Code of Professional Ethics

The Psychologist believes in the dignity and worth of the individual human being.

The psychologist is committed to increasing human understanding of self and others. While pursuing this endeavor, the psychologist protects the welfare of any person who may seek service or of any subject, human or animal, that may be the object of psychological study. Psychologists do not permit the use of professional position or relationships, for purposes inconsistent with these values by themselves or others. While demanding freedom of inquiry and communication, the psychologist accepts the responsibility this freedom confers: for competence where it is claimed, for objectivity in the report of findings, and for consideration of the best interest of colleagues and of society.


Principle 1. Responsibility

The psychologist is committed to increasing the understanding of human behaviour and experience, places high value on objectivity and integrity, and maintains the highest standards in the services offered.

  1. As a scientist, the psychologist believes that society will be best served when investigations are initiated upon perceived needs; research is planned in such a way as to minimise the possibility that findings will be misleading; and the psychologist publishes full reports of such works, never discarding without explanation data which may modify the interpretation of results.
  2. As a teacher, the psychologist recognises the primary obligation to help others acquire knowledge and skill, and to maintain high standards of scholarship.
  3. As a practitioner, the psychologist knows that a heavy social responsibility is borne because the work may touch intimately the lives of others.

Principle 2. Competence

The maintenance of high standards of professional competence is a responsibility shared by all psychologists, in the interest of the public and of the profession as a whole.

  1. Psychologists discourage the practice of psychology by unqualified persons and assist the public in identifying psychologists competent to give dependable professional service. When a psychologist or a person identified as a psychologist violates ethical standards, psychologists who know first-hand of such activities attempt to rectify the situation. When such a situation cannot be dealt with informally, it is called to the attention of the appropriate committee on professional ethics, standards, and practices.
  2. Psychologists recognise the boundaries of their competence and the limitations of their techniques and do not offer services or use techniques that fail to meet professional standards established in particular fields. The psychologist who engages in practice assists clients in obtaining professional help for all important aspects of their problems that fall outside the boundaries of the psychologist's own competence. The principle requires, for example, that provision be made for the diagnosis and treatment of relevant medical problems and for referral to or consultation with other specialists.
  3. The psychologist especially in clinical work recognises that effectiveness depends in good part upon the ability to maintain sound interpersonal relations, that temporary or more enduring aberrations in the psychologist's own personality may interfere with this ability or distort the appraisal of others. The psychologist refrains from undertaking any activities in which personal problems are likely to result in inferior professional services or harm to a client; or if the psychologist is already engaged in such an activity and then becomes aware of such personal problems, competent professional assistance to determine whether to continue or terminate psychological services to the client should be sought.

Principle 3. Moral and Legal Standards

The psychologist in professional practice shows sensible regard for the social codes and moral expectations of the host community. It should be recognised that the psychologist's violations of accepted moral and legal standards may involve associated clients, students, or colleagues in damaging personal conflicts, and impugn the psychologist's name and the reputation of the profession.

Principle 4. Misrepresentation

The psychologist avoids misrepresentation of professional qualifications, affiliations, and purposes, and those of the institutions and organisations with which the psychologist is associated.

  1. A psychologist does not claim either directly or by implication professional qualifications that differ from actual qualifications, nor does the psychologist misrepresent an affiliation with any institution, organisation, or individual, nor lead others to assume that such supposed affiliations exist. Psychologists are responsible for correcting others who misrepresent their professional qualifications or affiliations.
  2. The psychologist does not misrepresent an affiliated institution or organisation by ascribing to it characteristics that it does not have.
  3. The psychologist does not use an affiliation with the Singapore Psychological Society that is not consonant with the stated purposes of the society.
  4. Psychologists do not associate themselves with, or permit their names to be used in connection with, any services or products in such a way as to misrepresent them, the degree of their responsibility or the nature of their affiliation.

Principle 5. Public Statements

Psychologists who supply information to the public either directly or indirectly are expected to show due regard for the limits of present knowledge and exercise modesty and scientific caution in all such statements.

  1. Psychologists who interpret the science of psychology or the services of psychologists to clients or to the general public have an obligation to report fairly and accurately. Exaggeration, sensationalism, superficiality, and other kinds of mispresentation are avoided.
  2. When information about psychological procedures and techniques is given, care is taken to indicate that they should be used only by persons adequately trained in their use.
  3. A psychologist who engages in radio or television activities does not participate in commercial announcements recommending purchase or use of a product.

Principle 6. Confidentiality

Safeguarding information about an individual that have been obtained by the psychologist in the course of teaching, practice, or investigation is a primary obligation of the psychologist. Such information is not communicated to others unless certain important conditions are met.

  1. Information received in confidence is revealed only after most careful deliberation and when there is clear and imminent danger to an individual or to society, and then only to appropriate professional workers or public authorities.
  2. Information obtained in clinical or consulting relationships, or evaluative data concerning children, students, employees, and others are discussed only for professional purposes and only with persons clearly concerned with the case. Written and oral reports should present only data germane to the purposes of the evaluation: every effort should be made to avoid undue invasion of privacy.
  3. Clinical and other materials are used in classroom teaching and writing only when the identity of the persons involved is adequately disguised.
  4. The confidentiality of professional communication about individuals is maintained. Only when the originator and other persons involved give their express permission is a confidential professional communication shown to the individual concerned. The psychologist is responsible for informing clients of the limits of the confidentiality.
  5. Only after explicit permission has been granted is the identity of research subjects published. When data have been published without permission for identification, the psychologists assume responsibility for adequately disguising their sources.
  6. The psychologist makes provisions for the maintenance of confidentiality in the preservation and ultimate disposal of confidential records.

Principle 7. Client Welfare

The psychologist respects the integrity and protects the welfare of the person or group with whom work is undertaken.

  1. The psychologist in industry, education, and other situations in which conflicts of interest may arise among various parties, as between management and labour , or between the client and employer of the psychologist, defines for himself or herself the nature and direction of his or her loyalties, and responsibilities and keeps all parties concerned informed of these commitments.
  2. The psychologist attempts to terminate a clinical or consulting relationship when it is reasonably clear to the psychologist that the client is not benefiting from it.
  3. The psychologist who asks that an individual reveals personal information in the course of interviewing, testing, or evaluation, or who allows such information to be divulged does so only after making certain that the responsible person is fully aware of the purposes of the interview, testing, or evaluation and of the ways in which the information may be used.
  4. In cases involving referral, the responsibility of the psychologist for the welfare of the client continues until this responsibility is assumed by the professional to whom the client is referred to or until the relationship with the psychologist making the referral has been terminated by mutual agreement. In situations where referral, consultation, or other changes in the conditions of the treatment are indicated and the client refuses referral, the psychologist carefully weighs the possible harm to the client, to him/herself, and to the profession that might ensue from continuing the relationship.
  5. The psychologist who requires others to take psychological tests for didactic, classificatory, or research purposes protects the examinees by ensuring that the test results are used appropriately.
  6. When potentially disturbing subject matter is presented to students, it is discussed objectively, and efforts are made to handle constructively any difficulties that arise.
  7. Care must be taken to ensure that an appropriate setting for clinical work to protect both client and psychologist from actual or imputed harm and the profession from censure.

Principle 8. Client Relationship

The psychologist informs a prospective client of the important aspects of the potential relationship that might affect the client's decision to enter the relationship.

  1. Aspects of the relationship likely to affect the client's decision include recording of an interview, the use of interview material for training purposes, and observation of an interview by other persons.
  2. When the client is not competent to evaluate the situation (as in the case of a child), the person responsible for the client is informed of the circumstances which may influence the relationship.
  3. Psychologists do not normally enter into a professional relationship with members of their family, intimate friends, close associates, or others whose welfare might be jeopardised by such a dual relationship.

Principle 9. Impersonal Services

  1. Psychological services for the purposes of diagnosis, treatment, or personalised advice are provided only in the context of a professional relationship, and are not given by means of public lectures or demonstration, newspaper or magazine articles, radio or television programmes, mail, or similar media.
  2. The preparation of personnel reports and recommendations based on test data secured solely by mail is unethical unless such appraisals are an integral part of a continuing client relationship with a company, as a result of which the consulting psychologist has intimate knowledge of the client's personnel situation and can be assured thereby that the written appraisals will be adequate to the purpose and will be properly interpreted by the client. These reports must not be embellished with such detailed analyses of the subject's personality traits as would be appropriate only after intensive interviews with the subject. The reports must not make specific recommendations as to employment or placement of the subject which go beyond the psychologist's knowledge of the job requirements of the company. The reports must not purport to eliminate the company's need to carry on such other regular employment or personnel practices as appraisal of the work history, checking of references and past performance in the company.

Principle 10. Announcement of Services

A psychologist adheres to professional rather than commercial standards in making known the availability of professional services.

  1. A psychologist does not directly solicit clients for individual diagnosis or therapy.
  2. Individual listings in telephone directories are limited to name, highest relevant degree, certification status, address, and telephone number. They may also include identification in a few words of the psychologist's major areas of practice; for example, child therapy, personnel selection, industrial psychology. Agency listings are equally modest.
  3. Announcements of individual private practice are limited to a simple statement of the name, highest relevant degree, certification or diplomatic status, address, telephone number, office hours, and brief explanation of the types of services rendered. Announcements of agencies may list names of staff member with their qualification. They conform in other particulars with the same standards as individual announcements, making certain that the true nature of the organisation is apparent.
  4. A psychologist or agency announcing non-clinical professional services may publish or distribute brochures that are descriptive of services rendered but not evaluative. They may be sent to professional persons, schools, business, firms, government agencies, and other similar organisations.
  5. The use in a brochure of 'testimonials from satisfied users' is unacceptable. The offer of a free trial of services is unacceptable if it operates to mispresent in any way the nature or the efficacy of the services rendered by the psychologist. Claims that a psychologist has unique devices not available to others in the profession are made only if the special efficacy of these unique skills or devices has been demonstrated by scientifically acceptable evidence.
  6. The psychologist must not encourage (nor, within their power, even allow) a client to have exaggerated ideas as to the efficacy of services rendered. Claims made to clients about the efficacy of services must not go beyond those which the psychologists would be willing to subject to professional scrutiny through publishing these claims and results in a professional journal.

Principle 11. Interpersonal Relations

A psychologist acts with integrity in regard to colleagues in psychology and in other professions.

  1. A psychologist does not normally offer professional services to a person receiving psychological assistance from another professional worker except by agreement with the other worker or after termination of the client's relationship with the other professional worker.
  2. The welfare of clients and colleagues requires that psychologists in joint practice or corporate activities make an orderly and explicit arrangement regarding the conditions of their association and its possible termination. Psychologists who serve as employers of other psychologists have an obligation to make similar appropriate arrangements.

Principle 12. Renumeration

Financial arrangements in professional practice are in accord with professional standards that safeguard the best interest of the client and the profession.

  1. In establishing rates for professional services, the psychologist is to consider carefully both the ability of the client to meet the financial burden and the charges made by other professional persons engaged in comparable work.
  2. The psychologist in clinical or counseling practice must not take improper financial or other advantage of clients.
  3. A psychologist does not accept a private fee or any other form of remuneration for professional work with a person who is entitled to those services through an institution or agency. The policies of a particular agency may make explicit provision for private work with its clients by members of its staff, and in such instances the client must be fully appraised of such policies.

Principle 13. Test Security

Psychological tests and other assessment devices, the value of which depends in part on the naivete of the subject, are not reproduced or described in popular publications in ways that might invalidate the techniques. Access to such devices is limited to persons with professional interests who will safeguard their use.

  1. The psychologist is responsible for the control of psychological tests and other devices and procedures used for instruction when their value might be damaged by revealing to the general public their specific contents or underlying principles.

Principle 14. Test Interpretation

Test scores, like test materials, are released only to persons who are qualified to interpret and use them properly.

  1. Materials for reporting test scores to parents, or which are designed for self-appraisal purposes in schools, social agencies, or industry are closely supervised by qualified psychologists or counsellors with provisions for referring and counselling individuals when needed.
  2. Test results or other assessment data used for evaluation or classification are communicated to employers, relatives, or other appropriate persons in such a manner as to guard against misinterpretation or misuse. In the actual case, an interpretation of the test result rather than the score is communicated.
  3. When the test results are communicated directly to parents and students, they are accompanied by adequate interpretative aids or device.

Principle 15. Test Publication

Psychological tests are offered for commercial publication only to publishers who present their tests in professional way and distribute them only to qualified users.

  1. A test manual, technical handbook, or other suitable report on the test is provided which describes the method of constructing and standardising the test, and summarises the validation research.
  2. The populations for which the test has been developed and the purposes for which it is recommended are stated in the manual. Limitations of the test's dependability, and aspects of its validity on which research is lacking or incomplete, are clearly stated. In particular, the manual contains a warning regarding interpretations likely to be made which have not yet been substantiated by research.
  3. The catalogue and manual indicate the training or professional qualifications required for sound interpretation of the test.
  4. The test manual and supporting documents take into account the principles enunciated by the International Test Commission.
  5. Test advertisements are factual and descriptive rather than emotional and persuasive.

Principle 16. Research Precautions

The psychologists assume obligations for the welfare of their research subjects, both animal and human.

  1. Only when a problem is of scientific significance and it is not practicable to investigate it in any other way is the psychologist justified in exposing research subjects, whether children or adults, to physical or emotional stress as part of an investigation.
  2. When a reasonable possibility of injurious after-effects exists, research is conducted only when the subjects or their responsible agents are fully informed of this possibility and agree to participate nevertheless.
  3. The psychologist seriously considers the possibility of harmful after-effects and avoid them, or removes them as soon as permitted by the design of the experiment.
  4. A psychologist, using animals in research adheres to the provisions of the Rules and Regulations of the Singapore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
  5. Investigations of human subjects using experimental drugs (for example: hallucinogenic, psychotomimetic, psychedelic, or similar substances) should be conducted only in such settings as clinics, hospitals, or research facilities maintaining appropriate safeguards for the subjects.

Principle 17. Publication Credit

Credit is assigned to those who have contributed to a publication, in proportion to their contributions, and only to these:

  1. Major contributions of a professional character, made by several persons to a common project, are recognised by joint authorship. The experimenter or author who has made the principle contribution to a publication is identified as the first author.
  2. Minor contributions of a professional character, extensive clerical or similar non-professional assistance, and other minor contributions are acknowledged in footnotes or in an introductory statement.
  3. Acknowledgement through specific citations is made for unpublished as well as published materials that has directly influenced the research or writing.
  4. A psychologist who compiles and edits for publication the contribution of others publishes the symposium or report under the title of the committee or symposium with his/her name appearing as chairman or editor among those of the other contributors or committee members.

Principle 18. Responsibility towards Organisation

A psychologist respects the rights and reputation of the institute or organisation with which there is an association.

  1. Materials prepared by a psychologist as a part of regular work under specific direction of the organisation are the property of the organisation. Such materials are released for use or publication by a psychologist in accordance with policies of authorisation, assignment of credit, and related matters which have been established by the organisation.
  2. Other material resulting incidentally from activity supported by any agency, and for which the psychologist rightly assumes responsibility, is published with disclaimer for any responsibility on the part of the supporting agency.

Principle 19. Promotional Activities

The psychologist associated with the development or promotion of psychological devices, books, or products offered for commercial sale is responsible for ensuring that such devices, books, or products are presented in a professional and factual way.

  1. Claims regarding performance, benefits, or results are supported by scientifically acceptable evidence.
  2. The psychologist does not use professional journals for the commercial exploitation of psychological products, and the psychologist-editor guards against such misuse.
  3. The psychologist with a financial interest in the sale or use of a psychological product is sensitive to possible conflict of interest in the promotion of such products and avoids compromise of professional responsibilities and objectives.