Code of Ethics

In its activities, the Institute of Humanistic and Existential Psychology adheres to the Code of Professional Ethics of the East European Association for Existential Therapy as published below.

Code of Professional Ethics

of the East European Association for Existential Therapy

I. Definitions

1.1. The following concepts and abbreviations are to be understood in the text of the Code as defined below:

1.1.1. Code is the Code of Professional Ethics of the East European Association for Existential Therapy; it also sets the rules of professional conduct of students, teachers, trainers, supervisors and therapists at psychotherapists’ training facilities.

1.1.2. Association or EEАET is the East European Association for Existential Therapy.

1.1.3. All definitions apply equally to both male and female individuals.

1.1.4. Ethical Committee or EC is the Ethical Committee of the East
European Association for Existential Therapy.

1.1.5. Psychotherapist or therapist is a person practicing psychotherapy or psychological counseling.

1.1.6. Client is a person or a group of persons receiving psychotherapeutic help from the psychotherapist within the framework of professional relations.

1.1.7. Psychotherapy is professional help provided by the psychotherapist to the client with the purpose of improving the quality of his life.

1.1.8. Student is a person who is trained at a psychotherapists’ training facility.

II. General Principles

2.1. The principles of professional ethics set in the Code conform to the general principles of the European Convention of Human Rights and define ethical conduct of psychotherapists.

2.2. In one’s professional activities, a psychotherapist strives to conform to the highest standards of his/her profession, while responsibly assessing his/her own possibilities and limitations in providing professional services.

III. Responsibility

3.1. All the members of EEAET are required to comply with the rules of this Code from the moment of joining the Association. These rules define the relations of psychotherapists and clients, as well as those of teachers/supervisors/therapists and students in the process of psychotherapeutic training.

3.2. The psychotherapist is required to clearly recognize his/her own responsibility for professional actions, statements and suggestions arising from his/her professional role. Any decision by the psychotherapist regarding the client has to conform to his/her professional competence and also to consider the current scientific and methodological status of psychotherapy.

3.3. While taking decisions, the psychotherapist considers personal, social and organizational contexts of work. The psychotherapist has to be able to evaluate these contexts and their influence on the quality of his/her work, including ways in which clients may use the information provided by the psychotherapist or his/her influence.

3.4. The psychotherapist must, in a timely manner, react to obstacles of any kind that may hinder productive work; the psychotherapist has to avoid relations which may be able to provoke conflicts of interests or bring distortions into the process of psychotherapy.

3.5. While taking any decisions regarding his/her client, the psychotherapist must consider his own personal limitations (including emotional limitations, ethical beliefs). If necessary, the psychotherapist must consult other professionals or refer his/her client to them.

3.6. The psychotherapist must be able to explain his actions and decisions to clients in a way that is accessible to them.

3.7. The psychotherapist must refrain from abuse of his/her authority based on the professional role and competence. Such authority may be used only upon request and willingness of the client along with mutual agreement.

3.8. The psychotherapist involved in scientific research is responsible for the chosen methodology and reliability of the results obtained. Any distortions or simplistic misrepresentations of the data obtained in scientific research are not allowed (except if aimed at preserving confidentiality).

3.9. The psychotherapist takes care that his actions, statements or interpretations of data do not demean human dignity in terms of age, gender, as well as ethical, economic, social and any other terms.

IV. Competence

4.1. Maintaining high standards of psychotherapists‘ competence and responsibility is the general aim of the EEAET in providing welfare to community and in psychotherapy in general.

4.2. The psychotherapist must continuously maintain and deepen his/her own professional competence by studying modern developments in the theory and practice of psychotherapy and adjacent fields of science. He/she has to take care to constantly refine his/her own professional skills and personal qualities. The psychotherapist must regularly submit his/her work for supervision by colleagues.

4.3. Introducing oneself in any context, the psychotherapist truthfully and exactly relates his/her own education, professional qualifications, limits of competence and experience. Professional competence is proved by diplomas and certificates of training institutions providing professional education in psychotherapy. Education allowing use of certain methods or techniques of psychotherapy is indicated as additional qualification. It is not allowed to mislead the present or potential clients as well as colleagues regarding one‘s professional competence.

4.4. The psychotherapist realizes the influence of his/her own personal problems and conflicts on the quality of his/her professional activity and refrains from engaging in professional relations where personal limitations of the psychotherapist might lead to inadequate reactions, actions and decisions thus causing harm to the client, student, colleague or research participant. If the psychotherapist discovers such difficulties after entering a professional relationship, he/she seeks professional help to determine further moves. The psychotherapist must be prepared that in certain cases he/she may face a necessity to limit or discontinue professional activity.

4.5. When moving into a new field of psychotherapeutic work (e.g., supervision), the psychotherapist must have completed all required professional training and to satisfy all requirements of the field. He/she also has to make sure that there are no contradictions between different fields of his/her professional activity.

V. Legal Standards

5.1. In case the psychotherapist discovers contradictions in his/her practice between the Ethical Code of the EEAET and the laws of the country in which he/she works (posing specific requirements for the professional behaviour of psychotherapists, e.g. mandatory notification about a threat to the client or third party, accessibility of the psychotherapist‘s notes), the psychotherapist has to follow the laws of his/her country. Altogether it is essential to strive to possibly reduce these contradictions.

5.2. The psychotherapist avoids unlawful acts and does not extend support to actions of third parties leading to violations of human rights.

5.3. In case investigation is commenced against the psychotherapist in relation to his/her professional activity, he/she informs the Ethical Committee of the EEAET about it in writing within 14 days.

VI. Confidentiality

6.1. Retaining confidentiality of information obtained in the course of psychotherapeutic work is the primary obligation of the psychotherapist. This obligation also remains valid after completion or termination of therapeutic relations. Information about the client may be passed to third parties only with permission of the client (or his/her legal representative), except certain special cases as described below. The psychotherapist may deem himself/herself not bound by confidentiality obligation only in case of at least one of the following three conditions:

  • No other way exists to help the client, unless the principle of confidentiality is violated;
  • It is obvious that if the psychotherapist complies with the confidentiality principle, the health or life of the client, therapist and/or third parties may be endangered;
  • The psychotherapist must be confident that in case of violation of the confidentiality principle the danger to the client, therapist and/or third parties will be restricted or completely removed.

The confidentiality principle also applies to information about the clients of colleagues.

6.2. The psychotherapist informs the client about the limits of confidentiality. He must obtain a written permission from the client to present information about him/her (verbally or in writing) to third parties and/or carefully alters any identifying data. Exceptions are limited to cases where the psychotherapist is obliged to provide information by law. The client has the right to cancel his/her permission at any moment.

6.3. Information and data obtained in the course of psychotherapy, clinical interviews, testing, assessment and diagnostics of clients, students, personnel, etc. may be discussed with colleagues without written permission of the client only with professional intentions in cases where presentation of information is part of the procedure aimed at training and evaluation of the professional qualification of the psychotherapist, or within supervision framework.

6.4. The psychotherapist undertakes to guarantee confidentiality in keeping and using his/her notes.

6.5. The psychotherapist involved in work with clients unable to tend after themselves is especially cautious in observing the interests of these clients and, if necessary, provides counsel to related persons.

VII. Principles of Psychotherapeutic Process

7.1. The psychotherapist must realize his/her possible influence on clients, students and other persons who, to a certain extent, depend on his/her professional activity. He/she refrains from abuse of his/her own authority based on the professional role and competence which may give rise to dependence of clients or turn into their emotional, material or any other exploitation. The psychotherapist must act responsibly, understanding the specific nature of psychotherapeutic relations based on trust and partial dependence. Exploiting trust and abusing it with regard to one‘s own personal interests – emotional, sexual, social or material – is a major violation of professional conduct.

7.2. The psychotherapist refrains from double relations with the client (psychotherapy of colleagues, students, close friends or relatives, etc.) which may influence the professional judgement and actions of the psychotherapist. Sexual intimacy with persons involved in professional relations with the psychotherapist (therapy, research, training, supervision) is a major violation of professional ethics.

7.3. Within two years after completion of professional relations, the psychotherapist has no right to engage in other relations with the client that may provide material or any other benefit.

7.4. It is not allowed to force any person to participate in psychotherapy or in research without his/her voluntary consent.

7.5. The psychotherapist must explain the principles, conditions and methods of forthcoming psychotherapeutic work to the client, and also revert to discussion of these principles in the course of psychotherapy with the client. These explanations have to cover all aspects of psychotherapy which may influence the client‘s consent to participate in psychotherapy.

7.6. The psychotherapist agreeing to commence work with a client upon request of a third person clearly explains to all parties involved the specificity of therapeutic relations and shared responsibility.

7.7. If an organization of any kind requests from the psychotherapist actions that violate principles of ethics, the psychotherapist informs its representatives of arising ethical conflict and the responsibility of every party involved. In case of necessity the psychotherapist seeks help (in writing) from the Ethical Committee of the EEAET.

7.8. The psychotherapist makes an agreement with the client regarding the fees for his/her services in a timely, clear and understandable (to the client) manner. Rewards of any kind to the client for positive reference regarding the psychotherapist‘s work are considered as contradictory to ethical principles. The psychotherapist finds possibility to assign part of his time to working with clients not able to pay the usual fees or completely unable to pay for the services of the psychotherapist.

7.9. The psychotherapist terminates therapeutic relations if the client wishes so or if they are of no help to the client. If necessary, the psychotherapist offers the client alternative possibilities of seeking help.

7.10. The psychotherapist refrains from unrealistic promises to clients, i.e. does not promise achieving results which in psychotherapy are not guaranteed.

7.11. The contract stipulated with the client in the starting phase of the psychotherapy must define the limits of the psychotherapy, the goals of the client in the psychotherapy, the frequency and duration of sessions, the estimated total duration of the psychotherapy, the degree of responsibility of the psychotherapist and client in their joint work, the procedure of completion of the psychotherapy,the way and size of remuneration, possibilities of receiving counsel from other specialists.

7.12. The psychotherapist has no right to terminate psychotherapy if there are no reasons not depending on him/her. In case psychotherapy still has to be terminated on the initiative of the psychotherapist, he/she has to explain this decision to the client in a way accessible to the client, and to give advice on the best course of action in the present circumstances and/or refer the client to another specialist.

7.13. The financial conditions of the psychotherapist‘s work – private or institutional (insurance) payment, payment for missed and extra sessions, etc. – have to be discussed with the client prior to commencing psychotherapy. If psychotherapy is paid for by an institution, charging any extra fees is not allowed.

7.14. In the process of psychotherapy, the psychotherapist must not allow participation of other persons, except cases when the client agrees that some part or all of the psychotherapy would be observed by other persons. „Other“ does not refer to persons whose participation is essential for the psychotherapy.

7.15. The psychotherapist informs the client about the Code of Professional Ethics which is abided by the psychotherapist and about posibilities to appeal actions of the psychotherapist to the Ethical Committee of the EEAET.

VIII. Professional Relations

8.1. The psychotherapist respects traditions, principles and practice of related professions and other paradigms of psychotherapy, and in case of necessity cooperates with other specialists.

8.2. The psychotherapist regards with due attention cases where the client receives parallel aid from other specialists and seeks, together with the client, to minimize possible contradictions that may have adverse effect on the client‘s interests. If possibilities and the client’s consent are available, the psychotherapist cooperates with other specialists.

8.3. The psychotherapist does not use professional relations with supervisees, students, colleagues or research participants for his/her own sordid goals.

8.4. In case the psychotherapist discovers unethical behaviour of another psychotherapist, he/she seeks, situation permitting, to inform that colleague about his/her own understanding of the behaviour. If the behaviour is related to insufficient sensitivity, lack of experience or knowledge, such informal attitude is appropriate; at the same time confidentiality has to be preserved. If the unethical act of the colleague is too serious to be resolved in an informal way, the psychotherapist aware of the unethical behaviour must inform in writing the Ethical Committee of the EEAET or of the professional organization of his/her country.

IX. Publicity

9.1. Providing public information about his/her services, the psychotherapist limits it with the following: first and second name, current highest degree of academic education, certificate of professional psychotherapeutic training, psychotherapist‘s certificate and date of its validity, membership in professional organizations, address, phone number, short description of psychotherapeutic services offered, fees, working languages, contracts with insurance companies, also other appropriate information not in contradiction with the Code of Ethics of the EEAET.

9.2. In the public information regarding his/her professional services, the psychotherapist does not employ data that may create a false impression about his/her education, qualifications and methods of work. Information of such kind should not provide basis for unrealistic expectations of potential clients regarding the outcomes of psychotherapy, and also should not appeal to fears, anxieties or other strong emotions of potential clients. The psychotherapist must not stress the uniqueness of his/her abilities or methods of work.

9.3. The psychotherapist is not allowed to reward, including with his/her own professional services, representatives of the press, radio, television and other mass media for advertising and other public information about his/her services. Paid advertisement should be explicitly marked as such.

9.4. Any public announcement, including advertisements, seminars, psychotherapeutic groups or training programs, must contain explicit information about their goals, the qualifications of facilitators and trainers, the conditions and methods used, the time frame and payment terms.

9.5. Psychotherapists advertising or in any other way introducing psychotherapeutic techniques, books or other information products must take care that information about them is professional and ethical, avoiding exaggerations and sensationality.

9.6. It is not appropriate for the psychotherapist to participate in advertising non-psychological (non-psychotherapeutic) products while appearing in the quality of the psychotherapist.

9.7. Psychotherapists as teachers and trainers are responsible for exactness and ethical aspects of the material offered, and also for its comprehensibility to the audience receiving it. This also applies to programs, catalogues, flyers etc. of the psychotherapist‘s public appearances.

9.8. The psychotherapist must actively take notice of cases where colleagues distribute information non-complying with ethical principles regarding information about psychotherapists and psychotherapy.

9.9. Psychological diagnostics and other psychotherapeutic services are appropriate only within the framework of professional relations. During lectures, demonstrations, appearances in mass media, the psychotherapist offers professional counsel or judgement only in case he/she is fully confident of the professionality of these statements.

X. Psychological Assessment, Testing and Research

10.1. Working with the client or research participant, the psychotherapist employs only those diagnostic techniques and research methods which serve the client‘s interest and benefit. The psychotherapist respects the client‘s right to know and comprehend all results of diagnostics, assessment and research. If the psychotherapist works with persons not capable of understanding the nature of the work performed, the psychotherapist pays special attention to serving the client‘s interest and also provides the necessary recommendations to responsible persons involved in the client‘s care.

10.2. The psychotherapist treats with attention confidentiality of data in any stage of their processing; he takes care of understanding ethical principles by his colleagues and co-researchers.

10.3. The psychotherapist makes sure that the results of assessment and research are adequately understood by other persons.

XI. Ethical Principles in the Process of Psychotherapy Training

11.1. The ethical principles set in this Code also regulate professional relations in the process of psychotherapy training in the framework of training institutions. Teachers, supervisors, psychotherapists and students must cooperate with each other according to the rules of ethical professional behaviour.

11.2. The management of training institutions is responsible for timely familiarization of all persons mentioned in para 11.1 with the Code of Professional Ethics and the necessity to follow its principles in the course of training. They are also informed about procedures to appeal against unethical behaviour.

11.3. Psychotherapy training is incompatible with exploitation of any kind. The highest values in psychotherapy training are freedom, responsibility, truthfulness, honesty and mutual respect of the participants of the training process.

11.4. Teachers, supervisors and therapists, commencing work within the framework of psychotherapy training, clearly define the limits of confidentiality to students and, if necessary, revert to this matter.

11.5. Teachers, supervisors and therapists are responsible for establishing limits in the relations with students which comply to the theoretical and practical attitudes of the existential paradigm.

11.6. The terms and conditions of training, supervision and therapy are discussed with students before commencing training/supervision/therapy.

11.7. Teachers, supervisors and therapists have to ascertain in a timely manner that professional, personal, official or any other relations not connected with the process of training will not harm the quality and efficiency of training/supervision/therapy. If necessary, the teacher/supervisor/therapist must seek professional advice to solve the resulting difficult situation.

11.8. Teachers/supervisors/therapists are responsible for thorough discussion with students of possible consequences of being involved in double professional relations, when the process of training makes roles of administrator, teacher, supervisor and therapist cross each other.

11.9. The management of the training insitution, on the basis of the recommendations of teachers, supervisors and trainers, has the right to take decision to allow (indicating conditions) or forbid the student to practise as a psychotherapist for a certain period of time. The student is responsible for following this decision and recommendations received in relation to his/her work.

11.10. Teachers, supervisors, therapists and students must observe the principle of confidentiality regarding all personal information obtained in the process of training – in groups, supervision or any other sessions. The same concerns information about the work of colleagues and students as well as information about the clients discussed during supervision.

11.11 Information about clients is provided during lectures and supervisions (verbally or in writing) only after processing it in such a way that identification of the client is impossible. In case such processing is not possible, information has to be provided in a non-public way.

11.12. Confidentiality may be violated in the course of evaluation of students‘ work, but only upon the condition that this was explicitly defined before commencement of this process. In such cases teachers/supervisors may purposefully exchange obtained information which is necessary for the evaluation of students.

XII. Appeals and Their Hearings

12.1. Clients, persons authorized by them and students may appeal for any actions of psychotherapists – members of the EEAET (students – for actions of teachers/ super­visors/psychotherapists, involved in training), except claims regarding damage to health which are investigated according to the laws of the countries of residence of appealing persons and of the psychotherapists whose actions are appealed against. Members of the Association may also appeal against actions of other members of the Association if they assume that the colleague‘s actions have inflicted damage on the results of their work or on their professional reputation.

12.2. Appeals are investigated by the Commission of the Appeal Investigation (CAI) formed by the Ethical Committee of the Association. The CAI is formed separately for every appeal.

12.3. The EC of the EEAET investigates only those appeals that are received in writing (including computerized versions). The appeal must contain the following information: the first and second names of the appealing person (complainant) and the person against whom the appeal is filed, a brief description of the appeal.

12.4. Appeals are investigated only regarding cases of unethical behaviour that took place not more than 3 years ago.

12.5. Upon reception of an appeal, within 2 weeks the EC forms the CAI consisting of 3 members. One of the members is appointed chairman of the CAI. The members of the CAI may not have kindred, official, professional relations and material interests with the complainant or the person against whom the appeal is filed, and between themselves. If the Ethical Committee lacks such persons, the CAI may be supplemented by other members of the Association.

12.6. Within one month, the EC acknowledges in writing the reception of the appeal to the complainant, informs about the decision to accept it for investigation or to reject it. The decision about accepting or rejecting the appeal is taken by majority voting of the EC. In case of acceptance, the complainant must also receive information regarding the procedure of investigating and hearing of the appeal and the composition of the CAI. All information mentioned is also sent to the person against whom the appeal is filed. In case of rejection of the appeal, this decision is communicated to the complainant in writing including related reasoning and argument.

12.7. In case of acceptance of the appeal, the chairman of the CAI upon meeting with both parties and hearing their arguments firstly attempts to reach a peace agreement. If the complainant does not consent to withdraw his/her appeal, it is investigated further by the CAI.

12.8. The appeal must be investigated by the CAI within three months from the decision to commence the procedure of investigation. In the course of investigation, both the complainant and respondent must have a possibility of providing additional explanations (personally or in writing). They also have the right to authorize third parties to represent them in the process of investigation.

12.9. After the investigation of the appeal, the CAI presents its decision in writing to both parties and to the Ethical Committee. The decision is appended with recommendations about ways to avoid such cases in future.

12.10. Decisions of the CAI are non-mandatory and only of recommendatory nature.

12.11. Within 30 days after the decision of the CAI, the Ethical Committee carries out its decision and communicates it to the complainant, respondent and the Board of the EEAET.

12.12. Decisions of the EC may be appealed in writing to the Board of the EEAET within one month from the date of the decision. The Board of the EEAET may request that the Ethical Committee form another CAI to solve the same appeal.

12.13. In case of confirmation of the decision of the EC, the Board of the EEAET may impose the following sanctions on the respondent:

  • To issue Notice of Unprofessional Behaviour;
  • To publish Information Regarding Inappropriate Behaviour to all members of the Association;
  • To exclude the respondent from the membership at the EEAET.

12.14. Documents of appeal investigation are stored for 5 years.

Adopted at the conference of the members of the EEAET on September 25, 2009.

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