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Marriage & Family Therapy Ethics

Family and marriage therapy serves an important role in the health of families’ and couples’ relationships. Patients put their trust in their therapists, and trust that their therapists will help them find solutions to their problems. Marriage and family therapists must therefore adhere to a high standard of professional ethics to ensure that the trust placed in them is not abused.

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) has published a code of ethics that outlines proper and improper behaviors for marriage and family therapists. If a therapist is accused of violating the code of ethics, the AAMFT’s Ethics Committee has the power to investigate these charges and recommend disciplinary action if it is warranted.


Marriage & Family Therapy Ethics


General Ethics

There is a set of ethics for marriage and family therapists that could apply to the general public. Therapists cannot plagiarize or fail to cite a source in published materials, and their published materials must be accurate and factual.

If a therapist is involved in an organization that is not adhering to the AAMFT Code of Ethics, the therapist must do everything he can to rectify the situation. The AAMFT Code of Ethics also states that practitioners should work to develop laws regarding marriage and family therapy that benefit the public, and try to alter laws regarding the profession that do not benefit the public.


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Professional Competence and Integrity

Marriage and family therapists are obligated to maintain high professional standards and integrity. They must keep up with the latest developments in their field, and the AAMFT Code of Ethics encourages therapists to constantly train and educate themselves.

Before therapists can use their new skills, they must be supervised to ensure that no harm comes to the patient. Marriage and family therapists cannot diagnose or treat a problem if it is outside their realm of knowledge or experience.

If a practitioner is experiencing personal problems that interfere with her practice, she must seek help to solve these problems.


Research Participant Ethics

Before beginning research, a therapist must ensure that the research meets ethical guidelines. Confidentiality is also an important part of any study, and it should be maintained to the fullest extent possible.

Participants’ rights should always be protected, and participants may not be exploited during the course of the study.


Responsibility to Clients

Marriage and family therapists cannot discriminate against their clients. They must obtain informed consent, meaning that the client understands what the therapy entails and agrees to go through with it. Practitioners cannot engage in a sexual relationship with a client and cannot engage in other types of relationships with the client’s family.

The therapeutic relationship can only last as long as the client is benefiting from the therapy, and if the therapist is unwilling or unable to continue the relationship, he must assist the client in finding other therapeutic services.



Confidentiality is an important aspect of any therapeutic relationship. In the case of marriage and family therapy, there may be more than one client in the relationship. A therapist cannot disclose one client’s confidences to the rest of a client unit without the individual client’s written consent.

If a therapist is consulting with another therapist, or using a case for research, the client’s identifying details cannot be used. A practitioner’s records must be kept in a way that cannot be accessed by others.

If a therapist moves, leaves his practice or dies, the records must either be stored or disposed in such a way that confidentiality is maintained.


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