Codes of ethics, professional practice and complaints procedure from Handbook Oct 2014
1 Professional Ethics and Practice
1.1 The Professional Ethics Committee (PEC)
The Committee’s role is to act as the guardian of the organisation’s professional standards. The Committee does this through the Codes of Ethics and Practice (section 3.2–3.4), and by upholding Equal Opportunities Policy (section 3.5).
The Committee’s work covers the following four areas:
(a) Maintaining, and updating as necessary, the Code of Ethics (section 3.2), the Code of Practice (sections 3.3 and 3.4) and the Complaints and Appeals Procedure (section 3.6);
(b) Implementing the Complaints and Appeals procedure when a complaint has been received;
(c) Dealing with requests from people applying for professional membership of AGIP under our accreditation scheme;
(d) Liaison with UKCP over membership matters and the hearing of complaints and appeals.
The Committee meets approximately four times a year or as required according to the business in hand.
All queries and/or correspondence should be addressed to:The Co-ordinator, Professional Ethics Committee,
1 Fairbridge Road
London N19 3EW
1.2 Code of Ethics
This Code of Ethics is to be read in conjunction with the Code of Professional Practice (below, 3.3).
(The letters within sections refer to paragraphs in the Code of Professional Practice 3.3)
(a) The patient’s welfare must always be the prime consideration for the therapist. In adhering to this the therapist is expected to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards. AGIP requires its members to adhere to the content of this document.
(a) Psychotherapists must always seek to act in the best interests of their patients. The only instance in which this may be weighed against other interests is if there is an imminent and serious threat to the patient, or to others.
(b–d) It is the responsibility of the psychotherapist to decide whether or not to treat the patient, the form of psychotherapy to be practiced and the psychotherapeutic handling of the case.
(e–g) Relationships with patients, supervisees and Trainees must always be maintained on a professional basis, as outlined below in 3.3.2.
1.2.3 The limits of skills
(a) Psychotherapists must endeavour to restrict their practice within the limits of their own training or competence.
(b) Psychotherapists must ensure that they maintain a satisfactory level of professional competence.
(c) Trainee psychotherapists must ensure that they have adequate supervision. Supervisors must ensure that Trainees have adequate support.
1.2.4 Conditions of treatment
(a) Psychotherapists are required to disclose to their patients, on request, appropriate details of their training and qualifications.
(b) The patient must be given adequate information regarding the nature and conditions of treatment.
(a–d) All knowledge of patients must be treated confidentially. Where the psychotherapist deems it necessary to override confidentiality, appropriate information may be given to the other professionals involved.
1.2.6 Supervision, research, case discussion and publication
(a–b) All knowledge of patients must be treated confidentially. Written or verbal presentation in any circumstances must preserve the patient’s anonymity. For publication permission to release any such information must be obtained in writing.
1.2.7 Relations with colleagues
(a–c) Where difficulties or doubts arise as to whether a course of action is ethical the psychotherapist must seek appropriate advice, for example AGIP Professional Ethics Committee, and/or the Professional Conduct Officer of the UKCP.
(d) Unethical conduct must not be condoned in a psychotherapist colleague.
Psychotherapists should not make referrals for financial or other gain.
(a–c) Information must be confined to factual statements. Psychotherapists must not mislead their patients, supervisors or the public.
1.2.10 Role of the professional organisation
(a–c) The professional organisation is responsible for monitoring and regulating the conduct of its professional members and trainees.
(a–e) The psychotherapist must not behave in any way which may bring the profession into disrepute.
Revised July 2012
1.3 Code of Professional Practice
This is a statement about how to put into practice the ethics of psychotherapy which should be read and understood in conjunction with the Code of Ethics (section 3.2).
(The headings and numbering reflect that of the relevant section/ paragraph in the Code of Ethics, 3.2 above).
(a) The word ‘patient’ refers to patient and client.
(a) Psychotherapists must ensure that they provide a treatment setting conducive to good practice and in which there is as little as possible risk of interruption or intrusion.
(b) The medical practitioner holds responsibility for the medical welfare of the patient and it may be appropriate to inform the patient of this. Clinical judgment should be exercised as to the degree of/necessity for liaison with the medical practitioner, with the patient’s consent. Psychotherapists must exercise clinical judgment in considering whether to seek a psychiatric opinion about a patient at any time.
(c) Psychotherapy is not a form of treatment covered by the medical Acts; therefore the psychotherapist may work as an independent practitioner without the involvement of a medical practitioner.
(d) If there is a physical aspect to the patient's condition, psychotherapists should ensure as far as reasonably possible that the patient has sought medical advice. Patients cannot be compelled to consult a medical practitioner if they have objections in principle to so doing, but psychotherapists have an obligation to point out to them that it is in their best interests to do so. Where patients refuse to take their psychotherapist's advice in the matter, the psychotherapist has a right to refuse to continue psychotherapy and they may indeed do so, having given due consideration to the patient's welfare.
(e) Psychotherapists are required to make provision in advance for appropriate colleagues to offer professional support to their patients in the event of serious illness, accident or death of the psychotherapist.
(f) Psychotherapists undertake not to abuse or exploit the relationships they have with their patients for any purpose including the psychotherapist’s sexual, emotional or financial gain. Social contact with patients should be avoided when possible.
(g) There must never be sexual involvement between psychotherapists and their patients, supervisees and trainees.
1.3.3 The limits of skills
(a) Psychotherapists must refer on or seek adequate consultation or supervision when the individual patient’s need is beyond the competence of the therapist.
(b) Psychotherapists have a responsibility for maintaining their own mental and physical wellbeing and seeking psychotherapeutic or medical help or undertaking further education or training where necessary.
(c) Trainee psychotherapists must ensure that appropriate supervision is taken. The supervisor should ensure that the Trainee has the necessary support to develop necessary skills.
1.3.4 Conditions of treatment
(a) Psychotherapists are required to disclose on request their qualifications, training, the nature of the psychotherapy they can provide and possible alternatives.
(b) Patients should be informed of such conditions as payments for missed appointments, holidays, frequency of sessions, length of treatment, transfer to another therapist and termination.
Other than in the payment of fees, psychotherapists should not enter into financial transactions with their patients.
Where psychotherapists work both in a non fee-paying setting and in a private fee-paying setting, they should not normally transfer patients or referrals from non fee-paying to the fee-paying part of their practice. Where this does arise, it should only be done with reference to local protocol and in the interests of the patient.
(a) Psychotherapists should be familiar with the Access to Health Records Act 1990 and the Data Protection Act 1998. Internet sources for these documents are: www.ico.gov.uk and www.legislation.gov.uk.
(b) If a therapist ever deems it necessary to override confidentiality, i.e. for the safety of the patient, or of other persons, especially children, if possible the patient should first be informed. The therapist should consult with a professional colleague about this course of action.
(c) Whenever confidentiality is challenged by the legal process, the psychotherapist should take legal advice.
(d) Reports to other individuals or outside bodies – reports or opinions concerning the patient to outside bodies, including those to the GP, should not contain unnecessary personal confidential details and the written permission for release always be obtained from the patient.
1.3.6 Supervision, research, case discussion and publication
(a) Any written or verbal presentation of clinical material must preserve the anonymity of the patient. The patient’s permission to release such information for publication must be obtained in writing..
(b) Knowledge gained in the course of giving supervision or professional support is normally subject to the same rules of confidentiality as in the treatment setting.
1.3.7 Relations with colleagues
(a) Psychotherapists should not knowingly take into treatment a patient already in treatment with a colleague without prior consultation.
(b) Psychotherapists should not make written or spoken statements to a third party about a colleague’s work without the colleague’s consent except as part of a formal complaint.
(c) Psychotherapists should not behave in a way detrimental to the profession, to colleagues or to Trainees.
(d) Unethical conduct in a colleague should be referred to the Professional Ethics Committee and/or the UKCP Professional Conduct officer.
The payment of referral fees is prohibited save as otherwise determined by the Clinical Committee activities.
(a) Advertising by the Association should be confined to factual statements about services available and the qualifications of the persons providing them. Statements should be descriptive but not evaluative of other psychotherapists, schools of psychotherapy or organisations.
(b) The psychotherapist commits to ensuring that any advertising or promoting they undertake will not be misleading, false, unfair or exaggerated.
(i) The psychotherapist commits to ensure that if they are involved in advertising or promoting any particular therapy, product or service, this is done in an accurate and responsible way.
(ii) The psychotherapist undertakes not to make or support unjustifiable statements relating to particular therapies or therapists or include testimonials from clients in any advertising material.
(c) Care should be taken when contributing to public discussion in the media that no therapeutic advantage is claimed for the individual practitioner and that there is no invitation to the general public to consult them.
1.3.10 Role of professional organisation
(a) Every psychotherapist should be a member of a Professional Organisation which monitors and regulates its members’ practices. At the annual renewal of membership the Association will ask for signed assurance that the member is abiding by or has in place:
(i) the AGIP Codes of Ethics and Professional Practice (sections 3.2 and 3.3)
(ii) adequate professional indemnity insurance cover (under section 3.3.11(a))
(iii) has made provision in case of emergency (under section 3.3.2(e)) and has deposited a patient’s contact list with a named individual.
(iv) has maintained professional competence (under section 3.2.3(b)) and is abiding by AGIP’s CPD requirements (section 6.2).
Professional Members are asked to sign declarations (i)–(iv); Training Members are asked to sign declarations (i)–(iii).
(b) The Association must ensure that Training members and Trainees maintain adequate supervision. Trainees are asked to sign declarations (i)–(iii) at the clinical interview (see section 7.3.2).
(c) Conviction of any criminal offence shall automatically be reviewed by the Professional Committee, who may recommend to the Governing Body of the organisation the termination of membership of AGIP.
(a) Psychotherapists must maintain adequate insurance cover against legal liability for their profession.
(b) If difficulties or doubts arise as to whether a course of action is ethical, the practitioner should consult the Professional Ethics Committee of AGIP and others where appropriate for example the Professional Conduct Officer of the UKCP.
(c) AGIP members are required to notify AGIP if they have had a complaint relating to their work as a psychotherapist upheld against them by any other professional organisation.
(d) Any psychotherapist who has been convicted in a court of law in a civil or criminal action relating to a patient shall notify the AGIP Professional Ethics Committee and the UKCP Professional Conduct Officer of the facts immediately.
(e) Psychotherapists must not employ, make referrals to, recommend or facilitate the practice of someone who has been removed from AGIP's register or that of any relevant organisation.
Revised December 2012
Complaints and Appeals Procedure
THE PROCEDURE is for patients who complain of the conduct of AGIP members and also any member of AGIP who complains of the conduct of any other member.
THE PURPOSE is to provide a means of examining a complaint, which may be brought by a patient of an AGIP therapist or by any member of AGIP complaining about the conduct of any other member of AGIP, alleging a violation of any of the sections of the AGIP Codes of Ethics and Practice.
AGIP does not accept complaints made by third parties.
Members and complaints covered by this document
(a) Professional Members, Training Members, Trainees and Honorary Members who are also Professional Members of AGIP.
(b) The alleged violations must have occurred whilst the member complained about was a member.
(c) Complaints which occurred when the member was with another organisation and working under the rules of that organisation cannot be heard by AGIP.
(d) Complaints against anAGIP memberwhich occurred when the member was also with another organisation will be heard by AGIP unless the complaint can be more appropriately dealt with by any such other organisation.
If the complainant and the member complained against cannot agree on which organisation should properly hear the complaint, the matter will be referred to the Professional Ethics Committee of AGIP to decide at a preliminary hearing. The conduct of the hearing will be at the discretion of the Co-ordinator of the Professional Ethics Committee, but all parties will be given the opportunity to make written and / or oral representations on this issue at the preliminary hearing. There is the right of appeal against the decision of the Professional EthicsCommittee.
AGIP will not take responsibility for members or complaints not fulfilling the above criteria.
A formal complaint should normally be lodged within five yearsof the events which form the substance of the complaint.
AGIP is committed to make every effort to respond to complaints promptly and efficiently. The time table set out within the Complaints Procedure stands, with the exception of holiday periods at:
(a) Christmas (ten working days)
(b) Easter (ten working days)
(c) All Public Holidays in England and Wales
(d) The calendar months of July and August.
AGIP will not be responsible for travel or any other expenses incurred by the complainant or the member complained against at any stage of the complaint.
All hearings will be held at AGIP, or at a nearby venue.
The procedure is investigative. It begins by seeking clarification and grounds for resolution. It may be followed by a hearing and the use of sanctions.
(a) Before proceeding with the formal complaint, the complainant is encouraged by the Chair (or Vice-chair) of Council, or agreed representative, to resolve the issue with the individual complained against. This is not part of the Complaints Procedure and will not be taken into consideration. This is not obligatory either on the part of the complainant or on the part of the Chair or his/her representative.
(b) At this point the complainant should be sent a copy of AGIP’s Codes of Ethics and Practice, to enable him/her to establish whether their complaint constitutes a breach of the Code(s).
(c) If after twenty eight days this does not bring about a resolution, the complainant will be invited to meet the Chair / Vice-chair to discuss the issue. This is not part of the Complaints Procedure and will not be taken into consideration therein. This is not obligatory either on the part of the complainant or on the part of the Chair / Vice-chair.
(d) Anyone involved in the preparatory consultations (for example, the Chair) should not then be on any of the committees which deal with the complaint once the formal procedure is implemented.
(e) If the complainant wishes to pursue the complaint, the formal ComplaintsProcedure will be effected.
(a) The complainant is sent a copy of the Complaints Procedure.
(b) The formal complaint must be made in writing, setting out the basis on which it is alleged there has been a violation of a section or sections of the AGIP Codes of Ethics and Practice. The written complaint must be sent to the Chair of AGIP who will pass it on to the co-ordinator of the Professional Ethics Committee (PEC) within ten workingdays of receipt of it.
(c) The co-ordinator of the PEC will, within eight working days, send a copy of the complaint to the therapist complained against, alerting him/her of the need to inform insurers and inviting the therapist to give a response in writing, within fifteen workingdays, to be considered by the Investigating Committee (see below).
(d) At the same time, the co-ordinator acknowledges receipt of the complaint to the complainant and informs him/her that the complaint will be investigated.
(e) The PEC will confer to choose three Professional Members of AGIP and/or another organisation from the CPJA section of UKCP to form theInvestigating Committee (IC) to investigate the complaint.
(f) The IC will meet within thirty five working days of receiving the therapist’s response, to consider the complaint and the response by the complained againsttherapist, to formulate questions with the purpose of clarification and to establish the nature and circumstances of the complaint as objectively as possible. The IC will decide whether the complaint is of criminal or professional nature, demanding a criminal or professional hearing. The complaint will be deemed criminal when there is a burden of proof and therefore would be heard in a criminal hearing. Questions relevant to the complainant and the complained against therapist will be sent in writing to each of the parties, who will be asked to respond in writing within fifteen working days.
(g) On the basis of the answers received, the IC will endeavour to write within twenty working days (or as soon thereafter) to:both parties, the Chair of AGIP and the co-ordinator of the PEC, outlining their findings and making one of three recommendations:
(i) That there is no case to answer.
(ii) That there is a case, which could be resolved through mediation.
(iii)That there is a case to answer and there should be a hearing.
(h) If the IC has found that there is no case to answer the complainant has the right, within ten working days, to appeal to AGIP on the grounds that either the procedure of the investigation was not properly followed or that there is new evidence which could not have been made available at the time of the investigation.
(i) If the IC has recommended mediation, both parties have to agree otherwise there will be a hearing.
(j) If the IC has found there is a case to answer, the PEC will appoint a Complaints Committee to hear the case.
(k) The hearing will take place within sixty five working days following submission of the report by the IC, unless this is not reasonably practicable. Both parties will be invited by the Chair of the Complaints Committee to submit any other comments or evidence they wish the hearing to consider and name any witnesses they may wish to be called, no later than fifteen working days before the date of the hearing. Full disclosure of all relevant material to both parties should be made at least ten working days prior to the hearing to allow sufficient time for preparation.
(l) If the Complaints Committee decides that the member complained against is not guilty of a breach of sections or sections of the AGIP Codes of Ethics and Practice, the Chair of the Complaints Committee will inform both parties of this, together with the Chair of Council and the co-ordinator of the PEC, indicating that the matter will be taken no further. There is the right of appeal.
(m) If the Complaints Committee decides that the member complained against is guilty of a breach of a section or sections of the AGIP Codes of Ethics and Practice, the Chair of the Complaints Committee will inform both parties of this, together with the Chair of Council and the co-ordinator of the PEC, indicating that one or more of the following sanctions be put in place.
(i) A warning to the member to change and act in a specified way by a certain date.
(ii) A warning to the member which may also direct the appropriate remedial action to be taken and in addition may direct that the member report back that this has been undertaken and completed.
(iii) An instruction to the member to cease training, practising psychotherapy, supervising or any of the activities carried out on behalf of AGIP for a specified period.
(iv) Suspension or removal of the member from any committee, sub-committee, working party, panel or other body of AGIP.
(v) Suspension of membership of AGIP in cases of serious professional misconduct.
Definition of serious professional misconduct: where the actions of the psychotherapist are exploitative emotionally, sexually or financially.
UKCP will be informed.
(n) Removal of sanctions: Conditions and time boundaries for removal of sanctions should be clearly stated.
(o) There is the right of appeal.
Conduct of the hearing of a complaint
(a) Attendance at the hearing
The hearing cannot proceed in the absence of the complainant and his/her action may fail for lack of prosecution unless he/she can furnish adequate proof of ill health or a substantial reason for non-attendance. Failure to attend by the member complained against will result in the hearing taking place without his/her attendance unless adequate proof of ill health or a substantial reason for non-attendance can be furnished.
To hear the complaint being brought against the AGIP member complained of in a formal hearing.
This is a private professional hearing. It is also a formal hearing.
The hearing’s purpose is to hear the complaint of A against B and to allow B to defend him/herself. We hope for openness, expression of self-doubt and honesty by both parties.
The conduct of the hearing is ultimately at the discretion of the Chair of the Complaints Committee but this procedure is the one that will normally be followed:
Each party will have an aggregate of an hour (which may be extended at the discretion of the Complaints Committee) in which to speak, be represented by a colleague, legal advisor or friend. Either party may call witnesses but they will only be called into the hearing as required. The Complaints Committee may, at its discretion, allow a witness to give evidence in the form of a letter but, if it does so, the Complaints Committee will decide what weight is put upon that evidence depending upon all the circumstances of the case. All documents will be photocopied and made available to both parties prior to the hearing.
(i) The complainant and/or their representative speaks.
(ii) The therapist/member and/or their representative may question and the complainant answers.
(iii)The therapist/member and/or their representative speaks.
(iv)The complainant and/or their representative may question and the therapist/ member answers.
(v) The complainant and/or their representative makes their concluding remarks.
(vi)The therapist/member and/or their representative makes their concluding remarks.
(vii) The Committee then retires to consider the case set before them.
Members of the Complaints Committee may ask for clarification or ask relevant questions. Members of the committee also have the right to intervene if they think the questioning is moving too far from the point at issue.
At the end of the hearing the committee will order a recess in order to consider the case set before them. At the end of the recess the Chair of the committee will sum up the hearing and then give a verbal decision, followed by a written report to be sent to AGIP Council, with regard to whether or not there has been a breach of a section or sections of the AGIP Codes of Ethics and Practice and, as appropriate, the sanctions imposed.
The roles and functions of the chairs of the various committees
(a) THE CO-ORDINATOR OF THE PROFESSIONAL ETHICS COMMITTEE is the permanent presence throughout the resolution of a complaint. He/she follows the course of the case, ensuring procedures are correctly followed and checking on legality issues when required.
(b) THE CHAIRS OF THE COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE AND THE APPEALS PANEL are responsible for all matters connected with the hearing, including the conduct of the hearing and keeping the boundaries of time throughout.
The appeals procedure
(a) What may be appealed against
The decisions of the Investigating Committee or the Complaints Committee having heard the case.
(b) The grounds of the appeal
(i) That the Complaints Procedure was not properly followed.
(ii) That the evidence did not support the verdict.
(iii)That there is new evidence which the original committee did not hear because it was not reasonably practicable to have it available.
(c) How to appeal
The appellant must make the appeal in writing (normally within twenty working days of the Complaints Committee giving its verdict) addressed to: The AGIP Chair of Council, setting out the grounds on which the appeal is being made.
(d) The organisation
(i) When a written appeal is received by the Chair of Council, he/she will inform the other party that an appeal has been received and the Professional Ethics Committee.
(ii) The Professional Ethics Committee will decide whether the content of the appeal falls prima facie within one or more of the grounds of an appeal set out above and therefore the appeal can be heard.
(iii) If the appeal does not, prima facie, fall within any one or more of the grounds set out above the appellant will be informed that the organisation itself will take no further action.
There is the right of appeal to UKCP.
(iv) If the Professional Ethics Committee decides there are grounds for an appeal, it will appoint three people to form an Appeal Panel who will consider the appeal within twenty working days, or as soon as practicable, of the appeal having been accepted. Members of the Complaints Committee are not eligible to be on the Appeals Panel unless the only ground of appeal is that of new evidence. The appeals procedure will take the form of a full hearing.
(e) If the appeal is not upheld
If the appeal is not upheld the organisation’s appeal process is deemed to be concluded and both parties will be notified (as in Complaints Procedure 3).
(f) If the appeal is upheld
If the appeal is upheld the Appeal Panel can vary the original penalty as it sees fit depending upon all the circumstances of the case. The organisation’s appeal process is now deemed to be concluded and the decision notified to the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). This decision is final.
There is the right of appeal to UKCP.
Guidelines for the complaints procedure
(a) When setting out a complaint, the complainant is reminded that evidence should be given and clear reference made to the particular paragraph(s) of the AGIP Codes of Ethics and Practice the therapist has allegedly transgressed. It is important to give specific examples and/or incidences of the therapist’s conduct which give rise to the complaint.
(b) AGIP is willing to give advice on how to make a complaint without prejudice as to whether a complaint may be substantiated or not.
(c) The Investigating Committee will be selected from professional members who have no prior knowledge of the work of or relationship with the therapist complained against. The same applies if there should be a hearing.
(d) When responding to a complaint, it may be helpful for the therapist to give his/her understanding as to what happened in the work with the client which might have led to the complaint.
(e) Once a complaint has been accepted, all communication concerning the complaints process should be made in writing to the Co-ordinatorof the Professional Ethics Committee or the person designated to co-ordinate the complaints procedure in the particular case.