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Codes Of Ethics and Regulations
Regarding Forensic Multiple Relationships of Psychotherapists as Treaters & Experts or Custody Evaluators

Complete comparative list of different Codes of Ethics on a variety of topics

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

This page is part of an online course on Forensic Dual Relationships for 1 CE credit (CEU).

 

Table Of Contents

 

Below are direct quotes of some of the most relevant sections to the issue of forensic dual relationships as they appear in the different codes of ethics and professional guidelines

American Academy Of Psychiatry And The Law (AAPL)
Ethics Guidelines For The Practice Of Forensic Psychiatry at http://www.aapl.org/ethics.htm

Section IV. Honesty and Striving for Objectivity, parag. 7:
Psychiatrists who take on a forensic role for patients they are treating may adversely affect the therapeutic relationship with them. Forensic evaluations usually require interviewing corroborative sources, exposing information to public scrutiny, or subjecting evaluees and the treatment itself to potentially damaging cross-examination. The forensic evaluation and the credibility of the practitioner may also be undermined by conflicts inherent in the differing clinical and forensic roles. Treating psychiatrists should therefore generally avoid acting as an expert witness for their patients or performing evaluations of their patients for legal purposes.

Treating psychiatrists appearing as "fact" witnesses should be sensitive to the unnecessary disclosure of private information or the possible misinterpretation of testimony as "expert" opinion. In situations when the dual role is required or unavoidable (such as Workers' Compensation, disability evaluations, civil commitment, or guardianship hearings), sensitivity to differences between clinical and legal obligations remains important.

When requirements of geography or related constraints dictate the conduct of a forensic evaluation by the treating psychiatrist, the dual role may also be unavoidable; otherwise, referral to another evaluator is preferable.
 

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)
Code of Ethics, 2015

7.6 Avoiding Dual Roles.
Marriage and family therapists avoid providing therapy to clients for whom the therapist has provided a forensic evaluation and avoid providing evaluations for those who are clients, unless otherwise mandated by legal systems.

7.7 Separation of Custody Evaluation from Therapy.
Marriage and family therapists avoid conflicts of interest in treating minors or adults involved in custody or visitation actions by not performing evaluations for custody, residence, or visitation of the minor. Marriage and family therapists who treat minors may provide the court or mental health professional performing the evaluation with information about the minor from the marriage and family therapist's perspective as a treating marriage and family therapist, so long as the marriage and family therapist obtains appropriate consents to release information.

American Counseling Association (ACA)
Code of Ethics, 2014

E.13.c. Client Evaluation Prohibited. Counselors do not evaluate current or former clients, clients' romantic partners, or clients' family members for forensic purposes. Counselors do not counsel individuals they are evaluating.

E.13.d. Avoid Potentially Harmful Relationships. Counselors who provide forensic evaluations avoid potentially harmful professional or personal relationships with family members, romantic part- ners, and close friends of individuals they are evaluating or have evaluated in the past.

American Psychological Association - APA (2010)
Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct at http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/principles.pdf

2.01 Boundaries of Competence\
(a) Psychologists provide services, teach, and conduct research with populations and in areas only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience.

3.05 Multiple Relationships
A psychologist refrains from entering into a multiple relationship if the multiple relationship could reasonably be expected to impair the psychologist's objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing his or her functions as a psychologist, or otherwise risks exploitation or harm to the person with whom the professional relationship exists. (b) If a psychologist finds that, due to unforeseen factors, a potentially harmful multiple relationship has arisen, the psychologist takes reasonable steps to resolve it with due regard for the best interests of the affected person and maximal compliance with the Ethics Code.

3.06 Conflict of Interest
Psychologists refrain from taking on a professional role when personal, scientific, professional, legal, financial, or other interests or relationships could reasonably be expected to (1) impair their objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing their functions as psychologists or (2) expose the person or organization.
 

American Psychological Association (APA) (2009). Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings. Washington, D.C: Author
The guidelines specifically address the multiple relationships matter in custody issues:
http://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/child-custody.pdf

7. Psychologists strive to avoid conflicts of interest and multiple relationships in conducting evaluations.
Rationale.
The inherent complexity, potential for harm, and adversarial context of child custody evaluations make the avoidance of conflicts of interest particularly important. The presence of such conflicts will undermine the court's confidence in psychologists' opinions and recommendations, and in some jurisdictions may result in professional board discipline and legal liability.

Application.
Psychologists refrain from taking on a professional role, such as that of a child custody evaluator, when personal, scientific, professional, legal, financial, or other interests or relationships could reasonably be expected to result in (1) impaired impartiality, competence, or effectiveness; or (2) exposure of the person or organization with whom the professional relationships exists to harm or exploitation (Ethics Code 3.06). Subject to the same analysis are multiple relationships, which occur when psychologists in a professional role with a person are simultaneously in another role with that person, when psychologists are in a relationship with another individual closely associated with or related to that person, or when psychologists promise to enter into another future relationship with that person or with another individual closely associated with or related to that person (Ethics Code 3.05). Psychologists conducting a child custody evaluation with their current or prior psychotherapy clients, and psychologists conducting psychotherapy with their current or prior child custody examinees, are both examples of multiple relationships. Psychologists' ethical obligations regarding conflicts of interest and multiple relationships provide an explainable and understandable basis for declining court appointments and private referrals.

American Psychology Association-Law Society,
Division 41 of the American Psychological Association (APA), Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology
The 2011 American Psychological Association's (APA) SPECIALTY GUIDELINES FOR FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY clearly states:

4.02.01 Therapeutic-Forensic Role Conflicts
Providing forensic and therapeutic psychological services to the same individual or closely related individuals involves multiple relationships that may impair objectivity and/or cause exploitation or other harm. Therefore, when requested or ordered to provide either concurrent or sequential forensic and therapeutic services, forensic practitioners are encouraged to disclose the potential risk and make reasonable efforts to refer the request to another qualified provider. If referral is not possible, the forensic practitioner is encouraged to consider the risks and benefits to all parties and to the legal system or entity likely to be impacted, the possibility of separating each service widely in time, seeking judicial review and direction, and consulting with knowledgeable colleagues. When providing both forensic and therapeutic services, forensic practitioners seek to minimize the potential negative effects of this circumstance (EPPCC Standard 3.05).

American Academy Of Psychiatry And The Law (AAPL)
Ethics Guidelines For The Practice Of Forensic Psychiatry: Section IV. Honesty and Striving for Objectivity, parag. 7

Psychiatrists who take on a forensic role for patients they are treating may adversely affect the therapeutic relationship with them. Forensic evaluations usually require interviewing corroborative sources, exposing information to public scrutiny, or subjecting evaluees and the treatment itself to potentially damaging cross-examination. The forensic evaluation and the credibility of the practitioner may also be undermined by conflicts inherent in the differing clinical and forensic roles. Treating psychiatrists should therefore generally avoid acting as an expert witness for their patients or performing evaluations of their patients for legal purposes.

Treating psychiatrists appearing as "fact" witnesses should be sensitive to the unnecessary disclosure of private information or the possible misinterpretation of testimony as "expert" opinion. In situations when the dual role is required or unavoidable (such as Workers' Compensation, disability evaluations, civil commitment, or guardianship hearings), sensitivity to differences between clinical and legal obligations remains important.

When requirements of geography or related constraints dictate the conduct of a forensic evaluation by the treating psychiatrist, the dual role may also be unavoidable; otherwise, referral to another evaluator is preferable.

Association of Family and Conciliation Coursts (AFCC)
Guidelines for Court-Involved Therapy (CIT)

GUIDELINE 4: MULTIPLE RELATIONSHIPS
4.1 The CIT should avoid serving simultaneously in multiple roles, particularly if these create a conflict of interest. For example, the CIT should not serve simultaneously as therapist and evaluator or as therapist and friend. Similarly, the CIT is strongly discouraged from performing different roles sequentially, as, for example, a therapist who becomes an evaluator or a therapist who becomes a parenting coordinator.

4.2 The CIT should disclose to all relevant parties any multiple relationships that cannot be avoided and the potential negative impact of such multiple roles.

(a) The CIT who discovers that he/she is performing multiple roles in a case should promptly seek to resolve any conflicts in a manner that is least harmful to the client and family. The CIT should clarify the expectations of each role and seek to avoid or minimize the negative impact of assuming multiple roles.

(b) The CIT should recognize that relationships with clients are not time limited and that prior relationships, or the anticipation of future relationships, may have an adverse effect on the CIT's ability to be objective.

(c) The CIT should attempt to avoid conflicts of interest and should address them as soon as they arise, or the potential for conflict becomes known, by:

(1) Identifying a real or apparent conflict of interest as soon as it becomes known to the CIT.

(2) Refusing to assume a therapeutic role if personal, professional, legal, financial or other interests or relationships could reasonably be expected to impair objectivity, competence or effectiveness in the provision of services.

(3) Communicating with the client or potential client or counsel, and, if necessary, with the Court, about the existence of the conflict.

(4) Recognizing that the appearance of a conflict of interest, as well as an actual conflict of interest, can diminish public trust and confidence both in the therapeutic service and in the Court.

(5) Differentiating between conflicts that require declining to assume or withdrawing from the therapeutic role, as opposed to multiple or sequential roles that may be undertaken with waivers from the client or parent.

(6) Recognizing the risks of undertaking conflicting roles, even if the client or parent signs a waiver.

(7) Clearly documenting the disclosure of any waived conflict, the client's ability to understand it, and the client's waiver. The client must receive a clear explanation of the conflict, and it may also be necessary to provide such explanations to other professionals or agencies relying on the therapist's work or information.


California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT)
Code of Ethics, 2011

8. Responsibility to Legal System
8.1 TESTIMONY: Marriage and family therapists who give testimony in legal proceedings testify truthfully and avoid making misleading statements

8.2 EXPERT WITNESSES: Marriage and family therapists who act as expert witnesses base their opinions and conclusions on appropriate data, and are careful to acknowledge the limits of their data or conclusions in order to avoid providing misleading testimony or reports.

8.3 CONFLICTING ROLES: Whenever possible, marriage and family therapists avoid performing conflicting roles in legal proceedings and disclose any potential conflicts. At the outset of the service to be provided and as changes occur, marriage and family therapists clarify role expectations and the extent of confidentiality to prospective clients, to the courts, or to others as appropriate.

8.4 DUAL ROLES: Marriage and family therapists avoid providing both treatment and evaluations for the same clients or treatment units in legal proceedings such as child custody, visitation, dependency, or guardianship proceedings, unless otherwise required by law or initially appointed pursuant to court order.

8.5 IMPARTIALITY: Marriage and family therapists, regardless of their role in a legal proceeding, remain impartial and do not compromise their professional judgment or integrity.

8.6 MINORS AND PRIVILEGE: Marriage and family therapists confirm the holder of the psychotherapist patient privilege on behalf of minor clients prior to releasing information or testifying.

8.7 OPINIONS ABOUT PERSONS NOT EVALUATED: Marriage and family therapists shall only express professional opinions about clients they have treated or examined. Marriage and family therapists, when expressing professional opinions, specify the limits of the information upon which their professional opinions are based. Such professional opinions include, but are not limited to, mental or emotional conditions or parenting abilities.

8.8 CUSTODY EVALUATORS: Marriage and family therapists who are custody evaluators (private or court-based) or special masters provide such services only if they meet the requirements established by pertinent laws, regulations, and rules of court.

8.9 CONSEQUENCES OF CHANGES IN THERAPIST ROLES: Marriage and family therapists inform the patient or the treatment unit of any potential consequences of therapist-client role changes. Such role changes include, but are not limited to, child's therapist, family's therapist, couple's therapist, individual's therapist, mediator, evaluator, and special master.

8.10 FAMILIARITY WITH JUDICIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE RULES: Marriage and family therapists, when assuming forensic roles, are or become familiar with the judicial and administrative rules governing their roles.

National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
Code of Ethics, 2008

1.06 Conflicts of Interest .... Social workers who anticipate a conflict of interest among the individuals receiving services or who anticipate having to perform in potentially conflicting roles (for example, when a social worker is asked to testify in a child custody dispute or divorce proceedings involving clients) should clarify their role with the parties involved and take appropriate action to minimize any conflict of interest.

National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
Code of Ethics, 2012

55. NCCs shall not provide forensic evaluation services concerning current or past clients or client's family members. Also, NCCs shall not provide forensic evaluation services regarding their own family members, friends or professional associates.

 
Further resources on the forensic multiple relationships:

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