- Center for Ethical Practice - https://centerforethicalpractice.org -

What Is Your Role?Why Does It Matter?

Mental health professionals take on many different roles and provide many types of services. 
Your ethical responsibilities will vary, depending upon your role at the moment. 
How does the ethical equation change if you are in more than one role at a time? 
Which role combinations are most likely to cause ethical complications, and can they be avoided?

Why Do Different Roles Create Differing Ethical Obligations?

   I. Role(s) as a Mental Health Professional


            Clinical Direct Service Provider (Therapy/Counseling; Assessment/Evaluation; etc.)

            Coach (Executive Coaching; Life Coaching)

            Consultant (Parent Consultation; Clinical/Ethical/Legal Consultation for Peers)

  Educator/Trainer (Academic Faculty; Trainer in Other Settings)

            Forensic Specialist (Examiner; Expert; Review of Others’ Evaluations; Consultant)


  Supervisor  (Administrative Supervision; Clinical Supervision)


 II.  Ethical Issues Applicable to All Professional Roles

Respect for Dignity of Persons

Beneficence & Nonmaleficence

Informed Consent





Dual Relationships


 III. Role-Specific Ethical & Professional Obligations

 IV. Ethical Considerations About “Involuntary” (Legally-Imposed) Roles

   V.  Potential Complications

Role Confusion

Multiple/Conflicting Roles

Mid-stream Role Changes

Sequential Role Changes  

1. To clarify the professional role(s) I play, whether voluntarily or involuntarily;
2. To consider the ethical obligations that apply to all roles of mental health professionals;
3. To describe the additional ethical responsibilities that are specific to certain roles;
4. To notice the ethical and/or legal complications when I take on more than one role at once.