American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code

Modern society often espouses a completely different between the professional and personal segments of an individual’s life.

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Is there an ethical separation between the personal and professional activities of the psychologist? Why or why not?

There is a clear ethical boundary that separates the professional and personal activities of a psychologist. This distinction is stipulated by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (Code of Ethics hereafter). There are several reasons for this separation. To begin with, the separation ensures that psychologists are beneficial to the people entrusted unto their care. This ensures that the rights and welfare of the people that the psychologists interact with professionally are protected. It also ensures that the clients receive high quality and professional standard services.

The separation further promotes the respect for people’s worth and dignity by psychologists. Additionally, it enhances the respect and recognition for people’s privacy, worth, confidentiality and self-determination (Keith-Spiegel, 1994).

What activities of the American psychologist are affected by the APA Ethics Code?

The APA Ethics Code affects several activities carried out by the psychologist. To begin with, all human relation activities of the psychologist are affected by the Ethics code. For instance, psychologists carrying out experiments on people have to seek an informed consent from the participants and ensure that they clearly explain to the participants the nature and dangers involved. A psychologist’s fees and means of keeping records are also affected.

In order to protect the right to privacy and confidentiality of their clients, psychologists are obligated to ensure their records are safely kept and inaccessible to any unauthorized personnel. All therapy and assessment activities of a psychologist are governed by the Ethics Code. This serves to protect those with whom the psychologist works. All research and publication activities undertaken by a Psychologist are also affected by the Ethics Code (Toporek and Williams, 2006).

What was the central purpose for developing the first APA Ethics Code?

There have been over five decades through which the APA has continuously constructed and revised its Code of Ethics. The code strives to attain both the practical aspects and aspirations of ethical decisions arrived at by Psychologists. The core purpose for developing the initial Code of ethics was to ensure that the set standards would enhance the quality of service offered by Psychologists. Furthermore, it encouraged a mutually beneficial relationship with other professions allied to psychology.

It also aimed at promoting a professional outlook of Psychology. The necessity to have an ethics code came about after a rapid increase in professional psychological activities. The first code of ethics was formulated in 1947 by the first APA committee with Edward Tollman serving as its first chairman. The committee’s main objective was to come up with an Ethics Code that would ensure high professional standards. Additionally, it was to offer psychologists the tools necessary to identify and solve moral challenges of the profession (Sonne, 1994).

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Was that purpose accomplished? Why or why not?

The first Ethics Code did not accomplish its purpose in totality. This is due to the fact that the APA Ethics Code incorporated statements that defined aspirational principles together withguidelines of ethical behavior. This led to an increase in the frequency of legal reactions brought up against psychologists by consumers. These reactions were founded on ethical violations by the professionals.

As a result of this, there were questions about the applicability of interpretations that were subjective due to the broadly worded standards and principles. Additionally, there was a significant increase in the appeals lodged against decisions made by regulatory bodies that relied on the APA Ethics Code, as well as those made by the APA Ethics Committee itself. These regulatory bodies relied on the APA Code of Ethics to execute their disciplinary procedures. Such inadequacies indicated that it would cause problems to use the code as it were. It is this failure of the codes that necessitated the 1992 revision (Joyce and Rankin, 2010).

Why were revisions to the code deemed necessary in 2002?

Since 1953, there have been several revisions of the Ethics code. These revisions have been motivated by the ever-changing roles of psychologists. Furthermore, this evolution occurs within a continuously transforming economic, socio-cultural legal and political environment.

The revisions made to the code in 2002 were deemed necessary for several reasons. Firstly, it was due to the growth and influence of HMO’s (Health Management Organizations) in providing health care services. Furthermore, there was an increase in the participation of psychologists in the legal system making it necessary for the code to be revised. The increase in sensitivity to the people’s needs that is language diverse in both practice and research also necessitated a revision of the code of ethics(Knapp and VandeCreek, 2003).

How did those revisions affect the ethical principles of the code?

The revisions made affected the ethical principles of the code in several ways. To begin with, the revision maintained the separation between the enforceable standards and the aspirational principles that were set forth in the 1992 version. The revision also modified the language used for the general principles. This was in an effort to to attain the key moral values which reflect the most fundamental ideals of psychology. The revisions also reaffirmed the essence the standards that determine ethical conduct (Keith-Spiegel, 1994).


Joyce, N. R., & Rankin, T. J. (2010). The lessons of the development of the first APA ethics code: Blending science, practice, and politics. Ethics & Behavior, 20(6), 466-481.

Keith-Spiegel, P. (1994). Teaching psychologists and the new APA ethics code: Do we fit in? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 25(4), 362.

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Keith-Spiegel, P. (1994). The 1992 ethics code: boon or bane? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 25(4), 315.

Knapp, S., & VandeCreek, L. (2003). An overview of the major changes in the 2002 APA Ethics Code. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 34(3), 301.

Sonne, J. L. (1994). Multiple relationships: Does the new ethics code answer the right questions? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 25(4), 336.

Toporek, R. L., & Williams, R. A. (2006). Ethics and professional issues related to the practice of social justice in counseling psychology. Handbook for social justice in counseling psychology: Leadership, vision, and action, 17-34.

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