ISTFP ETHICAL PRINCIPLES, CODE OF ETHICS and IMPLEMENTING PROCEDURES
Adopted 1 October 2012
The ISTFP’s Code of Ethics sets out the basic ethical rules for the ISTFP’s individual members and local constituent organizations (which term is taken to include narrowly local, as well as national, and regional organizations, and their designated training organizations. The terms “local” and “constituent” are essentially synonymous for the purposes of this document, and are used interchangably throughout.) which train, certify, and oversee the ethical and professional conduct of individual TFP therapists. The Code (a) reflects humanitarian values, psychoanalytic and TFP principles, and professional obligations to patients, colleagues, and the public; (b) applies generally in whatever context ISTFP members practice or do research in Transference-Focused Psychotherapy (TFP); and (c) will be elaborated by each ISTFP local organization with due regard to local considerations.
The Implementing Procedures (“Procedures”) explain when, why and how the ISTFP will consider questions and complaints under the Code and communicate on ethical questions with its local organizations and members.
These Principles, this Code and the Procedures throughout this document apply equally to all ISTFP members, whether psychotherapists or researchers, whether training in TFP is still ongoing or has been completed.
Content, Scope and Qualifications
A. Formulation and Modification
The Executive Board, by 2/3 majority vote, shall formulate, oversee, and may from time to time modify or augment the ISTFP Code of Ethics and Implementing Procedures. Modifications shall be applicable on a prospective (future application) basis.
B. Local Organizations
One aim of the ISTFP is to promote the establishment of constituent local TFP organizations around the world. Each local organization is an independent entity that, consistent with applicable laws and customs, and subject to the ISTFP’s general criteria, including these Principles among other things, establishes its own professional and ethical standards, rules and regulations, and oversees the professional and ethical qualification and performance of its members.
C. Application of Principles
This document applies to ISTFP members and ISTFP local organizations.
D. The ISTFP’s Code is General
The Code establishes minimum professional ethical standards. The ISTFP occasionally may offer guidance on the application of its Criteria and Code, exercising discretion on whether, and if so how, to respond to any request for an interpretation or ruling by a member, local organization, or third party.
General Ethical Principles
For ISTFP Local Organizations:
1. General Obligation to Maintain Ethical Standards
Each ISTFP local organization shall take reasonable measures to ensure that every TFP therapist and researcher, and each training facility and other activity operated by or for the local organization, maintains high ethical and professional standards, which are consistent with the ISTFP’s Principles and with applicable laws and customs.
2. Code of Ethics and Complaint Procedure
a. General Rules. Each local organization shall establish, maintain, and make available to interested parties a written Code of Ethics (or similarly named set of ethical rules) which shall (i) be consistent with these ISTFP Ethical Principles and (ii) provide a procedure for identifying, addressing and resolving alleged or apparent unethical behavior or practices by members trained, qualified, or operating under the authority of the local organization.
b. Special Rule for resource-limited local organizations. A smaller local organization may, if it lacks the resources to address an ethical complaint or ruling request, (a) arrange to receive assistance with one or more nearby local organizations and/or an ISTFP sanctioned local body and/or (b) request ISTFP guidance.
Each local organization, in its Code of Ethics or a related instrument, shall set out the procedures, including time limits, whereby (i) requests for ethical guidance or rulings, and complaints, will be received, heard, and acted upon and (ii) appeals will be processed. Such procedures shall be consistent with the ISTFP’s Principles and Procedures and applicable laws and reflect the local organization’s resources, structure, and other pertinent criteria.
4. Informing Members and the ISTFP of ethical sanctions
Each local organization’s written procedures for ethical inquiries and complaints shall provide for, and the local organization shall take, the following actions promptly after any suspension, separation or expulsion of a Member for violating an ethical rule, principle or standard:
(a) Informing Members
The name of the Member, and action taken, shall be communicated to the local organization’s entire membership and all other relevant professional institutions via a timely newsletter or other written or electronic communication. The only exception to this publication requirement is upon a finding that publication is likely to result in serious harm to one or more patients, which finding should be made by the local organization’s governing body after carefully weighing the likelihood of harm to the patient against the professional and public interest in publication; and
(b) Informing ISTFP
The name of the Member, and action taken, shall immediately be brought to the ISTFP’s attention via written and electronic notice to the Chair of the ISTFP’s Ethics Committee and the ISTFP’s President and Executive Officer. In a case where the local organization has to protect a patient, and has chosen not to communicate its action to its membership, it shall explain to the ISTFP its reasoning and may request that the ISTFP also not publish the action in an ISTFP newsletter or other communication with the ISTFP Membership. The ISTFP’s Executive Board, after considering the Ethics Committee’s advice, may opt not to publish the local organization’s action; otherwise, it shall do so promptly.
5. Complaints to the ISTFP or Ruling Requests Addressed
An ethical complaint addressed to the ISTFP that involves a local organization, its facility or its member, will initially be referred to the local organization for consideration and disposition. The ISTFP will exercise its supervisory discretion only in matters involving great urgency or serious risk.
CODE OF ETHICS
Members are expected to act with honesty and integrity in all their professional work, and have a responsibility to be familiar with and abide by this Code of Ethics.
This code sets out the essential ethical imperative, and a breach of any of this code may constitute grave misconduct which will be treated with the utmost seriousness and dealt with accordingly. No code of ethics is encyclopedic or absolute, and this code may evolve over time, based on professional experience and changing values, at the discretion of the Executive Board. In the event of unclarity or uncertainty, members are encouraged to seek guidance from their local ethics body, the Ethics Committee of the ISTFP, or other capable colleagues.
Finally, it is understood that ethics and the law are two separate matters. While the two are often concordant, that is not necessarily the case, and occasionally they may even be in direct conflict, such that what is ethical may be illegal, and what is legal may be unethical. Confronted with dilemmas of this type, members are urged to seek guidance from their local TFP organization or the ISTFP Ethics Committee, and possibly consult with an attorney, but it is recognized that in the end, members must follow the dictates of their own conscience and judgement.
- Members must at all times act in a way that they reasonably believe to be in the best interests of their patients. At all times the welfare of the patient must be paramount and every care taken to ensure that the patient is not exploited in any way.
- Members must conduct themselves and their professional activities in such a way that does not damage the interests of their patients or participants in their training.
- Members must carry out their duties in a professional and ethical way and maintain appropriate and professional limits and boundaries with patients at all times, so that patients are not exploited in any way. To allow such exploitation by a patient is also unethical.
- Members shall, in all their professional work value integrity, impartiality and respect for patients and seek to establish the highest ethical and clinical standards in their work.
- Sexual contact and/or the pursuit of a romantic relationship, whether in word or deed, with a patient or former patient is unethical, as is such contact with a member of a patient’s family. It is unethical to accept into treatment a person with whom one has had such contact or pursued such a relationship.
- Members must convey the terms and conditions of practice at the outset of therapy, so that the patient and whoever has legal parental responsibility for a child or adolescent can understand the nature of the treatment and agree to it.
- Members must, at the beginning of treatment, make clear to the patient, or whoever holds legal parental responsibility for a child or adolescent in treatment, the principles and practicalities of the treatment offered, and assure that as far as possible they are maintained.
- Members must take all reasonable steps to preserve the confidentiality of information acquired through their practice and protect the privacy of individuals and organizations about whom information is held.
- Members should be familiar with the legal requirements pertaining to confidentiality in their country and their implications for practicing psychotherapists.
- If publishing or presenting clinical or supervisory material either orally, written or in film/audio-visual form, members must make every effort to ensure the anonymity of patients, and where clinically appropriate seek the patient’s permission. Patients may not be audio-visually recorded without their permission. If doing research, the nature, purpose and conditions of any research involving clinical material must be fully explained to the patient and informed consent must be obtained.
- Members who take part in any media or other public event must exercise discretion and caution, particularly with regard to confidentiality.
- Members have a duty to maintain a satisfactory standard of professional competence, and to undertake any necessary supervision, further education or training.
- Members must restrict their practice within the limits of their own competence, and seek professional consultation or supervision in any situation which may reach this limit. As a matter of good practice, members should exercise clinical judgment in considering whether to seek a medical opinion about a patient.
- Members must limit their work or refrain from practice when their physical or psychological health is seriously impaired, or, if in doubt about their ability to perform competently, must seek appropriate advice.
- Members shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that those working under their direct supervision adhere to this code, and do not attempt to practice beyond their competence.
- Members practicing in an institutional or other setting which entails a team approach shall take all reasonable steps to assure that all involved staff and team members understand and adhere to the principles and terms of this code.
- If a member has any proceedings commenced against him, or is convicted of an offence, civil or criminal, in any court of law, or has proceedings commenced against him by any professional body, he must inform the Chair of the Ethics Committee of the ISTFP. Similarly, members have a duty to inform the Chair of the ISTFP Ethics Committee of such information pertaining to a fellow member.
- Members must conduct themselves in such a manner as not to bring the profession, colleagues or themselves into disrepute, and must maintain fitting levels of respect and courtesy with colleagues and members of their own and other professions, with their employer if employed, and also with the public.
- Members under investigation shall cooperate with the investigation, and shall undertake nothing to impede it. Noncompliance may itself constitute an ethics violation. If a member resigns from the ISTFP (or from their local organization) while under investigation for an ethics complaint, the complaint will nevertheless be investigated and prosecuted to completion. So far as possible, any resulting action will be taken by the ISTFP as if the resignation had not taken place.