Below is a reprint of the letter sent to APA members in 1993 regarding the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) ruling that APA members can not be sanctioned for certain advertisement and business practices. Under FTC policy, prohibiting such actions would be a restriction of trade. Issues regarding advertisements, testimonials, soliciting clients, and referrals fees were among those addressed.
American Psychological Association
Dear APA Member:
As you may be aware, the American Psychological Association (“APA” of “the Association”) has signed a consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission under which the Commission has entered a cease and desist order that became final on December 27, 1992. A copy of that order is enclosed with this letter. The order is also printed in the March 1993 issue of The APA Monitor, which may be obtained from APA headquarters. The agreement between the Commission and the APA is for settlement purposes. It does not constitute an admission by the Association that it has violated any law.
Under the terms of the order, APA may not ban any of its members from engaging in truthful, nondeceptive advertising and marketing. Specifically, the Association may not prohibit its members from:
1. Making public statements about the comparative desirability of offered services;
2. Making public statements implying or expressing unusual, unique, or one-of-a-kind abilities;
3. Making public statements likely to appeal to a person’s emotions, fears, or anxieties
concerning the possible results of obtaining or failing to obtain offered services, products or
4. Presenting testimonials regarding the quality of psychologist’s services, products, or
publications, except that the Association may formulate and enforce reasonable guidelines
with respect to the solicitation of testimonials from persons who are vulnerable to undue
Under the order, Association also may not prohibit its members from making statements of direct solicitation of individuals, including offering services directly to persons who may be receiving similar services from other professionals.
In addition, the Association also my not prohibit its members from paying any patient referral service or similar institution for referrals, including those where the institution’s operations are funded, in whole or in part, through individual assessments of participating psychologists that are based on the referrals that have been made.
The order, however provides that the Association may formulate and enforce reasonable principles or ethical guidelines to prevent deceptive advertising and solicitation practices. APA also may issue principles or guidelines with respect to uninvited, in-person solicitation or business, or the solicitation of testimonials from current psychotherapy patients, as defined in the order, or other persons who, because of their particular circumstances, are vulnerable to undue influence by a psychologist.
And, under the order, APA also may issue reasonable principles of guidelines requiring that disclosures be made to clients, patients, or other consumers regarding fees paid by any psychologist to any patient referral service or similar institution for referring the client, patient, or other consumer for professional services.
The Association is required, under the terms of the order, to provide any person against whom it initiates or takes action for any alleged violation of any of the Associations Ethical Principles, rules, or other standards that relate to advertising and solicitation of business or to the payment referral fees to patient referral services or similar institutions, written notice of the specific allegations and of the opportunity to respond to those allegations. The procedures that have been in effect under the Rules and Procedures of the Ethics Committee of the American Psychological Association may continue to be employed by APA in this regard.
Finally, the order requires APA to amend the Ethical Principles of Psychologists, its Bylaws, and any guidelines of interpretations officially promulgated or authorized by APA to delete any provisions that are in conflict with the order ad to cease its affiliation for one year with any of its state or regional associations that engage in conduct prohibited by the order and that does not notify APA that it has ceased and will not repeat such conduct.
In entering into an agreement with the Association, the Federal Trade Commission has not endorsed any principle, guideline, policy, or practice of the Association. For more specific information, you should refer to the Federal Trade Commission’s order itself.