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The Ethical Practice of Psychotherapy

Clearly Within Our Reach


This introductory article to the special section on ethics in psychotherapy highlights the challenges and
ethical dilemmas psychotherapists regularly face throughout their careers, and the limits of the American Psychological Association Ethics Code in offering clear guidance for how specifically to respond to each
of these situations. Reasons for the Ethics Code’s naturally occurring limitations are shared. The role of ethical decision-making, the use of multiple sources of guidance, and the role of consultation with colleagues to augment and support the psychotherapist’s professional judgment are illustrated. Representative ethics challenges in a range of areas of practice are described, with particular attention given to tele-mental health and social media, interprofessional practice and collaboration with medical professionals, and self-care and the promotion of wellness. Key recommendations are shared to promote ethical conduct and to resolve commonly occurring ethical dilemmas in each of these areas of psychotherapy practice. Each of the six articles that follow in this special section on ethics in psychotherapy are introduced, and their main points are summarized.

Keywords: ethics, dilemmas, decision-making, psychotherapy, practice

Jeffrey E. Barnett, Psy.D., ABPP is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Loyola University Maryland and a licensed psychologist who is board certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology in Clinical Psychology and in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Additionally, he is a Distinguished Practitioner in Psychology of the National Academies of Practice. Among his many professional activities, Dr. Barnett is a past chair of the ethics committees of the American Psychological Association, the American Board of Professional Psychology, and the Maryland Psychological Association. He previously served on the Maryland Board of Examiners of Psychologists and has been a consultant to licensing boards across a range of health professions. His numerous publications and presentations focus on ethics, legal, and professional practice issues in psychology. Dr. Barnett is a recipient of the APA’s outstanding ethics educator award.

Cite This Article

Barnett, J. E. (2019). The ethical practice of psychotherapy: Clearly within our reach. Psychotherapy, 56(4), 431-440.



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