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Am Psychol. 2005 May-Jun;60(4):325-34.

Examining the personal-professional distinction: ethics codes and the difficulty of drawing a boundary.

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  • 1Department of Counselor Education, Counseling Psychology, and School Psychology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA.


The Ethics Code of the American Psychological Association (APA) applies to the professional role behaviors of members and not to their personal behavior. This article discusses some of the difficulties inherent in drawing distinctions between the personal and the professional. Consideration is given to the importance of clarifying public statements. Four ethics codes other than the APA Ethics Code are examined for how they treat the personal-professional distinction. A number of questions are posed to assist in determining the tilt a behavior takes. A concluding recommendation suggests that APA Ethical Standards be applied only to professional role behaviors, whereas aspirational principles might be applied to personal behavior.

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