Article Index

 The code of conduct for the profession of psychology

The code of conduct for practitioners registered under the Health Professions Act is very comprehensive. There is a generic section as well as a section for each of the professions.
The document which you can download here contains the generic section as well as the section specific to the profession of psychology.
The code is not difficult to understand, and because assessment is a psychological act, almost the entire code is relevant. It is not necessary to reiterate the entire code here. There are however some specific aspects of the code with particular relevance to testing and assessment, that we shall highlight here because we have received enquiries about them.
Aspects of the ethical code that are particularly relevant to psychological assessment
"Secret remedies" are forbidden
  • Tests are a form of health technology. Their workings must be open to scrutiny, and they must be able to fulfil the claims that are made for them. (item 19)
  • In terms of this requirement, the requirement that publishers and developers should submit tests for evaluation and classification, is justified.
Cooperation with instructions, directives and processes
  • It is considered misconduct to defeat or obstruct the Council or Board in the performance of its duties (Item 20). 
  • This implies that registered practitioners who control, research or develop tests must comply with the classification process.
Assessment with a professional relationship only
  • Assessment must be conducted in the context of a defined professional relationship (Item 44)
Informed consent
  • Clients must give written informed consent to be tested. (Item 46)
  • When consent is implied, such as in the case of a job application, written informed consent is not required.
  • Consent is not required when testing is a legal requirement
  • Consent is not required when the purpose of the testing is to evaluate decision-making and mental incapacity.
  • However, in the case of automated or internet-based testing, informed consent must be obtained (Item 46(6)).
  • In the process of obtaining informed consent, the limits to confidentiality must be clarified.
Group assessments 
  • Practitioners need to declare the limits of their findings when group assessments are done. This would apply to observed behavioural exercises, 360-degree assessments, reports on group discussions and so forth. These assessments are considered less reliable and valid than individually-derived scores.
Electronic, internet, and other indirect assessments
  • When such assessments are used, the practitioner must declare this and appropriately limit the nature and extent of his or her findings.
  • This is relevant to the use of all computerised assessments and computer-generated reports.
  • Informed consent must be obtained for automated and internet-based testing, even when this testing is done for the purpose of a job application.
Communicating of results
  • Releasing test results or raw data to persons who are not qualified to use that information is considered misuse of assessment information (Item 45)
  • When test results are communicated, they must be accompanied by adequate interpretative aids and explanations. (Item 49 and Item 52)
  • When results are communicated to another psychologist or professional, the client needs to give informed written consent.