|Ethics: An Introduction|
You'll take a course on Ethics in your third year that will cover a number of issues in depth, on both a practical level as well as a philosophical level. However, to get you started .
The Ethics Code is broken down into three main parts:
The INTRODUCTION AND PREAMBLE
This section of the code basically explains the nature of the code, and that all psychologists (and students) involved in APA are bound by it in all of their clinical activities (including teaching, therapy, consulting, testing, administrating, research, training, supervision, and more). While it is not "binding" in a legal sense, State licensing boards, malpractice insurance companies, courts, and many others require membership in APA to be licensed, insured, hired, or respected. Thus, it is pretty close to binding.
These are large, guiding principles, meant to be "aspirational" or "what you try to do." They are as follows:
Principle A Beneficence and Nonmaleficence
This one is pretty obvious. You basically strive to help those with whom you work, and at the least act to avoid harming them. It's more than just "Don't do something you know will hurt others." It entails taking precautions to minimize harm to others, and not putting our own well-being or comfort first, but instead that of the client.
Principle B Fidelity and Responsibility
This principle builds on Principle A. When most people use the word "fidelity," they think of "loyalty." This is a good starting point, because in our work, there is an implicit agreement that we are there to help, and the standard for that help is high. We uphold professional standards of conduct, watch our colleagues to assure their ethical behavior, and consult and learn in order to make an educated choice about what is the best course of action to help our client.
Responsibility goes a bit further. When we make decisions, we have to follow through and deal with the consequences. Maybe you thought a certain course of action would require you to take on some responsibility for a three to four month period. Others build their work on yours and count on you, but after four months you realize this is likely to go on for another four months. This doesn't mean you have no choice but to continue; rather, it means you consider carefully the nature of the obligations you take on, and work to find ways to meet them.
Principle C Integrity
This builds on Principle B too. Behaving with integrity means being honest and keeping your word when you promise something. But more than this, it means taking the extra step to make very sure things are clear, offering services of the highest quality, and retaining responsibility for the outcomes of our work. That's why we say that when the answer to an ethical dilemma begins with, "Well, technically " the answer isn't a good one. It's part of out responsibility to go the extra step to make sure our clients understand what they are getting involved in, rather than relying on "the letter of the Ethics code." We may even turn down some work or opportunities because it would not be helpful, or could exploit others.
Principle D Justice
This also builds on Principle C. The idea of "justice" might seem out of place here, as it may seem to be something that society or a court can offer, but not something we can provide. The point of this is that we are aware of our professional status in society, of how others look to us to answer questions and explain complex matters. While we might behave with the utmost integrity, we know our work can be misused by others, can be used for beneficial purposes selectively and used to deny help to some, or that even when we act with the best of intentions we might cause harm without meaning it. We strive to avoid this, to make sure our work is available to help everyone, and to be responsible for how our work is used (see also 1.01 Misuse of Work).
Principle E Respect
This also builds on the previous principle. This principle includes that we "respect the dignity and worth of all people and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination." That entails three main points. First, we respect and value cultural, ethnic, religious, gender, sexual differences and work to prevent bias and prejudice, as well as ignorance, from compromising our work and leading to harm in our actions. The second part entails that we realize the information we gain is very sensitive, and we work to protect our clients' confidentiality and privacy; this means being careful with clinical materials, and obey state and federal laws about information access and storage. Third, we respect each person's right to make their own decisions about their care, their life, and the course likely to lead to their happiness. In respecting this, we are supporting what we believe will lead to the best chances for justice for all.
Whereas the Principles are "aspirational goals," the standards are "minimum expectations" in our work.
9.01 Bases for Assessments
9.02 Competence and Appropriate Use of Assessments and Interventions
9.07 Assessment by Unqualified Persons
9.08 Obsolete Tests and Outdated Test Results
These four sections deal with how we conduct assessments and understand the results. We offer opinions based on assessment procedures (interviewing, testing, record review, consultation ) that are sufficiently strong and solid to back up what we say. That means we use well-designed tests that have solid research to support them, and that we use them for the purposes for which they are valid and reliable. We don't use tests we don't understand thoroughly, and don't use people to help us that also don't understand the techniques they use thoroughly.
Weiner (1989) offered that you can be competent without being ethical. However, you can not be ethical without being competent. If you think about it, this gets back to principles A and B. If we don't know what we're doing when we assess others for problems, then our work may not help them, and may actually harm them. Sattler gives an example in Chapter 1 of a man who was tested at age 6 and placed in MR classes as a result. At age 16 he was tested again, found not to be MR, and expelled from MR classes. Either he was placed in MR classes wrongly, and denied a better education because he could have been in mainstream classes and classes with more emotionally and cognitively developed peers, or he was removed from MR classes wrongly, and denied a continuing education because he was so unused to mainstream classes. (see also Standard 2 about competence)
9.03 Informed Consent In Assessments
9.04 Release of Test Data
9.10 Explaining Assessment Results
We have the ability to gather rather sensitive data that is mysterious and baffling to the client. Part of our job is to explain the basics in understandable language as to what information we get, what it will be used for, who gets it, what they might use it for . After the assessment, we explain what the results tell us, what we concluded, and "where we go from here." Sometimes State and federal laws come into play, and so we have to know what the laws requires of us, as well as what information we can and can not protect. We are now required to release the raw data that composed the assessment to clients as well. What exactly is meant by this is something that will be clearer as we progress this semester, but basically, it allows a client who disagreed with your results to seek another opinion without having to go through a complete psychological evaluation over again, for example.
If you think about it, this stems from principles C, D and E. By respecting others' right to make decisions for themselves, and by acting with integrity to give them as much knowledge as we reasonably can, we support people in making decisions in an informed way for themselves, and thus (we hope) to increase the chances that "justice will prevail." (See also Standard 4 about privacy and confidentiality)
9.06 Interpreting Assessment Results
9.09 Test Scoring and Interpretation Services
Sometimes we use other resources (e.g., journal articles, books, handouts from grad school, peers ) to understand what the tests tell us. This is fine (and recommended in fact) but the opinions you form, what you say and write, and the consequences of that rest firmly on you. In short, "the buck stops here" with regard to psychological assessment, meaning you are ultimately entirely responsible for it.
This gets back to principles B and C, regarding responsibility and integrity.
9.11 Maintaining Test Security
This last section addresses maintaining the security of the tests and instruments we use. If you knew it was possible that your client had gotten the questions for the test you were giving, and had the opportunity to look up the answers beforehand, would you trust the numbers you got? Of the psychologists that interpreted the numbers?