Polish Psychological Association – Code of Professional Ethics

Both as a profession and as a scientific discipline psychology belongs to those spheres of human operations in which the center of interest and activity is man. Interpersonal relations established by the psychologist in the practice of his profession, in the research role and as a teacher, similarly as all interpersonal relations, have always an ethical dimension. These relations possess, however, a peculiar non symmetrical nature arising due to the advantage of interpersonal competence on he side of the psychologist who has at his disposal specialist knowledge and techniques designed to give cognitive understanding of other people and to influence them The professional role of the psychologist involves intervention in the essential being of another person as an individual and unique entity, intervention whose consequences prove irreversible. These circumstances dictate the necessity of observing at all times the principles of professional ethics in the psychologists’ actions and also justify requiring from them high ethical standards.

For the psychologist the paramount consideration is the welfare of the other person. In his professional capacity the objective is to help the other person in resolving life problems encountered and in achieving a better quality of life by developing the individual capabilities and improving interpersonal contacts. In scientific research this objective exists only in an overall perspective. Contacts made for research purposes, if not designed specifically to give help, must in no case cause injury to be sustained by the persons participating in this research.

Despite the many and varying moral and geopolitical outlooks there exists a set of fundamental humanist values which have found their expression in the United Nations General Declaration on Human Rights. In the exercise of his profession the psychologist must always respect these basic values, in particular the dignity of the human being., his integrity and autonomy and his right to unconstrained development. The psychologist will fully recognise the right of every person to observe his own system of values, to make his own choices and also the right to privacy. At the same time the psychologist must be aware of’ the consequences or possible future consequences of his actions, which should ultimately be to the benefit of the subjects of professional treatment. In every case the psychologist is charged with responsibility for the consequences of this contact made with another person in his professional capacity. The limits of a psychologist’s intervention are determined on the one hand by his professional competence and on the other hand by the needs and expectations expressed by the person seeking help from the psychologist.

In cooperating with members of other professions, the psychologist will not overstep the limits of his competence and will respect the competence of other specialists. At the same time he will endeavour to maintain his own professional identity, will respect the objectives and values proper to his own profession and will avoid identifying himself with the professional approaches of other specialists if these approaches are incompatible with the ethical principles of the profession of psychology. This rule is always valid whenever the psychologist acts in his professional role irrespective of the specific tasks and objectives of the institution by which he is employed.

In the event of ceasing to practice as a professional psychologist to take up some other professional work /e.g . administrative/ the qualified psychologist should not purposely make use of his psychological knowledge or skills in understanding and influencing people in a manner not compatible with the professional ethics of a psychologist.

A psychologist engaging in political activities should not exploit the prestige of the psychologist’s profession as an argument to gain support for the views put forward.

General Principles

1. In his professional conduct the psychologist will always endeavour to ensure that contact with him is beneficial for the person or group of persons. In his professional capacity the psychologist is obliged to render psychological help in all circumstances where this is needed.

2. The psychologist is aware of the responsibility arising from the nature of his profession He should know the limits of his competence and not undertake any task beyond his abilities. He will make every effort to ensure the highest level of services.

3. Accepting certain attitudes to moral and customary norms in his private life the psychologist is cognisant of the fact that his decisions in personal matters can affect the quality of his professional services and also reflect on social confidence in psychology and psychologists. Society expects high standards of observance of ethical principles by persons whose professional role involves influencing other persons.

4. Its is the duty of the psychologist to strive towards continual professional and personal development. The psychologist’s qualifications should reflect the most up to date level of psychological knowledge and techniques. The psychologist should make use of world-wide scientific achievements. Prior to the application of results or methods developed in other social or cultural conditions a critical analysis must be made of’ their suitabilily for Polish conditions.

5. The psychologist will adopt a forward looking attitude to the current set of knowledge in this discipline. He will try to contribute to the development of knowledge, to improvenents in research methods, diagnostic tools and therapeutic techniques. He will be critica1 of his own achievements and in announcing them he will state verifcation methods already applied. He will be impartial and objective in evaluating new psychological techniques and non-professional forms of psychological help and refrain from hindering their development if there are no substantial reasons for so doing.

6. The psychologist will make available his own scientific achievements while observing the principle of professional responsibility, the good of the person treated and of society in general.

7. The psychologist will not make untrue claims as to his professional competence or experience.

8. The psychologist will terminate his professional treatment if external circumstances or his own state of physical or psychological health are such that they could appreciably diminish the quality of his worry or hinder the objectivity of the professional evaluation.

9. Relations between psychologists shall be based on mutual respect and fellowship resulting from the common values and objectives, awareness of the social status of the shared profession and the professional responsibilities undertaken.

10. The psychologist will not be indifferent to breaches of the code of professional ethics by other psychologists. Being aware of unprofessional conduct by a colleague or hearing of such conduct, the psychologist will endeavour to convince the offender of the impropriety of his conduct, if necessary calling on the help of colleagues. If such intervention proves ineffective, the psychologist is obliged to inform the local branch of the Polish Psychological Association, which will determine further procedure.

11. Critical assessment of the work or actions of other psychologists should not be of the nature of personal disparagement and may in no case serve for personal advantage. The psychologist will not utter such criticism in the presence of third persons, taking care not to undermine confidence in psychology and psychologists.

12. The psychologist will at all times show care for the prestige and status o& his profession. He will not make the specific techniques of psychological diagnosis available to persons not competent to apply them. He will oppose the undertaking of psychological treatment, in particular the use of specific diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, by persons other than qualified psychologists.

13. The psychologist rnay not accept working conditions which limit his professional independence, in particular conditions making it impossible to observe the principles of the code of professional ethics. The psychologist must insist on respect for his own independence irrespective of the position held in tie professional hierachy. Every psychologist is obliged to act in defence of the independence of his colleagues.

The Practising Psychologist

  • 14. Undertaking practical activity the psychologist accepts that is professional responsibility then takes the specific form of responsibility for another person or group of persons.
  • 15. The psychologist will perform his duties endeavouring to reach the highest professional level irrespective of for whom this is and of his personal attitude to the client (see below) or clients. In particular the psychologist’s clear intent to help and the conscientious carrying out of his professional duties,will not be affected by such aspects as the client’s social position, material situation, political or social attitudes, race, nationality and age and also the nature of the problems requiring his intervention.
    (The client is taken to mean the person seeking psychological help for himself or the person who, exercising legal authority, refers to the psychologist another person requiring psychological intervention and for whom he takes responsibility -e.g. parents or guardians of a child, doctor treating a patient, etc.- In the latter case the rules of the Code of Etichs apply equally to the person actually treated -i.e. child, patient, etc.)
  • 16. The psychologist will advise the client of possible risks involved in the therapeutic methods proposed and of the existence of alternative methods, including nonpsycological methods. If the psychologist is unable to render effective help due to the lack of qualifications required in the given case or if an unsatisfactory relation with the client develops, he will recommend the client to consult another psychologist or specialist. The psychologist will only undertake professional activities for which he has the appropriate qualifications confirmed by suitable training and practical experience.
  • 17. Prior to starting therapy the psychologist will every time come to an agreement with the client as to the purpose and scope of the therapy and the basic procedure. These arrangements are of a preliminar nature and may change in the course of further contacts. If a conflict of opinions arises attempts must be made to reach agreement. The psychologist will respect the client’s system of values and his right to make his own decisions, nevertheless he should not undertake intervention if the objective or methods applied are not compatible with professional ethics.
  • 18. Persons coming to a Psychologist not of their own initiative, both adults and children -sent for diagnostic tests or psychocorrective therapy- should be informed by him of the purpose of the procedure, methods and anticipated results and how they will be made accessible. The psychologist will endeavour to gain acceptance of the planned clinical measures by the person.
  • 19. Minors should be accorded special status in treatment. The fundamental objective for the psychologist woriking with juvenils is to seek their best interest, that is to say that these persons in their contacts with the psychologist have rights in no way less then adult clients. In no case may contacts with a psychologist take place under pressure brought to bear by institutions or adults deciding in the name of minor. In such a case, if it is ascertained that institutions or adults are jeopardising the best interest the minor concerned, the psychologist has the right to refuse co-operation with these institutions or persons. The psychologist has the moral duty to defend the rights of a minor. The psychologist has the right and also the duty to respect the decisions of a minor as a human being in all contacts with him.
  • 20. The psychologist will give information to persons undergoing psychological diagnoses and therapy on the methods used and results achieved, being guided by the good of these persons. The psychologist will avoid procedures which could offend the client’s convictions and also the chance of erraneous interpretation of information given. In doubtful cases the psychologist ensure that this information is correctly understood.
  • 21. The psychologist is strictly obliged to observe professional secrecy. Information covered by professional secrecy may only be divulged when the safety of the client or other persons are seriously at risk. Whenever possible, decisions in such cascs should be carefully discussed with an experienced and unbiased colleague. Confidential materials should be destroyed under collective supervision if there is good cause to believe that their secrecy is endangered.
  • 22. Questioning the client about intimate or personal matters is only permissible in so far as it is strictly necessary for psychological therapy.
  • 23. When co-operating with specialists from other disciplines or making use of their consultations -i.e. conducting tests at their request- the psychologist will make his results available only as far as is necessary. At the same time he will draw attention to the obligation of maintaining secrecy,.
  • 24. When helped by not fully qualified psychological personnel -e.g. psychological assistants, students, nurses etc.- the psychologist is responsible for respecting the principles of professional ethics. In particular the psychologist will advise his assistants of the obligation of absolute observance of professional secrecy, with the exception of risks to the safely of other persons, while reports and documents passed on for elaboration must be protected as far as possible to preserve the anonymity of the person concerned.
  • 25. The psychologist will preserve his ethical sensitivity, not avoiding the resolution of moral conflicts but endeavouring to discern them, evaluating the situation and taking decisions guided by his own perceptions with regard to the overriding ethical principles of his profession.
  • 26. If in the course of his professional duties the psychologist becomes involved in a conflict of interests, either between persons or between persons and an institution, he will behave so as to cause no harm to either of the interested parties. In conflicts arising between the interests of a person and an institution, the psychologist will maintain impartiality. Even when not accepting a person’s behaviour the psychologist should endeavour to help him.
  • 27. In notifying or advertising his professional services the psychologist will truthfully describe his qualifications and the scope of services offered.
  • 28. Acting in his psychotherapeutic capacity the psychologist, being aware of the dangers inherent in his powers of influencing other people, will undergo supervision or consultations in the matter.

The Psychological Researcher

  • 29. In his research role the psychologist will be aware tha the results of scientific research not only represent a broadening of the scope of humen knowledge but can also be utilised in social practice. Due to its close interlinking with social life psychology is a field of knowledge where, results could be misused in ordert,o influence people’s beliefs and behaviours. When undertaking scientific research the psychologist cautiously consider its ethical aspect, in particular the possible positive and negative consequences of making the results and their utilisation in social practice.
  • 30. Thee psychologist implementing scientific research will only undertake topics not violating the ethical standards of his profession, he is responsible for choice of reaserach methods enabling reliable results to be achieved and for the integrity of the results announced. Taking decisions on these the psychologist will not be swayed by pressure persons or circumstances.
  • 31. Underdertaking research involving people, the psychologist cautiously assess if the planned project is in the general principles of professional ethics. Confirming research plans put forward by junior research team/candidates for the doctor’s degree, the project leader or proprietor should respect ethical criteria.
  • 32. When working under the direction of a leader are reponsible for the ethical aspect of the research, to which it is dependent on their decisions. Psychologists will observe the principle of participation in psychological studies and also the right of participants to withdraw at any moment from participation. If the participants have a .. with the researcher, as students, clients, .. and also when social pressure to take part .., particular care must be taken to ensure .. principle is not violated. Psychologists will not undertake research when .. be exposed to suffering or loss ..
  • 33. If important scientific and practical .. to authorise research of this and .. other means of obtaining the relevant data, agreement must be made wheter the atcicipated .. and justify carrying out the research. In such cases, prior to seeking the consent of future participants they must be particularly carefully informed of the course of the research. Such participants may not be persons in a dependent position relative to the research leader. The psychologist is also obliged to take all feasible steps to minimise discomfort involved in the tests and also their possible negative effects for the participants.
  • 34. Before starting research the psychologist is obliged to inform participants of its purpose, course and especially those aspects which could be expected to influence their readiness to participate and also to explain all other aspects of the research plan when questioned by the participants, and then to obtain their voluntary consent. If it is planned to make use of devices for recording participants’ behaviour -cameras, tape recordings, concealed observations- participants must be clearly informed of this and their consent obtained. This refers both to adults and children. In exceptional circumstances this information may be given after finishing the research, in which case the tested persons must be given full liberty to refuse consent for such data to be utilised.
  • 35. In every case when the psychologist specific research results are to be cited everything must be done to remove any evidence that could lead to identification of the participant.
  • 36. In conducting tests on animals the psychologist will avoid causing suffering, if ofr unusually important reasearch objectives a degree of suffering is unavoidable, the psychologist will do everything to keep this to a minimum.
  • 37. The psychologist will ensure the integrity of test results announced and endeavour to prevent their improper utilisation. For this reason mention must always be made of results not corroborating research hypotheses and of the existence of alternative hypotheses and alternative ways of interpreting results, while the scope of results generalisation should be strictly defined. Particular caution must be observed in formulating practical research conclusions.
  • 38. It is the duty of the psychologist to give true and complete information on sources used. He will duly acknowledge that he has made use in his publications of research work or materials from othe authors and of consultations with other persons.
  • 39. Taking part in joint research projects the psychologist will respect the author’s copyright of other members of the group and will carefully protect his own. This is of signal importance in the case of interdisciplinary researches.
  • 40. The psychologist will not allow his name to be appended as co-author in any publication or paper in which he did not take part, not present his participation in a manner not in accordance with his actual contribution.
  • 41. In giving critical reviews of the research work of other authors, the psychologist will be always aware of the importance of scientific criticism in the development of psychology and of his consequent personal responsibility for the integrity of the assessment made. The psychologist will not undertake to give an opinion on another’s research work if circumstances make it impossible to give an unbiased, reliable and competent assessment.
  • 42. As a member of the academic community the psychologist wil1 uphold the cardinal ethical principle of his profession, such as respect dignity, agency and autonomy of a person, in contacts with representatives of other fields of science and will endeavour to propagate relations of a type based on these values.

The Psychological Teacher and Sisseminator

  • 43. The psychologist is cognisant of the fact that due to the specific nature of his profession his personal systems of convictions, values and ethical norms can influence the choice and method of communication of the didactic message. In his role as teacher, the psychologist must make it clear when he is voicing his personal point of view, nevertheless he is obliged to be apprised of other points of view and to present fairly.
  • 44. In training students and graduates for the practice of their profession attention must be drawn to its ethical aspects, stressing the paramount ethical values of this profession. The psychologist will make use of actual examples to develop the ethical sensitivity of future psychologists and their competence to resolve the moral dilemmas confronting them in carrying out their professional duties. He will demonstrate and promote among students positive ethical models of conduct in professional situation.
  • 45. The psychologist in his role as teacher, especially in training students in practical skills, will be fully aware that his conduct towards clients and personnel will shape the professional attitudes of the students.
  • 46. During the course of instruction involving demonstrations using persons or their creations, the psychologist will avoid any theatrical or sensational presentations, always observing discretion and tact. When the demonstration involves the participation of people, this participation must be wholly voluntary and they must be protected against any kind of negative consequences. Experiments must be immediately broken off if there appears to be a risk of such effects.
  • 47. Teaching sessions of laboatory practical exercise type allowing participants a means of assessing their own emotional problems will only be conducted by a specially trained psychologist who will be responsible for the immediate and long term consequences and not permit that these consequences could be harmful for the participants.
  • 48. The psychologist will not conduct any partial training for nonpsychologists to prepare them for performing tasks that require a fully educated and qualified psychologist.
  • 49. To the best of his abilities the psychologist will oppose the teaching of psychology by persons not having psychological qualifications, e.g. by notifying the Board of Directors of the Polish Psychological Association of such facts.
  • 50. In propagating psychological knowledge the psychologist will take care to ensure that the matter communicated is in accord with the contemporary state of the science, will clearly distinguish between hypotheses and well documented conclusions and will truthfully present the practical possibilities of psychology. The psychologist will be particularly cautious in speaking of theses which are not in accord with current psychological knowledge or are susceptible to ambiguous interpretation.

The Code of Professional ethics is binding for all Polish psychologists. In joining the Polish Psychological Association the psychologist takes upon himself the obligation of scrupolous observance of the principles embodied in the Code of ethics and will promote among psychologists who are net members of the Association. A member of the Polish Psychological Association behaving in a manner contravening the Code of Professional Ethics render himself liable to sanctions as laid down in the rules of the Collegiate Court of Honour.


Please note that articles 30, 31, 32 33, may be partially incorrect, due to a transmission problem. As soon as I will have a complete copy by the Polish Psychological Association, I will make the eventual corrections. (C.A.Cavallo)