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AAMFT Code of Ethics Addresses “Technology-Assisted Professional Services”

AAMFT Code of Ethics

According to the Family Therap-eNews, theAmerican Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) promulgated a new Code of Ethics on January 1, 2015. The AAMFT Code of Ethics includes new language in the Preamble, revised language throughout the Code, and two brand new standards. Of those two new standards, Standard VI  discusses “technology-assisted professional services,” to address the growing interest in technology-related questions by Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) nationwide and internationally. Standard IV wording is reproduced here for your convenience:

AAMFT Code of Ethics 

STANDARD VI
TECHNOLOGY-ASSISTED PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

Therapy, supervision, and other professional services engaged in by marriage and family therapists take place over an increasing number of technological platforms.  There are great benefits and responsibilities inherent in both the traditional therapeutic and supervision contexts, as well as in the utilization of technologically-assisted professional services. This standard addresses basic ethical requirements of offering therapy, supervision, and related professional services using electronic means.

6.1 Technology Assisted Services.

Prior to commencing therapy or supervision services through electronic means (including but not limited to phone and Internet), marriage and family therapists ensure that they are compliant with all relevant laws for the delivery of such services.  Additionally, marriage and family therapists must: (a) determine that technologically-assisted services or supervision are appropriate for clients or supervisees, considering professional, intellectual, emotional, and physical needs; (b) inform clients or supervisees of the potential risks and benefits associated with technologically-assisted services; (c) ensure the security of their communication medium; and (d) only commence electronic therapy or supervision after appropriate education, training, or supervised experience using the relevant technology.

6.2 Consent to Treat or Supervise.

Clients and supervisees, whether contracting for services as individuals, dyads, families, or groups, must be made aware of the risks and responsibilities associated with technology-assisted services.  Therapists are to advise clients and supervisees in writing of these risks, and of both the therapist’s and clients’/supervisees’ responsibilities for minimizing such risks.

6.3 Confidentiality and Professional Responsibilities.

It is the therapist’s or supervisor’s responsibility to choose technological platforms that adhere to standards of best practices related to confidentiality and quality of services, and that meet applicable laws. Clients and supervisees are to be made aware in writing of the limitations and protections offered by the therapist’s or supervisor’s technology.

6.4 Technology and Documentation.

Therapists and supervisors are to ensure that all documentation containing identifying or otherwise sensitive information which is electronically stored and/or transferred is done using technology that adhere to standards of best practices related to confidentiality and quality of services, and that meet applicable laws.  Clients and supervisees are to be made aware in writing of the limitations and protections offered by the therapist’s or supervisor’s technology.

6.5 Location of Services and Practice.

Therapists and supervisors follow all applicable laws regarding location of practice and services, and do not use technologically-assisted means for practicing outside of their allowed jurisdictions.  

6.6 Training and Use of Current Technology.

Marriage and family therapists ensure that they are well trained and competent in the use of all chosen technology-assisted professional services.  Careful choices of audio, video, and other options are made in order to optimize quality and security of services, and to adhere to standards of best practices for technology-assisted services.  Furthermore, such choices of technology are to be suitably advanced and current so as to best serve the professional needs of clients and supervisees.

Standard VI will now be a source of guidance for online therapy, online supervision (also known as “telesupervision,”) electronic record keeping and social media. Other sections of the code of relevance to therapists seeking guidance include  Standards 1.3, 2.2, and 3.4. The AAMFT document can be found here.

The AMMFT code joins a long list of ethical codes and guidelines that have been developed internationally. The TeleMental Health Institute has been keeping an updated list of these documents online on its webpage, entitled, TeleMental Health Standards, Guidelines, Best Practices & Other Statements. Being an MFT myself, I congratulate my fellow MFTs on a job well done!

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