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ETHICS CODE: AASP Ethical Principles and Standards


AASP is dedicated to the development and professionalization of the field of sport psychology. As we establish ourselves as a profession, we must attend to both the privileges and responsibilities of a profession. Privileges derive from society's agreement to accept our designation as a group of trained individuals possessing specialized knowledge and, therefore, the power implicit in this knowledge. Our responsibilities, in turn, result from the society’s trust that the profession will regulate itself to do no harm, and to govern itself to ensure the dignity and welfare of individuals we serve and the public. To maintain this status, professional organizations must develop and enforce guidelines that regulate their members’ professional conduct. A code of ethical principles and standards is one such set of self-regulatory guidelines. This code guides professionals to act responsibly as they employ the privileges granted by society. A profession’s inability to regulate itself violates the public’s trust and undermines the profession’s potential to be of service to society.

Ethical codes of conduct that professions adopt are based in the values of the society. Consequently, these values include the balance between the rights and privacy of the individual and the general welfare of society. Each profession must determine its values and social function. The profession must then develop and adopt an ethics code which guides professional conduct. While no set of guidelines can anticipate all situations, a useful code should provide guidance when problems or dilemmas arise. This code should also proactively direct the actions of its members in work-related settings. If this is accomplished, the code will ensure society’s trust in the profession.

The Association for Applied Sport Psychology’s (AASP) Ethical Principles and Standards (hereinafter referred to as the Ethics Code) is presented here and consists of this Introduction, a Preamble, six general Principles, and 26 Standards. The Introduction discusses the intent and organizational considerations of the Ethics Code. The Preamble and General Principles are intended to guide AASP members toward the highest ideals of the profession. The Standards more precisely specify the boundaries of ethical conduct. Although the Preamble and the General Principles are not themselves enforceable rules, they should be considered by AASP members in arriving at an ethical course of action. Ethical Standards are enforceable rules that mandate behavioral choices.

Membership in the AASP commits members to adhere to the AASP Ethics Code. AASP members should be aware that, in many situations, additional ethical and legal codes may be applied to them by other professional organizations or public bodies. In the process of making decisions regarding their professional behavior, AASP members must consider this Ethics Code, in addition to other ethical guidelines or legal codes. If the Ethics Code suggests a higher standard of conduct than is required by legal codes or other ethical guidelines, AASP members should meet the higher ethical standard. If the Ethics Code standard appears to conflict with the requirements of law, then AASP members must make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take steps to resolve the conflict in a responsible manner. If neither law nor the Ethics Code resolves an issue, AASP members should consider other professional materials (e.g., guidelines and standards that have been adopted or endorsed by other professional physical education, sport science, and social science organizations), the dictates of their own conscience, and consultation with others within the field when this is practical.1


AASP members may fulfill many roles based on their professional training and competence. In these roles they may work to develop a valid and reliable body of scientific knowledge based on research; they may apply that knowledge to human behavior in a variety of sport, exercise, physical activity, and health contexts. Their goals are to broaden knowledge of this behavior and, where appropriate, to apply it pragmatically to improve the condition of both the individual and society. AASP members respect the central importance of freedom of inquiry and expression in research, teaching, and consulting. They also strive to help the public to develop informed judgments and choices concerning sport, exercise, physical activity, and health behavior. This Ethics Code provides a common set of values upon which AASP members build their professional and scientific work.

This Code is intended to provide the general principles and specific ethical standards for managing many situations encountered by AASP members. It has as its primary goal the welfare and protection of the individuals and groups with whom AASP members work. It is the individual responsibility of each AASP member to aspire to the highest possible standards of conduct. AASP members respect and protect human and civil rights, and do not knowingly participate in or condone unfair discriminatory practices.

The development of a dynamic ethical code for an AASP member’s work-related conduct requires a personal commitment to a lifelong effort to act ethically; to encourage ethical behavior by students, supervisees, employees, and colleagues, as appropriate; and to consult with others, as needed, concerning ethical problems, Each AASP member supplements, but does not violate, the Ethics Code’s values, on the basis of guidance drawn from personal values, culture, and experience.



Principle A: Competence

AASP members maintain the highest standards of competence in their work. They recognize the boundaries of their professional competencies and the limitations of their expertise. They maintain knowledge related to the services they render, and they recognize the need for ongoing education. AASP members make appropriate use of scientific, professional, technical, and administrative resources. They provide only those services and use only those techniques for which they are qualified by education, training, or experience. AASP members are cognizant of the fact that the competencies required in serving, teaching, and/or studying groups of people vary with the distinctive characteristics of those groups. In those areas in which recognized professional standards do not yet exist. AASP members exercise careful judgment and take appropriate precautions to protect the welfare of those with whom they work.

Principle B: Integrity

AASP members promote integrity in the science, teaching, and practice of their profession. In these activities AASP members are honest and fair. When describing or reporting their qualifications, services, products, fees, research, or teaching, they do not make statements that are false, misleading, or deceptive. They clarify for relevant parties the roles they are performing and the obligations they adopt. They function appropriately in accordance with those roles and obligations. AASP members avoid improper and potentially harmful dual relationships.

Principle C: Professional and Scientific Responsibility

AASP members are responsible for safeguarding the public and AASP from members who are deficient in ethical conduct. They uphold professional standards of conduct and accept appropriate responsibility for their behavior. AASP members consult with, refer to, or cooperate with other professionals and institutions to the extent needed to serve the best interests of the recipients of their services. AASP members’ moral standards and conduct are personal matters to the same degree as is true for any other person, except as their conduct may compromise their professional responsibilities or reduce the public’s trust in the profession and the organization. AASP members are concerned about the ethical compliance of their colleagues’ scientific and professional conduct. When appropriate, they consult with colleagues in order to prevent, avoid, or terminate unethical conduct.

Principle D: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity

AASP members accord appropriate respect to the fundamental rights, dignity, and worth of all people. They respect the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination, and autonomy, mindful that legal and other obligations may lead to inconsistency and conflict with the exercise of these rights. AASP members are aware of cultural, individual, and role differences, including those due to age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status. AASP members try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone unfair discriminatory practices.

Principle E: Concern for Others' Welfare

AASP members seek to contribute to the welfare of those with whom they interact professionally. When conflicts occur among AASP members’ obligations or concerns, they attempt to resolve those conflicts and to perform those roles in a responsible fashion that avoids or minimizes harm. AASP members are sensitive to real and ascribed differences in power between themselves and others. They do not exploit or mislead other people during or after professional relationships.

Principle F: Social Responsibility

AASP members are aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to the community and the society in which they work and live. They apply and make public their knowledge in order to contribute to human welfare. When undertaking research, AASP members strive to advance human welfare and their profession while always protecting the rights of the participants. AASP members try to avoid misuse of their work, and they comply with the law.


These General Standards are applicable to AASP members across all their professional roles and in all their professional interactions and communications.

1. Professional and Scientific Relationship

AASP members provide diagnostic, therapeutic, teaching, research, educational, supervisory, or other consultative services only in the context of a defined professional or scientific relationship or role.

2. Boundaries of Competence

(a) AASP members represent diverse academic and professional backgrounds. These different training histories provide different competencies. Those trained in clinical and counseling psychology must be aware of potential limitations in their sport science competencies. AASP members trained in the sport sciences must be aware of their limitations in clinical and counseling psychology. Individuals from different training backgrounds must deliver services, teach, and conduct research only within the boundaries of their competence.

(b) AASP members provide services, teach, or conduct research in new areas only after taking the necessary actions to guarantee a high level of competence in those areas.

(c) AASP members who engage in assessment, therapy, teaching, research, organizational consulting, or other professional activities maintain a reasonable level of awareness of current scientific and professional information in their fields of activity, and undertake ongoing efforts to maintain competence in the skills they use.

(d) AASP members are aware of the limitations of their scientific work and do not make claims or take actions that exceed these limitations.

3. Human Differences

(a) AASP members recognize that differences of age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status can significantly affect their work. AASP members working with specific populations have the responsibility to develop the necessary skills to be competent with these populations, or they make appropriate referrals.

(b) AASP members do not engage in unfair discrimination based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or any basis proscribed by law.

4. Exploitation and Harassment

(a) AASP members do not exploit persons over whom they have supervisory, evaluative, or other authority, such as students, supervisees, employees, research participants, and clients or patients.

(b) AASP members do not engage in behavior that is harassing or demeaning to persons with whom they interact in their work.

(c) AASP members do not solicit testimonials from current psychotherapy clients or patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.

5. Personal Problems and Conflicts

(a) AASP members recognize that personal problems, including addictions, and personal conflicts may interfere with their effectiveness. Accordingly, they refrain from undertaking an activity when their personal problems may harm others to whom they may owe a professional or scientific obligation.

(b) AASP members are aware that the extreme visibility and notoriety of some of the clients and organizations that they work with may compromise their professional objectivity and competence. In such situations, it is the AASP member’s responsibility to take corrective action, including consultation with other professionals and termination and referral if necessary.

(c) In their professional roles AASP members may obtain privileged information about clients or client organizations. AASP members do not use this information for personal gain.

6. Avoiding Harm

AASP members take reasonable steps to avoid harming their patients or clients, research participants, students, and others with whom they work, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and unavoidable.

7. Misuse of AASP Members’ Influence

Because AASP members’ scientific and professional judgments and actions may affect the lives of others, they are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political factors that might lead to misuse of their influence.

8. Misuse of AASP Members’ Work

AASP members do not participate in activities in which it appears likely that their skills or products will be misused by others. If AASP members learn of misuse or misrepresentation of their work, they take reasonable steps to correct or minimize the misuse or misrepresentation.

9. Multiple Relationships

(a) AASP members must always be sensitive to the potential harmful if unintended effects of social or other nonprofessional contacts on their work and on those persons with whom they deal. Such multiple relationships might impair the AASP member’s objectivity or might harm or exploit the other party.

(b) An AASP member refrains from taking on professional or scientific obligations when preexisting relationships would create a risk of such harm.

(c) AASP members do not engage in sexual relationships with students, supervisees, and clients over whom the AASP member has evaluative, direct, or indirect authority, because such relationships are so likely to impair judgment or be exploitative.

(d) AASP members avoid personal, scientific, professional, financial, or other relationships with family members of minor clients because such relationships are so likely to impair judgment or be exploitative.

(e) If an AASP member finds that, due to unforeseen factors, a potentially harmful multiple relationship has arisen, the AASP member attempts to resolve it with due regard for the best interests of the affected person and maximal compliance with the Ethics Code.

10. Barter (with Patients or Clients)

AASP members refrain from accepting goods, services, or other nonmonetary remuneration from patients, clients, students, supervisees, or research subjects in return for services, because such arrangements create inherent potential for conflicts, exploitation, and distortion of the professional relationship. In certain circumstances AASP members may receive tokens of appreciation from clients or client organizations. In these situations it is the AASP member’s responsibility to determine that the gifts are appropriate for the setting, not exploitative, and that the gifts do not serve as payment for services.

11. Consultations and Referrals

(a) AASP members arrange for appropriate consultations and referrals based principally on the best interests of their patients or clients, with appropriate consent and subject to other relevant considerations, including applicable law and contractual obligations.

(b) AASP members cooperate with other professionals in order to serve their patients or clients effectively and appropriately.

12. Third-Party Requests for Services

(a) When an AASP member agrees to provide services to a person or entity at the request of a third party, the AASP member clarifies, at the outset of the service, the nature of the relationship with each party. This clarification includes the role of the AASP member, the probable uses of the services provided or the information obtained, and the fact that there may be limits to confidentiality.

(b) If there is a foreseeable risk of the AASP member’s being called upon to perform conflicting roles because of the involvement of a third party, the AASP member clarifies the nature and direction of his or her responsibilities, keeps all parties appropriately informed as matters develop, and resolves the situation in accordance with the Ethics Code.

13. Delegation to and Supervision of Subordinates

(a) AASP members delegate to their employees, supervisees, and research assistants only those responsibilities that such persons can reasonably be expected to perform competently.

(b) AASP members provide proper training and supervision to their employees or supervisees and take reasonable steps to see that such persons perform services responsibly, competently, and ethically.

14. Documentation of Professional and Scientific Work

AASP members appropriately document their professional and scientific work in order to facilitate provision of services later by them or by other professionals, to ensure accountability, and to meet other requirements of institutions or the law.

15. Fees and Financial Arrangements

(a) As early as is feasible in a professional or scientific relationship, the AASP member and the patient, client, or other appropriate recipient of services reach an agreement clearly specifying the compensation and the billing arrangements.

(b) AASP members do not exploit recipients of services or payers with respect to fees.

(c) If limitations to services can be anticipated because of limitations in financing, this is discussed with the patient, client, or other appropriate recipient of services as early as is feasible.

(d) AASP members do not deliver services for future remuneration based on the client’s future achievements nor do they accept testimonials in place of fees for services.

16. Definition of Public Statements

AASP members are responsible for the clarity and honesty of public statements about their work made to students, clients, colleagues, or the public, by themselves or others representing them. If AASP members learn of deceptive statements about their work made by others, AASP members make reasonable efforts to correct such statements.

17. Informed Consent to Practice

(a) AASP members obtain appropriate informed consent to educational and counseling procedures, using language that is reasonably understandable to participants. The content of informed consent will vary depending on circumstances. However, informed consent generally implies that the person (1) has the capacity to consent, (2) has been informed of significant information concerning the procedure, (3) has freely and without undue influence expressed consent, and (4) consent has been appropriately documented.

(b) When persons are legally incapable of giving informed consent, AASP members obtain informed permission from a legally authorized person, if such substitute consent is permitted by law.

(c) In addition, AASP members (1) inform those persons who are legally incapable of giving informed consent about the proposed interventions in a manner commensurate with the persons psychological capacities, (2) seek their assent to those interventions, and (3) consider such persons’ preferences and best interests.

18. Maintaining Confidentiality

(a) AASP members have a primary obligation to uphold and take reasonable precautions to respect the confidentiality rights of those with whom they work or consult, recognizing that confidentiality may be established by law, institutional rules, and/or professional or scientific relationships.

(b) AASP members discuss with persons and organizations with whom they work (1) the relevant limitations on confidentiality, including limitations where applicable in group, marital, and family counseling or in organizational consulting, and (2) the foreseeable uses of the information generated through their services.

(c) AASP members do not disclose in their writings, lectures, or other public media, confidential, personally identifiable information concerning their patients, individual or organizational clients, students, research participants, or other recipients of their services that they obtained during the course of their work, unless the person or organization has consented in writing or unless there is other ethical or legal authorization for doing so.

19. Informed Consent to Research

(a) Prior to conducting research (except research involving only anonymous surveys, naturalistic observations, or similar methods where the risk of harm is minimal), AASP members enter into an agreement with participants that clarifies the nature of the research and the responsibilities of each party.

(b) AASP members use language that is reasonably understandable to research participants in obtaining their appropriate informed consent. Such informed consent is appropriately documented.

(c) Using language that is reasonably understandable to participants, AASP members inform participants of the nature of the research; they inform participants that they are free to participate or to decline to participate or to withdraw from the research; they explain the foreseeable consequences of declining or withdrawing; they inform participants of significant factors that may be expected to influence their willingness to participate (such as risks, discomfort, adverse effects, or limitations on confidentiality); and they explain other aspects about which the prospective participants inquire.

(d) When AASP members conduct research with individuals such as students or subordinates, AASP members take special care to protect the prospective participants from adverse consequences of declining or withdrawing from participation.

(e) When research participation is a course or team requirement or opportunity for extra course credit, the prospective participant is given the choice of equitable alternative activities.

(f) For persons who are legally incapable of giving informed consent, AASP members nevertheless (1) provide an appropriate explanation, (2) where possible, obtain the participant’s assent, and (3) obtain appropriate permission from a legally authorized person, if such substitute consent is permitted by law.

20. Conduct of Research

(a) AASP members design, conduct, and report research in accordance with recognized standards of scientific competence and ethical research.

(b) AASP members plan their research so as to minimize the possibility that results will be misleading.

(c) AASP members take reasonable steps to implement appropriate protections for the rights and welfare of human participants, other persons affected by the research, and the welfare of animal subjects.

(d) AASP members obtain from host institutions or organizations appropriate approval prior to conducting research, and they provide accurate information about their research proposals. They conduct the research in accordance with the approved research protocol.

(e) AASP members do not offer excessive or inappropriate financial or other inducements to obtain research participants, particularly when it might tend to coerce participation.

21. Deception in Research

(a) AASP members do not conduct a study involving deception unless they have determined that the use of deceptive techniques is justified by the study’s prospective scientific, educational, or applied value, will not harm the participant, and that equally effective alternative procedures that do not use deception are not feasible.

(b) AASP members never deceive research participants about significant aspects that would affect their willingness to participate, such as physical risks, discomfort, or unpleasant emotional experiences.

(c) Any other deception that is an integral feature of the design and conduct of an experiment must be explained to participants as early as is feasible, preferably at the conclusion of their participation, but no later than at the conclusion of the research. If scientific or humane values justify delaying or withholding this information, AASP members take reasonable measures to reduce the risk of harm.

22. Minimizing Invasiveness

In conducting research, AASP members interfere with the participants or milieu from which data are collected only in a manner that is warranted by an appropriate research design and that is consistent with AASP members’ roles as scientific investigators.

23. Honesty in Research

(a) AASP members do not fabricate data or falsify results in their publications.

(b) If AASP members discover errors in their published data, they take reasonable steps to correct such errors in a correction, retraction, erratum, or other appropriate publication means.

(c) AASP members do not present substantial portions or elements of another’s work or data as their own, even if the other work or data source is cited occasionally. AASP members only accept publication and other credit for work that they have created or performed.

24. Conflicts between Ethics and Organizational Demands

If the demands of an organization with which AASP members are affiliated conflict with the Ethics Code, members clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code, and to the extent feasible, seek to resolve the conflict in a way that permits the fullest adherence to the Ethics Code.

25. Resolution of Ethical Conflicts

The successful implementation of an ethics code requires a personal commitment to act ethically, encourage ethical behavior by others, and consult with others concerning ethical problems. When applying the code of ethical conduct, AASP members may encounter problems in identifying unethical conduct or in resolving ethical conflict. When faced with significant ethical concerns, one should consider the following courses of action.

Before any action is taken, one may benefit from advice from uninvolved and objective advisors or peers familiar with ethical issues.

When members believe that there may have been an ethical violation by another member, they may attempt to clarify and resolve the issue by bringing the matter to the attention of the other involved parties if such an informal resolution appears appropriate and the intervention does not violate any confidentiality rights that may be involved.

Discuss ethical problems with your immediate supervisor except when it appears that the supervisor is involved in the ethical issue, in which case the problem should be presented to the next higher administrative level. If satisfactory resolution cannot be achieved when the problem is initially presented, the issue should be submitted to the next higher administrative level.

Contact with levels above the immediate administrator should be initiated only with the administrator's knowledge, assuming that the administrator is not involved. If the ethical problem or conflict still exists after exhausting all levels of internal review, support from appropriate professional organizations should be obtained.

It is important for AASP members to understand that unethical conduct is a serious matter. However, the primary aims of these ethical principles are to inform and motivate the highest standards of conduct among AASP members as we serve our clients, our professions, and our community.

26. The Integration of Technology in Professional and Scientific Work within Sport, Exercise and Health Psychology

Because technology develops and changes so quickly, it is not possible for the ethics code to keep an up-to-date list of all forms of technology. However, technological communication might include, but is not limited to: video conferencing; emailing; social networking; instant messaging; and text messaging. This technology is often incorporated through the use of computers and tablets and/or with the use of smartphone devices.

(a) AASP members should only incorporate the various forms of technology in their professional and scientific work in which they have appropriate technical and practical competencies, and when such technology does not subject another party to harm or discomfort.

(b) AASP members should be sensitive to the needs and interests of their client(s) and should only make the decision to incorporate specific forms of technology in their professional practice with the consent of their client(s), and only once the client fully understands the strengths and weaknesses pertaining to the specific medium of telecommunication. Precisely, AASP members shall inform the client(s) as early as possible, to the privacy risks and limits to confidentiality with this type of telecommunication.

(c) When the decision is made to incorporate specific forms of technology in a professional practice relationship, the AASP member should clearly delineate to the client the types of technology that will be utilized and the parameters for using such technology in each relationship.

(d) AASP members will take reasonable steps to ensure the identity of the clients with whom they work.

(e) AASP members will take reasonable precautions to verify the privacy and confidentiality of electronic communications in their professional and scientific work.

(f) AASP members are encouraged to have clients sign a confidentiality waiver related to their use of computer technology whilst working with clients/participants.

(g) Should any ethical concerns arise during the use of technology as part of applied services, appropriate steps should be taken immediately to deal with any potential client harm/problems.

(h) It is recommended that AASP members be responsible for understanding and abiding by the laws and ethical guidelines related to service delivery within the states, regions, provinces and countries in which they and their clients are located at the time of service delivery.

(i) AASP members should be aware that the use of new technology might require the implementation of new and empirically validated techniques and strategies for working with clients.

(Authored by Dr. James Whelan, University of Memphis)
Latest version adopted in 2011

1. This Ethics code is based in large part on the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and code of conduct (American Psychologist, 1992, V47, #12, pp. 1597-1611.). Over 50 other organizational ethics codes, including the code of the American College of Sports Medicine, were also examined and many influenced this document. We wish to thank all of these organizations.