8. CODE OF CONDUCT
The goal of these instructions is to help people working on the field of sexology to grasp the significance of ethics in their own work. These instructions are not to be taken as rules but more as tools which allow one to make ethical contemplation a part of their everyday work routine. 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 good for Sexual Health Practitioner to be sensitive to the ethical dimensions of the situations they encounter in their work.
These guidelines are aimed especially for people working as Sexologists, Therapists of sexual health and Counsellors of sexual health. Some parts may also be applicable to sexological research. Furthermore, these guidelines are designed to help Sexual Health Practitioner' 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 to be used as an addition to them. In case these guidelines collide with local laws, the laws should be abided.
8.2 Ethical principles
Autonomy: A Sexual Health Practitioner respects the Client/Patient/Person's autonomy, which includes the right to start and terminate the Client/Patient/Person relationship. Sexual Health Practitioner does not guide or tend to the Client/Patient/Person against his or her will or in secret but rather aims to enhance the Client/Patient/Person's own capability to make decisions concerning himself or herself, also taking into account the well-being of others close to the Client/Patient/Person.
Integrity: A Sexual Health Practitioner respects the Client/Patient/Person's bodily integrity. Any touching connected to the Client/Patient/Person relationship or procedures that require physical contact must be explained beforehand for and given permission to by the Client/Patient/Person. Integrity also includes mental and emotional boundaries, which are to be respected. When the Client/Patient/Person relationship demands dealing with things that may be difficult for the Client/Patient/Person, the Sexual Health Practitioner always tries to come to an agreement with the Client/Patient/Person about suitable approaches or methods for dealing with such issues.
Confidentiality: The discussions between the Sexual Health Practitioner and the Client/Patient/Person, all the information and documents concerned and the existence of the Client/Patient/Person relationship are confidential. Any information about them may not be disclosed to anyone without the Client/Patient/Person's consent.
Client/Patient/Person's interest: A Sexual Health Practitioner acts mainly for the Client/Patient/Person's best interest. Understanding of the Client/Patient/ Person's interest should be based on a consensus between the Sexual Health Practitioner and the Client/Patient/Person. If other interests, such as forwarding sexological research by the Sexual Health Practitioner, are involved, they should be made known to the Client/Patient/Person immediately. In the case of conflict of interests, the Client/Patient/Person's interest comes always first.
Value neutrality: A Sexual Health Practitioner should be unbiased towards the Client/Patient/Person's values about his/her way of life, sexuality and relationships. He/she tries not to force any specific set of values or ideas about sexuality on the Client/Patient/Person. The Sexual Health Practitioner tries to identify the impact of their own values and ideas on their work and consider their own motivations and emotions in Client/Patient/Person relationships. Neutrality does not mean avoiding value discussions but that different value choices are respected.
Professionalism: A Sexual Health Practitioner takes care that their professional knowledge and skill levels are as high as possible. He/she should recognise any professional lacks and know how to direct the Client/Patient/Person, if necessary, to better or more suitable professional help. The Sexual Health Practitioner also tries to identify situations where he/she is disqualified to start a Client/Patient/Person relationship when the Client/Patient/Person is, for example, a relative or a member of a mutual group of friends.
8.3 Description of good practise
Client relationship: A Sexual Health Practitioner ensures that relationship between him/her and the client remains professional at all times. The Sexual Health Practitioner will never enter a sexual relationship with the Client/Patient/Person and will also make sure that the relationship stays professional on the emotional level as well.
Fairness: A Sexual Health Practitioner treats all Client/Patient/Persons fairly without discriminating anyone on the basis of ethnic origin, status, sex, age, religion, disability or sexual orientation.
Client/Patient/Person orientation: A Sexual Health Practitioner always pays attention to the Client/Patient/Person's age and the level of development and to possible constraints that may be due to, for instance, language proficiency, cultural background, disability or mental abilities.
Transparency: A Sexual Health Practitioner makes sure that the Client/Patient/Person understands the meaning of the methods and concepts used in the sessions. The Client/Patient/Person should also be informed about the Sexual Health Practitioner's educational background and possible commitments to particular schools of thought of forms of therapy. The Sexual Health Practitioner will try to promote the mutual understanding between him/her and the Client/Patient/Person by being open about his/her goals and motivations and by repeatedly making sure that the Client/Patient/Person has understood him/her correctly.
Physical contact: The use of methods involving physical contact requires that the Sexual Health Practitioner has the appropriate training or education to use them. The Sexual Health Practitioner will always explain to the Client/Patient/Person why and how these methods are implemented. The use of such methods always requires permission from the Client/Patient/Person.
Disclosing information: A Sexual Health Practitioner may provide information about the Client/Patient/Person only with his/her written consent. The Sexual Health Practitioner ensures that the consent is properly and clearly given and that the Client/Patient/Person has a possibility to familiarise himself beforehand with the information being forwarded. The Client/Patient/Person can only give a consent to disclosing information about himself of herself, for instance in a group or couples' therapy setting. In. this case, it should be ensured that the confidentiality of other Client/Patient/Persons' information is not compromised.
Boundaries of confidentiality: A Sexual Health Practitioner may disclose information about his/her Client/Patient/Person only in situations where national laws or the threat of imminent and serious danger so require.
Retention of information: A Sexual Health Practitioner ensures that all Client/Patient/Person information and records are kept in a safe and locked place, so that no-one can get a hold of them without the proper authorization. The Client/Patient/Person has the right to check his/her data and its security on demand.
Recording sessions: A Sexual Health Practitioner will always ask for a written permission from the Client/Patient/Person if he/she makes recordings of the sessions with audio or video equipment. The Client/Patient/Person should be informed about how and what for the sessions are recorded.
Well-being at work: A Sexual Health Practitioner will seek proper professional guidance and take care of his/her well-being so that he/she will be able to maintain good professional and ethical standards in his/her own work.
Self-evaluation: A Sexual Health Practitioner will evaluate his/her work and relationship to the Client/Patient/Persons critically. He/she will seek to identify any problematic points in the Client/Patient/Person relationship and correct his/her own actions and approach in the situations that have caused the problems. Self-evaluation encompasses the entire job description - both the professional and interaction skills as well as the emotions raised by the work.
Source: WHO Helsinki 6 June 2009