I’ve seen a few psychologists, some good and some so bad that under their influence, my life took a huge hit! The good ones tried to make me understand my problems, and come to a solution, resolution, or answer myself. I think that’s what a psychologist is supposed to do. You go to them, for a specific problem, a whole set of problems, or for your whole giant messed up life. They talk with you, ask question, make you come to your own realizations, your own answers to your questions.
Once I had a therapist, she did not have a PhD in Psychology, she was a sexologist and had absolutely no business treating someone with bipolar disorder. She was referred to me by someone I knew. She listened to me talk about my problems and then she directed me as to how to solve them. She told me what to email whom, and how often. She told me to call her when I got up during a depression so she could then talk to me about exercising, showering, working, basically my whole day. She decided what was good for me and what was bad for me. This was the worst kind of therapist, she had basically taken over my life and was trying to make me so dependent on her that I couldn’t function without her. Some of the advice she gave me had dire consequences, almost destroying my life! Actually, I lost about 5 years of my life, came off Lithium, was constantly in a hypomanic phase due to being on Lamictal (not meant for bipolar 1 at all) my illness got much worse, and I was finally hospitalized for the 2nd time in 2009, all pretty much due to this therapists influence! She failed starting with the very first tenet: Do no harm! Oy ve! Luckily, I found good doctors, went back on Lithium, and have got things more under control now than I have had since 2002!
This is absolutely NOT the way to counsel someone. You never tell them what to do, you never dictate emails for them, you do not try to make them dependent on you.
Also if a psychologist’s own issues are triggered by talking to a client about their problem, the ethical thing to do is to refer them to someone else. Because if you are personally emotionally involved in an issue, you certainly cannot, in a unbiased fashion, counsel somebody else about it.
Here are the general APA ethical guidelines:
This section consists of General Principles. General Principles, as opposed to Ethical Standards, are aspirational in nature. Their intent is to guide and inspire psychologists toward the very highest ethical ideals of the profession. General Principles, in contrast to Ethical Standards, do not represent obligations and should not form the basis for imposing sanctions. Relying upon General Principles for either of these reasons distorts both their meaning and purpose.
Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence
Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons and the welfare of animal subjects of research. When conflicts occur among psychologists’ obligations or concerns, they attempt to resolve these conflicts in a responsible fashion that avoids or minimizes harm. Because psychologists’ scientific and professional judgments and actions may affect the lives of others, they are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational or political factors that might lead to misuse of their influence. Psychologists strive to be aware of the possible effect of their own physical and mental health on their ability to help those with whom they work.
Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility
Psychologists establish relationships of trust with those with whom they work. They are aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to society and to the specific communities in which they work. Psychologists uphold professional standards of conduct, clarify their professional roles and obligations, accept appropriate responsibility for their behavior and seek to manage conflicts of interest that could lead to exploitation or harm. Psychologists consult with, refer to, or cooperate with other professionals and institutions to the extent needed to serve the best interests of those with whom they work. They are concerned about the ethical compliance of their colleagues’ scientific and professional conduct. Psychologists strive to contribute a portion of their professional time for little or no compensation or personal advantage.
Principle C: Integrity
Psychologists seek to promote accuracy, honesty and truthfulness in the science, teaching and practice of psychology. In these activities psychologists do not steal, cheat or engage in fraud, subterfuge or intentional misrepresentation of fact. Psychologists strive to keep their promises and to avoid unwise or unclear commitments. In situations in which deception may be ethically justifiable to maximize benefits and minimize harm, psychologists have a serious obligation to consider the need for, the possible consequences of, and their responsibility to correct any resulting mistrust or other harmful effects that arise from the use of such techniques.
Principle D: Justice
Psychologists recognize that fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures and services being conducted by psychologists. Psychologists exercise reasonable judgment and take precautions to ensure that their potential biases, the boundaries of their competence and the limitations of their expertise do not lead to or condone unjust practices.
Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity
Psychologists respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination. Psychologists are aware that special safeguards may be necessary to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making. Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language and socioeconomic status and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.
Here is a link to the APA Ethics Code: