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Good Ethics = Good Therapy

  A Therapist's Oath - 2023

Law and Ethics in Clinical Practice

Katie Amatruda, PsyD, MFT, CST-T, BCETS

This course meets the qualifications for 6 hours of continuing education

2020-2022 have been hard years. We are facing a pandemic, social unrest, violence against people of color, and an armed insurrection in the Capitol building. Many therapists are feeling stressed, having to switch to online therapy, perhaps while home-schooling their children. We may be feeling burnt-out, depressed, overwhelmed.

Many of us have lost family members, colleagues, friends. These are hard times. For most of the past two years, we couldn't socialize, do any hugging outside of our "social pods" (unless you live alone, and then you may be experiencing "skin hunger.") Restaurants were closed, you couldn't go to the gym, or get your hair cut. And you still have to pay your bills, complete your CEs, and maintain the legal and ethical obligations of the profession.

Uncertainty reigns. Some parts of the world are reopening borders, others not. Wearing a mask or not can vary town to town, county to county. No one knows what is next, yet we as therapists often have to treat anxiety and depression when we ourselves are anxious and depressed. The only certainty is uncertainty. And this is why, perhaps more than ever, we must focus on self-care, and having a strong moral center. If nothing else, we must live our own best lives, so that we can treat others.

As a licensed therapist, I took no oath when I received my license to practice.  Professional mental health therapists swear nothing. Doctors have the Hippocratic oath, which, contrary to popular belief, does not start with, or even include the phrase,  “First, do no harm." It does include the promise to “keep them from harm and injustice.” Emergency medical technicians, physical therapists, and veterinarians are among those in the healing professions who take an oath.

A Therapist's Oath

I solemnly swear that

1. I will, first, do no harm...I will strive to be wise, compassionate and contained with those in my care.

2. I will speak up against torture, exploitation and violence, and tolerate no bullying.

3. I will protect those who are vulnerable, and cannot speak up for themselves.

4. I will be silent when it is time to be silent, protecting the sacred oath of confidentiality.

5. I will speak the truth.

6. I will be respectful.

7. I will know my abilities, my limits and myself.

8. I will ask for help when I need it, and acknowledge when I don't know something.

9. I will give back, and strive to make my presence be a healing one in the world.

10. I will take care of myself, so that I can take care of others.

How can it be, that we who are dedicated to the healing of trauma, can participate in torture? The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association have declared that participation in interrogations violates basic international human rights and the ethical imperative to do no harm. The American Anthropological Association condemns the use of anthropological knowledge as an element of physical or psychological torture.

 The American Psychological Association's (APA) position on torture is clear and unequivocal: Any direct or indirect participation in any act of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by psychologists is strictly prohibited. There are no exceptions. Such acts as waterboarding, sexual humiliation, stress positions and exploitation of phobias are clear violations of APA's no torture/no abuse policy.

APA's timeline of its response to torture is available here.

Psychologists were allowed to participate in military interrogations. Quoting from the American Psychological Association website:

Based on years of careful and thorough analysis, APA has affirmed that psychology has a vital role to play in promoting the use of ethical interrogations to safeguard the welfare of detainees and facilitate communications with them. By staying engaged, APA is able to work with the many parties, both within and outside of the military, who are dedicated to preventing torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. (Source: “Frequently asked questions regarding APA’s policies and positions on the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during interrogations” (2007, November 15). In APA online Retrieved 21:02, November 15, 2007, from http://www.apa.org/releases/faqinterrogation.html)

In writing this course, I began to wonder why there are so few oaths which define our responsibilities as therapists. I compiled the oaths I found; please click here her to open a new window and see them.

Please click here for Oaths by Professional Associations

Please click here for Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Please click here for Oaths against participating in torture and executions

Are there other oaths out there? If so, please let me know, so that I can include them.

Good Ethics equal Good Therapy.

When we, as clinicians, have good boundaries, our patients feel safer to explore the depths of their pain.
When we, as clinicians, respect and honor confidentiality, our patients feel safer to explore their problems.
When we, as clinicians, report child abuse and elder abuse, our patients feel safer, and society is safer.
When we, as clinicians, follow the scope of our practice, our patients feel more confident.
When we, as clinicians, practice informed consent, our patients know what to expect.

This course is designed to help therapists identify the components and importance of good ethical behavior in clinical practice.

Learning Objectives

In this 6 unit course clinicians will:

1. be able to identify components of ethical professional conduct.
2. become familiar with legal issues regarding mandated reporting of child abuse and elder abuse.
3. identify issues that may be associated with confidentiality, client welfare, competence/scope of practice and informed consent
4 . be able to identify scope of practice and have resources for outside consultation.
5 . patient/therapist privilege and Tarasoff Issues.


is approved by the:

CA BBS - California Board of Behavioral Science accepts our CE Provider Approvals through APA, NASW, and NBCC. Course meets the qualifications for hours of continuing education credit for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and/or LEPs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Science
Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, Mental Health Counseling (BAP 753 )
NAADAC - The Association for Addiction Professionals (#575)
NBCC - National Board for Certified Counselors - www.psychceu.com has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6055. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. www.psychceu.com is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. (ACEP #6055)
Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors (#1761)
The Texas Board of Social Work Examiners (#6246)

maintains responsibility for the program.



how it works

Due to the wonders of technology, the minute you submit your order over our secure line, it is encrypted, and processed safely and securely by Authorize.net, a secure web processor. Or, if you prefer, call us toll-free 888-777-3773.

You will immediately receive confirmation of your order, your password and how to access the course material. (Please do not block e-mails from classes@psychceu.com, orders@psychceu.com and info@psychceu.com)

If you ordered an online course, you can begin to take the course immediately.

You will receive instructions, via e-mail, on how to take your test online.

Contact us or call if you need technical support.

Your test will be graded online, so the moment you have passed, you may print out your certificate of completion.

That's it! You are done!

Cost of the course is $99

The material contained in this course is not a substitute for legal, ethical or clinical advice or consultation. This is NOT a legal document. This material is solely for the purpose of continuing education; it is not a substitute  for personal or clinical consultation, or legal advice.

Laws, standards , guidelines, and regulations  often change. Students should stay in touch with their professional associations, state licensing boards and other state or federal agencies for the most current legislation, guidelines and information.

All material included in this course is either in the public domain, or used with express permission.

bioKatie Amatruda, PsyD, MFT, CST-T, BCETS, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress, and a teaching member of the International Society for Sandplay Therapy. She is a member of DMAT CA-6, a Disaster Service Mental Health volunteer with the Red Cross, and has responded to the Katrina disaster, as well as to local fires and floods with the Disaster Action Team. She is the Mental Health Lead for the Marin County Red Cross Disaster Services. She went to Sri Lanka with the Association for Play Therapy and OperationUSA. She has lectured internationally and teaches in the Extended Education departments at U.C. Berkeley and Sonoma State University. She is the author of A Field Guide to Disaster Mental Health: Providing Psychological First Aid,  HIV: The Storm, Psyche & Soma, Trauma, Terror and Treatment, and Painted Ponies: Bipolar Disorder in Children, Adolescents and Adults. Her work with children with cancer is featured in the video Sandplay Therapy and the Liminal World. She is the co-author of Sandplay, The Sacred Healing: A Guide to Symbolic Process and Reweaving the Web: The Treatment of Substance Abuse. She practices in Northern California.



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Frequently Asked Questions



© 2024. www.psychceu.com. all rights reserved


All material included in this course is either in the public domain, or used with express permission.


www.psychceu.com adheres to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists. Our courses are carefully screened by our Planning Committee to adhere to APA standards. We also require authors who compose Internet courses specifically for us to follow APA ethical standards.

Many of our courses contain case material, and may use the methods of qualitative research and analysis, in-depth interviews and ethnographic studies. The psychotherapeutic techniques depicted may include play therapy, sandplay therapy, dream analysis, drawing analysis, client and therapist self-report, clinical vignettes, etc. The materials presented may be considered non-traditional and may be controversial, and may not have widespread endorsement within the profession. www.psychceu.com maintains responsibility for the program.


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