The First Congress of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos (Official College of Psychologists) held in Madrid in May 1984, gave to the Governing Committee of the Official College of Psychologists the task of preparing a Code of Ethics for the Psychology Profession, on the basis of the preliminary document presented to the Congress by Professor Alfredo Fierro Bardají.
As a result of this commitment Working meetings for the preparation of the Code of Ethics for the Psychologist were held in Madrid on January the 16th and 17th,1987. The members of the Organising Committee were Juan Carlos Camarero Sánchez (President), Alejandro Avila Espada (ViceSecretary and Technical Secretary), Alfredo Fierro Bardají (member), Adolfo Hernández Gordillo (member), and Javier Mauleón Alvarez de Linera (member). Delegates or representatives of the following institutions were also present: Governing Committee of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos; Col.legiu Oficial de Psicblegs de Catalunya; delegations and sub-delegations of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos (Western Andalucía, Eastern Andalucía, Aragón, Balearic Islands, Galicia, Madrid, The North, Valencia, Tenerife, Extremadura and Murcia); University faculties of Psychology (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Universidad Central de Barcelona, Universidad de Valencia, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca); Sociedad Española de Rorschach y Métodos Proyectivos; Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría; Sociedad Española de Evaluación Psicológica; Asociación Española de Terapia del Comportamiento; Sociedad Española de Psicología; Asociación Psicoanalítica de Madrid.
Besides, many distinguished professionals took part. Among them were: Professor José Luis Pinillos Díaz and the Undersecretary for Justice, Liborio Hierro Sánchez-Pescador.
The meetings discussed numerous amendments and helped to prepare a new Proposal of the Code of Ethics for the Psychologist, which was submitted to public consultation during February 1987. After the consultation period, on March the 13th, 1987, the Commission -co-ordinated by Professor Alejandro Avila Espada, vice-president of the Governing Committee of Madrid Delegation- met again. The remaining members were Adolfo Hernández Gordillo, secretary to the National Governing Committee and president of the Governing Committee of the Madrid Delegation; Alfredo Fierro Bardají, member of the National Governing Committee; Javier Mauleón Alvarez de Linera, the College’s legal advisor; Lluis Maruny i Curtó, representative for the Col.legiu Oficial de Psicblegs de Catalunya; Antonio Sánchez Barranco, representative of Western Andalucía Delegation; Miguel Anxo García Alvarez, president of the Governing Committee for Galicia Delegation and Joan Huerta Pérez, president of the Governing Committee for Valencia Delegation. They examined each of the new amendments presented, deciding in each case whether to include it or not. The final text was presented to the Governing Committee of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos for ratification. In its meeting on May 22, 1987, the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos Governing Committee ratified the Code of Ethics for the Psychologist, and began a period of public consultation, study, development and improvement of the document. At the end of this process the Code was submitted to referendum in the General Assembly of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos on March, 27, 1993.
The Governing Committee wishes to publicly express its recognition of the meritorious work by Professors Alfredo Fierro Bardají and Alejandro Avila Espada, in preparing the previous draft and the final documents for this Code of Ethics for the Psychologist.
The Governing Committee of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos turned this Code into the Standards of Professional Conduct for all its members. At present, it has also been ratified by the following scientific organizations, extending it to their members: Sociedad Española de Psicología, Sociedad Española de Evaluación Psicológica, Asociación Española de Terapia del Comportamiento, Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría, Sociedad Española de Rorschach y Métodos Proyectivos; Sociedad Española para el Desarrollo del Grupo, la Psicoterapia y el Psicoanálisis.
This CODE OF ETHICS for the Psychology profession is intended to serve as a rule for professional conduct, for the exercise of Psychology in any of its modalities. The Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos has assumed it and will judge the professional practice of its members according to such standards.
The Psychologist’s work is governed, above all, by the principles of mutual tolerance and legality democratically established within the Spanish State.
In practising the profession, Psychologists must take into account the norms, both explicit and implicit, that govern the social environment in which they act, and should consider them as elements of the situation, evaluating the consequences that conformity to or deviation from these rules may have in their professional activities.
Psychologists must reject any kind of impediment or hindrance to their professional independence and to the legitimate practice of their profession, within the frame of rights and duties outlined in this Code.
I. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
The exercise of Psychology strives towards a human and social goal which can be expressed in terms of such aims as wellbeing, health, quality of life, full development of individuals and groups within the distinct scope of individual and social lives. As the Psychologist is not the only professional who pursues these humanitarian and social objectives, interdisciplinary collaboration with other professionals is convenient and in some cases essential, in spite of each one’s competence and knowledge.
The Psychology profession is governed by principles common to any professional deontology: respect for the individual, defence of human rights, sense of responsibility, honesty, sincerity with the client, prudent application of instruments and techniques, professional competence, firmness in the objective and scientific basis of their professional activities.
Psychologists must not, either on their own behalf or in collaboration with others, contribute to any practices that may violate individual liberty or physical or psychological integrity. Direct participation or cooperation in torture or maltreatment -apart from being a crime- is the gravest violation of the Psychologist’s professional ethics. They must never participate in any way, nor as researchers, or advisors, or in concealment, on the practice of torture, or any other cruel, inhuman and degrading practices, whoever the victims may be, and regardless of their crimes or the accusations or suspicions against them, or the information that might be obtainable from them, nor situations of armed conflict, civil war, revolution, terrorism or whatever other motivations may be offered as justification for such practices.
Every Psychologist must inform, at least, to the college bodies, about any violation of human rights, maltreatment, cruel, inhuman or degrading conditions of imprisonment of any person and about any such case they may learn of during the exercise of their profession.
Psychologists must respect the moral and religious beliefs of their clients, not allowing this to be a hindrance to any questioning that may be necessary in the course of his/her intervention.
In providing their services, Psychologists must never discriminate their clients on grounds of birth, age, race, sex, religious beliefs, ideology, nationality, social class or any other difference.
Psychologists must never -neither for their own benefit or profit nor for third parties ones’- take advantage of situations of power or superiority over their clients that may arise from the professional practice.
Especially in their written reports, Psychologists must be extremely cautious, prudent and critical with respect to ideas which can easily degenerate into derisory and discriminatory labels, such as normal/abnormal, adapted/maladapted and intelligent/deficient.
Psychologists must never manipulate procedures in order to get allocated the cases of specific individuals, nor should they act in a way which ensures an effective professional monopoly for them in a specific field. Psychologists in state institutions must not take advantage of their situation to obtain cases for their private practice.
Psychologists must not allow the use of their names or signatures by persons who may practice Psychology illegitimately without the necessary qualifications or preparation. Psychologists should report any cases of encroachment of which they become aware. Neither must they use their qualifications to cover for vainglorious or misleading activities.
When faced with a conflict between personal and institutional interests, psychologists must strive to act with the greatest impartiality. Providing their services in institutions does not exempt Psychologists from giving consideration, respect and attention to individuals who may come into conflict with the institution itself and for whom the psychologist, whenever it is legitimate, must be their protector before institutional authorities.
II. ON PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE AND RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER PROFESSIONALS
The professional duties and rights of the Psychologist are based on the principle of professional independence and autonomy, regardless of his/her position in the hierarchy of a specific organisation with respect to other higher-ranking professionals and authorities.
Psychologists’ professional authority is based on their capacity and qualifications for fulfilment of the tasks being appointed. The psychologist must be professionally trained and must have specialized knowledge of the application of the methods, instruments, techniques and procedures used in their work. The continuous effort to maintain their professional competence is part of their work. They must recognise both the limits of their competence and the limitations of their techniques.
Without prejudice to the current diversity of theories, schools and methods, psychologists must not use neither means nor methods which have not been sufficiently tested, within the bounds of current scientific knowledge. Clients must be informed beforehand of any research conducted towards the testing of new techniques or instruments that have not yet been replicated.
The use of any kind o strictly psychological material, both for assessment and for intervention or treatment, must be reserved exclusively for psychologists, and they in turn must refrain from providing it to non-competent persons. Psychologists must manage psychological documentation, or when appropriate, guarantee its safekeeping.
Whenever psychological assessment or intervention involves close relationships with other disciplines or areas of professional competence, psychologists must try to ensure security of these connections, either themselves or informing and advising the client about the matter.
Psychology must not be mixed-up, either in practice or in presentation to the public, with other methods or practices alien to the scientific basis of psychology.
Without prejudicing the scientific criticism deemed necessary, in practising their profession, psychologists must not discredit colleagues or other professionals working with the same or different methods, and should speak with respect of schools and types of intervention that have scientific and professional credibility.
The practice of psychology is based on the right and obligation of mutual respect among the psychologist and other professions, especially those whose particular areas of activity are closest.
III. ON INTERVENTION
Psychologists must refuse to provide their services whenever they are certain that these will be misused or used against the legitimate interests of individuals, groups, institutions or communities.
On accepting an intervention on individuals, groups, institutions or communities, psychologists must provide adequate information about the essential features of the relationship established, the problems being faced, the proposed objectives and the method used. In the case of minors or legally certified disabled persons, the parents or tutors must be informed. In any case, manipulation of individuals must always be avoided and psychologist must strive to achieve their development and autonomy.
Psychologists must terminate an intervention and not extend it by concealment or deceit, either when the proposed objectives are achieved or when, after a reasonable period of time and with the means and resources available, they are unable of achieving them. In this case the person, group, institution or community should be informed which other psychologists or professionals can get in charge of the intervention.
The client’s freedom to stop the intervention and consult another psychologist or professional must never be restricted for any reason; rather the psychologist must encourage the client’s capacity for taking well-informed decisions. The psychologist may refuse to treat a patient who is simultaneously receiving a different type of treatment from another professional.
Psychologists must not take advantage of the situation of power that may arise from their status to claim special working conditions or payments exceeding those obtainable in normal circumstances.
Similarly, they must not allow dubious situations in which their roles or functions were misguided or ambiguous.
Psychologists must not interfere with interventions started by other psychologists.
When the psychologist’s services are required to advise on and/or carry out advertising, marketing, political campaigns and the like, the psychologist should collaborate in safeguarding the truthfulness of the content and respect for individuals.
Psychologists must take special care not to create false expectations which they later may be unable to satisfy professionally.
IV. ON RESEARCH AND TEACHING
Every psychologist, in practicing the profession, must strive to contribute to the progress of psychological science and profession, researching in their discipline, abiding by the rules and requirements of scientific work and communicating their knowledge to students and other professionals according to scientific custom and/or through teaching.
In research, psychologists must completely reject causing permanent, irreversible or unnecessary harm to avoid other greater injuries. Participation in any kind of research must be explicitly authorized by the person or persons on whom it is being carried out, or by parents or tutor in the case or minors or disabled people.
When psychological research involves any kind of temporary harm or discomfort, such as electric shocks or sensory deprivation, researchers must, above all, ensure that subjects participate in the experimental sessions of their own true free will, without outside constrictions of any kind, and must not be accepted without having been precisely informed beforehand about such harm and obtaining their subsequent consent. Even after having consented initially, the subject may decide to interrupt his or her participation at any moment.
When research requires the psychologist to resort to deception or tricks, he or she must ensure that this will not cause long term harm to any of the subjects and must always inform them of the nature and experimental need for the deception at the end of the session or research.
Psychological research in normal situations, whether experimental or observational, must always be carried out with respect for the dignity of the individuals, their beliefs, their privacy, their modesty and with special touchfulness in areas such as sexual behaviour, which most individuals keep private, and also in situations involving such persons as the old, accident victims, the ill, and prisoners, who, apart from a certain social powerlessness, are part of a serious human drama which requires as much respect as research.
Experiments with animals must also avoid or minimize suffering, harm and discomfort that is not absolutely necessary and justified by goals of recognised scientific and human worth. Surgery on animals must be carried out under anaesthetic and taking the necessary measures to avoid possible complications. In their practice, personnel directly involved in research with animals must follow the procedures for housing, experimental handling and elimination of animals by euthanasia, as stated on the Guide for Ethical Behaviour in the Care and Use of Animals, published by the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos, and which conforms to international standards.
V. ON THE GATHERING AND USE OF INFORMATION
In exercising their profession, psychologists must show scrupulous respect for the client’s rights for privacy. The psychologist must only obtain information strictly necessary for the tasks which have been requested, and always with the client’s authorization.
All information gathered by psychologists in the practice of their profession, whether from the client’s express verbal statements or from psycho-technical data or from other professional observations, is subject to the duties and rights for professional secrecy, from which they can only be relieved with the client’s express consent. Psychologists must keep awake to ensure that any colleagues abide by this professional secret.
When the psychological assessment or intervention is carried out at the request of the subject from whom information is obtained, this information may only be reported to third parties with the subject’s explicit prior authorization and within the limits of this authorization.
When such assessment or intervention has been requested by other persons such as judges, educational professionals, parents, employers or anyone other than the person to be assessed, the latter or his or her parents or tutors have the right to be informed about the assessment or intervention and the addressee of the resulting Psychological Report. The subject of a Psychological Report has the right to know its content, providing that this will not pose a grave danger to the subject or the Psychologist, even when the report has been requested by others.
Psychological Reports prepared at the request of institutions or organisations in general, apart from the provisions of the preceding article, are subject to the same general duties and rights for confidentiality defined above. Both the Psychologist and the instance requesting, are obliged not to divulge the report outside the strict range for which it was conceived. When enumerations or lists of assessed individuals, in which the diagnosis and assessments data must appear, are requested from the Psychologist by other agencies, for planning purposes, obtaining resources or for any other ends, these should be made omitting the subject’s name and identification data, whenever those are not strictly necessary.
Information acquired for professional means should never be used for the Psychologist’s own or third parties benefit, nor against the client’s own interests.
Oral, printed, audiovisual or any other kind of exhibition of clinical or illustrative cases for educational, communicative, or scientific publicy purposes, must be done in such a way that the identification of the person, group or institution under consideration is impossible. When exhibition by a particular medium implies the possibility to identify the subject, his/her own explicit and prior consent will de necessary.
Written and electronic records of psychological data, interviews and test results, if kept for any length of time, must be saved under the personal responsibility of the Psychologist, under conditions of security and secrecy ensuring that strange persons do not have any access to them.
The manifest or reserved presence of third parties, not necessary for the professional activity, such as students on practice or professionals training, requires the client’s prior consent.
Psychological Reports must be clear, precise, rigorous and intelligible to the addressee. They must state their range and limitations, the writer’s degree of certainty of the various contents in the report, whether it is current or temporary in nature, the techniques used in its preparation, and always specifying the particulars of the professional issuing it.
The death of the client, or disappearance -in the case or public of private institutions- does not free the Psychologist from the obligations of professional secrecy.
VI. ON ADVERTISING
Advertising of psychologists’ services must be discrete, specifying the degree that qualifies them for professional practice, the fact that they are members of the Colegio Oficial, and when appropriate, their working field or techniques they use. Fees must never be stated, nor any type of guarantee or claims of professional worthiness, competence or success. The advertiser must always be correctly identified professionally.
Besides the criminal liability it entails, to claim -whether in advertisements, plaques, calling cards, programmes, or any other means- a qualification one does not possess, is a grave violation of professional ethics, as does the use of ambiguous denominations and titles that, without literally being untruthful, can easily induce to mistakes or confusion and promote public belief in techniques or procedures of doubtful effectiveness.
Psychologists must not lend their name, prestige or image as psychologists to be used in advertising for consumer goods and even less so, for any sort of misleading publicity.
As psychologists, however, they may take part in public advice and information campaigns with cultural, educational, health, work-related or other aims of acknowledged social value.
Psychologists who use pseudonyms in their professional activity must declare it to the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos for appropriate registration.
VII. ON FEES AND REMUNERATION
Psychologists must refrain from accepting financial retribution that may devalue the profession or be in unfair competition.
Psychologists may however, exceptionally, provide assessment and intervention services free of charge to clients who are manifestly in need of these services but unable to pay for them.
In the private practice of the profession, psychologists should inform the client beforehand about the fees for their professional services.
The Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos may elaborate guidelines of minimum fees for each professional service according to the nature, length and other features of each service within the practice of Psychology.
Payments and fees charged are not subject to the success of the treatment or a particular outcome due to Psychologist’s action.
Psychologists must never receive any remuneration related to the passing of clients to other professionals.
VIII. LEGAL GUARANTEES
The Deontological Committee set up by the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos will monitor the interpretation and application of the present Code. Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos will distribute the present Code to all professionals and social institutions. They will also try to ensure that in University students of Psychology study the principles here stated.
Violations of the rules of the Code of Ethics in the practice of psychology must be reported to the Ethics Commission. The report must be processed under the principles of audience, opposition and reservation, concluding with a proposal for resolution by the Commission. Once the person concerned has been heard, the Governing Committee will adopt the appropriate resolution, agreeing whether to dismiss the case or to take the corresponding statutory disciplinary action.
The Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos guarantees the defence of fellow members who find themselves attacked or threatened in the exercise of professional actions, legitimately carried out within the bounds of the rights and duties of the present Code, particularly those defending professional secrecy and the dignity and independence of psychologists.
Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos will try that the rules contained in this Code of Ethics -which represent a formal commitment by the college institutions and the profession to Spanish society- as far as society itself estimate them as essential for the practice of a profession of a great human and social importance, become part of the legal regulations guaranteed by Public Authority.
Should a psychologist find that adverse or incompatible rules, whether in law or contained in this Code of Ethics, come into conflict in a specific case, he/she must resolve it according to his or her conscience, informing to the different parties involved and the Colege’s Deontological Committee.
REGULATIONS OF THE NATIONAL ETHICS COMMISSION OF THE COLEGIO OFICIAL DE PSICOLOGOS
The Code of Ethics for the Psychology profession is intended to serve as a guideline for professional conduct in every way of exercising Psychology. The profession is governed above all by the democratically established principles of mutual tolerance and legality. In practising the profession, Psychologists must take into account the standards, both explicit and implicit, that govern the social environment in which they act.
Article VIII in the Psychologist’s Code of Ethics establishes the general procedures for complaints and processing of claims, and charges the Ethics Commission of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos with the task of monitoring the interpretation and application of this Code.
The Territorial Delegations of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos have progressively constituted, or are in the process of doing so, territorial deontological commissions whose main purpose is the distribution of and compliance with the Code in their geographical domains and to process complaints presented to them by users and college members, taking special care to promote greater development of conscientiousness and professional conduct and, where appropriate, to propose resolutions to the respective Governing Committees.
It is now the task of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos to constitute and regulate the activity of the National Ethics Committee, which has been functioning on an interim basis since November 1991, proclaiming these Regulations which were approved by the National Governing committee in its meeting on November, the seventh, 1992.
I. PURPOSE OF THE NATIONAL ETHICS COMMITTEE
The following are the purposes of the National Ethics Committee (C.D.E.) of the Colegio Oficial de Psic\logos:
To monitor the distribution of and compliance with the Psychologist’s Code of Ethics within its range of competence.
To promote and coordinate the activities of the Ethics Commissions of the Territorial Delegations.
To assume the powers of the Territorial Ethics Commissions in the following cases:
· When these have not been constituted.
· When the Territorial Ethics Commission decides it is not competent and withdraws in favour of the National Ethics Commission.
· When requested by the National Governing Committee.
To establish relationships with the Ethics Commissions of other professional colleges, associations, institutions and other bodies, both Spanish and international.
To Process and propose Resolutions in response to the Ethics proceedings presented to it by the Delegations or proposed by the National Governing Committee.
To acknowledge ethical claims in which there are c competence onflicts among two or more Delegations.
II. COMPOSITION, DURATION AND REELECTION OF THE NATIONAL ETHICS COMMISSION
The National Ethics Committee will be composed -as ex-officio members- by the Presidents of the deontological commissions from the Territorial Delegations of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos -or by other concerted college organizations- and in their absence, in the interim, by Ethics Matters Coordinators, designated by the respective Governing Committees. Also, a member of the National Governing Committee of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos shall be a member of the National Ethics Committee, who has the right to speak but with no vote, to act as a link.
The National Ethics Committee shall have a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Vice-Secretary who shall be elected with votes from ex-officio members of the Commission in the first ordinary session of the Commission which shall be held after approval of these Regulations. These posts shall be for a period of four years. If an elected member leaves the Commission, he or she shall continue in the post until a new election is held in the next ordinary session of the Commission. Reelection shall only be for one further four-year period.
The working sessions shall be called and headed by the President. The Secretary shall prepare the minutes of the meetings and process the cases under consideration, as well as keep custody of the documents. The Vice-President and Vice-Secretary shall stand for the President and Secretary respectively in their absence or illness and shall accept the tasks delegated to them. Decisions shall be taken in the sessions by simple majority election and individual votes shall be allowed. Delegation of votes shall not be allowed. The Legal Advisor to the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos shall be present during the discussions and shall act as consultant with the right to speak, but may not vote.
The National Ethics Committee shall meet at least twice a year and at the request of, at least, one third of its members.
The President, Vice-President, Secretary and Vice-Secretary, assisted by the Legal Advisor, shall constitute the Permanent Commission.
III. PROCEDURES FOR THE PROCESSING OF CLAIMS
Complaints or claims shall be initially submitted in written letter inside a sealed envelope to the President of the National Ethics Committee.
When the National Ethics Committee acts in response to the Ethics Commission of a Territorial Delegation which has processed it initially, it must supply all documentation, and any information on the matter available, to the Secretary of the National Ethics Committee, by confidential means.
Complaints or claims presented anonymously shall not be accepted.
Confidentiality concerning the procedure followed and the parties involved is guaranteed within legally established limits and according to the nature of the resolutions adopted.
After a prior report by the Secretary and the Legal Advisor, the Permanent Commission of the National Ethics Committee may decide:
a) To accept considering the claim.
b) Not to accept considering the claim.
Once the claim is accepted, it will decide whether to proceed with it by common or urgent procedure.
Under the urgent procedure, the complaint or claim shall be examined by an Instructor, who shall be a member of the National Ethics Committee nominated for such a purpose, and shall fail it together with the Permanent Commission within a period of not more than two months, and shall prepare the corresponding written report.
Under the common procedure, the Instructor nominated shall listen to all the parties involved, in the presence of the appropriate consultants as the National Ethics Committee considers.
Under the common procedure, a decision shall be given in not more than eight months.
The Instructor shall present written reports both on the procedure and on the contributions by the consultants, and these will be examined by the National Ethics Committee or its Permanent Commission, which shall adopt the corresponding proposal.
The National Ethics Committee shall present its proposal to the National Governing Committee, who shall adopt the appropriate resolution and notify to the parties involved.
All the documentation and evidence relating ethical cases shall be saved in a file with sufficient guarantees during five years, and it shall be destroyed after the date. This action must be arranged by the Secretary.
To facilitate research work on ethics and psychology, the Secretary shall prepare summaries on each of the cases processed for scientific and professional use, taking adequate precautions to ensure privacy and confidentiality, for use in casuistry. These summaries shall be saved in a file by the documentation service of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos so that they may be consulted by college members.
IV. FINAL PROVISIONS
All doubts arising in the interpretation of the above rules shall be resolved by the decision of the National Ethics Committee.
Ex-officio members of the National Ethics Committee may not be members of the Governing Committees or Governors of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos.