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Posted: August 23rd, 2023

Psychology Week 1 Assignment Ethics In Psych

Psychology Week 1 Assignment Ethics In Psych
Using your text and additional research, prepare a minimum three-page paper (with a separate Title page and separate reference page) discussing the following:
A clinician like a psychologist or counselor trains, teaches, and conducts research in a hospital, clinic, school, or office. Clinicians may determine whether an individual’s exhibited behavior is abnormal in a way that may lead to negative consequences for that individual, and work with that individual to maximize adaptive strategies depending on the person’s goals. These mental health professionals may use case studies, experimentation, and testing to reach this decision.
For this assignment:
• Please discuss an ethical dilemma you think a clinician might face.
• Indicate which section of the APA Code of Ethics may be involved.
• Explain whether you believe the APA Code of Ethics provides enough guidance to the individual to handle this.
• What recommendations would you make to the clinician to handle this?

Ethical Dilemmas in Clinical Psychology Practice: Balancing Professional Obligations


Clinical psychologists and counselors play a crucial role in promoting mental health and well-being by providing assessment, therapy, and research services in various settings such as hospitals, clinics, schools, and private offices. As these professionals navigate the complexities of human behavior, they often encounter ethical dilemmas that require careful consideration and adherence to established ethical guidelines. This paper aims to discuss a potential ethical dilemma that a clinician might face, analyze the relevant section of the APA Code of Ethics, evaluate the adequacy of the code in providing guidance, and provide recommendations for handling the dilemma.

Ethical Dilemma: Confidentiality vs. Public Safety

One significant ethical dilemma that clinicians might encounter is the tension between maintaining client confidentiality and ensuring public safety. Consider a situation where a clinician is treating an individual who expresses thoughts of harming others during therapy sessions. On one hand, the clinician has a duty to protect the client’s privacy and foster a trusting therapeutic relationship. On the other hand, they also have an ethical and legal obligation to prevent harm to potential victims.

APA Code of Ethics: Section 4. Confidentiality

The relevant section of the APA Code of Ethics is Section 4, which addresses issues related to confidentiality. This section emphasizes the importance of maintaining client confidentiality while acknowledging exceptions when there is a clear and imminent danger to the client or others. Standard 4.05 states that psychologists may disclose confidential information without consent to protect clients or identified others from harm.

Adequacy of the APA Code of Ethics

While the APA Code of Ethics provides a foundation for addressing this ethical dilemma, it leaves room for interpretation in certain cases. The balance between protecting confidentiality and ensuring public safety can be complex, and clinicians may struggle to determine when exactly to breach confidentiality. The code provides a broad framework but does not offer specific guidance on how to weigh the severity of the threat or how to involve other relevant parties.

Recommendations for Clinicians

Thorough Assessment: Clinicians should conduct a thorough assessment to determine the credibility and immediacy of the threat. Is the client’s expression of harm mere venting, or does it present a genuine concern?

Informed Consent: At the beginning of therapy, clinicians should discuss the limits of confidentiality with clients, including the circumstances under which confidentiality might be breached. This ensures transparency and informed decision-making.

Consultation: Clinicians should seek consultation from colleagues, supervisors, or legal experts when facing a challenging ethical dilemma. Consulting with others can provide valuable perspectives and insights.

Collaboration: In cases where the threat is deemed credible, clinicians should collaborate with the client to develop a safety plan that involves appropriate authorities and support systems.

Documentation: Clinicians should maintain clear and comprehensive documentation of their decision-making process, including the rationale for breaching confidentiality. This documentation can serve as evidence of ethical and legal considerations.


Ethical dilemmas are an inherent part of clinical psychology practice, and the APA Code of Ethics provides a foundation for addressing these challenges. However, the complexity of real-world situations often requires clinicians to exercise their judgment and make difficult decisions that extend beyond the scope of the code. By engaging in thorough assessment, seeking consultation, and maintaining transparent communication with clients, clinicians can navigate ethical dilemmas while upholding their professional obligations to both clients and the wider community.


American Psychological Association. (2017). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index

Fisher, C. B. (2016). Decoding the ethics code: A practical guide for psychologists. SAGE Publications.

Pope, K. S., & Vasquez, M. J. (2016). Ethics in psychotherapy and counseling: A practical guide (5th ed.). John Wiley & Sons.

Sabin, J. E., & Daniels, J. A. (2020). The use of consultees to address ethical dilemmas in psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 51(5), 399-406.

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