Ways Therapy Practitioners Can Prevent Constant Ethical Errors


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Listen to the experts in ethics, and you’ll then say that the perfect defense against ethical issues is a great offense. By finding conceivable encounters and discussing them honestly with clients and colleagues, therapy practitioners can prevent the hurt emotions, misunderstandings, and messy scenarios that could result in trials before lawsuits, loss of professional license, and ethics boards. But being cautious does not signify that psychologists, therapists, and other mental health professionals must constantly worry about what and where the next ethical error will be.

Rather than fretting over how they can experience problems, therapists and other practitioners must consider ethics as a means of asking, “How can I improve and be the best in my practice?”

Several practitioners have been interviewed to discuss how they can avoid typical ethical pitfalls, including terminating treatment, multiple relationships, and confidentiality breaches. Below are some of the collective advice of therapists, psychologists, and other mental health practitioners on preventing constant ethical errors.

Safeguard Confidentiality

Therapists are often required to give information regarding their clients to their spouses, insurance companies, employers, and school personnel, among others. These requests could be well intended, but therapists should meticulously balance the release of details with their ethical responsibilities to safeguard their patient’s privacy. Certainly, because the public trusts in mental health practitioners’ promises of privacy, it is important for these practitioners to be clear on their reason to divulge information. Before releasing, ask yourself, “Why am I giving out this information?”

Understand What Makes Up A Multiple Relationship

An essential question in a multiple relationship scenario is, “Whose needs are being catered here?” If the answer is the therapist’s needs, then it’s time for the therapist to get consulted and take extra care. The Ethics Code states that therapists and other mental health practitioners must elude relationships that could logically destroy their professional performance or could damage the other party. Multiple relationships, however, that are not rationally expected to have such an impact are not immoral.

Be Aware Of Your Supervisory Obligations

Therapists may be accountable for the conduct and behaviors of those who work under them, whether or not it’s an intern performing or administrative personnel helping with billing and documentation. This means supervising therapists must progressively evaluate their supervisees’ efficiency and ensure they are dealing with them properly. Such supervision must include everything from making sure that their supervisees perform the informed-consent process appropriately to inhibiting them from utilizing the supervisor’s signature stamp on any letter or billing statement that the supervisor has not yet reviewed.

As commonly stated, ‘If it’s under your name, you are definitely responsible.”

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Determine Your Role And Your Client

When therapy practitioners work with groups or organizations, they must comprehend from the beginning who they were employed to assist and what the expectations are. Predicaments emerge in a range of settings. They can crop up in court, particularly when it’s clear that the therapist is there as an expert witness or activist for one party. Court-designated assessors must express objective and impartial opinions. Another scenario wherein predicaments might arise is during couple’s therapy. For instance, when one spouse wishes for a better marriage but the other is pushing for divorce, counselors must clarify from the start that they are not capable of deciding if the couple should be together or provide an opinion during a divorce trial.


Documentation could be a therapist’s best backup if he is ever confronted with ethical complaints. But lack of documentation – or documenting inappropriately – can be harmful.

A few specifics that are necessary for documenting therapeutic interactions based on the ethics and guidelines experts include significant history, risk factors, and attempts to retrieve previous treatment records, acknowledging information, informed-consent documentation, pertinent phone calls, and out-of-clinic contacts, and diagnostic evaluations, consultations, and treatment plans, among others.

Practice Within Your Expertise

Every mental health practitioner is aware that they are obliged to practice in the area where they are proficient. However, sometimes problems emerge when, for instance, they practice in developing regions with no clear-cut standards. The dilemma here comes if you are not aware that there are specific rules and standards from professional literature. Your intentions might be good, but perhaps you have not realized that you are going above the restrictions of your competence.

Competence concerns also arise in child-custody ethics when therapists, counselors, or psychologists are not well acquainted with the distinctions of working with the courts. Let’s take the example of a psychiatrist who is instructed to write a note to a judge about his patient and the patient’s parents. If the psychiatrist has no substantial knowledge in forensics, the psychiatrist could be in trouble ethically if she fails to note the restrictions of her opinions.

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Billing Must Be Precise

According to ethics experts, accuracy is crucial in billing insurers and patients for mental health services. Inaccurate bookkeeping can put mental health professionals in hot water, but others experience difficulties because they have worked to benefit patients.

Finally, there is one best technique that mental health practitioners can try to decrease their exposure to legal and ethical issues: to be the best mental health professional that you can be.