Important fundamentals and state by state codes of conduct
This article offers important guidance on some frequently encountered ethical issues – competency, informed consent, confidentiality, and conflicts of interest – and provides resources for you to learn more about professional ethics in your state. As a SonderMind network professional, you are expected to conduct yourself with the highest conduct professionally and ethically. Unethical conduct may result in termination from the SonderMind network. It may also result in discipline from your licensing board. Penalties may range from fines to license revocation.
Codes of Ethics
Here are links and citations to the codes of conduct enacted by your local regulatory/licensing board. Boards may also rely on ethical codes developed by professional associations.
Providers only practice within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, credentials, and appropriate professional experience. Specialty areas of practice may require additional education, training, credentials, and experience. Some pointers:
Providers must obtain informed consent before engaging in treatment. Informed consent requirements can vary by state, mode of therapy (telehealth vs. in-person), and the client's age (minor vs. adult). Check with your local board for age of consent requirements. Also, see "What Disclosures Do I Need to Provide?." Informed consent may require addressing the following issues:
Confidentiality, the Duty to Warn, and the Duty to Protect
In general, behavioral health providers should keep all the content of therapy sessions strictly confidential. When you treat a client – either in person or via telehealth – make sure the space is private and secure to protect confidentiality. (See Tips for office design; Online therapy home office set up).
There are only two instances when a provider may reveal a client's confidential information: (1) when you have the client's permission, and (2) when you are subject to mandatory or permissive reporting laws.
You may be required to report a client when you believe a client is a danger to themself or others. A provider may also need to write an emergency mental health hold for a client in imminent danger of self-harm and give it to the police or EMS when they arrive. Therapists should not transport clients to a crisis or emergency facility in their personal vehicles.
Keep in mind that mandatory reporting laws vary by state and profession. While some states require providers to warn others when there is a risk of harm or danger, other states allow providers to decide what to do. Some states forbid any breach of confidentiality. There are also separate reporting requirements for minors subject to harm and abuse. Here is a 50 state survey of duty to warn laws in mental health. Check with your local board and legal counsel for specific requirements and up-to-date information.
Conflicts of Interest
Providers should avoid a conflict of interest. Even the appearance of a conflict of interest can weaken the efficacy of treatment and harm the client. Here are some common conflicts to watch out for:
Treating clients with opposing beliefs to your own may also create a conflict of interest. Consider being transparent about your beliefs and practices if a client inquires about these.
Professionalism and Boundaries
Read up on creating boundaries to maintain professional relationships with clients here .
How to Resolve Ethical Issues?
**Disclaimer: This document is intended for educational purposes only. Please check with your legal counsel or state licensing board for specific requirements.
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