|ATSA Professional Code of Ethics 2017 Revisions and Additions|
|Becky Palmer, MS Past Ethics Chair and Current Committee Member|
The arduous task of revising
and updating the ATSA Code of Ethics (COE) has been completed. The rigorous
review and input by all committee members has helped shape this updated
version. The COE are currently at the printer, likely by the time you receive
this article you will have access to the updated version.
Ethics by definition are moral
principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. Our hope is that each of
you will make it your personal and professional responsibility to review our 2017
COE. While implicit and at times explicit within the revised document you will
find encouragement to seek peer or professional consultation, it’s always a
helpful reminder that we alone do not possess all of the answers to any
question or dilemma we may face in our professional lives. Thankfully we have
many caring and brilliant colleagues who are more than willing to talk through
any ethical questions you may have. The committee also encourages you to reach
out before your situation becomes a “sticky wicket”.
Of course as anyone who has
spent time writing professional guidelines, standards or codes of ethics can
tell you, expect to spend time discussing the occasions of when to use
shall-will, should-would, and may-can. So, yes we did spend some time having
robust discussions on the proper word usage but you may not notice them
throughout the updated document. The
ATSA Ethics Committee hopes that each Member will find this updated version of
our COE to be a helpful resource and provide some direction when faced with
potential ethical questions.
Our COE is divided into two
sections: Section A) Ethical Principles
and Section B) Rules and Procedures.
Of note our COE is meant to complement ATSA Practice Guidelines for Male
In Definitions you will notice that the definition of client has been
enhanced to identify that a client is not just a person, but rather with the
increasing trend of courts and agencies paying for treatment and assessments it
is important to remember that we have a professional responsibility to
referring agents as well.
The additional points for this
section of the COE will be noted as k) ATSA may consider deviations from the
ATSA Adult Practice Guidelines and ATSA Adolescent Practice Guidelines an
ethics violation except to the extent that a guideline conflicts with
applicable laws or professional regulations that pertain to a Member’s practice.
Also of note is the addition of l) It is unethical for ATSA Members to conduct
evaluations with the primary purpose of determining guilt or innocence.
updated the professional conduct section to include sexual orientation as a
part of sexual harassment and so it is not gender specific.
Members shall not engage in sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is unlawful
discrimination within a professional relationship on the basis of gender and/or
sexual orientation and includes any unwelcome verbal or physical sexually
oriented conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to have the purpose
or effect of unreasonably interfering with a professional relationship or
creating a hostile, intimidating, or offensive professional environment.
standard for determining whether harassment based on an individual’s gender
and/or sexual orientation is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a
hostile, intimidating, or offensive professional environment is whether a
reasonable person in the circumstances of the complaining individual would so
Payment for Services
for services may result in a dual relationship and therefore may leave a Member
open to an ethical complaint. Members should conform to their specific
professional discipline’s codes of ethics for further guidance (e.g., the
Canadian Psychological Association or American Psychological Association). For
further discussion of dual relationships, see Section 8, Dual Relationships.
addition to this section of the COE is: Members shall address the following
financial matters with clients: i. The Member shall describe the fees for
services to the client either before or at the time of the initial appointment.
ii. The Member shall settle payment arrangements for fees at the beginning of
an assessment or a therapeutic relationship. iii. If there is a change in fees,
or if a service is to be provided for which the fees have not been discussed,
the Member shall inform the client of the change in fees before providing the
service. In the case of an emergency, the Member shall inform the client of any
fees as soon as is practical after rendering the service. iv. If the client is
a minor or lacks the capacity for consent, the Member shall inform the parent
or legal guardian of all fees in the manner outlined above. This has been
removed from the client relationships section.
professional obligations you will notice the following inclusions under Client
Relationships. (j) If Members anticipate the termination or disruption of services
to a client, they shall notify the client promptly and, when possible, provide
for transfer or referral to a different practitioner.
Members who serve a client of a colleague during a temporary absence or
emergency shall serve that client with the same consideration they afford to
their own clients.
(l) Members recognize that their primary
professional obligation is to the client to whom they are providing services,
regardless of who is paying for those services. Additionally, Members recognize
that third-party relationships have the potential to create conflicts of
interest and that the primary professional obligation remains to the client.
When performing consulting services, the client may be an agency or
organization. In this case, Members shall behave in accordance with the ATSA
Code of Ethics and take steps to protect the organization and the individuals
former section of Multiple Relationships is now titled Dual Relationships and
has the following section has been added to help navigate social media, electronic
communications, texting, and phone usage. Members shall clarify with clients
what are considered appropriate means of communication to avoid dual
relationships and to protect client confidentiality, which may include interacting
via social media, electronic communication, and/or phone.
important addition to this COE is Record Keeping. We encourage you to
familiarize yourself with your professional obligation regarding good records,
keeping them confidential, treatment planning and document storing, accessing,
transferring and disposing of records.
is not uncommon that many of our clients have been in treatment with another
treatment provider. The committee felt it was imperative to clarify the
importance of making reasonable attempts to contact any current or previous
Research and Publications
the addition in this section: Members shall be aware that incarcerated
individuals, probationers and patients in secure forensic settings are
vulnerable populations and that, therefore, additional human subject
protections may apply.
SECTION 2 Rules and Procedures
the most noticeable change in this section is that the ATSA ethics committee
will no longer rely on a Special Advocate and the committee can commence an
investigation by its own motion. Of course it goes without saying that if a
complaint does come to the committee, then committee members will recuse
themselves if they have a conflict of interest with any party that is involved
in the complaint.
we encourage Members to address their concerns at the lowest level when
possible. The ATSA Ethics Committee also encourages you to seek consultation
from any of its members or a colleague.