Bay Area Open Minds

San Francisco Bay Area psychotherapists and psychotherapy students who affirm that sexual, relational and gender diversity are natural expressions of the human experience.

Code of Ethical Conduct

See also: Member Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Grievance & Accountability

Version 08.26.2022


The Bay Area Open Minds Code of Ethical Conduct (hereafter referred to as the Code of Conduct) consists of an introduction, the organization mission, and the Code which specifically describes the ethical standards of behavior expected of all Bay Area Open Minds members, officers, and affiliates. Those working within this Code and others must understand that the application of an ethical standard may vary depending on the context and that the standards explained in this Code are not exhaustive. Where this Code of Conduct fails to specifically address a matter of conduct, it does not imply that the conduct is either necessarily ethical or unethical. Further, this Code is not intended to be a replacement for the legal and ethical standards of members' licensing boards, nor is this Code intended to replace or supersede members' agreements to the standards of their profession or state and federal laws. 

Violating the Code of Conduct does not by itself determine whether a Bay Area Open Minds member is legally liable in a court action, as defining such violations is based on legal rather than ethical codes. However, compliance with, or violation of, the Code of Conduct may be admissible as evidence in some legal proceedings depending on the circumstances. Violating the Code of Conduct is grounds for termination of membership from the organization and removal from member resources including therapist directory, professional listserv, social media, board officer role, and any domain of affiliation with Bay Area Open Minds.

The procedures for filing, investigating, and resolving complaints of unethical behavior are described in the Bay Area Open Minds Grievance and Accountability Process, which is administered by the Board of Bay Area Open Minds. The grievance review process is designed to facilitate resolution, repair, remediation and education and ensure that all members and officers of Bay Area Open Minds are held accountable to the Code of Conduct. The Board of Bay Area Open Minds may respond to violations in the Code of Conduct in a variety of ways, including but not limited to apology, facilitated restorative justice practices, supervision, and/or education. In cases where circumstances warrant other actions, consequences may include termination of membership and/or board officer appointment.

Organization Mission

Bay Area Open Minds is a nonprofit professional organization of mental health professionals who affirm that sexual, relational, and gender diversity are natural expressions of the human experience. Members serve populations in the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically, and the state of California. The organization's mission is to provide a safe haven for mental health clinicians to gather, network, support, learn, and consult. The specific objectives and purposes of the organization are:

(a) To support licensed and pre-licensed mental health clinicians, including psychotherapists and psychotherapy students, within the regional area who welcome and provide therapeutic services to LGBTQIA+ populations, sexual minorities, people across the gender spectrum, and those who engage in consensual sexual behaviors such as, but not limited to, kink practices, sex work professions, and consensual nonmonogamy or polyamory. This support includes professional camaraderie as well as an online therapist directory where the public can search for providers.

(b) To provide venues and platforms for mental health clinicians and students to gather, network, support, learn, and consult regarding said populations.

(c) To welcome and provide mentorship to mental health professionals and students seeking to work affirmatively and responsibly with said populations.

(d) To provide presentations and consultations to clinical and general public audiences for the purposes of education about gender and sexual diversity.

(e) To work with community organizations that share population focus and values via outreach and collaboration.

(f) To hold sexual and gender diversity within an intersectional lens, acknowledging how systems of oppression affect member and client populations unique to their race, age, ability, national origin, religion, and socioeconomic experience.

Bay Area Open Minds was founded on the values of antiracism, equity, and inclusion. Therefore, an ethic of intersectional awareness is central to the work of the organization; so that the stated objectives may better serve the professional and client communities. The organization is committed to regular review of its mission, shifting as needed to better serve the San Francisco Bay Area community throughout changing times and to more accurately represent the diverse experiences, views, needs and beliefs of organization members. 

Code of Conduct

Membership Eligibility

Bay Area Open Minds ("BAOM") is an organization of mental health professionals. Eligible professions include:

* Marriage and Family Therapists 

* Professional Clinical Counselors 

* Social Workers

* Psychologists

* Psychiatrists

* Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

* Physician's Assistants with a focus on Psychiatry

Members may be licensed in the state of California, pre-licensed, or students. Pre-licensed members must provide documentation that they are working under a supervisor licensed within the state of California. Students are permitted to be members but are not eligible to be listed in the therapist directory. 

All licensed and pre-licensed mental health providers must abide by the legal and ethical standard of their professional credentials, including the legal and ethical standards required by their California state licensing boards. The Bay Area Open Minds (BAOM) Code of Ethical Conduct assumes that each member understands and is abiding by the codes applicable to their profession. In the event that a member acts in opposition to these legal and ethical codes, this member is understood to also be acting in opposition to the Code of Ethical Conduct held by Bay Area Open Minds. 

The BAOM Code of Ethical Conduct discusses items particularly relevant to the populations BAOM seeks to serve, namely sexually and gender-diverse people of the San Francisco Bay Area. These Codes extend beyond state laws and general professional ethics in order to define behavior that is congruent with the mission of Bay Area Open Minds. Members of BAOM agree to abide by these Codes, even as the ethical rigor of the Codes extend beyond state laws. 


Anti-Oppressive Stance

As clinicians of sexual and gender minorities, we maintain an anti-oppressive stance and recognize the harms done by systemic sexism, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other systemic hegemonies. As part of this ongoing work, we continually assess our own biases and privileges, and seek education in order to assist our broad and intersectional communities. We treat all clients with compassion and humility regardless of their background, and strive to be inclusive of all their identities. 

Cultural Humility

We understand cultural differences are a factor in mental health, and approach differing cultural frames with humility. While we advise clients on self-advocacy and the consequences of specific behaviors, we do not pathologize culture-informed behaviors and responses. We are open to ongoing education and correction around cultural factors and practice an awareness of how our own culture of origin influences our work as therapists in the room.

Respect of Diversity

We understand that there is normative variance in human sexual behavior, gender expression, and relational orientations. We hold that diversity is a natural part of the human experience, and makes our community more valuable and enriching.

Best Practice

As clinicians we make reasonable efforts to practice in alignment with our field's best practices. This means, at minimum, having an understanding of the efficacy and potential harms of treatment interventions, and putting efforts into ongoing education.

Scope of Competence

We agree to practice within our scope of competence, both in alignment with our specific disciplines (eg. psychiatry vs. psychology), and in alignment with our specializations. We agree to be transparent with clients and fellow clinicians about our knowledge, training, and experience. 

Informed Consent

We agree to provide informed consent to clients regarding our competence, limitations, possibility of harm, and realistic outcomes of therapy. We assume informed consent is an ONGOING process in the therapeutic space. We acknowledge that for marginalized populations, informed consent is a therapeutic intervention in itself. We practice Informed Consent in regard to our own BAOM membership and the contracts (ie. this Code of Conduct and associated Grievance Policy) that we as members adopt in joining this organization. 

Client Autonomy

Clinicians do not attempt to persuade or influence clients' beliefs, values, or preferred activities surrounding their profession, sexual identities, sexual practices, gender presentation, or pronouns. 

Diagnosis and Non-pathologizing View

Use diagnosis, when clinically appropriate, for the purposes of facilitating clients' access to care. We expect clinicians to provide clients with context around the limitations of diagnostic models. 

We expect clinicians to adhere to a non-pathologizing approach to sexual diversity, relational diversity, gender diversity, and diversity of sexual behaviors. A pathological understanding of sexual and gender variance is not supported by best practice or research evidence. Moreover, there is evidence that shaming and pathologizing approaches to the populations we serve is at best, clinically ineffective, and at worst actively harmful. 

Treatment Modalities and "Conversion"

Whenever possible, use treatment modalities with evidence supporting their effectiveness (or with no evidence of harm). Use psychotherapies that are supportive and affirming of sexual, gender, and relational diversity. We understand these diversities to be natural expressions of the human experience. Refrain from conversion therapies and modalities that attempt to change a person's sexual orientation, gender, relational orientation and preferences. This stance is in concordance with recommendations from the American Psychological Association and other national professional organizations.

The Code of Ethical Conduct is regarded by BAOM as a live document, intended for regular review and updates as we continue to evolve and grow as a field and as an organization. Any edits to the Process will be published to membership and all versions will be held in the BAOM archives. Please see the most recent version of this Process for current expectations of organization members.

About Bay Area Open Minds

We provide a safe haven for mental health clinicians to gather, network, support, and consult.

Our organization was founded on the values of antiracism, equity, and inclusion. 

Learn more »

Help Us Reach Our Goals

Please consider making a donation to our volunteer-run business nonprofit.

Donate »

© Open Minds
All rights reserved