take very seriously the need to ensure that all ACTO members work ethically and
professionally and to take appropriate action if they do not.
This page contains, below, the Code of Ethics to which all members are required to adhere, followed by an outline of the Professional Conduct Procedure to be followed in the event that a member is accused of being in breach of it.
We also wish to draw your attention to the following statement:
ACTO and 'conversion' or 'reparative' therapy
ACTO respects and values sexual diversity. We do not consider homosexuality or other non-straight sexual orientations to be pathological or resulting from developmental irregularity. They are not diseases or mental disorders and therefore do not need to be 'treated'.
ACTO deplores the practice of any psychological therapy that attempts to change a client's sexual orientation. Our response to a client who requests this would be to explore their reasons and to work with them to help them see that they are not damaged or abnormal.
American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation. (2009). Report of the Task Force on the Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC.
Bartlett, A., Smith, G., King, M. (2009) 'The response of mental health professionals to clients seeking help to change or redirect same-sex sexual orientation'. Division of Mental Health, St George's Hospital, University of London; Department of Mental Health Sciences, University College Hospital, University of London
have produced this document to help promote safe professional practice for those
psychological therapists who work online. All ACTO members are required to adhere
to and follow the Code of Ethics of the organisation with whom they hold membership
or accreditation in addition to the ethical framework laid out below.
expects all its members to adhere to the following:
Be aware of and familiarise themselves with the differences between online and
face to face psychological therapy and the impact that online work can have on
the relationship between therapist and client and the therapeutic process
Be aware of and work within their limitations and competence; seeking regular
supervision preferably from an experienced online supervisor; and be willing to
undertake continuing professional development.
Recognise and respect diversity and difference especially when working across
international/cultural boundaries and be alert to the possibility of misinterpretation
of the written and/or spoken word.
Have the ability to assess clients appropriately and ensure their suitability
for online work.
Ensure that clients have read, understood and agreed on their personal contract/agreement
for working online together before the therapeutic work begins.
Take appropriate hardware and software measures to protect the integrity and privacy
of their computer systems and to remove client material from their computers at
the end of the contracted work.
Ensure that all clients have access to clear written statements, in an explicit
format, of all email transactions and monies paid to their therapist.
Ensure that all clients have a clear understanding of what to do in the event
of server or computer outage and breakdown.
Respect and be aware of their clients' right to take decisions and to act for
Supply accurate and up-to-date information about the service they are offering
the client; including fees for all the forms of online therapy they offer.
Avoid taking advantage of clients or exploiting them in any way; (For example,
sexually, financially, psychologically, or emotionally).
Work only when both client and therapist are deemed fit to do so (physically /
psychologically / technologically) to ensure the quality of the therapy they provide.
Protect their own position, if possible, by obtaining appropriate insurance to
cover the work they undertake.
Keep at least brief records of their counselling work with clients, unless there
are exceptional reasons for not doing so.
Keep up to date with any legal requirements that affect their online work.
Avoid offering services to a child or young person where they believe 'informed
consent' cannot apply, without first obtaining permission from a person with parental
responsibility, unless they are working for a registered voluntary or statutory
organisation that offers anonymity and does require 'parental consent' as a pre-requisite
for using the service.
Never indicate or imply that they are working for ACTO. Membership of ACTO is
not a contract of employment.
Never indicate or imply that membership of ACTO offers proof of the therapist's
qualifications or training.
Treat their online colleagues with professional courtesy and respect both directly
and indirectly (i.e. in how they represent themselves to others).
t. Practitioners should not allow their professional relationships with clients to be prejudiced by any personal views they may hold about lifestyle, gender, age, disability, race, sexual orientation, beliefs or culture.
is an outline of how matters may proceed if a complaint is made against an ACTO
NOTE: The Acto Professional Conduct Panel, like those of other counselling
organisations, has no power to order any kind of financial compensation
from the therapist to the client. Their role would be to impose clinical sanctions
which may restrict the counsellor's practice and require the member to undertake
further training and/or supervision.
time constraints in this procedure must be adhered to unless an extension is agreed
to by all relevant parties.
a complaint is under way it is therefore the responsibility of both therapist
and complainant to keep the PCO fully informed of any periods when they know they
will be out of internet contact and unable to respond to emails within the stated
soon as the Professional Conduct Officer (PCO) is contacted by a client/former
client wishing to lodge a formal complaint, he/she will advise the therapist concerned
that a complaint has been received.
Complainant is invited to put their complaint in more detail, describing as fully
as possible the events which led to the complaint and stating which clauses of
the Code of Ethics have been breached. Evidence, e.g. copies of emails, should
be submitted in support of the complaint. 10 working days are allowed for sending
this submission. If no written complaint is received within this time, the complaint
will be dismissed.
PCO will read the statement and ask the Complainant for further clarification
as necessary to ensure that the complaint contains the necessary information regarding
the clauses that are alleged to have been breached. 2 working days are allowed
for answering these queries.
receipt of the Complainant's written submission and any additional information
the PCO will sending a copy of the written complaint to the therapist concerned
(the Respondent) and ask for a response. The Respondent will have 10 working days
to respond. If no response is received by the end of this time, the complaint
will be deemed to have been accepted.
this point there should be no direct communication between Complainant and Respondent.
When a formal complaint has been made and a response received from the therapist both parties will be invited to explore mediation as this could provide an outcome acceptable to both parties without the need for a formal complaint hearing. Mediation will be carried out entirely online and proceedings will be kept confidential between the parties concerned and the mediator.
Once a complaint has been received ACTO will notify the mediation service, InvolveNorthwest (Wirral Mediation Service) who will contact both parties within 3 working days.
The mediators will send both parties information about the service, how it works and what it can achieve. They will also, with both parties' permission, receive from ACTO copies of the complaint and of the therapist's response.
Both parties will be required to receive and read the information they will be sent about mediation but may then choose to use the service or to reject it.
The parties have 7 working days in which to respond. if there is no response within this time from either party it will be deemed that the complainant
does not wish to pursue the complaint or that the therapist accepts that the complaint is justified
If both respond then the mediator will engage with both parties within 7 working days. A series of e-mails will then be exchanged between the mediator and both parties, to gather any additional information and to decide whether a 'face to face' online meeting will take place, or whether working via the mediator is preferable . All parties are requested to reply to e-mails within 2 working days, during this part of the process.
Whether agreement is to be reached by ‘Face to face' mediation or through the mediator the agreement should be in place within the next 7 working days.
The mediation service will lodge a copy of the agreement with ACTO, with copies to both parties and stay in support of the agreement should the complainant or the counselor feel the need for ongoing support regarding the process that they had been through.
If parties are unwilling to move from their position or requested outcomes become unrealistic the Complainant will be offered the opportunity to take the complaint to a Formal Hearing.
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT HEARING
the Complainant decides to proceed to a Hearing the PCO will Inform the Respondent.
PCO will appoint two other people, both therapists, with whom to form a Panel
which will look at the complaint and come to a decision as to whether the it is
valid and can be upheld.
working days will be allowed for the Panel members to read the submissions, arrange
a meeting on-line to discuss the complaint, and to come to a decision.
this meeting whatever sanctions are considered appropriate will be discussed and
Panel will then produce a report incorporating their decision and this will be
passed to the Complainant and Respondent within 3 working days of the decision.
it is found that the clauses cited have not been breached no further action will
be taken. There is no avenue for appeal from the complainant
one or more of the clauses are found to have been breached the Panel will decide
on whether/what sanctions should be imposed on the Respondent. These will also
be included in their report.
Respondent is required to respond to this report within 5 working days and may
appeal against the decision if s/he wishes.
the Respondent does not respond or refuses to comply with the sanctions membership
of ACTO will cease.
the event that you might have a complaint against a member of ACTO please refer
to our guidelines here.
members who have had a complaint made against them should refer to the Guidelines
in the Members Area
of our website.