APA has a 50-year history of developing, revising and adopting a code of ethics that strives to reflect the values of its members, the moral growth of the discipline and the needs of society. The publication in this issue of the Monitor of a draft revision of the "Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct" is part of the continuing process of obtaining feedback on the aspirational and practical aspects of ethical decisions made by members of the profession, according to Celia B. Fisher, PhD, director of Fordham University's Center for Ethics Education and chair of the Ethics Code Task Force (ECTF), the group appointed by the Ethics Committee to draft a proposed revision.
The task force was appointed in 1996 to represent a range of practice, teaching and research settings and activities, as well as the individual diversity characteristics of APA membership. This draft for member and public comment was reviewed by the Ethics Committee and the Board of Directors. The ECTF will make further revisions to this draft based upon comments and will submit the resulting draft for review and action by the Council of Representatives. Submission to Council is planned for 2002.
In addition to Fisher, the members of the ECTF are: Bruce E. Bennett, PhD; Dennis J. Grill, PhD.; Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD; Samuel J. Knapp, EdD; Peter E. Nathan, PhD; Thomas D. Oakland, PhD; Julia M. Ramos-Grenier, PhD; Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD; Mary H. Quigley, JD (public member); Gerald P. Koocher, PhD (representing the Board of Directors); Brian L. Wilcox, PhD (representing the Council of Representatives); Abigail B. Sivan, PhD (representing the Ethics Committee); and Nabil El-Ghoroury, MA (representing the American Psychological Association of Graduate StudentsAPAGS).
Over the past three years the ECTF has obtained member feedback through numerous calls for comment on the current Ethics Code (APA Monitor, JanuaryAugust 1998), a survey of critical incidents; articles in the Monitor that provided information and invited comment (July/August 1999 and July/August 2000); articles in the APAGS newsletter (Winter 1999); open discussions with audience participation at the convention; and contacts with APA boards, committees, divisions, state and provincial psychological associations and state licensure boards. Over 600 comments have been received, including 270 descriptions of critical ethical incidents. Each comment has been individually reviewed and given careful consideration by the ECTF.
The current draft includes many of the innovations introduced in the 1992 APA Ethics Code. It is organized with an introduction, a preamble, a set of broadly worded aspirational principles reflecting the underlying values and ideals of the discipline, followed by standards that specifically describe behaviors required and prohibited by the profession. The standards are organized into six general sections on Resolving Ethical Issues, Competence, Human Relations, Privacy and Confidentiality, Advertising and other Public Representations, and Record Keeping and Fees. These are followed by five specific sections on Teaching and Training Supervision, Research and Publication, Assessment, Therapy and Forensic Activities. Many standards in the revision draft are similar in content to standards in the 1992 Ethics Code. The ECTF has scrutinized each standard with respect to its relevance to emerging and evolving concerns in psychology, including relationships with managed-care companies and telehealth issues and use of electronic media. Significant additions or revisions appear in standards on informed consent, mandatory individual or group therapy in graduate programs, prohibitions against sexual intimacies with students and supervisees and with relatives of current therapy clients/patients, the release of test data, providing services in emergencies and to underserved populations, terminating the professional relationship, publication credit and the use of interpreters.
ECTF members, says Fisher, "are committed to producing a revision of the Ethics Code that reflects the fundamental values of our profession and that facilitates and does not impede the responsible practice of psychology."
"The task is a difficult one," she adds, "and comments and suggestions from members and the public are critical to the success of our mission."Stanley E. Jones, PhD, is the former director of APA's Ethics Office.