Ethical Guidelines for Members of NACS
The goal of these instructions is to help people working in the field of sexology to grasp the significance of ethics in their own work. These guidelines are not to be taken as rules but more a tool, which allow one to make ethical contemplation a part of their everyday work routine, and a tool to support members facing ethical dilemmas. Ethics are not about giving orders and abiding rules, but about internalising the responsibility for one’s decisions even in difficult situations. Ethical action depends on the situation because people and their conditions vary; therefore it is necessary for the members to be sensitive to the ethical dimensions of the situations they encounter in their work. Ethical sensitivity is crucial for maintaining high standard of professionalism in sexological work.
These guidelines are aimed for all members of NACS, especially for people working as sexual therapists or counsellors. Some parts may also be applicable to sexological research and education. Furthermore, these guidelines are designed to help clients and others who are interested in the ethical principles guiding above-mentioned professionals. These instructions do not replace ethical guidelines created for particular professions or institutions but are meant as an addition to them. In case these guidelines collide with local laws, the laws should be abided.
In the following text, a member refers to any member of NACS, and the client refers to any person or group to which a member has a professional relationship. The guidelines are organised around four main headlines: rights, dignity, responsibility, and professionalism.
A member respects the client’s autonomy, which includes the right to start and terminate the client relationship. A member makes sure that the client has enough information and is able to give informed consent concerning her/his participation into any practice involved in professional relationship.
A member seeks to enhance the client’s own capability to make decisions concerning her/him, also taking into account the well-being of others close to the client. Even in situations, when local law demands some kind of forced action, a member seeks cooperative relationship.
A member avoids using her/his position or knowledge in any way that violates, exploits or suppresses the client.
A member respects the client’s bodily, mental and emotional boundaries. When the client relationship demands dealing with these boundaries, she/he proceeds with heightened sensitivity.
The discussions between a member and the client, all the information and documents concerned and the existence of the client relationship are confidential. Any information about them may not be disclosed to anyone without the client’s consent.
Local laws may oblige a member to disclose information about the client relationship in specific circumstances. The client should be informed about them.
If any material from the client relationship is used for scientific study or publication, a member makes sure that the client is informed and her/his privacy and anonymity are protected.
A member respects the client’s personality, experience and dignity. This means sensitivity to individual differences that are based on client’s age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic and cultural origin, language, religion, functional level, education and socioeconomic status. A member is also aware of the limitations that her/his own background might cause in these matters.
A member strives to be unbiased towards the client’s values, way of life and ideology. It is important to identify the impact of one’s own values, emotions and motivations on the client relationships, and one should always pay special attention to using neutral and respectful language when client is contacted via telephone, email or internet.
A member seeks to identify situations where she/he is disqualified to start a client relationship to avoid confusion of roles and mixing of professional and non-professional relationships.
A member is responsible for furthering the client’s interests as mutually agreed during the client relationship. She/he is responsible for the quality of her/his work and its direct consequences on the client. If a member cannot continue the process she/he has started, the client must be referred to other competent professional.
A member ensures that relationship between her/him and the client remains professional at all times. She/he is sensitive about how sexuality and intimacy both directly and indirectly can influence the client relationship. A member will never enter a sexual relationship with the client and will also make sure that the relationship stays professional on the emotional level as well.
A member is responsible for using professional and scientific knowledge correctly in client relationships and in other situations concerning her/his profession. A member is also aware of the ethical dimensions of her/his decisions and guidance. She/he should seek consultation, if she/he feels unable to cope with the problem at hand.
A member takes care that their professional knowledge and skill levels are as high as possible, and seeks to maintain ones own professional development continually. She/he follows the development of her/his working field and is aware of the limitations of the methods she/he uses.
A member recognises any shortcomings in her/his training or competence and redirects the clients that need help in these areas to more suitable professionals.
A member uses only such professional titles, which she/he is entitled to by education, authorisation or position. A member is aware that she/he is perceived as a representative of her/his profession.
A member reflects and evaluates her/his work continuously. She/he seeks to identify any professional or ethical problems and corrects her/his actions and approach accordingly.
A member will seek proper professional guidance and take care of her/his well-being so that she/he will be able to maintain good professional and ethical standards in her/his own work.
A member makes her/his role visible and clear in every professional context. This includes informing the client and co-workers about her/his educational background, qualifications, competence and possible commitments to particular schools of thought, forms of therapy or methods. A member will try to promote the mutual understanding between her/him and the client by being open about his/her goals and motivations and by repeatedly making sure that the client has understood him/her correctly.
The following instructions are applied to sexological research concerning human subjects:
1) World Medical Association Declaration
of Helsinki (1964/1989), and
2) World Health Organization Proposed International Guidelines
for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects (1982).
Sólveig Anna Bóasdóttir
Anne Kulseng Berg