Course Summary

Practice Level: Intermediate

This free intermediate-level course provides information on ethics and professional boundaries for mental health professionals.  Updated to reflect the most current professional codes of ethics (NASW, APA, NBCC, ACA and AMHCA), the course explores common ethical dilemmas. Special attention is paid to boundary violations and topics including informed consent, confidentiality, mandated reporting, and HIPAA. Case studies through out the learning materials highlight key learning points.

Course Format

This course contains downloadable online lessons (PDF) and a practice test. When you’re ready, purchase the course by clicking the “Add To Cart” or “Enroll” button. This will let you take the test, complete the course evaluation and receive your certificate for CE credits.

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize common ethical dilemmas, the link between ethical and legal issues, and how ethical problems occur.
  • Explain the major ethical principles of mental and behavioral health professionals.
  • Discuss confidentiality and limits of confidentiality in varied contexts including social media, age of consent, mandated reporting, and HIPAA.
  • Identify ethical issues related to public representations (advertising).
  • Describe the Tarasoff and Ewing rulings related to the professional duty to protect.
  • Explain the significance of competence and the steps a provider should take to maintain competence.
  • Discuss informed consent in relation to ethics and boundaries.
  • Identify the dynamics of dual relationships and the ethical violations related to sexual relationships with clients.
  • Recognize the role of ethical practice in the context of involuntary treatment.
  • Describe ethical decision-making including such important considerations as risk tolerance, cultural humility, and specific decision-making models.

Course Syllabus

  • Introduction
  • Professional Codes of  Ethics   
    • Ethics vs Law
    • Ethical Principles
  • Confidentiality
    • Social Media and Confidentiality
    • Confidentiality and Minors (Age of Consent)
    • Mandated Reporting
    • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Public Representations (Advertising)
  • Duty to Protect (Tarasoff and Ewing)
  • Achieving and Maintaining Competence -Cultural Competence and Non-Discrimination in Providing Services
  • Informed Consent
  • Multiple or Non-sexual Dual Relationships
    • Case Example
    • Giving and Receiving Gifts
    • Bartering in Psychotherapy Practice
    • Business Relationships with Former
    • Unintentional Dual Relationships
    • Friendships with Former Clients
    • Physical Contact with Clients
    • Online Relationships
    • Client Role in Multiple Relationships
    • Therapist Consequences for Boundary Violations
  • Sexual Relationships with Clients
    • Consequences to the Therapist of Sexual Boundary Violations
    • Consequences to the Client of Sexual Boundary Violations
  • Involuntary Treatment
  • Ethical Decision-Making
    • Types of Ethical Dilemmas
    • Risk Tolerance
    • Cultural Humility – A Framework for Understanding Ethics
    • Decision-Making Models
    • Avoiding Common Ethical Pitfalls and Dilemmas
  • Summary


Heidi Dalzell, Psy.D.

Heidi Dalzell, Psy.D. is a psychologist in private practice specializing in eating disorders, as well as dual addictions, trauma, domestic violence and depression. She conducts individual and couples therapy with adolescent and adult clients. In addition to authoring numerous mental health courses she frequently blogs and writes newspaper articles about mental health topics.

Teresa Crowe, PhD, LICSW

Teresa Crowe, PhD, LICSW is a licensed clinical social worker in the District of Columbia and Maryland. She is a professor of social work at Gallaudet University and teaches practice, theory, and research in the MSW program. Her recent research focuses on deaf and hard of hearing populations, especially in the areas of behavioral health, intimate partner violence, telemental health, well-being, and help-seeking.

Beth B. Russell, PhD

Beth B. Russell, PhD, is an assistant professor of Social Work at the College of Brockport and a previous social worker planner for Western Schools. Prior to her appointment at Brockport, she was a tenured, Associate Professor at Nazareth College and the Greater Rochester Collaborative Master of Social Work Program. Dr. Russell teaches practice, research, and policy classes, as well as electives in sexual health, creativity in social work, evidence- based practice, and addictions. She is a licensed clinical social work in New York State and maintains a small private practice working with adolescents & adults. Dr. Russell has contributed to several books, written peer-reviewed articles, and presented her research both nationally and internationally. Her current research foci include women and low sexual desire, cultural humility in social work graduate programs, and sexual health in professional social work practice. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Counseling from the University of Rochester.

Accreditation Approval Statements is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. maintains responsibility for this program and its content. has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6991. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

Courses have been approved by, as a NAADAC Approved Education Provider, for educational credits. NAADAC Provider #91345 is responsible for all aspects of the programming.

We are committed to providing our learners with unbiased information. CE4Less never accepts commercial support and our authors have no significant financial or other conflicts of interest pertaining to the material.

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