Codes of Ethics on Therapists' Impairment, Burnout and Self Care
By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.
For an online course on Therapists' Burnout for CE Credit, which is based partly on this web page, Click Here
This paper reviews the sections in the major psychotherapeutic professional organizations' code of ethics relating to burnout, impairment and self-care.
THE FOLLOWING CODES OF ETHICS ARE CITED: APA, NASW, ApA, ACA, AMHCA, AAMFT, CAMFT
ETHICAL PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGISTS AND CODE OF CONDUCT (APA) 2010:
2.06: Personal Problems and Conflicts
(a) Psychologists refrain from initiating an activity when they know or should know that there is a substantial likelihood that their personal problems will prevent them from performing their work-related activities in a competent manner.
(b) When psychologists become aware of personal problems that may interfere with their performing work-related duties adequately, they take appropriate measures, such as obtaining professional consultation or assistance, and determine whether they should limit, suspend, or terminate their work-related duties. (See also Standard 10.10, Terminating Therapy.)
CODE OF ETHICS OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS (NASW) 1999:
2.09: Impairment of Colleagues
(a) Social workers who have direct knowledge of a social work colleague's impairment that is due to personal problems, psychosocial distress, substance abuse, or mental health difficulties and that interferes with practice effectiveness should consult with that colleague when feasible and assist the colleague in taking remedial action.
(b) Social workers who believe that a social work colleague's impairment interferes with practice effectiveness and that the colleague has not taken adequate steps to address the impairment should take action through appropriate channels established by employers, agencies, NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies, and other professional organizations.
2.10: Incompetence of Colleagues
(a) Social workers who have direct knowledge of a social work colleague's incompetence should consult with that colleague when feasible and assist the colleague in taking remedial action.
(b) Social workers who believe that a social work colleague is incompetent and has not taken adequate steps to address the incompetence should take action through appropriate channels established by employers, agencies, NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies, and other professional organizations.
THE PRINCIPLES OF MEDICAL ETHICS WITH ANNOTATIONS ESPECIALLY APPLICABLE FOR PSYCHIATRY, 2010 EDITION:
Addendum 2: Questions & Answers About Procedures for Handling Complaints of Unethical Conduct
A physician shall uphold the standards of professionalism, be honest in all professional interactions and strive to report physicians deficient in character or competence, or engaging in fraud or deception to appropriate entities.
4. Special consideration should be given to those psychiatrists who, because of mental illness, jeopardize the welfare of their patients and their own reputations and practices. It is ethical, even encouraged, for another psychiatrist to intercede in such situations.
AMERICAN COUNSELING ASSOCIATION (ACA) CODE OF ETHICS AND STANDARD OF PRACTICE, 2005:
Counselors are alert to the signs of impairment from their own physical, mental, or emotional problems and refrain from offering or providing professional services when such impairment is likely to harm a client or others. They seek assistance for problems that reach the level of professional impairment, and, if necessary, they limit, suspend, or terminate their professional responsibilities until such time it is determined that they may safely resume their work. Counselors assist colleagues or supervisors in recognizing their own professional impairment and provide consultation and assistance when warranted with colleagues or supervisors showing signs of impairment and intervene as appropriate to prevent imminent harm to clients. (See A.11.b., F.8.b.)
C.2.h. Counselor Incapacitation or Termination of Practice
When counselors leave a practice, they follow a prepared plan for transfer of clients and files. Counselors prepare and disseminate to an identified colleague or "records custodian" a plan for the transfer of clients and files in the case of their incapacitation, death, or termination of practice.
AMERICAN MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELORS ASSOCIAION (AMHCA) CODE OF ETHICS, 2010
Principle 1. Consultant
Mental health counselors acting as consultants have a high degree of self-awareness of their own values, knowledge, skills and needs in entering a helping relationship that involves human and/or organizational change.
AMERICAN ASSOCIAION FOR MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS (AAMFT) CODE OF ETHICS, 2001
3.3 Marriage and family therapists seek appropriate professional assistance for their personal problems or conflicts that may impair work performance or clinical judgment.
3.15 Marriage and family therapists are in violation of this Code and subject to termination of membership or other appropriate action if they: (a) are convicted of any felony; (b) are convicted of a misdemeanor related to their qualifications or functions; (c) engage in conduct which could lead to conviction of a felony, or a misdemeanor related to their qualifications or functions; (d) are expelled from or disciplined by other professional organizations; (e) have their licenses or certificates suspended or revoked or are otherwise disciplined by regulatory bodies; (f) continue to practice marriage and family therapy while no longer competent to do so because they are impaired by physical or mental causes or the abuse of alcohol or other substances; or (g) fail to cooperate with the Association at any point from the inception of an ethical complaint through the completion of all proceedings regarding that complaint.
CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPITS (CAMFT), ETHICAL STANDARDS PART 1, 2008:
3.1 CONVICTION OF CRIME:
Marriage and family therapists are in violation of this Code and subject to termination of membership, or other appropriate action, if they: a) are convicted of a crime substantially related to their professional qualifications or functions; b) are expelled from or disciplined by other professional organizations; c) have licenses or certificates that are lapsed, suspended, or revoked or are otherwise disciplined by regulatory bodies; d) if they continue to practice when they are no longer competent to practice because they are impaired due to physical or mental causes or the abuse of alcohol or other substances; or e) fail to cooperate with the Association or the Ethics Committee at any point from the inception of an ethical complaint through the completion of all proceedings regarding that complaint.
Top of Page