As a Registered Psychotherapist, I adhere to the Code of Ethics of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). Please click here to read a copy of the code.
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Informed Consent Clients have the right to control their health care. Members do not have the right to assess or provide therapy to a client unless the client agrees. This is known as consent. A Member who provides an intervention without the client’s consent could face criminal charges (e.g. for assault), a civil suit (e.g. for damages) or professional consequences (e.g. a disciplinary action by the college). The rules on obtaining informed consent come from the Health Care Consent Act (HCCA). All Members should familiarize themselves with this statute; however the key principles are covered here. RPs may learn about informed consent, including the requirements of the HCCA, from a number of sources, including books, articles, websites and Section 3 of this handbook. The College may develop additional materials on the subject for Members, which would be posted to the website.
I. Consent To be valid, a client’s consent must:
Relate to the assessment or therapy An RP cannot receive consent for one purpose (e.g. taking a history of the client’s health for personal therapy) and then use it for a different purpose (e.g. disclosing it in group therapy). The client’s consent must be for the purpose stated. 21
Be specific An RP cannot ask for a general or a vague consent. One must explain the assessment or therapy that is being proposed. This means that the Member may need to obtain the client’s consent many times as changes in therapy become advisable. This also means that a Member cannot seek blanket consent to cover every intervention when the client first comes in.
Be informed It is necessary that the client understand what s/he is agreeing to. The Member must provide information to the client before asking the client to give consent, and must respond appropriately to client requests for additional information. (See Section 2, The Concept of Informed Consent, p.22.)
Be voluntary The therapist cannot force a client to consent to an intervention. This is particularly important when dealing with younger or older clients who may be overly influenced by family members or friends. This is also important where the assessment or therapy will have financial consequences for the client (e.g. the client will lose his/her job or will lose financial benefits if the client refuses to consent). The Member should inform the client that consent is his/her choice.
No misrepresentation or fraud An RP must not make claims about the assessment or therapy that are not true, for example telling the client that a particular therapy will cure when in fact the results are uncertain. Consent obtained through misrepresentation or fraud, as demonstrated in this example, would not be considered true consent. Clients must be given accurate, factual information and opinions based in truth and fact.