Ethics for Forensic Psychology, Uncategorized

Therapeutic Role vs. Forensic Role

Thesis

The coexistence of a therapeutic end forensic role is a topic of debate that pans into the ethicality of the practices.  The belief of Bush and colleagues emphasized that to be of benefit to the legal system and elicit ethicality one should develop a sense of divergence among conflicts of interest (Neal, 2010).  Shifting focus to maximize ethical potential avoids misconduct and enforceable disciplinary action and encourages positive ethicality in one’s profession (Neal, 2010).    Understanding the perception of why some practices are unethical appears as one of the most vital concepts of Bush, Connell, & Denney (Neal, 2010).  Although certain practices are clearly identified as unethical, there are gray areas remain that require the consideration of their implications and the possible repercussions of one’s chosen reaction to the practice (Neal, 2010).   Although the duties and roles of therapeutic and forensic specialists differ in legal issues, there lies the potential of overlap between the roles (Hugaboom, n.d.).   It is assumed a clinical therapist who indulges in a dual role as a forensic specialist may have a negative impact on the client, the legal issue, and the outcome of services.

 

Therapeutic Role

A clinician role includes the promotion of treatment void of harm by obtaining informed consent and maintaining confidentiality and privacy while functioning within the boundaries of competence (Greenburg and Schumann, 1997).  Clinicians are expected to abide by blurred guidelines when faced with legal proceedings that may require them to testify on behalf of their client, submit records, report suspicion of child abuse (Hugaboom, n.d.).  One of the most vital expectations of a clinical therapist is to maintain confidentiality of the client, but at times confidentiality is broken legally and ethically (Hugaboom, n.d.).  For instance, a therapist is expected to breach confidentiality in events of suspicion of physical or sexual abuse, self-harm or harm to others, and when a court action requires their testimony (Hugaboom, n.d.).  Non-compliance in these areas may result in charges including contempt of court (Hugaboom, n.d.).  Only when the information sought is considered privileged, not relevant to the court hearing, is it considered legal and ethical for the therapist to reject exposing the information to protect the client’s right of privacy and confidentiality (Hugaboom, n.d.).  The therapist must be involved in a professional relationship with the client, the information must be given to the therapist or assistant, and the information must not be released to a third-party by the client (Hugaboom, n.d.).  Most importantly, the legal confines of therapeutic roles lead to tough decisions such as testifying for or against a client and reporting potential danger (Hugaboom, n.d.).  Consequences for ethical decisions hold potential of confinement for contempt of court while decisions made for legality hold potential of decreasing trust and hindering the effective therapeutic – client relationship (Hugaboom, n.d.).  A clients best interest is always the priority, however, at times, crossing the gray area of legality and ethicality encompasses the possibility of  the therapist mistakenly leaking confidential information when not required which may lead to a loss of licensing (Hugaboom, n.d.).

Forensic Role

The forensic role is defined as one which practices explicitly with psycholegal issues, directly assisting in court, legal proceedings, correctional mental health facilities, and in an adjudicative capacity (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011).   A forensic psychologist should practice only in areas of expertise gained through education, training, and experience with fundamental knowledge in legal, factual, professional, and civic standards in the area of which they practice (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011).  The standards above give the forensic specialist the privilege of testifying as an expert witness allowing them to express personal opinion, but must be careful to render the highest standards of the profession and ensure their services are used responsibly (Hugaboom, n.d.).

Differences

A therapist creates a trusting professional treatment for a length of time while to deal with issues that may be hindering some aspect of life for the individual (Heltzel, 2007).  On the other hand, a forensic psychologist meets with the client a few times, just long enough to conduct an evaluation after a crime is committed and the client is the accused (Hugaboom, n.d.).  A forensic evaluation is less time consuming and not as in depth of those that may be completed by a therapist (Hugaboom, n.d.).  Due to the forensic specialist not developing an on-going relationship he or she can more easily determine objective reality whereas a therapist, who creates a relationship of trust, empathy and understanding focuses on subjective thought (Hugaboom, n.d.).  However, both therapeutic roles and forensic roles require the elicitation of informed consent to the client (American Psychological Association, n.d.).  In the therapeutic role, confidentiality and privacy are supported unless the therapist suspects the client capable of harm to themselves or someone else, or potential child abuse (American Psychological Association, n.d.).  However, the forensic professional is responsible to emphasize to the client all information obtained in regards to legal purpose will be divulged, and only information exposed that does not relate to the specific case will be protected (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011).   The last point implicates the potential of the client to expose more information to a therapist rather than a forensic specialist who is at leisure to expose and have information used against them.

Contrast

Some argue a short, initial assessment constitutes the gathering of enough information to make an ethical objective opinion about the client, but this though may be rejected as the consideration of why therapy was sought and now the need for a forensic assessment stands (Hugaboom, n.d.).  As a clinician testifying in a legal matter, he or she must implicate the risks involved with a dual relationship including the possibility of breaking trust as information must be divulged in regards to the legal matter (Hugaboom, n.d.).  It is also imperative that therapist create a wall separating the forensic role from the therapeutic role and never incorporating the two roles together (Hugaboom, n.d.).  Additionally, in the event a professional relationship is severed and a forensic role is incorporated, the therapist must depict the ways objectivity may be affected and disclose any conflicts of interest that may arise (Hugaboom, n.d.).  Psychologists are encouraged to utilize scientific and professional knowledge in all practices, assessment tools should be chosen according to appropriateness for the specific issue and prevent misuse of the instrument while identifying any limitations of the chosen tool (Hugaboom, n.d.).

Others believe that allowing a clinical therapist to testify as an expert witness may cause harm due to the consequences the professional and client may face (Hugaboom, n.d.).   Often times, the therapist does not hold enough knowledge about forensic matters causing testimony to be discredited as research has indicated clinical therapist’s predictive ability of future violence to be compatible to that of a high schooler (Hugaboom, n.d.).  Competency of therapists is essential in providing ethical treatment and assessment.  When the professional does not have the competence to conduct justifiable professionalism congruent to the ability necessary, ethical codes of the APA are breached (Greenburg & Schuman, 1997).   Often, legal ability is not met by clipnical therapists such as the ability to render a client legally incapacitated as per the recognition of consequence that may derive from impulsive actions (Hugaboom, n.d.).

Reconciliation of Roles

Research by Hugaboom implicates the difficulties that may arise from a clinical therapist delving into a dual relationship and taking on a forensic role.  It is found the potential error that may occur from a clinician indulging into a forensic role may actually result in negative consequence for the client and therapist.  Clinical therapists may find it difficult to maintain the neutral role required by forensic professionals due to the interpersonal relationship created in the therapeutic setting.  Depleting neutrality may create a bias win judgement and an opinion based on subjective emotions rather than scientific and legal evidence derived from forensic assessments.    A forensic psychologist seeks minimal encounters with the client and does not edify the history or the much of the emotional attachment in the case at hand.  The forensic professional has a goal of deciding abnormal behavior and ability of the client to meet the social expectation or if there is an underlying issue such as insanity that may have led to the crime purporting the client incapable of standing trial or accepting consequence for actions. When subjective feelings become the driver in a testimony, the objective role is abandoned and the potential of information vital to the issue being withheld increases.  Additionally, the confidentiality and privacy laws were enacted as a protection to clients receiving services.  However, a clinical therapist remains at risk to abort these protections either accidentally or due to the need of the legal issue.  Forensic professionals are not expected to adhere to such strict guidelines allowing them to abort confidentiality when necessary to the case.  It appears that if a clinical therapist entertains dual roles with a client, there is too much risk involved and the client, who is to be protected, is open to more harm.  Although the therapist has more in depth information that may hold more evidence of the cause of behavior, it seems that taking a subjective standpoint defies the clause of sound judgment made in a court hearing.  It is believed subjective testimony may create emotion with those involved rather than a scientific and knowledge based judgment.  For the above reasons, a dual role should not be taken by a clinical therapist.  However, if services were requested at the close of the legalities, the forensic professional would have the ability to subjectively approach treatment based on the objective assessments and opinions from the legalities.

 

References

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Ethical principles of psychologists and
code of conduct including 2010 amendments
. Retrieved from http://www.apa.
org/ethics/code/principles.pdf

American Psychology-Law Society. (2011). Specialty guidelines for forensic
psychology
. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/
forensic-psychology.pdf

Greenberg, S. A., & Shuman, D. W. (1997, February). Irreconcilable conflict between therapeutic and forensic roles. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 28(1), 50-57. Retrieved from http://www.healtorture.org/content/irreconcilable-conflict-between-therapeutic-and-forensic-roles

Heltzel, T. (2007). Compatibility of therapeutic and forensic roles. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(2), 122-128. doi: 10.1037/0735-7028.38.2.122

Hugaboom, Denise (n.d.). “The Different Duties and Responsibilities of Clinical and Forensic Psychologists in Legal Proceedings.” The Review: A Journal of Undergraduate Student Research 5 (2002): 27-32. Web. [accessed:  October 10, 2016]. Retrieved from <http://fisherpub.sjfc.edu/ur/vol5/iss1/4&gt;

 

Neal, T.M.S. (2010). Choosing the lesser of two evils: A framework for considering the ethics of competence for execution evaluations. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice,10, 145-157. doi: 10.1080/15228930903446724

 

 

 

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Ethics for Forensic Psychology, Uncategorized

Case Study: Parole Assessment for Violent Sexual Predator

“Inmate X has a long history of violent behavior, which has resulted in his current imprisonment. While incarcerated, he has been a model prisoner. Inmate X has now been scheduled for a parole board hearing. Upon reviewing Inmate X’s central file, the warden believes that the inmate is still a dangerous individual who should not be granted parole despite his record of no institutional infractions. Accordingly, the warden requests that Dr. R evaluate Inmate X using psychological tests. The warden would like information about the inmate’s personality relating to his continued threat to public safety, and he would like this evaluation to be performed without the inmate being informed of its purpose because he believes Inmate X might otherwise refuse to participate in the evaluation” (Weinberger & Sreenivasan, 1994, pg. 164).

 

Evaluation

The Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology advises practitioners to inform clients of the nature and parameters of possible services including the objective of the examination and who will have access to the information attained, as well as limitations of privacy and confidentiality (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011).  Although the inmate has a history of violent behavior, the incarceration period is void of infarctions potentiating future violations implying all rights of the individual remain intact.  According to Weinberger and Sreenivasan, exceptions to informed consent exist when extenuating emergency circumstances may arise such as the potential compromise of others or self-safety (1994).  It is unethical for a psychologist to act on an insinuation of the warden when the behaviors appear to be null.  The cornerstone of psychology is informed consent and confidentiality (Weinberger & Sreenivasan, 1994).  Breaking either, jeopardizes professional identity and the interpersonal relationship of client and provider and therefore, both must be protected through adherence to ethical codes and guidelines (Weinberger & Sreenivasan, 1994).

The warden’s request for a “covert” examination should not be cvilatarried out.  The warden is asking the professional to perform an analysis based on an inclination with a lack of current evidence substantiating the cause of an emergency based evaluation.  Despite the history, no validating circumstance warrants a breach of confidentiality in respects to the examination.  Although argument can be made about the safety of the general public upon release of the inmate and the “sabotage” of the examination if the prisoner is informed of the reasons for the evaluation (Weinberger & Sreenivasan, 1994), there must be justifiable cause for the completion of the examination when void of informed consent.  The vignette leads one to believe the warden is attempting to sabotage early release of the inmate based on history, not actual real-time life events that implicate a necessity to deny parole.

Non-APA Member

As a member of the APA, professionals are mandated to comply with the Code of Conduct outlined by the APA and failure to so do may result in professional sanctions, legal issues, and reporting to other state boards of the infarction (American Psychological Association).  A professional who is not a member of the APA should not perform the “covert” examination, despite the request and insinuation of the warden.  As a professional in the mental health field, one has the duty to uphold moral and ethical practices to avoid reduced justification of the intentions of the area of mental health.  Acting on a connotation implies a low level of value or respect for humankind in general, but in this vignette, for criminal offenders who hold potential for rehabilitation.  It is essential the professional conduct the examination to establish possible behavior for the future.  However, equally imperative is attaining consent for the evaluation, eliciting informed consent, and explaining the parameters of the assessment as the inmate has the right to justified evaluations.  Performing the evaluation would prove a biased outcome lacking empirically supported risk assessment measures compromising the standard of practice for violence risk assessment in the community negating validity and reliability (Board of Parole Hearings’ Revised Final Statement of Reasons 15 Ccr §2240, 2011).

Multicultural / Diversity Issues

Forensic Psychologists should utilize care when interpreting examination results.  In addition to considering the purpose of the assessment, various test factors that may affect judgment or accuracy must be considered (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011).  Test factors may include cultural, situational, linguistic, and personal factors in addition to cognitive ability (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011).  Despite indifferences that may occur in individuals raised in a single parent or adoptive home, race, ethnicity or gender affiliations, Ethical Codes are standards set to ensure fair and equal treatment for anyone receiving services (American Psychological Association).  The interpretations and perceptions of the assessments may differ among the diverse cultures, but professional standards do not change.  Understanding an inmate’s history and culture may lead to understanding the underlying cause of the criminal behavior and the beliefs and ideas one holds, but those factors should not cause the abandonment or adaptation of ethicality.  Considering the background of the inmate should be utilized solely for the purpose of identifying changes in behavior that may indicate risk for the future or prove rehabilitation success.

 

References

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Ethical principles of psychologists and
code of conduct including 2010 amendments
. Retrieved from http://www.apa.
org/ethics/code/principles.pdf

American Psychology-Law Society. (2011). Specialty guidelines for forensic
psychology
. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/
forensic-psychology.pdf

Board Of Parole Hearings’ Revised Final Statement Of Reasons 15 Ccr §2240. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/boph/docs/revised_final_statement_reasons_original.pdf

Weinberger, L. E., & Sreenivasan, S. (1994). Ethical and professional conflicts in correctional psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 25(2), 161-167. Retrieved from https://login.libproxy.edmc.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/614310220?accountid=34899

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Uncategorized

Homicidal Thoughts and Mandated Reporting

The Tarasoff Rule, originating in California, codified that psychotherapists have the duty to protect or warn a third party if the therapist believes the client poses a serious risk of inflicting serious bodily harm upon an identifiable victim (Ewing, 2005).  A second case, the Ewing court decision, extended that a therapist should also exercise the duty of protecting a third party even when threats or the possibility of harm is relayed through the patient or a family member (Ewing, 2005).  Mental Health professionals have the obligation to protect others which supersedes the duty of confidentiality owed to the client (Schoener, 2009).    As humans, we reserve the moral obligation to preserve life legitimating the cause of abandoning client confidentiality which implies the principle of justice as more important than autonomy (Schoener, 2009).  However, prediction of action is difficult, and therefore, therapists must rely on their personal assessment of danger risk (Schoener, 2009).  Before breaking confidentiality, a therapist should consider all options in an effort to be sure the threats are true feelings and have high potential for becoming actions (Schoener, 2009).

In regards to the scenario, the therapist, should further investigate the defendants claim.  The therapist should probe the client to learn whether the words were spoken in the heat of the moment, or if the defendant truly wants to kill someone.  They should learn who the potential victim is, or at least identifiers that could lead to the establishment of who the defendant wants to harm.  Due to the fact that prediction of action is difficult, it is essential for the therapist to utilize assessments and tools that can help establish the degree of the threat.

In the event that the therapist found potential of the threat being brought to action, mandated reporting would take effect.  The therapist should notify the proper legal authorities so they may alert the potential victim.  If the defendant were a child, the parents and proper legal authorities should be alerted that the child is experiencing homicidal ideations that hold potential for increased risk of turning into action in the future.  In the event the defendant is speaking out of anger in the heat of the moment, the therapist should develop an intervention plan to help the client deal with the negative emotions.  No matter the scenario, it is the obligation of the therapist to develop an intervention to help the defendant through the experience of the feelings leading to homicidal thoughts and ideations.

 

Ewing, JD, Ph. D., C. P. (2005, July/August). Trasoff reconsidered. Judicial Notebook, 36(7), 112. http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug05/jn.aspx

Schoener, G. R. (2009, Spring). Dangerous clients & the threat of violence. Minnesota, (), . http://walkin.org/sites/default/files/DutyToWarn_0.pdf.

 

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Ethics for Forensic Psychology, Uncategorized

Case Study: Treating Professional Invited to Bar Mitzvah

Case Study

You have a friend who is a mental health practitioner. He or she was invited to attend the bar mitzvah of a thirteen-year-old child he or she is treating. After considering the offer, he or she decides to go but has asked for your advice.

Bar Mitzvah

A Bar Mitzvah marks a Jewish boy thirteenth birthday and the day he becomes responsible for his actions (“Elegant Woman”, 2015).  From birth until age thirteen, the boy’s parents are responsible for his actions, at thirteen, he is obligated to observe the commandments marked through a formal and public religious service followed by a celebratory “party” afterward (“Judaism 101”, 2011).   The guests attending the Bar Mitzvah are typically close friends and family as well as the entire congregation (“Judaism 101”, 2011).  However, the celebration “party” generally contains relatives and close friends of the boy (“Elegant Woman”, 2015).  Each gift should bring a gift, typically, a monetary donation of eight-teen dollars or a material gift (“Elegant Woman”, 2015).  Insight and knowledge into a cultural celebration allow a mental health practitioner to establish the importance of the event and the potential outcome of attending.

Personal Recommendation

Assuming the practitioner agreed to attend the Bar Mitzvah because it is in the best interest of the client, recommendations would include setting boundaries, emphasize the attendance implication for support, and attaining informed consent.  Setting boundaries with the client avoids potential ethics violations in privacy and confidentiality.  The practitioner is bound to protect patient privacy and confidential information about the client (American Psychology Association).  Attending the function holds potential for the practitioner to be questioned by others not included in the client’s treatment.  Therefore, it is essential to maintain the privacy and confidentiality rights of the client while attending the function.

Attending the Bar Mitzvah allows the client to feel full support from the practitioner eliciting validation of the client (Zur, 2015).   It is common for young adolescents to feel a lack of external validation and support in conjunction with low self-esteem (Zur, 2015).  Attending the “coming of age” event elicits the desired support and validation which in turn leads to an increase in therapeutic alliance and effectiveness (Zur, 2015) rendering the decision positive.  Additionally, affirming and celebrating the client’s achievements also strengthens the therapeutic alliance and efficacy (Zur, 2015).  However, if the practitioner declined the invitation, the client may perceive the declination as unsupportive holding potential to nullify trust, sever the therapeutic alliance and hinder the effectiveness of treatment (Zur, 2015).

The APA created the Ethics Code as a guide for professional conduct, not a basis for civil liability, and therefore contains modifiers which allow professional judgment, elimination of injustice and inequality, and “ensure applicability across” activities (American Psychological Association).  The Ethics Code states that the aim of psychologists includes increasing knowledge of behavior and self-understanding to improve the individual’s condition (American Psychological Association).  Zur declares the therapeutic relationship as a predictor of therapeutic effectiveness, and out-of-office experiences have proven to enhance the relationship (2015).

Despite the modifiers, it is imperative the professional attain an informed consent that outlines the purpose and expectation of his or her attendance as well as any potential risks of the participation (American Psychological Association).   Attaining consent validates the professional’s ideas and substantiates his or her decision to attend.  However, it is recommended that the professional only attend the ceremony, briefly, congratulate the client and leave without attending the “party” celebration after.  It is customary and expected for the boy to receive a gift for his Bar Mitzvah. However, the APA frowns upon gift giving as described in section 6.04 (Barter with Clients/patients) of the Ethics Code.  Others perception of the gift may include an exchange from other attendees and therefore more prove more appropriate in the confines of a therapeutic setting.

Differing Recommendations

If therapeutic services had concluded, the advice would change.  If the professional proceeded with a non-therapeutic relationship with the client after terminating services, the perception may include conflict of interest, potential breach of confidentiality, and may violate the code 3.05 about Multiple Relationships.  A conflict of interest occurs when there are questionable motives in regards to an individual’s actions.  If the professional attended the Bar Mitzvah, he or she holds the potential of exposing the previous relationship with the client as well as possibly revealing confidential information (American Psychological Association).  Multiple Relationships may occur when new relationships develop after concluding services (American Psychological Association).  In the event the professional attends the Bar Mitzvah, the professional relationship becomes jeopardized, and the general perception may include the conclusion of services attributed to the intention of developing a deeper relationship with the child or family member.

Recommendation of Type of Provider

Mental health providers obligate them to the same code of ethics established by the APA.  Although different disciplines and specialty areas have developed further guidelines, the similarities in principles remain.  Excusing one practitioner necessitates exclusions for the next.  The aim of the APA Code of Ethics is to guide professionals in the highest ethical ideals while maintaining respect and protecting human civil rights (2010).  Studies indicate the vitality and effectiveness in an individual circumstance of out-of-office therapeutic services, especially regarding celebratory events regarding achievement (Zur, 2015).

Conclusion

The case study proves to be highly controversial and supports the need for professional judgment in the mental health field.  Ethical decision making requires the measurement of all possible outcomes, positive and negative.  The Bar Mitzvah scenario poses risks that could hinder therapeutic effectiveness as well as benefit therapeutic effectiveness.  The belief that the benefits outweigh the risks remains intact after weighing all possibilities.  However, it is important to point out; the difficult decision caused an ethical dilemma.  The dilemma consisted of the welfare of a child versus societal perception.  However, a vulnerable child’s potential mental health takes precedence over conforming to societal expectation.

 

References:

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Ethical principles of psychologists and
code of conduct including 2010 amendments
. Retrieved from http://www.apa.
org/ethics/code/principles.pdf

Elegant woman. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.elegantwoman.org/bar-mitzvah-etiquette.html

Judaism 101. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.jewfaq.org/barmitz.htm

Zur, O. (2015). Beyond the Office Walls: Home Visits, Celebrations, Adventure Therapy, Incidental Encounters and Other Encounters Outside the Office Walls. Retrieved month/day/year from http://www.zurinstitute.com/outofofficeexperiences.html.

 

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Ethics for Forensic Psychology, Uncategorized

Forensic Psychology Codes of Conduct

The APA Ethics Code is a set of principles used as a guide to direct the practitioner toward the highest ideals of psychology (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).  The Ethical standards set forth by the APA were developed with the intention of providing a common set of values upon which psychologist’s work is created, as well as general principles and rules that cover most situations a psychologist may encounter (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).  The expectation is for psychologists to respect and protect human civil rights by practicing according to the APA Ethics Code and not to participate in unethical practices (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).  The Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology aim to improve the quality of service, enhance development and practice, encourage high level of professionalism, and encourage practitioners to conduct themselves in a professional manner and acknowledge and respect individual rights (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).  The guidelines are not dependent on a specific practice, rather on the case at hand and apply in all matters regarding educational system, judicial system, and administrative systems (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).  However, practice is not always forensic if the individual is ordered to undergo treatment or assessment via judicial system (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).  For instance, treatment ordered due to divorce or parent separation or psychological testimony based on provision of treatment and void of legal psych-opinion are not considered forensic practices (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).

The APA Ethics Code sets the standard of practice and holds consequence if not followed (“Specialty guidelines for forensic psychology,” 2013).  The guidelines on the other hand are intended to provide further guidance and are not mandatory (“Specialty guidelines for forensic psychology,” 2013).  The Guidelines use modifiers to suggest discretion and allow professional judgment for forensic practitioners (“Specialty guidelines for forensic psychology,” 2013).

The five general principals specified in the APA Ethics Code are as follows:

  1. Beneficence and nonmaleficence – work independent of bias, prejudice, and malignant affiliations and what they do impacts the lives of others.  Equally important is having the understanding bias negatively impacts the public (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).
  2. Fidelity and responsibility – the professional takes responsibility for their work and develops relationships of trust (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).
  3. Integrity – Deception should be avoided. Research should be honest and reliable and void of deception to gather desired results (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).
  4. Justice – equal and fair treatment and practices (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).
  5. Respect for people’s rights and dignity – consent for service must be obtained and all people have a right to privacy and confidentiality. Additionally, psychologists must be aware of differences in cultural values and beliefs, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other varying degrees of diversity (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).

In the event that the guidelines are not adhered to, injustice may be served as well as causing harm to the individual receiving services.  Additionally, deviating from the Code of Ethics jeopardizes the interpersonal relationship which can hinder treatment.  In the event that the client is exposed by name, privacy rights have been broken as well a breach of confidentiality, and integrity of the professional.  Ultimately, the practitioner is eligible for sanction at the breach of the Ethics Code.

 

 

American Psychological Association. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/forensic-psychology.aspx

American Psychological Association. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/code-1992.aspx

Specialty guidelines for forensic psychology. (2013, January). American Psychologist, 68(1), 7-19. Retrieved from http://www.apadivisions.org/division-41/about/specialty/2006-draft.pdf

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Ethics for Forensic Psychology, Uncategorized

Case Scenario: Possible Dual Relationship?

A forensic mental health professional (who specialized in criminal cases) retired from practice about 10 years ago. She was asked by her husband’s boss to conduct a custody evaluation. The boss is seeking full-time custody of her two young children and alleges that her ex-husband has severe mental health issues.

What are the potential ethical issues raised in this scenario? Be sure to support your response with the appropriate ethical guidelines from the APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct and Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology. What action would you take and why? Be sure to describe your process of ethical decision making.

 

According to the APA Code of Ethics, a psychologist should practice within boundaries of competence (Code 2.01) – those areas in which they have received training, education, supervised experience, consultation, or study (American Psychological Association).  In the scenario, the retired professional specialized in criminal cases.  However, her husband’s boss is asking her to conduct an evaluation for parental custody.  Although the professional may have the ability to conduct the evaluation, the scenario explains the evaluation is for severe mental health issues.  Additionally, the Specialty Guidelines suggest the professional is responsible to develop and maintain competencies by gaining updated knowledge and skills as the field develops (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011).  The professional in the scenario has been retired for ten years.  Although she may have made the effort to continue updating her knowledge, it is likely that she has not maintained skills and may use outdated approaches or assessments to evaluate the husband.  APA Ethics Code 3.05, Multiple Relations declares one behaving unethically if he or she enters into a professional role with a person closely associated or related to the individual in need (American Psychological Association).  Entering into such a relationship may cloud the professional’s judgment and reduce objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in their role (American Psychological Association).  Additionally, engaging in the boss’s proposition, the profession increases her chances of creating conflict of interest (Code 3.06) and breaking confidentiality (4.01) (American Psychological Association) as there appears to be an interpersonal relationship with her husband’s boss.  The APA also states it is vital that the professional avoids any undue harm to the client and all others involved (Code 3.04) (American Psychological Association).

It is the professional’s choice as to whether she will conduct the assessment.  However, it is important for her to abide by the ethical guidelines outlined by the APA.  In doing so, she should remain unbiased when choosing which solutions hold the best benefit and least risk to the client and society.  Once solutions have been developed, she should establish all possible negative and positive outcomes for each possible solution (Swanepoel, 2010).  It is important to weigh the risks and benefits to determine the most positive and ethically charged approach to solving the problem (Swanepoel, 2010).  Sometimes, the highest gain coincides with risks, and the risk should achieve greater benefit to the majority creating an ethical solution.  When choosing the course of action, implementation in a timely manner is sometimes necessary to achieve the most significant result (Swanepoel, 2010).

The issue is clear:  The boss is requesting the retired professional to conduct an evaluation on her husband for a child custody battle.  Considering the context of the circumstance, the professional is retired and may be outdated in knowledge and skill.  There is also a pre-existing relationship between the requestor and the professionals husband (and an inferred relationship with the professional).  The ethical considerations should include the potential of breaching confidentiality, practice outside of professional scope, potential repercussions for her husband’s employment, etc.  Possible solutions may include referring the boss to anther professional or reporting the offer made to the courts, both of which may come with repercussions.  The professional should weigh all potentials within the possibilities.  For instance, the potential of breaching confidentiality or using deceptive statements as her thoughts and opinions may have the possibility of being persuaded by the boss due to her relationship with the professional’s husband.  Persuasions could create bias and deceptiveness.  If the professional did not expose the results desired by the boss, there could be repercussions for the husband.  However, the professional could be accused of accepting a barter if she does take the request because her husband is employed by the requestor.

 

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Ethical principles of psychologists and
code of conduct including 2010 amendments
. Retrieved from http://www.apa.
org/ethics/code/principles.pdf

American Psychology-Law Society. (2011). Specialty guidelines for forensic
psychology
. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/
forensic-psychology.pdf

Swanepoel, M. (2010). Ethical decision-making in forensic psychology. Koers, 75(4), 851-872. Retrieved from http://www.scielo.org.za/pdf/koers/v75n4/09.pdf

 

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Ethics for Forensic Psychology, Uncategorized

Attorney Tactics

Some attorneys have a preference for treating psychologists to provide expert testimony regarding forensic issues and may entice or instruct the psychologist to violate boundaries or engage in dual roles (Bush, et al., 2006).  In this instance, the psychologist should assess potential for deviation from initial agreed upon role taking and consider the potential for a reduction in objectivity and effectiveness in addition to exploitation or harm to the parties involved (Bush, et al., 2006).

When taking the stand, it is recommended the psychologist pause before answering questions, allowing the retaining attorney to object (Bush, et al., 2006).  The psychologist should forcefully present the data and reasoning that contribute to the opinion providing accurate information.  Attorney’s may distort the expert opinion and it becomes the expert’s obligation to correct the misinformation by taking steps to minimize the misrepresentation or use of their work as it is unethical to “participate in attempts to avoid, deny, or subvert the presentation of evidence contrary to their own position” (Bush, et al., 2006, p. 115).

During questioning, the attorney may attempt to get the expert to argue in an effort to cause him or her to lose composure.  It is important that the expert remain in a calm disposition with a polite demeanor to gain the trust and respect of others in the courtroom.  Distractive tactics may cause the expert to lose track of thought while attempting to multi-task or avoid jury incorporation into their hearing which may discredit testimony or level the expert as avoiding scientific fact among the majority.  For instance, the attorney may ask the expert to draw a picture while continuing questioning.  It is important for the expert to clarify if the entire question was heard or any misunderstandings that could potentiate an inaccurate response.

Attorneys may also shift into damage control if they believe their case is weak, resorting to the above technique or creating diversions in an effort to make the expert testimony appear as a debate or contest (Bursztajn, M.D. & Brodsky, B.A, n.d.).  The attorney tries to undercut the meaningfulness of the testimony.  It is vital that the expert remain honest and objective while maintaining the ethical guidelines of the APA in the pursuit of justice (Bursztajn, M.D. & Brodsky, B.A, n.d.).  The attorney attempts to achieve this by questionin through misleading facts or inferences, out-of-context quotes (prior writings / teachings may be questioned to validate a varying degree of position or change of position in regards to a similar case), compounded questions, silent treatment, interruption, sarcasm, or irrelevant questions (Bursztajn, M.D. & Brodsky, B.A, n.d.).

Attorneys may attempt to discredit character and credibility by emphasizing fees, motives, education/training, academic credentials, and how little experienced in this specific testimony the expert has (Bursztajn, M.D. & Brodsky, B.A, n.d.). If an attorney attempts to discredit an expert, he or she should remain calm and explain expenditures in a vagiue manner (Bursztajn, M.D. & Brodsky, B.A, n.d.).  For Instance, if the cost of service was $2,000, explaining fees are $20.00/hour at 20 hour long visits.  This explains the cost and avoids further probing about expenditures and avoids the attorney implicating excessive fees for “other” services.  The attempt of the attorney is to point out any weaknesses in training and qualifications for the expert’s testimony (Bursztajn, M.D. & Brodsky, B.A, n.d.).

 

Bursztajn, M.D., H. J., & Brodsky, B.A, A. (n.d.). Ethical and effective testimony during direct examination and cross-examination post – daubert. Practicing Psychiatry Without Fear: Guidelines for Liability Prevention.  Retrieved from http://www.forensic-psych.com/articles/artEthicalEffectiveTestimony.php

Bush, S. S., Connell, M. A., & Denny, R. L. (2006). Ethical practice in forensic psychology: A systematic model for decision making. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/11469-001

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