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Advertising and Other Public Statements – Ethical Standard 5

Ethics

Read the APA Ethics Code – Standard 5

Useful Notes

Changes in Standard 5
These were mostly wording changes to consolidate and clarify sections. As for risk management efforts, however, several points can be noted. When offering professional opinions:

  • stick to the data closely
  • know the referral question, and choose instruments to answer it clearly for the population you are dealing with
  • make sure your opinion is your own, and is not influenced by someone else’s
  • be thorough
  • know the limits of your work and your opinion

Purpose of Standard 5
The purpose of Standard 5 is to assure some truth in the things we say when we state our expertise, offer our professional opinions in professional or in informal settings, and advertise what we can and can not do. Solicitation of business, because of the nature of our work, requires additional consideration, as the people we might help are often vulnerable to our influence because of their emotional state.

Illinois Law on Professional and Scientific Responsibility
Disciplinary Action
(15/15. Disciplinary action – Grounds)
The Department (the State Licensing Board) may refuse… any license… or take other disciplinary action… for…

(1) Conviction of any crime that is a felony… or that is a misdemeanor of which an essential element is dishonesty, or any crime that is directly related to the practice of the profession.
(2) Gross negligence in the rendering of clinical psychological services.
(3) Using fraud or making any misrepresentation in applying for a license…
(4) Aiding or abetting or conspiring to aid or abet a person, not a clinical psychologist licensed under this Act, in representing himself or herself as so…
(5) Violation of any provision of this Act or the rules promulgated thereunder.

Illinois Law on Social Responsibility
Grounds for Disciplinary Action
(15/15. Disciplinary action – Grounds)
The Department may refuse to issue or may suspend the license of any person who fails to file a return, or to pay the tax, penalty or interest shown in a filed return, or to pay any final assessment of the tax penalty or interest, as required by any tax Act administered by the Illinois Department of Revenue, until such time as the requirements of any such tax Act are satisfied.


Psychologists in the Media

Boneau (1992) asked if psychology is a “hybrid conglomeration of only tangentially related processes.” This gets to how we present ourselves to the public, which is as much of an issue as anything we do inside our field.

The media play a role in this, however, and educating them to educate others is fraught with pitfalls. Take the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus books. How much of this sex-role stereotyped research is up to date? Not much, but it’s popular, and media quote it as if it were fact. Keith-Spiegel and Koocher take a pot shot at how helpful this really is to men and women, and how much profit motivates these kinds of books. Crazy doctors like those on Ally McBeal are more examples of what the media does to us.

However, it isn’t all the media’s fault. Keith-Spiegel and Koocher give examples of psychologists acting in bizarre and harmful ways, and the media accurately reporting what happened (think about re-birthing therapy). Though nothing in the media’s report may be exaggerated or mis-stated, the label of therapist, counselor, or doctor make it catch attention, as people hold us to a higher standard of living. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people ask whether or not psychologists should be expected to be more mentally healthy than everyone else…

Nonetheless, Keith-Spiegel and Koocher warn that appearing in the media carries the risk of being misquoted, misrepresented, and plagiarized, as seen in examples and reports in the text. Radio call in shows are worse, since they are quick, edited by others, or misleading since they appear to be based on a client-doctor interview. TV shows are worse than this. If you are stupid enough to ever appear on Jenny Jones, Jerry Springer, or, god forbid, Ricki Lake, then I never taught you (Oprah might be OK, but Dr. Phil worries me). On a more serious level, think about these types of shows, and how they exploit people’s pain, humiliation, and sorrows. Do you want to be a part of this?

Keith-Spiegel and Koocher also give a case of “photos” which were available to the public. You would be well advised not to start your own Jenny-Cam or Sean Patrick Live Cam into your bedroom. Yes, you can do what you want on your own time, but doing something like this carries the risk of it reflecting on other psychologists, and that’s when the field steps in.

Self-Help Books
Keith-Spiegel and Koocher note self-help books and practices are often untested, and the claims they make are not based on facts. Even if proven if a doctor teaches you to do it with success in therapy under his or her supervision, does that mean that a book that telling you how to do it without any supervision have the same success? Does the success the doctor obtains stem solely from the technique, or from “non-specifics” of therapy as well? This is a source of argument in the field as well.

The example I use in class is one of a cognitive behavioral psychologist I worked with. She had a woman scheduled for an appointment who called to cancel. She was having a panic attack and didn’t think she could make it into the office. The psychologist stayed on her phone with her, talking her out of the house, into the car, out of the driveway, down the street, onto the expressway… and into the parking lot of the office. This must have been a 30 minute conversation, but it helped her get to the doctor. So what really helps this client? The techniques of flooding and systematic desensitization proven in psychotherapy research? Or the doctor who would go to this length to support the client’s efforts to get help?