Introduction to the NIP Code of Ethics 2015

The Netherlands Institute of Psychologists has had its own Code of Ethics for decades now. The Code describes the ethical principles and rules that psychologists must observe in practising their profession.

Why have a Code of Ethics?

A Code of Ethics serves several purposes. For psychologists, this Code is an important tool in making ethical decisions in their work. Professional ethics are central to their professional activities. Reflection on professional ethics reinforces and increases professionalism. External pressure on the professional autonomy of psychologists, particularly from the various authorities and organisations, is increasing, which makes it all the more important that psychologists are ethically resilient.

For the public who make use of a psychologist’s services, this Code can clarify what they may expect of a psychologist. The NIP’s information centre and ethics department regularly refer to this Code in response to questions from members and their clients.

Finally, this Code of Ethics also serves as an assessment standard when psychologists must account for their activities in a complaints procedure. This obviously applies to the NIP’s disciplinary bodies, i.e. the Supervisory Committee and the Appeals Tribunal. Clients can file a complaint with those bodies regarding the activities of a psychologists who is a member of the NIP. But also other bodies, such as the Regional Disciplinary Committee for the Healthcare Sector and the Central Disciplinary Committee, set up by the government, also increasingly consult this Code of Ethics to determine what is customary and appropriate within the psychology profession.

Why is this new version being published?

It is a good tradition at the NIP to regularly examine the Code of Ethics. Is the code sufficiently up-to-date? Is it in keeping with new legislation and regulations? Are there any important developments in society that may require changes in the text? This Code of Ethics was first adopted in 1960 and has been revised five times since then. In making the current amendments, the Code of Ethics was viewed in particular from the following perspectives:
• intercultural differences between psychologists and clients and among clients;
• making statements on persons in the media; and
• dealing with a client’s right to refuse access to his or her data.

Specific attention has also been paid to the readability of this Code. Does it clearly explain what is meant? The experience gained during the NIP’s consulting hours for ethical questions has also been used in that regard. Many questions showed which wording of this Code was not immediately clear to the users. Some articles have been moved elsewhere to ensure that the intent is clear and to clarify the relationship between the various provisions.

The structure of this Code of Ethics was not changed in 2014.

How is this Code organised?

This Code of Ethics is based on four basic principles: responsibility, integrity, respect and expertise These basic principles have been elaborated in this Code into more specific guidelines, e.g. regarding the information that must be made available to a client at the start of a professional relationship. These guidelines serve as a tool for a psychologist’s ethical decision-making in a specific situation. Some guidelines are related to several principles. A detailed register has therefore been added to this Code, to simplify a search for articles on a specific subject. The relevant legislation and regulation has also been included in this version, such as patients’ and clients’ rights under the Wet op de geneeskundige behandelingsovereenkomst (Medical Treatment Contract Act) or the obligations arising from the Wet bescherming persoonsgegevens (Personal Data Protection Act). Please note that some rules, prescribed by law in particular for a specific field, have been broadened in this Code to include all fields of psychology. Some of the formulations are of a more general nature, while others are fairly specific. However, regardless of how generally or specifically an article is formulated, psychologists themselves are responsible for the application of the articles in specific situations.

What is the origin of the principles and their elaboration?

The Code of Ethics has developed over the years from several sources. In professional ethics, the principles and their elaboration have been contemplated and debated for many years. This gave rise, for instance, to the formulation of the Universal Declaration of Ethical Principles for Psychologists. Within Europe we have the Meta-Code and the Model Code of the European Federation of Psychological Associations (EFPA). They are examples, intended to serve as models and as a framework for national codes, such as the NIP’s Code of Ethics. It comes as no surprise that the Dutch Code is in keeping with those international frameworks, since those frameworks were developed in particular on the basis of our Dutch experience.

In addition to these developments within the profession, the social context also plays a part. National and international legislation are relevant in this regard. We particularly refer to the Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (ICRC). The obligations arising from them for psychologists have been included in this Code insofar as possible. Psychologists are also expected to take these rights into account when they impact their professional activities, which may be the case when they work with children or refugees.

Procedure and decision-making

This revision of the Code of Ethics was made on the basis of responses from users, i.e. from all sections within and outside the NIP that have an interest in an up-to-date and transparent code. The Ethics Committee has conducted inspiring talks with many persons. Others presented written suggestions and proposals to the Committee, for which we are very grateful.

The NIP’s General Administrative Board has presented this revised version of the Code of Ethics to the Members’ Council. The Members’ Council adopted this version at its meeting of 28 November 2014 and decided that this Code would enter into force on 1 March 2015.

January 2015

P.C. Plooij-van Gorsel, 
Chair of the Netherlands Institute of Psychologists (NIP) 

H. Geertsema, 
Chair of the Ethics Committee (BEZ)