Federation of Swiss Psycologists – Code of Professional Conduct

I. Introduction

The Federation of Swiss Psychologists (FSP) has a Code of Professional Conduct for the protection of the general public from abuse of psychology (statutes art. 4.12). The Supervisory Commission, appointed by the delegates assembly, watches over the observance of the Code of Professional Conduct and punishes infringements in the courts of law.
The principles established in the present Code reflect the various aspects of responsibility implied in the professional application of psychology in research, teaching and practice. This is especially valid where people are concerned, – clients, groups, organizations, persons used for experimental purposes, or students.
The Code of Professional Conduct acts as a guide to professional behaviour for the individual members of the FSP, as an actual expression of the ethical consensus within the FSP, as well as a basis for the settling of complaints.
On joining the FSP each member undertakes to abide by the Code. The individual members, the affiliated associations and particularly the teaching institutions have the responsibility of promulgating the basic ideas as well as the various stipulations of the Code.
II. Ethical principles of the Code of Professional Conduct

1. Responsibility

The members of the FSP take responsibility for their professional actions, bearing in mind the possible personal and social consequences of the same.

  • 1.1 They behave in such a manner as to avoid any foreseeable or avoidable disadvantage to the persons concerned.
  • 1.2 They take the necessary steps to prevent any utilization of their services or products by third parties, that could infringe on the FSP Code of Professional Conduct.
  • 1.3 They refuse to accept professional assignments which they are not able to carry out competently or which would contravine the principles of the FSP Code of Professional Conduct.
  • 1.4 FSP members in employment who find themselves in a conflict of loyalty between obligations towards their employer and the Code of Professional Conduct, must make their own decision. If, by this decision, the Code is infringed upon, they must inform their superior and the Commission.

2. Professional competency

Responsible pursuit of the profession requires personal and professional competency. The members of the FSP keep their knowledge and skill up to date by continuous training. They are also aware of the limits of their competency.

  • 2.1 They restrict their activity to their field of competency.
  • 2.2 If their tasks expand into fields of other psychological professional branches or disciplines, they collaborate with competent specialists.
  • 2.3 If the exercising of their profession is impaired by illness or partiality, they take the appropriate measures.

3. Professional discretion and protection of data

FSP members undertake to respect the pledge of professional confidentiality and to actively protect the information entrusted to them.

  • 3.1 They treat confidentially all information on persons and institutions that they receive through their professional relationships.
  • 3.2 The transmission of such information is only permissible if it is in the interest of the parties concerned and with their explicit consent.
  • 3.3 If the transmission is demanded by law by the authorized officials, the persons concerned must be informed of the reasons and the exact content of the information transmitted.
  • 3.4 FSP members take care to protect all documents containing confidential information from access of third parties. These documents must be destroyed as soon as possible, but after 10 years at the latest. This time-limit may only be overstepped if legal or institutional prescription demand it or in explicit agreement with the persons concerned.

4. Professional relations

FSP members undertake to establish their professional relations in an open and clear manner with no disadvantage to the persons or institutions concerned.

  • 4.1 They respect the dignity and integrity of the persons with whom they are in professsional relation, above all their right to self-determination and self-responsibility.
  • 4.2 They do not take advantage of weaknesses and relations of dependency.
  • 4.3 They refrain from all sexual relationship with their clients.
  • 4.4 They inform their clients openly and realistically about the possibilities and limits of their work.
  • 4.5 They undertake to make clear arrangements as to their fee before taking on a professional assignment.
  • 4.6 They are guided by FSP directives when fixing their fees.
  • 4.7 They undertake to be truthful in research, teaching and publication.

5. Advertisement of services offered

FSP members pledge to be honest, objective and without exaggeration in advertising their services.

  • 5.1 They refrain from making unclear, unfounded or misleading statements about their education, title or professional experience.
  • 5.2 They do not thrust their services upon their clients nor do they make unrealistic promises about the success of treatments, consultations or studies.

6. Joint responsibility for the professional ethics of the FSP and its members

FSP members engage to support the ethical objectives of the FSP, as defined in the statutes and in the Code of Professional Conduct.

  • 6.1 In cases of complaint, FSP members pledge to give the Supervisory Commission any pertinent information and to contribute to the clarification of the case. The principles of professional discretion and protection of data (art. 3) must be observed.
  • 6.2 In all cases of conflicts within the FSP, particularly between members, affiliated associations, and/or union officials, they address themselves to the Commission as an arbitration board, before they take matters to court or to the public. In case of doubt, the German version is authoritative. This Code of Professional Conduct was approved by the delegates assembly of the FSP on 16 November 1991.

III. Reglementation for the treatment of complaints by the Supervisory Commission

1. Jurisdiction

The Supervisory Commission, hereafter called the Commission, has jurisdiction over the treatment of complaints against members of the FSP. The Commission is composed of a chairman and four members as well as two substitute members. It is composed of at least two men and two women. The Commission is elected by the FSP delegates assembly with a mandate of two years. Re-election is possible. The passing of a resolution requires the presence of all 5 members of the Commission. The passing of a resolution is done by simple majority, abstention is not permitted. If a member is partial in a matter of complaint, he or she must temporarily stand down and be replaced by another member.


2. Grounds for complaints

When claimed that an FSP member has infringed the principles of the Code of Professional Conduct.


3. Right of complaint

A complaint may be lodged by persons directly affected by the infraction of the Code, in their legal interests or interests protected by the Code. In case of serious or continual infractions of the Code, the Commission has the right to take up legal proceedings. The complaint must be lodged within 5 years of the claimed infraction.


4. Written complaint

The complaint must be lodged in writing with the chairman of the Commission. It must contain the personal data of the member against whom the complaint is lodged as well as a description of the infraction of the Code. Relevant documents to help judge the case must be submitted with the complaint.


5. Responsibility for legal proceedings

The chairman transmits the complaint to a Commission member, that member will then be put in charge of the legal proceedings. The member in charge of the proceedings examines the completeness of the complaint and gives the person lodging the complaint the opportunity, if necessary, to complete the complaint orally or in writing. The member also sets out in writing the oral version of the completed complaint.


6. Protection of personal rights, release from the pledge of professional confidentiality

The fundamental rights of the persons participating in and possibly concerned with the proceedings must be protected. Personal data and information permitting conclusions about a certain person are not to be revealed at any stage of the proceedings. In all proceedings it must be ensured that the member against whom the complaint is lodged is legally released from the obligation of professional confidentiality in relation to the Commission and the commission of appeal.


7. Response

The complaint is handed over to the member against whom the complaint is lodged, with the summons that he/she responds within 30 days. The 30 days may be extended on certain justified grounds.


8. Further clarifications

Once the response has been received, the Commission can proceed to further clarifications, namely -consider statements relevant to the case by persons concerned with the proceedings or third parties, -obtain or seek the views of any FSP affiliated associations to which the accused member belongs, -seek expert opinion.


9. Legal audition, rights of the parties

After the evidence has been heard, the accused member must be given the opportunity to state his/her conclusions. The person in charge of the proceedings must remain impartial throughout their course.


10. Judgement

  • 10.1 Obviously unfounded complaints are rejected without further examination by the Commission.
  • 10.2 In other cases
    If the proceedings show that there has been no infraction of the Code of Professional Conduct, or if such an infraction can not be proved, the Commission rejects the complaint.
    If an infraction against the Code of Professional Conduct is proved, the Commission will impose a penalty. In trivial cases the Commission can decline to penalize.

11. Penalties

The commission may impose the following penalties: a) Reprimand, b) reprimand with notification of the executive committees of the affiliate associations to which the member belongs, c) reprimand with proclamation within the FSP, d) temporary suspension of membership, e) expulsion. In determining penalties, the Commission takes into consideration the severity of the infraction and the degree of responsibility of the accused member. Repeated or continual infractions of the Code will increase the severity of penalties. The willingness to repair the accrued damage, to avoid future infractions by appropriate measures and to consider recommendations and orders of the Commission, will mitigate the penalties.


12. Announcement of the decision

The decision and the grounds for it, including the evidence, will be given in writing to the accused member and to the person that lodged the complaint. For reasons of personal protection, the grounds for the decision may be withheld from the person that lodged the complaint. The sanctions or penalties according to art. 11, lit. b, c, d and e will be imparted to the executive committees of the affiliate associations to which the member belongs. The sanctions or penalties according to art. 11, lit. c, d and e will be imparted to the executive committee of the FSP as well.


13. Appeal

The member against whom the complaint has been lodged may appeal against the decision to the commission of appeal of the delegates assembly within 30 days of the announcement of the decision. The person who lodged the complaint may also appeal should the complaint have been rejected. In general the commission of appeal will base their decision on the records. If the commission of appeal considers further clarification to be necessary, it can itself investigate further or refer the affair back to the Commission for reconsideration.


14. Keeping the records of complaint

On completion of the complaint proceedings, the complaint records are sealed. The Commission keeps a register of concluded complaint proceedings. This contains the names of the accused members, the decision dates and a note of the outcome. No record is kept of obviously unfounded complaints. The files are destroyed and the entry in the register removed ten years after the completion of the proceedings. The chairman of the Commission is responsible for keeping and later destroying the records, as well as for the keeping of the record of documents.


15. Access to the files

Neither the parties concerned nor third parties are permitted access to the files, except under obligatory decrees of data protection. The Commission is authorized to consult filed documents, if new complaint proceedings are started against a member with a previous complaint still on record.


16. Pledge of confidentiality by the commission members

Commission members are pledged to respect the confidentiality of all information obtained through the exercise of their duties. In cases of serious or continual infractions of the Code of Professional Conduct, the Commission has the right to notify, or file a declaration with, the relevant government board of control. Prior to this it must obtain permission from the aggrieved party.


17. Report of activities

The Commission makes an annual report on its activities to the delegates assembly. The personal rights of all parties involved in the complaints proceedings must be strictly respected therein. In case of doubt, the German version is authoritative. These regulations were approved by the assembly of delegates of the FSP on 16 November 1991.