Background Materials Related to Ethical Standards 1.02 and 1.03

  1. Definition: Meaning of Conflict
    The Ethics Committee explains the meaning of "conflict" as used in Standard 1.02.  A similar definition also holds for Standard 1.03.

  2. Disclosures
    Psychologists raise numerous questions regarding how Standards 1.02 and 1.03 relate to disclosures of confidential information. Review the current wording of Standard 4.05.

  3. History
    a) Evolution of Ethical Standard 1.02 from the 1992 Ethics Code to the 2002 Ethics Code  (PDF 17.4K)
    Texts of Ethical Standard 1.02 from each of the seven revision drafts of the 1996-2002 ethics code revision process.
    b) Provisions in the APA Ethics Codes That Address Conflicts Between Ethics and Law: A History
    Provisions that address conflicts between ethics and law from each APA ethics code dating back to APA’s first ethics code, published in 1953.

  4. Changing the Ethics Code Outside the Standard Revision Process
    Discussion of criteria and related texts for changing the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct outside the normal ethics code revision process.

  5. Health and Mental Health Association Codes of Ethics: Provisions Regarding Conflicts between Ethics and Law (PDF 158K)
    A table reviewing and analyzing how other health and mental health association ethics codes address conflicts between ethics and law.

  6. Prior Materials
    These are the materials provided in the January 2009 Ethics Committee call for comments and later information.

Definition: Meaning of Conflict

To understand Ethical Standard 1.02, it is essential to be clear about the meaning of “conflict.” A psychologist’s legal and ethical obligations will sometimes differ. In certain instances, the law will impose requirements that the Ethics Code does not; at other times, the Ethics Code may require more than the law, regulation, or other governing legal authority will require. A difference does not in and of itself constitute a Standard 1.02 conflict. The Introduction and Applicability section of the Ethics Code makes clear that if the Ethics Code establishes a higher standard of conduct than the law, psychologists are expected to meet the higher standard.

As used in Standard 1.02, conflict refers to mutually exclusive obligations. Such conflicts arise in the exceedingly rare instances when fulfilling a psychologist’s legal obligations will necessarily entail violating the psychologist’s ethical obligations, or vice versa. In other words, following the law will necessarily entail violating the Ethics Code, and conversely, following the Ethics Code will necessarily violate the law. The psychologist is in the position of choosing which—the law or the Ethics Code—to follow. In an Ethical Standard 1.02 conflict, the psychologist cannot abide by both.
(June, 2009 Ethics Committee Report to Council. Read entire report.) 


Standard 4.05 Disclosures

(a) Psychologists may disclose confidential information with the appropriate consent of the organizational client, the individual client/patient, or another legally authorized person on behalf of the client/patient unless prohibited by law.

(b) Psychologists disclose confidential information without the consent of the individual only as mandated by law, or where permitted by law for a valid purpose such as to (1) provide needed professional services; (2) obtain appropriate professional consultations; (3) protect the client/patient, psychologist, or others from harm; or (4) obtain payment for services from a client/patient, in which instance disclosure is limited to the minimum that is necessary to achieve the purpose. (See also Standard 6.04e, Fees and Financial Arrangements.)