FAQs – Ethics

How do I know if I have an ethical concern? What are the red flags?

Familiarize yourself with DCAPC Board’s Code of Ethics. This will give you a point of reference when in doubt. The most obvious red flag could be your “gut” so following it may be helpful. If it does not sit well in your gut, then you are probably correct in your assumption. Talk to your supervisor. Always err on the side of caution. Once you have exposed your concern to your supervisor, it becomes a shared responsibility and he/she can advise you further. If you still need some clarity, you can always contact DCAPC Board for further instruction or assistance.

How does a certified addiction professional alert a colleague of potential unethical behavior? What if he/she doesn’t change their behavior?

It is always recommended that you speak directly to your colleague when this issue arises. However, this is based on your professional relationship with the individual. If it is someone you feel comfortable talking to and have a good working relationship with, then, by all means, attempt to address it with them first by showing them the rule within the DCAPC Board Code of Ethics you feel they may have violated. This will give them the benefit of addressing your concerns. If there continues to be no change, then follow your agency’s organizational hierarchy protocol for additional direction.

What, how, and when should I take my concern to a supervisor?

You should take any concerns you may have to your supervisor immediately. State only the facts and provide any related documents you may have that substantiate your concerns. Be specific when giving information and, if possible, include dates, times, and/or places when issues or situations were discovered or observed.

Is there anyone else I should talk to if I have an ethics question?

You can contact DCAPC Board at 202.675.2008 or visit the website at www.dcapcboard.org where you will find additional information related to filing an ethics complaint or submitting an ethics question for a response.

What is exploitation of clients?

Client exploitation comes in many forms and is often characterized by behavior on the part of the addiction professional that takes advantage of the client, typically for selfish purposes. When the professional relationship evolves into a “dual relationship,” boundaries between the addiction professional and the client become compromised, leaving the client vulnerable to the influences of the professional. Potentially exploitive types of dual relationships as a result of violated boundaries include but are not limited to the following examples: sexual or romantic relationships, development of personal friendships, expectations of gifts, monetary gain, and/or favors from clients. The sensitive balance in the professional relationship becomes jeopardized as a result of the blurred boundaries and/or the professional’s unethical behavior.

How do I file an ethics complaint?

Complaints must be submitted in writing using DCAPC Board’s ethics complaint reporting form or a letter with as much detail as possible. Complaints cannot be anonymous and must contain the name and contact information of the person filing the complaint. Verbal complaints to the DCAPC Board Office cannot be accepted.

If the person against whom I’m filing an ethics complaint has a DCAPC Board credential and a professional state-issued license, can I assume that one agency will communicate the complaint to the other or should I file the complaint with both organizations? If the certified professional works in a licensed drug and alcohol treatment facility, should I also file a complaint with the licensed facility and/or the Division of Licensing?

If the certified professional against whom you are filing an ethics complaint also holds a professional license from the District of Columbia, you may also file a similar complaint with that licensing board. DCAPC Board typically does not forward a complaint against a certified professional on to another licensing board. If the certified professional against whom you are filing an ethics complaint works in a DC Department of Health licensed treatment facility, you may also file a similar complaint with that licensed facility and/or the Division of Licensing.

What are some possible ramifications to reporting an ethics complaint and how is the professional who reports protected?

There are a number of fears and possible consequences related to reporting a violation. However, there are an equal number of positive outcomes as well.

CONS: Relationships are damaged; Possible retaliation from colleague or agency; Person reporting becomes an outcast and is ostracized by the team.

PROS: Consumers are protected; Agency is safe from possible law suits; Staff could receive help, including trainings that could prevent future violations.

There are policies in place that protect employees from harassment that could be displayed or imposed on or towards the reporter.

Where can I get a copy of the DCAPC Board Code of Ethical Conduct?

You can obtain a copy of the DCAPC Board Code of Ethical Conduct directly from the DCAPC Board website at
http://dcapcboard.org/ethics/ and click on “Ethical Standards.”

Can anybody file an ethics complaint?

Yes, anyone can file an ethics complaint. Typically, complaints are submitted by clients, former clients, co-workers, and treatment facilities. It is always best if the person filing the complaint has first hand knowledge of the incident or allegations. Anyone who believes a person covered by the DCAPC Board Code of Ethics and has potentially violated a Code may file a written complaint with the Ethics Committee. The DCAPC Board may also initiate complaints internally. Only individuals certified by PCB are subject to the code of ethics. If you are considering filing a complaint, you are encouraged to use a complaint form. A blank complaint form is available on this website. Complaints will be accepted in any form as long as they are in writing. The committee does not accept verbal or anonymous complaints.

I’d like to file an ethics complaint against a certified addiction professional at my agency but my supervisor said that I couldn’t. What should I do?

A certified professional should promptly alert colleagues informally to potentially unethical behavior, and report violations of professional conduct when the certified professional has violated ethical standards, and failed to take corrective action after the informal intervention. A certified professional is required under the code of ethics to report any uncorrected violation of the Code of Ethical Conduct within 90 days of the alleged violation. Individuals certified by DCAPC Board are required to cooperate fully and in a timely fashion with the ethics process. Failure to cooperate may constitute a violation of the ethics code and failure to report a violation may be grounds for disciplinary action.

When I file a complaint, what happens when it arrives at the PCB? Who makes the final determination?

When an ethics complaint is filed with DCAPC Board, the Executive Director will determine if there appears to be a violation of one or more of the rules within the Code of Ethical Conduct. If yes, he/she will begin an investigation process. Once the investigation process is completed, the findings will be thoroughly reviewed by members of the DCAPC Board Ethics Committee. The members of this committee will either agree with the findings and determine any disciplinary action, request additional facts surrounding the complaint, move to hold an ethics hearing, or dismiss the complaint for lack of substantial findings. The final decision rests with the members of the Ethics Committee.

I want to make sure the person that I’m filing a complaint against gets fired from his/her job. Can DCAPC Board make this happen?

Specifically, no. Understand that the role of the Ethics Committee is to investigate and sanction those who breach the DCAPC Board code of conduct. Certification is a voluntary process. Therefore, the scope of a sanction is limited to the ability to hold certification. If the Ethics Committee has determined that a respondent has violated a code, sanctions may include: 1) Written Caution, which is a formal, private, non-publicized letter of warning that cautions against certain conduct or behavior. 2) Public Reprimand, which is a formal, written and published reproof or warning to a respondent. 3) Suspension, which results in the temporary forfeit of DCAPC Board certification for a period of time (determined by the Ethics Committee). 4) Revocation, which results in the complete and permanent forfeit of DCAPC Board certification. If a respondent were to have a sanction imposed, it may impact the current position of employment. Also, the complaint may also be filed with other entities, which may have more of an impact on employment or vocation.

I recently filed an ethics complaint against a certified addiction professional but now I’ve changed my mind. Can I withdraw the complaint?

You may contact DCAPC Board and make such a request. However, this request may be denied if the complaint is of a significant nature. DCAPC Board would be obligated to pursue an investigation as the code of conduct exits, in part, to protect consumers.