AAPB Code of Ethics

AAPB Code of Ethics Preamble

December 2, 2016

AAPB is an educational, scientific and professional organization whose members work in a variety of settings and serve in multiple capacities. It is AAPB’s mission to promote and represent the science and practice of self-regulation to enhance health and performance.

Professional values are an important way of living out an ethical commitment. The following are core professional values of professionals involved of the research and application of Biofeedback:

  1. Enhancing human development and improvement throughout the life span;
  2. Honoring diversity and embracing a multicultural approach in support of the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of people within their social and cultural contexts;
  3. Promoting social justice;
  4. Safeguarding the integrity of the provider/client relationship;
  5. Practicing in a competent and ethical manner.

The fundamental principles of professional ethical behavior are:

  • Autonomy, or fostering the right to control the direction of one’s life;
  • Non-maleficence, or avoiding actions that cause harm;
  • Beneficence, or working for the good of the individual and society by promoting mental health and well-being;
  • Justice, or treating individuals equitably and fostering fairness and equality;
  • Fidelity, or honoring commitments and keeping promises, including fulfilling one’s responsibilities of trust in professional relationships; and
  • Veracity, or dealing truthfully with individuals with whom providers/researchers come into professional contact.

The Code sets forth the ethical obligations of AAPB members and provides guidance intended to inform the ethical practice of those involved the research and delivery of the Biofeedback modality. It enables the association to clarify for current and prospective members, and for those served by members, the nature of the ethical responsibilities held in common by its members. It serves as an ethical guide designed to assist members in constructing a course of action that best serves those receiving biofeedback treatments and establishes expectations of conduct.

The intention of this document is aspirational and it will evolve.  It is intended as guidance, education and a preliminary attempt at standardization – not law.  If accepted by our members, it would be a living document.

Note to reader: Current ethics language is in normal type and proposed ethics revisions are in RED italics/yellow highlight. Rationale is provided for each change.

Competence

  1. AAPB members recognize the boundaries of their competence and operate within their level of competence using only those biofeedback, other psychophysiological self-regulation techniques, and other client assessment and intervention techniques in which they are competent based on education, training and experience (supervised and unsupervised), study, consultation or other professional experience. They also recognize the proper limitations of psychophysiological self-regulation and inform all concerned parties about the clinical utility of particular procedures, possible negative effects, and whether the procedures are non-validated or clinically verified. AAPB members remain current on knowledge concerned with scientific and professional applications in those areas in which they practice.
  2. AAPB members who are service providers should have at least “entry level” competence; i.e., licensing or certification from the appropriate state or national association relevant to their professional activities.
  3. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback assistants and technicians who are not professionally licensed or certified shall engage in clinical applied psychophysiology and biofeedback practice activities only under the supervision of a qualified professional.
  4. Misrepresentation of one's qualifications, training, experience, degrees, and/or specialty is a violation of ethics and may be a violation of the law in some states. AAPB members must accurately describe their qualifications, training, experience, and/or specialty. They must only list academic degrees (e.g. B.S., M.S., Ph.D., M.D…) such as in healthcare or optimal performance fields earned from a regionally-accredited academic institution.
  5. Practitioners take it upon themselves to seek and obtain appropriate training and supervision when providing services in areas in which they are not yet competent. In addition, they seek continuing education, training, and supervision or consultation, as needed to maintain and expand their areas of competence.

Standards

  1. AAPB members are sensitive to prevailing community moral and ethical standards and to the possible negative impact that deviating from those standards may have upon the quality of their performance in providing clinical applied psychophysiology and biofeedback services, in fulfilling their professional responsibilities and in maintaining public trust in the field of applied psychophysiology and biofeedback sciences. As a categorical statement, sexual contact with patients/clients, trainees, and research subjects is never ethical.
  2. AAPB Members will charge only for clinical services actually provided by them or those provided by others under their direct supervision. In billing third-party payers, practitioners abide by the rules and regulations of the third- which generally means the practitioner will clearly specify which service they provided directly, which they supervised, as well as providing information on about their degree, licensure, and/or certification to the payer.
  3. AAPB Members clarify any potential or actual conflict of interest that exists when serving clients, conducting training or research, or when engaged in any other professional activity.
  4. Informed consent shall be obtained from clients for all assessment, treatment procedures, billing, fee collection, and procedures to protect confidentiality (within the legal, mandated reporting limits of confidentiality such as when there is an evident or credible threat to self or others), and any such other procedures and activities where informed consent is deemed appropriate.
  5. Written informed consent shall be obtained from clients and patients when providing clinical services for all non-validated treatment procedures. Determining which procedures are non-validated can be difficult, yet it is a necessary activity. To determine which procedures are non-validated requires being familiar with documents such as AAPB’s current version of the Clinical Efficacy and Cost Effectiveness of Biofeedback Therapy: Guidelines for Third-Party Reimbursement; the Clinical Applications of Biofeedback and Applied Psychophysiology: A Series of White Papers Prepared in the Public Interest by AAPB; and, the published scientific literature related to biofeedback and psychophysiological self-regulation.

Multiculturalism and Diversity

  1. AAPB members are encouraged to recognize that, as cultural beings, they may hold attitudes and beliefs that can detrimentally influence their perceptions of and interactions with individuals who are different from themselves in terms of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, veteran status, disability unrelated to job requirements, genetic information, military service, socioeconomic class, and other cultural categories.
  2. AAPB members are encouraged to recognize the importance of multicultural sensitivity/responsiveness to, knowledge of, and understanding about individuals who are different in terms of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, veteran status, disability unrelated to job requirements, genetic information, military service, socioeconomic class, and other cultural categories.
  3. As educators and clinical service providers, AAPB members are encouraged to employ the constructs of multiculturalism and diversity in education.
  4. Culturally-sensitive researchers are encouraged to recognize the importance of conducting culture-centered and ethical research among persons from diverse race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, veteran status, disability unrelated to job requirements, genetic information, military service, socioeconomic class, and other cultural categories.
  5. AAPB members are encouraged to apply culturally appropriate skills in clinical and other biofeedback practices.
  6. AAPB members are encouraged to use positive motivational change processes to support culturally informed organizational (policy) development and practices.
  7. AAPB members regularly engage in professional reading and education (both online and face to face) on multiculturalism and diversity, keeping up to date on current standards and research.
    Rationale: Articulates AAPB's commitment to multiculturalism and diversity.

Protection of Client Rights and Welfare

Professionals adhere to the highest standards of hygiene to protect clients and staff.  Practitioners are responsible to learn and follow hygiene standards applicable to biofeedback instruments, sensors, and office environments.

Complaints and Concerns

When the above standards are unclear and whenever appropriate, the pertinent ethical standards of the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), or other professional associations, and colleague feedback should be used by AAPB members to determine an ethical course of action.

When a complaint is made, the AAPB Ethics Committee shall use these ethical principles in evaluating the AAPB member's conduct. The Ethics Committee shall recommend appropriate additions, deletions or revisions to these Ethical Principles, as necessary, to the AAPB Board for approval. Thereafter the membership of the AAPB shall be required to adhere to the revised Ethical Principles.

AAPB will not intervene in interpersonal conflicts, complaints about individuals who are not AAPB members or applicants, or disagreements regarding manufacturer or vendor products, services, business practices, or customer satisfaction.  The AAPB Board of Directors will periodically review and update its Ethical Principles.  Thereafter, AAPB members shall be required to adhere to the revised standards and the laws that govern their profession. 

The AAPB will advocate for psychophysiological self-regulation, biofeedback, applied psychophysiology and biofeedback research, training and service. For example, AAPB will advocate by being responsive to individuals or agencies when questions arise concerning what is “common practice” in applied psychophysiology and biofeedback.


Ethics Committee Procedures

The major concerns of the Ethics Committee of AAPB are to protect the public against unethical practices by AAPB members and to educate the membership concerning acceptable ethical practice. The committee attempts to have complaints resolved by the ethics committee of a member's profession whenever possible.

AAPB's Ethical Principles are intended to educate and guide members to prevent ethical misconduct and should be applied with professional maturity.  AAPB encourages complainants to discuss and attempt to resolve alleged ethical concerns with accused members or applicants.  Ethical complaints against an AAPB member or applicant must be written, signed, and dated by the complainant.  When AAPB receives an ethics complaint, its Executive Director will record the complaint and will write a letter to the complainant that will describe AAPB's role in ethics cases, encourage the complainant to directly discuss the complaint with the member or applicant, and if requested by the complainant, identify institutional, state, and/or national regulatory authorities with jurisdiction.

When that avenue fails, is inappropriate, or when the AAPB member is not professionally licensed or certified, the committee attempts to resolve complaints privately and informally and to recommend disciplinary action when unethical conduct is found to exist.

Since AAPB’s approach to ethical issues is educational, it will not recommend that complainants contact these authorities nor will it represent complainants before these agencies.

The goal of the ethics committee is to be constructive and educative, rather than punitive. The committee will attempt to have the complaint resolved by the local or state biofeedback society if one exists. When a complaint is received, the formal procedures of the AAPB will be followed.

Where a regulatory authority officially determines that an AAPB member or applicant has acted unethically when providing academic, research, clinical, and/or optimal performance services, or when an individual has misrepresented information during application or membership renewal, the AAPB Board may revoke or refuse the individual's membership.  An AAPB member or applicant may reapply if the regulatory authority reverses its determination or declares that the individual has satisfied the terms of probation.

Individuals desiring more information about the ethical principles or wishing to register a complaint may contact the Executive Director of AAPB or any member of the Ethics Committee.

The AAPB Board of Directors will periodically review and update its Ethical Principles.  Thereafter, AAPB members shall be required to adhere to the revised standards.  Individuals desiring more information about these standards may contact AAPB's Executive Director.

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