Professional Ethics

APA and ACA Critique


The American Psychological Association (APA) is one of the most influential professional associations of psychologists in the world, including experts from the U.S. and Canada, as well as the associate members from other countries. It consists of about 150 thousand members and has a budget of about $70 million. The mission of the APA is to promote psychology as a science, a profession, and a means of improving the well-being, mental health and education of the people (Corey, 2013).

The American Counseling Association (ACA) is an educational, scientific and professional organization, whose members aim is to promote a persons progress throughout the life. The members of the association recognize the differences in the society and adhere the cross-cultural approach during the work, with the efforts to support the well-being, dignity, potential and uniqueness of each individual (Barnes & Murdin, 2001).

Both organizations have their official Web sites with good navigation and lots of useful information, articles, publications and advices. However, if these websites are considered in terms of the activity of professionals in accordance with the professional ethics, and information about membership for the candidates for membership to the organizations, the APAs website definitely wins.

The quality of the information must meet certain requirements; especially it is to be useful. This characteristic of information is evaluated by the internal and external users according to the following requirements:

  • appropriateness and timeliness;
  • the accuracy;
  • comparability of the information;
  • its accessibility and clarity.

Once logged to the APA website, one immediately sees the wide range of topics in psychology: for example, Addictions, Anger, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Bullying etc. Thus, the source allows to find any needed information for the user.

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At the same time, the ACAs website has no information that would comply with the requirements of the usefulness of the information. Therefore, the APAs website is better in terms of usefulness.

Moreover, psychologists of this organization published the first Code of Ethics in 1953. The document, containing 171 pages, was the result of 13 years of discussions held within the walls of the APA, where at the end of 1930, a temporary Committee of Scientific and Professional Ethics was created. The Committee soon became regular and was involved in the investigation to draw attention to unethical behavior, usually occurring in the practice of professional psychologists. In 1948, the Committee members have proposed to develop a formal Code of Ethics (Corey, 2013).

The APAs Code of Ethics

The psychologists have an ethical responsibility and a commitment to the client and the professional community. In the U.S. and European countries, it is the legally adopted Code of Ethics, which regulates activities of the professional psychologists.

In general, the Code of Ethics, set out on the APA website, prescribes:

  • to act with the comply with the terms of privacy;

not to cause harm to the client;

  • do not operate with the dependency relationships that arise in the course of therapy;
  • to act only within the limits of professional competence;
  • to rely on the consent of the customer, understanding what was going on and informed of the possible consequences
  • to set the price for consultation during the first conversation with the client. Fee for the consultation can not be replaced by any kind of work or service from a client.
  • For a professional, Code of Ethics serves primarily as a responsibility not as the punishing force of the external bodies, but as an internal control of the professional activity and an internal criterion of the professionalism. Specific provisions of the Code of Ethics arose from within the therapeutic practice of previous generations of psychologists. Therefore, these rules are internally meaningful and incorporated into the fabric of the psychotherapeutic process, uphold by the therapists of different directions (Welfel, 2012).

    Awareness about the content of the psychological Code of Ethics will help the client to protect oneself from contact with a non-professional and avert the danger of a collision with a professional abuse. That is why it is so important to publish and ease the search of terms of the Code of Ethics on the website of the health organization.

    The ACAs Code of Ethics

    The ACA provides a detailed exposition of the terms of ethics to the present and future members of the association, as well as gives its clients the opportunity to clarify for themselves the nature of ethical responsibility shared by all its members.

    As a code of ethics, this document sets out the principles that define the standards of ethical conduct for members of the association. All members of the American Counseling Association must strictly adhere to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

    Within the meaning and value of the Code of Ethics of the ACA, in contrast to the APA Code, it is rather a basis that allows working with complaints about the violations of the ethical standards committed by the members of the association, than the way to develop the inner professional peace of the consultant. The Code of Ethics for the ACA serves as groundwork for the ethical complaints against the members of the Association.


    Therefore, as in many other professions, there are ethical principles and requirements mandatory for implementation in the work of psychologists or counselors during providing the psychological help or giving an advice. The existence of different ethical codes of practice evidences that there are no unambiguous and simple answers to the ethical and moral issues that arise in psychological practice.

    These principles are necessary to provide the psychological help not just in a more effective and meaningful way, but also to make it socially acceptable. Since ethical principles play an important role in the activities of psychologists and counselors, the APAs website and its content is an example and a model for maintaining the ethical principles in the professional activity.

    In comparison with the APAs Code of Ethics, the Code of Ethics of the ACA is not only outdated in many ways, but many necessary professional and ethical principles are not formulated among its rules. In order ethical principles to become realities of business life, they should be included in the decision-making at all levels of management of the association, as well as be practiced by all employees, i.e. to be part of the actual personnel policy.

    The current Rules and Procedures of the APA Ethics Committee describe ways on how to fill, investigate, and resolve complaints regarding unethical behavior. Thus, the Code of Ethics of the APA is more efficient because, in contrast to the ACAs Code of Ethics, it provides the application of the proper disciplinary actions directed at punishing of the offenders of the Code and the encouragement of acts committed in accordance with the rules of the Code of Ethics.

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