It is wise for every professional to have a philosophy of practice made
up of principles and values that help guide their services. The marriage and family therapy professional code of ethics
helps define the principles and values of this practice. The following is a list of such principles gathered from a
variety of sources and experiences by Dean H. Hepworth and Jo Ann Larsen (1986) that this practice also subscribes to.
1. People are capable of making their own choices and decisions. Although
controlled to some extent by their environment, they are able to direct their lives more than they realize. They always
have freedom and responsibility to exercise in shaping their own lives.
2. Helping persons have a responsibility to assist people to achieve maximal independence. Clients grow in
strength as therapists promote independent action.
Helping persons have a responsibility to work toward changing the environmental influences that adversely impact upon clients.
4. Human behavior is purposive and goal directed, although
the purpose and goals are often not readily discernible.
5. People are capable of learning new behaviors. Helping professionals have a responsibility to assist people
to discover and employ their strengths and to affirm their capacity to grow and change.
6. Although problems of living may stem from past relationships and events, and although limited focus on the past
may be beneficial in some instances, most difficulties can be resolved by focusing on present choices and by mobilizing extant
and latent strengths and coping patterns.
7. Problems of
living are often produced by inadequate knowledge and/or coping mechanisms. By gaining knowledge and learning new skills,
people often not only resolve difficulties, but also achieve personal growth in the process.
8. Many problems of living are societal and systemic rather than personal or interpersonal. By learning to
implement effective strategies, people can effect changes in various types of systems.
9. Adversity is an inherent part of the human condition, but human beings grow in strength through meeting adversities.
Life's crises, therefore, represent opportunities for growth and mastery as well as sources of strain.
10. Human beings want and need to have self-esteem. To gain and maintain self-esteem, people need confirmation
of their worth from significant others (spouse, parents, children, other relatives, and friends). Many interpersonal
conflicts are indirect expressions of not feeling loved and esteemed.
11. Human growth occurs in the context of relationships with other human beings. Growth in helping relationships
is fostered by the power of love, as manifested by acceptance, respect, concern, encouragement, and affirmation of clients'
12. A prized aspect of human growth is becoming an open, authentic person.
Open, authentic behavior by therapists fosters like behavior in clients.
13. Another prized aspect of human growth is becoming attuned to, concerned about, and responsive to the needs of
loved ones and other people.
14. To live in the reality of the present moment is to exercise potentialities more fully.
15. Means to an end are equally important as the ends themselves. Any means of assisting clients to achieve
goals should safeguard dignity, self-esteem, self-determination, and confidentiality.
16. Awareness of self is the first step to self-realization; astute and sensitive understanding by therapists facilitates
self-understanding by clients. A genuine desire to understand is a gift of the self.
17. Peoples' right to their own values and belief systems are inviolate. Nevertheless, certain values and beliefs
lead to dysfunctional and self-defeating behavior. When such is the case, therapists have a responsibility to assist clients
to face these aspects of their difficulties. The
following are examples of negative versus positively stated goals:
- Negative: To reduce the frequency
of criticism among family members.
- Positive: To
increase the family members' awareness of each other's strengths and to increase the frequency of positive messages.
- Negative: To eliminate pouting and cold wars between marital partners.
To deal with disagreements openly, promptly, and constructively.
- Negative: To eliminate subgroups
and non-participatory behavior by group members.
- Positive: To unite efforts of group members in
working collectively and to draw each member into participation.
- Negative: To eliminate
or reduce the frequency of drinking binges.
- Positive: To achieve ever-increasing periods of
sobriety, taking one day at a time.
- Negative: To eliminate yelling at the children and resorting to physical punishment.
- Positive: To consistently apply new ways of influencing and disciplining children,
such as utilizing "time out" procedures, increasing positive feedback, and employing a problem-solving approach