The American Psychological Association Ethics Code Task Force: A Revision of our Ethics Code

May 20, 2024

headshot of Dr. Barry SchreierHISTORY

The American Psychological Association (APA) gathered its first committee on ethical standards in 1947 as post-WWII psychologists were working in increasing numbers of professional and public roles and were consequently encountering increased ethical dilemmas. The first Ethics Code was adopted in 1952 and published in 1953. The current Ethics Code is the ninth revision and was adopted in 2002 and published in 2003 with subsequent amendments made in 2010 and 2017.


Across time there have been societal changes and a growing need to anticipate trends impacting the field of psychology. APA developed the Ethics Code Task Force (ECTF) in 2018, charged with retaining those aspects of the Ethics Code that effectively serve the public, the discipline, and profession of psychology. The EFTC was also charged to “engage in a process of drafting a visionary and transformational new Ethics Code” that “remains a leading practice resource regarding ethics for psychological science, education, and practice.” Since 2018, the ECTF has been meeting to overhaul, update, and expand the Ethics Code as there has not been a significant review of the Ethics Code in 22+ years.

In the intervening six years of work, the ECTF has drafted eight principles including: 

  1. Beneficence
  2. Nonmaleficence
  3. Human & Civil Rights
  4. Integrity & Trustworthiness
  5. Justice & Social Justice
  6. Recognition of Social Systems & the Natural Environment
  7. Respect for Persons & People
  8. Scientific Mindedness

This is a significant update from the 2003 principles representing greater recognition of systemic matters and the larger environments (natural and physical) in which we work and live. In revising the principles, the ECTF used five criteria: Prescriptivity, universalizability, overridingness, publicity, and practicability.

Additionally, ten standards and connecting paragraphs have been drafted to include:

  1. Competence
  2. Confidentiality
  3. Informed Consent
  4. Professional Responsibility
  5. Psychological Services
  6. Relationship with the Public
  7. Scientific Integrity & Research,
  8. Teaching/Training/Supervision
  9. Technology
  10. Testing/Assessment/Evaluation

The new proposed standards represent a significant change placing greater emphasis on: 1. Technology, 2. Specifically naming supervision, 3. Adding testing and evaluation to assessment, 4. Specifically naming informed consent, and others. The ECTF drafted specific details by sub-sectioning each of the proposed standards. As an example, within Relationship with the Public, the ECTF drafted sub-sections focused on 1. Accurately representing psychological expertise and education, training, and credentials in working with the media; 2. Differentiating professional from personal roles; and 3. Identifying and clarifying the role of psychologist when serving in a role other than as a psychologist.

The new Ethics Code will include a decision-making tree to help improve navigation when exercising due diligence regarding complex and nuanced ethical dilemmas.


Iowa psychologists have a significant and ongoing opportunity to provide feedback as the ECTF is re-drafting the Ethics Code. The IPA Ethics Committee members encourage you to read more about the process that is underway and to familiarize yourself with the directions being taken by the ECTF and a broad multitude of stakeholders. There are plenty of opportunities to add your voice to the process and you are highly encouraged to do so. The new Ethics Code will have lasting impact on the practice of our profession for the foreseeable future.

The IPA Ethics Committee consists of Ron Hougen (chair), Allison Bywater, Stacey Pawlak, and Barry Schreier. You can learn more about IPA Committees here


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