Ethical Guidelines for Positive Psychology Practice

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Ethical Guidelines

By Annalise Roache

As a coach or positive psychology practitioner, how often do you ask yourself the following questions?

  • What is my perspective on the topic of “professional ethics?”
  • How well do I know the guidelines or code of ethics that informs my practice?
  • How frequently do I receive training in ethics?
  • What is my view on the ways that ethics informs responsible practice?

These and many more fundamental questions and guides can be found in the Ethical Guidelines for Positive Psychology Practice (2019), the first of its kind for our field. 

While coaching has many incredible benefits, as an unregulated field, there is the risk of harmful consequences in the hands of the untrained (albeit well-intentioned). Ethical practice is a personal and professional commitment each coach needs to make to best serve our clients, colleagues, and the wider community. These guidelines aim to support that obligation and, as such, are freely accessible through the International Journal of Wellbeing (see link below).  

Ethical frameworks help us determine how to work with a client and what course of action to take to deliver services. For example, what should you do if challenges or changes occur (i.e. the client seems to deteriorate while working with you or you suffer a personal loss which impacts your ability to practice). They can similarly help you explore if your expertise and tools are an appropriate fit for the presenting situation and how to use strengths to support your practice.

The guidelines are composed of two parts. The document’s core is built around a set of Values (9) and Strengths (9) that support six fundamental Principles that underpin ethical decision-making and practice (see table 1).

Table 1: Values, Strengths and Principles of Positive Psychology Practice (Jarden, Rashid, Roache and Lomas, 2019).

Values

Strengths

Principles

  • Protecting the safety of clients and others.
  • Honesty.
  • Beneficence/non-maleficence.
  • Alleviating personal distress and suffering.
  • Fairness.
  • Responsible caring.
  • Ensuring the integrity of practitioner-client relationships.
  • Social intelligence.
  • Respect for people’s rights and dignity.
  • Appreciating the diversity of human experience and culture.
  • Teamwork.
  • Trustworthiness.
  • Fostering a sense of self that is meaningful to the person(s) concerned.
  • Kindness.
  • Justice.
  • Enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its application.
  • Prudence.
  • Autonomy.
  • Enhancing the quality of relationships between people.
  • Perspective.

 

  • Increasing personal effectiveness.
  • Judgement.

 

  • Striving for the fair and adequate provision of counselling, psychotherapy and coaching services.
  • Self-regulation.

 

The second part of the document is a series of appendices that comprise aides for ethical decision-making. These include Applications of Ethical Guidelines in Practice (i.e. how to manage contextual applications such as changes in clients, appreciating the importance of cultural context and declarations of expertise and competence). Resolving Ethical Dilemmas – A Step-By-Step Guide, a Self-Evaluation Guide that individuals can use by themselves or in peer and professional supervision settings and lastly a range of case studies that help bring to life ethical dilemmas in real-world settings.

About the guidelines development

The guidelines have been developed by an independent working party and are not affiliated with any organisation or association. The first iteration was published in 2019, and has been translated into 10 additional languages. The authors are dedicated to ensuring that the guidelines are relevant and accessible globally in the contexts where positive psychology is practised. As such, there is a commitment to complete a two-yearly review where we invite feedback and new content to ensure the guidelines meet the diverse needs of our community. The second iteration is set for publication at the upcoming International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) World Congress in July. We will be giving a symposium on the content and development process, so please do join us if you would like to know more. Iteration two will once again be freely available on the International Journal of Wellbeing. 

References: 

Jarden, A., Rashid, T., Roache, A., & Lomas, T. (2019). Ethical guidelines for positive psychology practice (version 1.0: English). International Journal of Wellbeing, 9(3), 1-30. doi:10.5502/ijw.v9i3.921

Merriam-Webster (2021). Definition of ethics. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethic#note-1

Annalise Roache

Annalise Roache

A positive psychology practitioner, credentialed coach, mentor and wellbeing consultant who has worked in one-to-one and group settings for the past 15 years.

She completed a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology and is undertaking Doctoral studies at Auckland University of Technology, where her research explores Lay Theories of Wellbeing.

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