Professional Organizations' Codes of Ethics
On Gifts in Psychotherapy & Counseling

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

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) – (2015)

Standard III, Professional Competence and Integrity, states:
3.9 Gifts.Marriage and family therapists attend to cultural norms when considering whether to accept gifts from or give gifts to clients. Marriage and family therapists consider the potential effects that receiving or giving gifts may have on clients and on the integrity and efficacy of the therapeutic relationship.

American Counseling Association (ACA) – (2014)

Section A.10.f., states:
Counselors understand the challengesof accepting gifts from clients and recognize that in some cultures, small gifts are a token of respect and gratitude. When determining whether to accept a gift from clients, counselors take into account the therapeutic relationship, the monetary value of the gift, the client’s motivation for giving the gift, and the counselor’s motivation for wanting to accept or decline the gift.

American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) Codes of Ethics – (2020)

E. Record Keeping, Fee Arrangements, and Bartering
2. Fee Arrangements, Bartering, and Gifts

CMHCs are cognizant of cultural norms in relation to fee arrangements, bartering, and gifts. CMHCs clearly explain to clients, early in the counseling relationship, all financial arrangements related to counseling.

  • a. CMHCs usually refrain from accepting goods or services from clients in return for counseling services, because such arrangements may create the potential for conflicts, exploitation, and distortion of the professional relationship. However, bartering may occur if the client requests it, there is no exploitation, and the cultural implications and other concerns of such practice are discussed with the client and agreed on in writing.
  • b. CMHCs are encouraged to contribute to society by providing pro bono, volunteer, or reduced rate/sliding scale services when feasible.
  • c. When accepting gifts, CMHCs take into consideration the therapeutic relationship, motivation of giving, the counselor’s motivation for receiving or declining, cultural norms, and the value of the gift.

California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) – (2019)

5.8 GIFTS:
Marriage and family therapists carefully consider the clinical and cultural implications of giving and receiving gifts or tokens of appreciation. Marriage and family therapists take into account the value of the gift, the effect on the therapeutic relationship, and the client/patient and the psychotherapist’s motivation for giving, receiving, or declining, the gift.

4.3 UNETHICAL DUAL/MULTIPLE RELATIONSHIPS:
Acts that could result in unethical dual relationships include, but are not limited to, borrowing money from a client/patient, hiring a client/patient, or engaging in a business venture with a patient…

7.1 MAINTAINING PROFESSIONAL BOUNDARIES WITH SUPERVISEES AND STUDENTS:
…Provision of therapy to students or supervisees over whom the supervisor or educator exercise professional authority is unethical and provision of marriage and family therapy supervision to clients/patients is also unethical. Other acts which are likely to be unethical include, but are not limited to, borrowing money from a supervisee, engaging in a business venture with a supervisee…

7.12 BARTERING WITH SUPERVISEES:
Marriage and family therapists ordinarily refrain from accepting goods or services from supervisees in return for services rendered due to the potential for conflicts, exploitation, and/ or distortion of the professional relationship. Bartering should only be considered and conducted if the supervisee requests it, the bartering is not otherwise exploitive or detrimental to the supervisory relationship, and it is negotiated without coercion. Marriage and family therapists are responsible to ensure that such arrangements are not exploitive and that a clear written agreement is created. Marriage and family therapists are encouraged to consider relevant social and/or cultural implications of bartering including whether it is an accepted practice among professionals within the community.

12.5 BARTERING:
Marriage and family therapists ordinarily refrain from accepting goods or services from clients/ patients in return for services rendered due to the potential for conflicts, exploitation, and/or distortion of the professional relationship. Bartering should only be considered and conducted if the client/patient requests it, the bartering is not otherwise exploitive or detrimental to the therapeutic relationship, and it is negotiated without coercion. Marriage and family therapists are responsible to ensure that such arrangements are not exploitive and that a clear written agreement is created. Marriage and family therapists are encouraged to consider relevant social and/or cultural implications of bartering including whether it is an accepted practice among professionals within the community.

9.5 PRO BONO SERVICES:
Marriage and family therapists are encouraged to participate in activities that contribute to a better community and society, including devoting a portion of their professional activity to services for which there is little or no financial return.

National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) – (2016)

Principle I: I-11 Multiple/Dual Relationships states:
Addiction Professionals shall make every effort to avoid multiple relationships with a client. When a dual relationship is unavoidable, the professional shall take extra care so that professional judgment is not impaired and there is no risk of client exploitation. Such relationships include, but are not limited to, members of the Provider’s immediate or extended family, business associates of the professional, or individuals who have a close personal relationship with the professional or the professional’s family. When extending these boundaries, Providers take appropriate professional precautions such as informed consent, consultation, supervision, and documentation to ensure that their judgment is not impaired and no harm occurs. Consultation and supervision shall be documented.

National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) – (2016)

NCCs shall not accept gifts from clients except in cases when it is culturally appropriate or therapeutically relevant because of the potential confusion that may arise. NCCs shall consider the value of the gift and the effect on the therapeutic relationship when contemplating acceptance. This consideration shall be documented in the client’s record.

The following professional associations’ Codes Of Ethics DO NOT mention “gifts” in their texts:

American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABE) – (2006)
American Psychological Association (APA) – (2016)
Association of State And Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) – (2018)
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) – (2007)
Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) – (2000)
National Association of Social Workers (NASW) – (2017)
Northamerican Association of Masters in Psychology (NAMP) – (2000)

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