persons. Generally, the patient's interests override those of other parties.

  8. Psychotherapists shall ensure that their physical and mental health allows them to undertake their professional responsibilities competently. They shall seek appropriate assistance in the event of ill health which interferes with their professional duties, and shall cease treating patients until their health is satisfactorily restored. They shall arrange for colleagues to care for their patients during their period of ill-health.

  9. Psychotherapists must be prepared to participate in peer review procedures.

  10. Psychotherapists should, in conjunction with a colleague or colleagues, develop a “practice will”, making appropriate provision for patients’ referral and ongoing care together with the handling and disbursement of patient contact details and records to be acted upon in the event of the sudden illness, incapacitating event or death of the psychotherapist. (?)The AAGP should be notified as to these details.(?)

 

PRINCIPLE THREE

 

Psychotherapists shall hold information about the patient or client in confidence.

 

  1. Whilst upholding the principle of confidentiality, psychotherapists must do so within the constraints of the law and other statutory requirements

  2. In accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 psychotherapists are required to have a privacy statement available for patients. This statement must include an indication as to the limits of confidentiality

  3. Confidentiality cannot always be absolute. A careful balance must be maintained between preserving confidentiality as a fundamental principle of clinical practice and the need to breach it on rare occasions in order to promote the patient's optimal interests and care, and/or the safety of third parties. The psychotherapist must weigh the consequences of any action and arrive at a judgment, aided by trusted colleagues where needed, based on all considerations when the interests of the patient conflict with the welfare of the community at large.

  4. Information about the patient obtained from other sources (for example relatives, friends, employer or teacher) is subject to the same principles of confidentiality as information obtained from the patient.

  5. In the event that contact with other professionals or involved parties such as referred to in 4d is indicated, psychotherapists must acquire the express consent of the patient. In the event that contact with such others occurs before consent can be sought, a psychotherapist should disclose this contact to the patient.

  6. The principle of safe-guarding patients' confidences applies regardless of whether the psychotherapist-patient relationship has ceased or the patient has died.

  7. lf required to disclose information, psychotherapists shall as far as possible divulge only that information relevant to the case at hand, taking care to separate fact from opinion or personal speculation.

  8. Psychotherapists must ensure that all patient records and details are securely stored.

  9. When using case material in professional discussions with colleagues for scientific, educational or consultative purposes, including publication or case presentation, psychotherapists must secure prior consent from the patient and ensure the material is disguised so that the patient is not identifiable. This applies even when the therapist has been given specific authorisation by the patient to disclose information.

 

PRINCIPLE FOUR

 

Psychotherapists shall obtain informed consent from the patient or client before undertaking any treatment.

 

  1. The patient/client shall be informed in plain language of the nature, purpose, benefits, effects and risks of proposed treatment.

  2. The information shall be conveyed in such a way that the patient will understand it; consent without such understanding is invalid.

  3. Psychotherapists shall ensure that the patient is giving consent freely, without pressure, coercion or duress. This is particularly important in the case of detained patients such as prisoners.

  4. In the case of a minor deemed unable to give adequately informed consent, such consent shall be obtained from a parent or guardian, and also from the child if he or she is of sufficient maturity and understanding.

 

PRINCIPLE FIVE

 

The psychotherapist is entitled to establish and to receive reasonable fees for his

or her services.

 

  1. When undertaking the treatment of a patient, the psychotherapist and the patient/client should agree on the fee and the conditions of payment.

  2. Fees may be charged for sessions missed by the patient when this policy has been pre-arranged.

  3. A psychotherapist should neither pay nor receive a commission for referral of patients.

  4. Financial dealings with patients should always be restricted to matters concerning professional fees.

 

PRINCIPLE SIX

 

Psychotherapists shall continue to develop their professional knowledge and share this knowledge with colleagues and other relevant health professionals.

 

  1. Psychotherapists should make provision for regular professional supervision from competent other psychotherapists and/or peers.
  2. Psychotherapists shall make use of the various methods of continuing education that are available to them. These may involve participation in continuing education programs and professional conferences, and the regular reading of relevant professional publications - also interaction with colleagues and other relevant health professionals.
  3. Psychotherapists should contribute as their capacity allows to the education and professional development of trainees and interested students in health professions. 

 

PRINCIPLE SEVEN

 

Psychotherapists shall share the responsibility of upholding the integrity of the

health professions.

 

  1. Psychotherapy as an integral part of the health profession demands integrity, dedication for truth and service to mankind. Psychotherapists have a privileged position because of their calling and tradition. With such privilege they have an obligation to maintain appropriate personal and moral standards in their professional practice and in those aspects of their personal life which may reflect upon the integrity of their professional disciplines.

  2. Psychotherapists shall promote and enhance the integrity of their own and each others' professions by fostering a sense of trust and mutual responsibility between colleagues. In the event of differences of opinion, viewpoints may be expressed with candour and respect rather than by mutual denigration.

  3. Psychotherapists who become aware of a colleague’s ill-health or incapacity compromising the care of patients have a duty to those patients and their colleague to see that the situation is appropriately dealt with. The necessary action may include an offer to assist the affected colleague and notification to relevant hospital authorities, employers and the relevant professional registration body. lt is advisable, when practicable, to consult with a senior colleague before deciding on the most appropriate course of action.

  4. Psychotherapists who become aware of unprofessional or unethical (according to this Code) conduct by a fellow member, associate member or trainee of AAGP shall report their concerns to the AAGP Ethics Committee and be bound to report, as required by law, those concerns to the relevant authorities.

  5. Psychotherapists, as required by law, must have and maintain current professional indemnity insurance.

 

[1] “Psychotherapist” as used in this Code of Ethics will be taken to refer to any Member, Associate Member or Trainee of the AAGP as they act in their professional role of psychotherapist or group psychotherapist.

[2] “Patient” will be taken to mean both “patient” and “client”, that is, a person being in professional relationship with a psychotherapist.

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