Will Professional Ethics and Standards Protect Me?

Revised:  November 27, 2013

By:  Mentor Research Institute

When you seek the services of a mental health professional you hope for competence, integrity, and high ethical standards. There are structures in place that support such standards, but the consumer must be aware of the fact that there are individuals who present themselves as "consultants" "counselors" or "therapists" who have no requirement or intention to adhere to any professional ethic or standard of care.

Ethical standards adopted by the various professional organizations are voluntary guidelines. The members of a professional organization may be required as a condition of membership to adhere to the organizations code of ethics and standards of practice. This requirement is reassuring, but not legally binding. Consequences for breaching a code of ethics or a professional standard of practice may include censure, educational requirements, stipulated resignation from or mandatory loss of organizational membership.  Consequences for ethical breach, like ethics and standards of practice vary with each professional organization.  Membership in a professional organization encourages ethical behavior but does not prevent unprofessional, unethical or negligent behavior. 

Ethical and professional standards have been adopted and are enforced by the State of Oregon Boards that license and regulate each area of professional practice. Ethical requirements and standards are set by these regulatory Boards for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Psychologists, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners and Psychiatrists.  The possibility of having an ethical complaint investigated and sustained by a licensing board or of losing the state license to practice is an enforcement of ethical and professional standards. Loss of licensure or a sustained ethical complaint negatively affects a professional's reputation, their ability to practice and make a living.

Ethical and professional standards offer little or no protection if your counselor or therapist is not licensed or certified. If the counselor or therapist not licensed or certified and is not a member of a credible professional organization that requires members to adhere to ethical and professional standards, you have no legal or organizational recourse if you believe you have been dealt with unethically or incompetently. 

For more information see the Regulation of Licensed Practice by the State of Oregon