Code of ethics of psychologists

Psychology is a scientific discipline and a generally socio-health profession which is practiced by a large number of professionals around the world.

The exercise of our profession is complex and we generally deal with the very intimate and personal aspects of the patients or users who come to the consultation. We have a responsibility as professionals to our patients or users, and many aspects must be taken into account if we are to provide quality service.

In this sense, in addition, there must be general principles and rules for all psychologists to practice safely both for the user and for the psychologist himself, while respecting the rights and obligations he has as a professional. These rules have been compiled by the official colleges of psychologists into one Code of ethics of psychologists, Which we will talk about throughout this article.

Code of ethics: what is it and what is it for?

It is understood as a code of ethics with all the rules, guidelines, criteria and guidelines that they must put into practice all the professionals dedicated to a specific profession, behind the provision of a unitary, ethical, responsible and professional service to the beneficiaries or clients of this profession. In other words, it is a document that sets out the main guidelines and rules that any professional must follow in order to be able to practice.

In the case of the code of ethics of the psychologist, it is based on the principles of coexistence and legality established by the State and on the basis of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both rights and duties of the professional, so as to make it possible to know what is the role of the psychologist in several fields and in relation to the various aspects specific to the profession and what its exercise involves.

It helps guide the professional and facilitate the development of psychology in a responsible, comprehensive and respectful manner with the rights and dignity of people. Thus, their compliance protects clients and their well-being, the profession and the professional himself by providing them with a common framework in which they can practice. Likewise, the rules stated therein are not mere suggestions but rules for the development of the practice of psychology as a profession. Failure to comply with this instruction may result in various sanctions, which may result in sanctions such as professional disqualification and in some cases even a criminal offense.

It should be noted that the code of ethics may vary slightly depending on the official college of psychologists that published it, although the basic content and in general the provisions and rules are the same. The code of ethics we will discuss in this article is that of the General Council of Official Colleges of Psychologists, from which all the others emanate. In it, a total of 61 articles are observed divided into eight standards or general scopes.

Main aspects on which the profession regulates

The professional practice of psychology is not simple, and many aspects and elements must be taken into account in order to be able to perform correctly the functions which correspond to this type of profession.

In this sense, the code of ethics organizes its articles around eight major rules or thematic blocks within which the various articles mentioned above would be broken down. These rules or sections would be as follows.

1. General principles

This blog or this section stipulates general rules of conduct and good practice for the psychologist, including work aimed at achieving the well-being and development of the client, The disposition and the treatment towards the patient and his rights, the confidentiality and its exceptions, the respect for the idiosyncrasy and the beliefs of the patient, the impartiality in the treatment, the search for the maximum benefit and the minimum harm for the client, the non-profit or profit-making purpose of his position in relation to the patient, the care and precaution at the time of the evaluation and the realization of the reports or the possible need of collaboration with another professional of the same or of other socio-health fields.

2. Professional competence and relationships with other professionals

This second major section of the code of ethics is notit informs you about the main duties and rights of the psychologist as a professional, the need for adequate training (What must be pursued) and recognize the very limits of its competence. It also stipulates the need to use proven and validated methods, or to warn the patient beforehand of the non-contrast of the technique to be used.

Other aspects that include the custody of reports and instruments used, or in case it is necessary, contact with other professionals competent in other socio-health fields. The right to respect for one’s own professional activity and that of other colleagues is also valued.

3. Intervention

The third of the blocks of the code of ethics is dedicated to guide and guide the professional on how the type of intervention to be performed should be and the assessment of how it can be used. So if you keep in mind that you should avoid services which are known to be misused.

They also indicate the non-extension of the intervention when the professional or the techniques used are unproductive, the possible referral to another professional, the determination of whether and to whom the problems and aspects treated in consultation must be communicated (eg: parents or lawyers). guardians in the case of minors or legally incapable persons) or the non-interruption or boycott of the interventions of other professionals.

It also stipulates the need not to give rise to confusing situations as to the role of the professional, not to take advantage of the situation of power which can confer his own status for his own benefit, to favor the autonomy of the professional. Patient even if he wishes to leave or try with another professional (however, the psychologist may refuse to perform a simultaneous intervention, which on the other hand may be detrimental or confusing for the patient) or the use of truthful data in cases where you are obliged to give advice.

4. Research and teaching

Outside of the clinic, a psychologist can also work as a researcher or teacher. In this sense, the code of ethics states the need to seek scientific and professional progress with research that follows the scientific method and with a teaching in which he can impart this knowledge.

It also stipulates the need for explicit permission from patients or legal guardians in the event that clinical data is to be used, as well as to avoid causing unnecessary or irreversible damage, even to avoid further damage.

Research should be conducted with respect for personal dignity and as far as possible to avoid harm or suffering, whether the research is carried out on people or animals. In those where aversive stimuli such as minor electric shocks are to occur, subjects should have clearly given their consent without any coercion and in complete freedom, knowing in advance what to do. If you wish to quit the research or the experiment, the subject can do so at any time.

5. Obtaining and using information

A very relevant aspect of the profession is confidentiality: Patients, clients or users provide the psychologist with very sensitive information about their life, what they have experienced, their emotions, their thoughts, their hopes and their plans. In this sense, the fifth section of the code of ethics of the psychologist establishes the need to scrupulously respect the right to privacy, seeking only the information deemed necessary and aimed at improving the client’s situation.

Professional secrecy must be maintained except in cases of force majeure or by court decision (or by parents or legal guardians, in the case of minors or persons disabled). The subject must also be able if he wishes to know the content of any report that is made and issued as long as it does not endanger the subject or the professional. The requested data can only be communicated to third parties with the consent of the patient.

In the case of the use of clinical data for educational or informational purposes, this must be done in such a way that it is not possible to identify the patient from whom you are leaving (unless the object of your consent explicitly for it).

At the teaching level, it is also stipulated that the presence of practitioners or students will only be possible with the consent of the client. If the patient dies, stops attending or disappears, the professional will remain subject to professional secrecy.

6. Advertising

As a profession, psychologists must also advertise and market themselves to attract patients or clients. In this way the code of ethics establishes the need to adjust their conduct in such a way as to preserve the integrity of the profession and professional secrecy..

It is also stipulated that the award of a diploma not possessed is a serious violation, as well as deceptive diplomas. If you use a pseudonym, the professional must declare it to the General Council of Official Colleges of Psychologists. It is also established that the professional of psychology can participate in counseling campaigns at the cultural, educational, health, professional or social level.

7. Fees and remuneration

The salary or remuneration that a psychologist will obtain with his services is an aspect which, although it depends to a large extent on the professional’s decision, is also taken into consideration in the code of ethics.

In this way it is specified that the fees invoiced by the professional must be informed in advance to the clientBesides the fact that it is not possible to receive remuneration for referrals to other professionals. The official colleges offer guidance criteria, but as long as it is not a question of denigrating the profession or engaging in unfair competition, the price in question is set by the professional.

8. Procedural guarantees

The last major part of the code of ethics is devoted to procedural guarantees. Thus, in this section we observe articles that stipulate the need to report violations of the rules of the code of ethics to the ethics commission (after which the governing board will proceed to the adoption of the concurrent resolution).

Another element to underline, typical of article 59, is that the General Council of the official colleges of psychologists guarantees the defense of the professionals attacked or threatened in the exercise of their functions, by defending the dignity and the independence of the psychologist. It is also specified that the rules provided for by the code of ethics imply a formal commitment to society and are part of the legal system.

It should be noted, in article 61, the fact that if in a specific case some of these rules come into conflict with each other, the professional must resolve conscientiously and inform the school’s ethics committee as well. in which it is registered that the various stakeholders.

Some of the most relevant basic principles

Each article of the code of ethics is relevant to the professional practice of the psychologist. however, perhaps the most important are the general principles, among which, as mentioned above, following a series of basic guidelines for good practice as a psychologist..

We first find the need to seek the maximum benefit and not maleficence. This implies that the professional practice of psychology focuses primarily on the promotion, protection and improvement to the extent possible of the well-being and autonomy of the client. With respect to non-maleficence, this notion refers to the fact that the research must not lead to the cause of harm to the client either by action or by omission of the client. This is not to say that the treatments or therapies do not involve working at an emotional level which can be partly aversive, but it does prevent damage in the process.

Another of the basic principles of the code of ethics is the responsibility of the professional in the development of his profession, taking into account the obligations and rights at his disposal and specifying the need to comply with the rules of ethics, as well as training continues in order to provide the best possible service.

In addition, integrity and honesty in dealing with the patient or user is necessary, seeking a sincere contact in which there are no deceptions, frauds, omissions or reckless practices or unfounded.

Another of the main elements is impartiality and justice: the psychologist must practice his profession without discrimination based on sex, age, sex, sexual orientation, abilities, language, religion, race, socio-economic level or other reasons. This does not imply, however, that there is no right to derive if the case in question is not within our jurisdiction or that we consider that we cannot offer the user impartial and fair treatment. . It is also a fundamental requirement the ability not to judge or criticize the patient regardless of his condition or situation.

finally the practice of psychology is subject to the law in force, And rights such as confidentiality, privacy, decision-making / autonomy must be respected

Bibliographical references:

  • Official College of Psychologists of Spain. (2010). Code of ethics. Available at:

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