Code of Ethics - What is it? General Summary and General Ethical Principles

The reason why I encourage people to be members of their respective associations and to be registered under their respective psychological boards is to enable youselves to be recognised as qualified persons of the psychological profession, and articulates to the public that you, as a member and registered psychologist, are guided by specific standards towards what is considered ethical professional conduct by psychologists in the world.

So what is the code of ethics?  For the laymen and those who do not know yet, the code of ethics is a guide for psychologists towards their ethical practices in psychology, and "expresses psychologists’ responsibilities to their clients, to the community and society at large, and to the profession, as well as colleagues and members of other professions with whom they interact" (APS Code, 2007).  So if you are a member of the respective associations and societies, you will have to abide by their codes of ethics, whether you are a student member, full member, or associate member.

So in this post, let's look at the General Ethical Principles across the APA, APS and BPS.  [The ethical standards may tend to be a little longer (and boring), so just stick to the principles for today]


  1. Principle A:  Beneficence and Nonmaleficence (To benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm)
  2. Principle B:  Fidelity and Responsibility (To be aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to society and to the specific communities in which they work, regarding their conduct, professional roles and obligations, referrals, and compliance of scientific and professional conduct of themselves and their colleagues)
  3. Principle C:  Integrity (To promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in the science, teaching, and practice of psychology)
  4. Principle D:  Justice (To recognize that fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted;  To exercise reasonable judgment and take precautions to ensure that their potential biases, the boundaries of their competence, and the limitations of their expertise do not lead to or condone unjust practices)
  5. Principle E:  Respect for People's Rights and Dignity (To respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination; To be aware that special safeguards may be necessary to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making;  To be aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status and consider these factors when working with members of such groups)
  1. Ethical principle:  Respect (To value the dignity and worth of all persons, with sensitivity to the dynamics of perceived authority or influence over clients, and with particular regard to people’s rights including those of privacy and self determination)
  2. Ethical Principle:  Competence (To value the continuing development and maintenance of high standards of competence in their professional work, and the importance of preserving their ability to function optimally within the recognised limits of their knowledge, skill, training, education, and experience)
  3. Ethical Principle:  Responsibility (To value their responsibilities to clients, to the general public, and to the profession and science of Psychology, including the avoidance of harm and the prevention of misuse or abuse of their contributions to society)
  4. Ethical principle:  Integrity (To value honesty, accuracy, clarity, and fairness in their interactions with all persons, and seek to promote integrity in all facets of their scientific and professional endeavours)
APS (APS Code of Ethics, 2007):
  1. General Principle A:  Respect for the rights and dignity of people and peoples (To regard people as intrinsically valuable and respect their rights, including the right to autonomy and justice, and respect the dignity of all people and peoples)
  2. General Principle B:  Propriety (To ensure that they are competent to deliver the psychological services they provide.  They provide psychological services to benefit, and not to harm.  To seek to protect the interests of the people and peoples with whom they work.  The welfare of clients and the public, and the standing of the profession, take precedence over a psychologist’s self-interest)
  3. General Principle C:  Integrity (To recognise that their own knowledge of the discipline of psychology, their professional standing, and the information they gather place them in a position of power and trust, hence they exercise their power appropriately and honour this position of trust.  To keep faith with the nature and intentions of their professional relationships, and to act with probity and honesty in their conduct)
All in all, a psychologist is a person with integrity, honouring their clients' rights and dignity, and at the same time, practicing within the recognised limits of their knowledge, skill, training, education, and experience, and within the boundaries of their competence, hence doing no harm to their clients, and being aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities.

So if you have all the relevant training and experience as a psychologist, are you a member of your local association or society, and registered with the psychological boards?  If not, why have you not done so yet?