Is it enough to know and follow the AAMFT Code of Ethics? Why or why not?
Yes, it is enough to know and follow American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) code of ethics. AAMFT codes of ethics set standard for the ethical practice in the therapeutic profession which guides the conducts of therapists. Typically, AAMFT ethical standard defines the professional expectations that marriage and family therapists should follow, and AAMFT code of ethics covers all aspects of therapeutic practice which include responsibility of a therapist to clients and the confidentiality of client information which a therapist should respect at all time. While both law and ethics govern the practices of marriage and family therapists, however, AAMFT code of ethics is an essential tool that a marriage and family therapist must consult when making decision regarding the professional practice.
In addition, AAMFT code of ethics sets a guideline that professional marriage and family therapists should follow when they are uncertain about a particular course of action. Although, a therapist may consult an attorney with the issue they are uncertain about, however, the AAMFT is very comprehensive enough to guide therapist in their professional conducts. AAMFT provides information on "both law and ethics govern the practice of marriage and family therapy," and it is critical for a marriage and family therapist to follow AAMFT Code of Ethics as well as the applicable laws and regulations when making decision regarding the professional practice.
Another major reason for arguing the AAMFT code of ethics is enough for the professional practice is that the code of ethics in other marriage and family counseling association are similar with the AAMFT code of ethics. For example, with regard to sexual relationship with clients, AAMFT states that sexual intimacy with the clients is prohibited. Similarly, American Counseling Association states "sexual or romantic counselor-relationship with current clients and their romantic partner or their family members are prohibited."(Wilcoxon et al. 2007 P. 45). American Psychology Association also states that sexual intimacy with clients is prohibited. International Association of Marriage and Family Counselor also echoes similar ethical code by stating that marriage and family counselors must not manipulate the clients for personal gain. From the explanation of the code of ethics from all the association mentioned, it is revealed that their code of ethics is similar. Thus, AAMFT codes of ethics are enough to guide therapists about the professional conduct.
There are other reasons that make this paper arguing AAMFT Code of Ethics is enough for a therapist to follow. For example, AAMFT Code of Ethics covers wide principles that could assist therapists in their therapeutic practice. AAMFT code of ethics also guides marriage and family therapists about their responsibilities towards the clients. AAMFT code of ethics also assists therapists to understand their professional role towards the clients especially with regards to the protection of clients personal information. Moreover, AAMFT code of ethics guides therapists in their professional competence and integrity. The AAMFT code of ethics also enhances greater understanding of therapists on the issue of their competence. It is very critical for therapists to improve their knowledge and development through training, education and professional experience. AAMFT also enhances greater understanding of therapists about the method they should use in adhering to the local laws and ethics as well as professional standards. Typically, AAMFT code of ethics is designed to protect the therapists from the government as well as assisting the professionals in dealing with the potential dangers that might have arisen during professional practice. AAMFT code of ethics also protects professionals from the public, and a professional who acts in accordance with the ethical professional codes and practice will have some protection if sued for malpractice. (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.2011).
2. What principles guiding your ethical decision making process? Give an example of a specific issue and how you would address it.
The principles guiding my ethical decision making process as a follows:
The principle I, which provides the responsibility of marriage and family therapists to clients, is one of the principles guiding my ethical making decision process. The principle I reveals that it is the responsibility of a marriage and family therapist to use his or her service appropriately. Additionally, most of my ethical decision making process is being followed by the principle II that discusses that confidentiality is an important ethical consideration. Client confidentiality is very critical in the therapeutic practice, and since a client will need to divulge his or her personal information to a therapist, it is very critical to protect the client personal information from the third party. Thus, protection of clients personal information always enhance my decision making process.
Principle III is also very important in the therapeutic practice and it always guides my ethical decision making process. Principle III discusses about the professional competence and integrity since it is very important for a therapist to uphold the professional competence and integrity. For example, the principle III states that therapists should not diagnose clients outside their area of their competence. Since violation of the code might lead to the termination of professional membership, I always let the principle III guides my ethical decision making process.
Finally, principle VI, that indicates responsibility to profession, also guides my decision making process. This principle states that marriage and family therapists are to participate and contribute to the development of the community and society, and contribution to the therapeutic publication could improve the development of the society. Typically, it is critical to educate the community and the society, and an effective method for therapists to contribute their own quota towards the development of community and society is to contribute to the therapeutic publication, and this scholarly contribution could enhance greater understanding of the society about management of their families and marriages.
3. As a therapist, what responsibilities do you have to your clients and how should you fulfill them?
From Principle 1 of AAMFT Code of Ethics, there are responsibilities that a marriage and family therapist has to clients. One of the responsibilities is to respect the rights of the people seeking professional assistance, and a therapist should not discriminate a client with regard to his or her age, race, socioeconomic status, gender, disability, religion, ethnicity, disability, national origin, or sexual orientation. Moreover, a therapist has a responsibility to communicate with clients in a reasonable and understandable language. Effective and understandable communication is very critical in therapeutic practice. Through effective and understandable communication, a therapist will be able to diagnose clients effectively. Thus, therapists have the responsibility to communicate with clients in a simple and understandable language.
Depending on the nature of clients' treatment plan, a therapist must adequately inform clients about the following information:
1) The significant effects about the treatment process and procedure
2) Potential benefits and risks of the treatments and the generally recognized standards which have not yet exist.
Wilcoxon et al. (2007) argues that it is part of the responsibilities of a marriage and family therapist to provide competent professional service with regard to the client welfare. The development of new skills, education and training, or professional experience is critical for therapists. Through training and education, a professional therapist should be able to understand that he or she has a responsibility to protect clients from possible harms. For example, marriage and family therapists should be aware that they have ability to alter the life of others, and it is their responsibilities to exercise great cares when making public recommendations or public statements.
A marriage and family therapist also has the responsibility to avoid multiple and conditions relationship with clients which could increase the risk of exploitation. Relationships which include business or close personal relationships with client immediate family should be avoided. In addition, a marriage and family therapist has the responsibility to avoid sexual intimacy with clients. Typically, sexual intimacy is prohibited two years after the termination of the therapy or professional contact. The AAMFT principle also guides against a therapist exploiting the trust and dependency of clients. In case of sexual intimacy with former client after two years, it is the responsibility of a therapist to ensure that there is no exploitation or injury to the former clients or to the client immediate family. Part of the responsibility of a marriage and family therapists is to enhance confidentiality in the professional practice. A therapist must protect all the client personal information because a client has a right to confidentiality. When a therapist decides to disclose personal information of a client to a third part based on the client circumstances, a marriage and family therapist should seek for the advice of a legal counsel. Wilcoxon et al. (2007) argues that
"confidentiality is the ethical responsibility required of all national counseling organizations and some state that licensing board that nothing disclosed within the counseling session will be revealed to another person without the client's expressed consent." (P 61).