Ethics Code: General Principles

The section on general principles in the APA Ethics Code delineates five aspirational goals toward which psychologists should strive in their practice, teaching, and research.

1. Beneficence and malfeasance

Ethics Code: General PrinciplesPsychologists should safeguard the rights and welfare of those to whom they provide services and maintain vigilance to ensure that their influence is not misused. They should strive to benefit those with whom they work and avoid doing harm, and they should recognize any adverse effect of their own physical and mental health on the services they provide.

2. Fidelity and responsibility

Psychologists should establish trusting relationships with their clients, clarify their professional roles and obligations, and coordinate services with other professionals to each client s benefit. They should in addition attend to the ethical probity of colleagues and provide some measure of pro bono service.

3. Integrity

Psychologists should promote truthfulness in research, teaching, and practice and avoid dishonesty, deception, subterfuge, and misrepresentationof fact. Should they deem any deception justifiable, they should consider carefully whether it is necessary, whether the benefits of the deception outweigh any adverse consequences it might have, and what steps should be taken to minimize or repair any resulting harmful effects of the deception.

4. Justice

Psychologists should allow equal access to their services by all people, whether advantaged or disadvantaged and whatever their background, and they should provide services of equal quality to all. Psychologists should take reasonable care to prevent any biases or limitations of their competence from leading to improper or inadequate practices on their part.

5. Respect for people’s rights and dignity

Psychologists should respect the dignity and worth of all people and their rights to privacy and autonomy. This respect should extend to persons with diverse backgrounds, including diversity related to age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and socioeconomic status. Psychologists should neither condone nor participate in discriminatory practices based on such individual differences.

When applied in individual cases, these principles overlap in many respects, and a case illustrating any one of these principles usually illustrates one or more other principles as well. Similar overlap characterizes the 10 standards in the Ethics Code discussed next. For extended discussion of how these principles and standards interrelate and how they should be applied in various contexts, readers are referred to contemporary texts by Bersoff (2008), Kitchener and Anderson (2011), Knapp and VandeCreek (2012), and Koocher and Keith-Spiegel (2008).

Return to overview of Forensic Psychology Ethics.