The Ethics of Private Practice, by Jeffrey E. Barnett, Jeffrey Zimmerman, & Steven Walfish, Oxford University Press, Cary, North Carolina, 2014, 192 pages including references, paperback, $45.00.
I have taught a few courses on ethics for NASW. So I have a collection of books on ethics. This is probably the best ethics book that is focused on private practice. I must admit it is applicable in any setting.
The book covers every aspect of private practice. The authors have not left a stone unturned. They even include when ethics meets legal problems. They start with beginning a practice, which covers issues such as licensure, supervision, choosing a practice, practice in health care settings, ethics and legal teams, location, and office setting.
The book contains nine chapters, including the previous chapter discussed, covering clinical practice, documentation and record keeping, dealing with third parties and protecting confidentiality, financial decisions, staff training and office policies, advertising and marketing, continuing professional development, and leaving a practice. APA, NASW, AAMFT, and ACA all have specific codes of ethics covering the topics listed above.
Additionally, the authors have described informed consent in great detail. They write that, at a minimum, informed consent will include a description of the services offered, likely fees and relevant financial arrangements, frequency of appointments and scheduling practices, confidentiality and its limits, possible risks and benefits of treatment, reasonably available alternatives and their likely risks and benefits, what to do should an emergency arise, as well as how and when to contact the clinician in between treatment sessions.
The authors state that informed consent should be conducted verbally and in writing, with a written agreement signed by the client. In addition, the client must be competent to give consent (cognitively and emotionally, as well as legally). Clinicians must actively ensure the client’s understanding of what they are agreeing to, and consent must be given voluntarily.
It would be interesting to do an anonymous survey (just numbers, no names) of how many clinicians practice informed consent as written above. I suspect that many clinicians do part of the list, but not all of it.
The other part that I really appreciate is that at the end of every chapter, there is a bulleted summary of topics discussed, including:
- ethical challenges
- key points to keep in mind
- practical recommendations
- pitfalls to avoid
- relevant ethics code standards from each of the professional associations
Whether you are about to start a private practice or are a seasoned private practitioner, it should benefit you to review this book. This is a book that should be in every clinician’s library.
Reviewed by Mila Ruiz Tecala, LICSW, DCSW, private practitioner.