Ethics Training for Mental Health Providers

For mental health providers, ethics training is crucial to ensure that you offer the best care to your patients and clients. As technology and laws change, so does our understanding of people, the therapeutic relationship, and ethics training.

Every profession has to have a strong ethic component. The way counselors and therapists interact with their clients is influenced by ethics. For mental health providers, having a strong understanding of ethics is important for maintaining healthy boundaries with yourself, other professionals, and clients as you work through some of life’s more difficult topics. For a brief explanation on ethics and an analysis of why ethics training is important to therapists, continue reading.

What Do We Mean by “Ethics?”

The term ethics is complex and can refer to many aspects of ethical conduct. The most relevant definitions of ethics from Merriam-Webster for our purposes are “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation” and “the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group.”

According to the American Psychology Association, The Ethics Code “provides a common set of principles and standards upon which psychologists build their professional and scientific work.” Its goals are “the welfare and protection of individuals and groups with whom psychologists work and the education of members, students, and the public regarding ethical standards of the discipline.”

The ultimate goal of ethics training is to ensure that you are familiar with the ethical principles that underlie psychotherapy and how to align your professional conduct with these principles.

How does ethics support psychology?

You must be able to apply ethical principles in a variety of settings as a mental health provider. That’s why many jurisdictions require psychotherapy practitioners to take continuing education courses in ethics. Through ethics training, you’ll grow in your understanding of how to weigh ethical issues in psychotherapy and what to do if you get stuck in the decision-making process.

You can practice psychotherapy ethically by staying current with best practices and ethical standards. Unprofessional behavior can lead to a loss of licensure or the possibility of losing the ability to practice.

Examples of unethical behavior

Many types of poor decision-making can be considered ethics violations. Here’s the scoop on four of the most common therapist ethics violations.

Dual Relationships

As a therapist, you should never have a client who is or becomes someone you share a personal relationship with (e.g.,  a family member, friend, or romantic relationship).

Breaking Confidentiality

Confidentiality is essential for building trust with clients; sharing private client information with another party without the client’s informed consent breaks that trust and violates ethical standards. Confidentiality covers everything from what you tell a friend over coffee to how secure your client files are kept.

Failure to End Therapy

If you do not end therapy with a client you are not in a position to help, whether that’s because you cannot give them the attention they need, you do not have the knowledge or expertise to address their concerns, or the client is no longer benefiting from therapy, you are not serving the client.

Practice without a License

It is unethical to offer psychotherapy without the credentials, such as a license or certification, that are required in the jurisdiction where you’re practicing. The licensing boards are a great place for you to start. It is each therapist’s responsibility to know the requirements that govern their practice and follow them.

Unethical Behaviors and their Impacts

You can avoid unethical behavior by taking ethics training for mental healthcare providers. This is important, as ethical violations by therapists can have a lasting effect on you and your clients.

Unethical behavior can cause harm to someone who has come seeking your help to address their problems. Clients are vulnerable due to the inherent imbalance of power within the therapeutic relationship. Your unethical choices can harm a client’s ability to trust (both in future therapy contexts and in their personal lives) and can cause them further psychological damage. Your client’s safety and support is assured by ethics training.

Staying compliant

Although most mental health professionals were required to take ethics courses as part of their certification, it is important for them to keep up-to-date and refresh their knowledge. Continuing education courses in ethics can be a great way to keep up to date and to stay current on the subject. Many jurisdictions require a minimum number of continuing education hours to be about ethics, and it’s easy to see why.

GoodTherapy offers continuing education courses in ethics. There are three options for accessing our continuing education courses. CE Only allows you purchase courses a la carte. CE Unlimited allows the purchase of unlimited courses. Premium and Pro membership options include a profile, unlimited access to CE courses, and other perks. Check out your options today.

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