Professional ethics is associated with doing what is right, both morally and legally. Although many professions are associated with a code of ethics, it is more relevant in the field of psychology. In psychology, this requires the practitioner to conduct himself or herself in accordance to several laid down moral principles. These principles attempt to promote honesty in teaching and practice of psychological science, and in executing their social responsibilities. The contribution of psychologists to the society is generally based on trust.
The public trusts psychologists to use their scientific knowledge and services for the development of individuals and the society. The legal system trusts psychologists to offer specialized subject testimony without undue bias or favor. Client’s trusts psychologists to maintain confidentiality. However; the public trust in psychology to deliver is eroded when psychologists violate confidentiality or practice in areas outside their training and competency, or when they publish false results.
When the conduct of a psychologist can be interpreted as a breach of ethics, the matter can be brought to the person’s attention through an informal resolution. When an informal resolution seems inappropriate, the ethical violation may be reported to committees on professional ethics. The role of ethics is more stressed in mental health and psychology, much more than in most other fields. This is mainly because the diagnosis and treatment of mental diseases is different from physical illnesses.
The direct influence of the mental health professional or the psychologist in producing a desired treatment outcome independently, is considerably limited and much depends on the patient’s ability to cooperate with the treatment. As mental diseases are understood by the observation of behavioral pattern of Ethical Conduct in Psychology 4 an individual, technological intervention cannot aid these professionals, like that in physical health care, where blood tests and other sophisticated scan systems and analysis conclusively pin point the diseases which are then appropriately followed up for treatment.
Specialists in other areas of medicine have benefited from the development in biological sciences, where disease progress mechanisms have been more detailed and specific. Mental health professionals including psychologists do not presently benefit from laboratory testing to confirm the presence or absence of psychopathology. This is mainly because, the underlying processes associated with mental disorders in still unknown. Mental health professionals cannot benefit by prescribing tests for genetic defects or brain lesions, for evaluating a mental disorder.
Clinical psychologists depend on the observations of an individual’s behavior, personal experience and history to make diagnosis and treatment decisions. This intrusion into the life of a client, gives the psychologist immense data on the individual, which is intended to be used to improve the life of the client. Thus the methods used to seek data, the interpretation of the data, the susceptibility of the client as a result of revealing, the validity of the interpretation and conclusions reached, are all of immense importance to the client.
The misuse or abuse of the client data can have serious consequences. Therefore, the treatment by psychologists is associated with safeguarding the information of the client, while using it beneficially for the client. There are situations when this confidentiality should be breached too. There are several ways in which the psychologists can interpret and use this data. The psychology practice thus throws up several situations for pondering; to think and decide, to separate the right from wrong.
Thus psychology is involved with dilemmas and ethics. Ethical Conduct in Psychology 5 To ensure that psychologists stand up to the responsibilities and expectations associated with them, the American Psychologists Association (APA) has formulated its own ethics; the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. This APA Ethics Code provides guidelines to both, general ethical conduct and specific situational conduct. The code helps psychologists to face ethical problems and dilemmas.
However, in the course of the practice of psychology, psychologists often come across complex ethical situations, for which reliance to APA ethics code alone, do not show the right way. Sometimes an ethical dilemma can have several solutions compatible with all ethics; however the most appropriate solution is selected by critical thinking. Sometimes by following one particular standard, psychologists may breach another standard. When making decisions associated with their profession, psychologists must consider all applicable laws and regulations of the psychology board, in addition to the Ethics Code.
Psychologists can also look to guidelines that have been endorsed by other scientific or psychological communities, apart from their own conscience. When the ethical conduct is in confrontation with the law or regulations, then the psychologists must show their commitment to the laws, while taking steps to resolve the conflict, responsibly. Fischer suggested an eight-step model for decision making, based on critical thinking; which meets ethical standards for testing and assessments (Fischer, 2003).
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