Guidelines and recommendations

These guidelines and recommendations for GPN members were developed by the GPN exploratory group, all members of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), and later modified to fit the evolving culture and mission of GPN. These guidelines are intended to reflect what we believe is best possible practice with colleagues and other beneficiaries in conflict and disaster zones. GPN members are expected to famliarize themselves with these guidelines and recommendations, including the guidelines and recommendations from external task forces and organizations listed below, and to abide by them in their work to the best of their ability.

Member qualifications: GPN members are expert professionals who meet qualification and licensing standards in their respective locations for the type of psychosocial services that they offer. They specialize in trauma and community-based approaches and have at least three years of experience working with traumatized populations; student and trainee members may be working towards these years.

Ethics and regulations: GPN members are expected to read and abide by the ethical codes of their professional organizations and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Members are also expected to familiarize themselves with and abide by the following external guidelines and recommendations:

Risks and safety for clients: Members are expected to thoroughly explain all risks to beneficiaries. In addition, prior to beginning work, members and beneficiaries should discuss the risks to communication using digital communication, as well as any specific risks to safety and privacy in their particular political-geographic location.

Risks and safety for GPN members: GPN members are responsible for ensuring that their professional insurance and licensure are current. They are also responsible for determining whether their liability insurance covers the work that they conduct through GPN. In addition, members should familiarize themselves with the clients and contexts in which they work, including any risks to their own personal safety, professional status, or freedom to travel. 

High-risk cases and emergencies: The Report from the Task Force on Telepsychotherapy (Division 29 of the American Psychological Association) specifies that telepsychotherapy is not recommended for high-risk cases. Members should establish clinical resources and support in the client’s geographical location in the case that a client becomes high-risk or additional support services (e.g., medical, psychiatric) are needed.

Members are asked to compile a list of local referral resources prior to starting work with a beneficiary.  Ideally, local resources include both mental health and medical/psychiatric services. However, we recognize that these services may not exist in all contexts where GPN members work.

In the case that an emergency or high-risk situation emerges, GPN members are asked to notify local emergency services and proceed by the standard practices of their professional training. GPN Co-Chairs should also be notified about any high-risk situations as soon as possible.

Telepsychotherapy practice: GPN members are expected to adhere by the above-listed guidelines and recommendations for the practice of telepsychotherapy and telepsychology, and they are expected to familiarize themselves with our recommendations for enhancing the privacy and security of digital communicatons. When possible, an initial in-person meeting is recommended prior to the start of distance work. Telepsychotherapy is not a substitute for in-person services and not suitable for all clients.

Cultural sensitivity and language barriers: GPN members are expected to familiarize themselves with the guidelines and recommendations for multicultural practice listed above.

With few exceptions, members are expected to have at least minimal familiarity with and exposure to the cultural, linguistic, and geographical location of the clients with whom they work. Exceptions to this rule might include a client who requests accompaniment by or support from a GPN member who is unfamiliar with their context, or a rare case in which there are no alternative local or external referral options.

Ideally, GPN members will speak the language of their clients and have a solid working and experiential knowledge of the context in which their clients live. When services in the client’s native language are unavailable, GPN members and beneficiaries may decide whether to work in languages common to both. Translation services may be used when necessary and only when local services in the beneficiary’s native language are unavailable.

GPN services are not intended to replace local treatment services, including local healing practices or local psychosocial and medical institutions. GPN services are appropriate for only those clients who specifically seek psychosocial care.

Legal considerations in the United States: For work conducted by U.S.-based therapists with clients inside of the United States (U.S.), state-specific licensing and practice laws also apply to practice using digital communication. Some states allow a maximum number of practice hours in other states. If you are a member based in the U.S., you should familiarize yourself with the licensing and practice laws of your state.

Collaboration with external organizations: GPN aims to collaborate with both individuals and other organizations that provide humanitarian and psychosocial services in zones of disaster and conflict. However, GPN services are not a substitute for the mandatory intraorganizational provision of services and support for psychosocial and humanitarian workers.

*PsySR assumes no risk or liability associated with the work of GPN and/or with the development, publication, or implementation of these guidelines and recommendations.