14 Nov 2022


Ethical Issues in Psychology

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The American Psychological Association has set up an ethics code to guide psychologists in their practice, publication, research and education on matters ethics in the workplace. Ethics are the foundation to this profession. They act as a guide and should be an inspiration to those who practice psychology to a high standard of ethics in their profession. These guidelines have a purpose of protecting the patient and the psychologists in their process of offering guidance to other people in the organization. They offer knowledge on the level of assistance that should be accorded any patient. This code contains a set of five principles running from A to E and also standards that need to be observed when psychologists learn, practice or offer their services to any patience in their need and show them how to handle controversies. This document has its stipulated goals as the welfare and protection of any individual or group that work together with psychologists. It guides the public, member and any students on the ethical standards in the psychology discipline.

According to the American Psychological Association (2016), principles begin with Principle A that is known as beneficence and nonmaleficence. This principle requires the psychologists to work together for benefit and no harm to their patients, those close to them and are affected and beware of the welfare of animal subjects of research. This principle also requires the psychologists to beware of their influences on their patients especially in protecting them from abuse and misuse while maintaining a steady mental and physical state of their own self. It is their responsibility to suppress or solve any conflicts that may occur in a calm and sober manner while avoiding harm in any way.

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Principle B is referred to as fidelity and responsibility. It requires the practitioners to establish a trustworthy relationship with whom they work with. It educates them on the awareness of those they work for and have a professional and scientific duty to take care of them. They are needed to uphold a high standard of professional level of conduct, explain their roles and obligations while taking responsibility of their behavior. It is required of them to seek the management of conflict of interest in efforts to manage exploitations and harm to their patients. They have a responsibility to work with other professionals on similar fields by consulting, referring or cooperating with them in order to offer the best assistance to their patients. They should show concern in cases of misconduct or unprofessionalism by their fellow psychologists. They need to offer their professional guidance and avail time to their patients for little or no compensation.

Principle C is integrity which requires them to show honesty, accuracy and truthfulness in their practices. It is a crime for them to steal, cheat, be involved in fraudulent behavior or misrepresent facts of a given matter. It is required of them to keep their promises while avoiding unclear and unwise commitments in their work. They are required to avoid such situations that may be malicious, dishonest and exploitive to their patients. In times of positive deception, it is their responsibility to manage and mitigate the effects of this use in psychological field.

The Principle D is known as justice. It states that all people have access and are entitled to the advancements in psychology and have a right to a fair share of the services offered by this field. Everybody is able to benefit from the contributions of this field with equal procedures and services offered by psychologists. The psychologists need to have a reasonable judgement in practice to ensure biases and limits to their expertise does not lead them to unjustified practices or actions.

The last principle is Principle E, known as respect for people’s right and dignity. The psychologists have to respect the dignity of their patients while recognizing their individual right to privacy, confidentiality and self-fortitude. It is required of them to maintain a positive engagement, interact professionally and avoid biases when engaged with the patients. The psychologists need to know areas that are vulnerable to a given patient or group of people while understanding their diversity in such areas a gender, race, religion and disability among others. It is their responsibility to try a maintain a positive and neutral ground when involved in such situations.

Some of the ethical standards involved in this scenario include reporting ethical violations. It is required of the psychologists to report any harm or likely substantial harm to a person or organization where it is inappropriate for informal resolution ( Walsh, 2015 ). It is their responsibility to take further action such as referrals or reporting to appropriate authorities. Another standard is provision of services during emergencies. It is a moral responsibility to provide help to individuals whose mental stability is destabilized to ensure they are not taken advantage of or denied their rights. The service is discontinued on dissolution of the emergency. The other standard is the conflict of interest. Psychologists need to avoid roles when there are personal, financial or other interests involved or expected. These interests impair their objectivity and effectiveness of carrying out their duties. These interests can also be exposed to harm or exploit the patients or organization.

Multiple relationships is another standard that needs to be considered in this case. This occurs when the psychologist takes other responsibilities other than his or her professional duty to the same patient or someone that is close to their patients. It also includes when there are promises to enter into another relationship with the patient or those close to them. It is the responsibility of the psychologist to avoid entering into other relationships that can be sighted as a hindrance to objectivity, competence and effectiveness of performance of their professional responsibility or risk the exploitation or harm to their patients. If by any chance the psychologist finds himself or herself in this kind of a situation, they are required to resolve this situation while maintaining a clear code of ethics. If they are in ethical relationships with their patients, it is their responsibility to state clearly their responsibilities in these relationships while maintaining the confidentiality of patient information.

The standards also require the psychologists to cooperate with other professionals. If there is no conflict of interest and the relationship is appropriate, they cooperate with other professionals in ensuring the wellbeing of the patients. Another standard is interruption of psychological services ( Sinclair, 2017 ). It is the responsibility of the psychologists to plan for and make plans of facilitation of services in the event that their services are interrupted by his or her illness, death, unavailability or patient’s relocation of financial instabilities.

There is also the discussion on the limits of confidentiality standard. In case the patient is not capable of giving consent or legal representation, the psychologist is obligated to limit the patient information on such foreseen circumstances. It also requires the professional who transmit the patient information electronically to inform their patients of the available risks. The psychologists are also needed to minimize the intrusion on privacy. They only document what is relevant in their professional endeavors. They only discuss the confidential information on their patients acquired from their sessions with appropriate persons and for the appropriate professional purpose. Disclosure is also another standard to observe in this case. Psychologists disclose patient information only with consent from the patient, organizational client or any other legally authorized persons. They can also disclose these data as mandated by law in cases of professional service, during professional consultations, protection of the patient from harm or in obtaining payments for services rendered which is required to be limited to the necessary achievement of these purposes.

During consultations, the psychologist is prohibited by standards to give confidential information that can be used to identify the patient unless they have a direct consent of the patient or client organization. It is also prohibited to disclose more information than necessary to achieve the purpose of the consultation. In-person solicitation is another standard observed in this code of ethics. This standard limits the practitioners from inviting other parties in their engagements for the purpose of business unless it is to the benefit of the client.

Dr. Jones has a responsibility for Mr. Albertson as the psychologist involved. It requires him to state clearly the responsibilities of other relationships he needs to engage in helping Mr. Albertson ( Goodwin, 2016 ). The multiple relationship might be consequential if appropriate measures are not adhered to when establishing them. Dr. Jones should avoid any incriminating relationships that may jeopardize their relationship with his patient or even cause harm to him. However, this should not be a reason to be silent on Mr. Albertson’s problems. He has a responsibility to reach out to proper authorities who might help Mr. Albertson while maintaining the confidentiality of his information as stipulated in the code of ethics and as the law requires him to do.

It is clearly indicated that there are legal consequences to practicing outside the laws governing the psychologists. Some of the legal implications include termination of the practicing license by the licensing board for violation of the scope of practice ( Allan, 2015 ). The board offers a written notice for termination and the reasons for doing so. Even though the termination can be lifted, there are legal procedure that need to be followed and the psychologist cannot practice during these appeals. At the same time, the practitioner can face charges in relation to qualifications, duties, professional conduct and functions of a psychologist. They are also liable to revocation and denial of license or registration. The psychologist may receive a probation of not less than 5 years and patient population restrictions.

There is a clear conflict of interest as Dr. Jones is a financial beneficially of Mr. Albertson’s ailments following his other responsibilities that he is paid for. One may argue that the interest of Dr. Jones are the payments he is going to receive on pursing these issues. It is also clear that he has bleached confidentiality in mentioning the name of the patient which can be used to identify him ( Harlow, 2016 ). With the above bleaches of code of ethics, the psychologist is liable to legal consequences in bleach of confidentiality.

In conclusion, it is advisable that Dr. Jones drops other relationships with the patient. These relationships can be viewed as conflict of interest and therefore bring harm to him and his patient. However, the doctor should be vocal on his patient’s issues and seek to find a legal way that abides by the ethics code to help Mr. Albertson as it is his responsibility to do so. The responsibilities of the psychologist are tied up with the ethics code and standards of conduct as stipulated by the American Psychology Association. It is the moral responsibility of Dr. Jones to come up with a legal way of confronting these issues.


Allan, A. (2015). Ethics in psychology and law: An international perspective.  Ethics & Behavior 25 (6), 443-457. 

American Psychological Association. (2016). Revision of Ethical Standard 3.04 of the" Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct"(2002, as amended 2010).  The American Psychologist 71 (9), 900. 

Goodwin, C. J., & Goodwin, K. A. (2016).  Research in psychology methods and design . John Wiley & Sons. 

Harlow, L. L., & Oswald, F. L. (2016). Big data in psychology: Introduction to the special issue.  Psychological methods 21 (4), 447. 

Sinclair, C. (2017). Ethics in psychology: Recalling the past, acknowledging the present, and looking to the future.  Canadian Psychology/psychologie canadienne 58 (1), 20. 

Walsh, R. T. (2015). Introduction to ethics in psychology: Historical and philosophical grounding.  Journal of theoretical and philosophical psychology 35 (2), 69. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Ethical Issues in Psychology.


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