Professionalism: Practice and ethical issues

Professionalism in the Practice of Psychology: Work, Love and Community
A. Overview: Work, Love, (Play?), Community, Self
1. Work: Life activities that have a measurable outcome,
steps to completion
a) Time spent
b) Resources used
c) Efficiency
d) Better or worse results
2. Love: Life activities characterized in terms of improved
human relationships
a) Compassion
b) Connection
c) Genuineness, empathy, unconditional positive
d) Growth as a person
3. Community: Activities aimed at connection of individuals
to a defined group
a) Roles, rules, standards, guidelines
4. Play: Activities done for the sake of doing them, for the
individual’s pleasure, enjoyment and getting lost in the
a) Fun
b) Flow
c) Momentary loss of ego
d) Sometimes loss of sense of restraint
B. Self: The influences written on an individual by nature,
work, love, play, community, that make her unique in the
C. As applied to the practice of psychology
1. Work
a) Empirically-based treatments
b) Refined theory-based treatment
c) Outcome measures (often of love-related variables)
Standards, Guidelines, Accepted Practice, Empirically-based treatments, Theory-based
treatments, Values, Opinions and Tastes
Standards: Principles and Code of Ethics for Psychologists
Professionalism: Practice and ethical issues
Besides the issues of conducting therapy and assessment, one of the learning
opportunities at the Clinic is developing professional conduct and attitudes and work
habits in preparation for internship and career. One succinct way of thinking about
this issue is that student-clinicians are practicing psychology (not practicing to be
psychologists). Supervisors will guide this practice and oversee it, but individual
clinicians are responsible for their own professionalism in relation to the clients, the
Clinic, Clinic staff and each other. Student-clinicians are also considered staff of the
Clinic and as such are responsible for developing or maintaining good work habits and
participating in making the Clinic a desirable place to work.
As a department that is accredited by APA, we accept and are bound by the APA Ethical
Principles of Psychologists and Code of Ethics. Student-clinicians will learn this
document in multiple ways—in formal ethics seminars, in practicum classes, in
supervision, and by experience with clients and peers. In thinking about professional
issues, the Code of Ethics stands as guide and standard.
Another useful way of looking at the Code of Ethics was provided by Pope, Tabichek, xx
who surveyed xx practicing psychologists, asking them to rate 87 possible therapist
behaviors as “ethical/unethical”, “good practice/poor practice” and whether or not they
engaged in the behavior. Professionalism requires ethical behavior; it implies also
maintaining good practice, although the standard and range of acceptable behavior will
will be different than for ethics. As to, “Do you engage in this behavior?”, if the actions
in question are ethical and acceptably good practice, the fact that one does not choose
to engage in the behavior does not condemn it in others. Acceptance of varied ways of
conducting therapy and assessment, within the bounds of ethical behavior and
acceptable practice, is part of professionalism. This is especially true in settings where
multiple disciplines interact and where there are psychologists with different theoretical
In matters of ethics and professionalism, there is often room for interpretation and
resolution of conflicting demands. Fortunately, psychologists have each other to talk
with—this they are expected to do and ethical consultations are frequent.
1.04 Informal Resolution of Ethical Violations
When psychologists believe that there may have been an ethical violation by another
psychologist, they attempt to resolve the issue by bringing it to the attention of that
individual, if an informal resolution appears appropriate and the intervention does
not violate any confidentiality rights that may be involved. (See also Standards 1.02,
Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority,
and 1.03, Conflicts Between Ethics and Organizational Demands.)
1.05 Reporting Ethical Violations
If an apparent ethical violation has substantially harmed or is likely to substantially
harm a person or organization and is not appropriate for informal resolution under
Standard 1.04, Informal Resolution of Ethical Violations, or is not resolved properly
in that fashion, psychologists take further action appropriate to the situation. Such
action might include referral to state or national committees on professional ethics,
to state licensing boards, or to the appropriate institutional authorities. This
standard does not apply when an intervention would violate confidentiality rights or
when psychologists have been retained to review the work of another psychologist
whose professional conduct is in question. (See also Standard 1.02, Conflicts
Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority.)
1.06 Cooperating With Ethics Committees
Psychologists cooperate in ethics investigations, proceedings, and resulting
requirements of the APA or any affiliated state psychological association to which
they belong. In doing so, they address any confidentiality issues. Failure to
cooperate is itself an ethics violation. However, making a request for deferment of
adjudication of an ethics complaint pending the outcome of litigation does not alone
constitute noncooperation.
1.07 Improper Complaints
Psychologists do not file or encourage the filing of ethics complaints that are made
with reckless disregard for or willful ignorance of facts that would disprove the
1.08 Unfair Discrimination Against Complainants and Respondents
Psychologists do not deny persons employment, advancement, admissions to
academic or other programs, tenure, or promotion, based solely upon their having
made or their being the subject of an ethics complaint. This does not preclude
taking action based upon the outcome of such proceedings or considering other
appropriate information.