Legal Aspects of Professional Psychology Terri Smith PSYCH/545 Survey of Professional Psychology Dr. Erica Wansel August 26, 2012 Introduction Professional psychology has simplicities that set it apart from other recognized branches of psychology. The twist and turns of professional psychology make it where legal has to be taken into consideration. In any type of medical field legal always play a major role. The patients and clinicians have an obligation to one another to abide by the guidelines set forth according to the American Psychological Association (known as APA) that protects both parties’ rights.
In this paper, the importance of maintaining confidentiality in a therapeutic relationship will be discussed. The influence of legislation on professional psychology will be evaluated. The role of competence in professional psychology will be explained. The legal issues related to informed consent and refusal will be analyzed. Finally, the legal issues associated with assessment, testing, and diagnosis in professional psychology will be evaluated. Importance of Confidentiality in a Therapeutic Relationship
Mental health professionals are encountered with a widespread range of ethical and legal issues involving confidentiality in therapeutic relationships. Their practice often comes in contact with other disciplines, which can lead to struggles in upholding confidentiality. For example, in the criminal justice field, people wonder if mental health professional can preserve the confidentiality of inmate/patient information. There are other issues that suggest whether mental health professionals should break confidentiality when patients are considering harming themselves or others.
Confidentiality is important because mental health professional must know to whom the information should be disclosed to and how much information should they know. There are a number of ethical provisions dealing with confidentiality in therapeutic relationships. The Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) Code of Ethics (2004) states that exception to maintaining confidentiality has to be taken very seriously. They may be allowed where there is a serious risk to the patient or another person, where required by law, where part of approved research, or where there are overwhelming societal interests.
However, the code does not provide examples of what constitutes such overwhelming societal interests. More precisely, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Code of Ethics (2004) provides that “psychiatrists shall strive to maintain patient confidentiality” and further expresses how they can achieve this. It recognizes that confidentiality cannot be absolute and that any breach requires a careful balance of conflicting interests.
Among other specifications, it permits disclosure if a patient intends to harm an identified person or persons, and it acknowledges an overriding duty to inform victims or relevant authorities. Legislation on Professional Psychology Psychologist’s contemplated legal issues long before psychology and law could be developed in the United States as an acknowledged field in 1970. There were a lot of articles that didn’t relate to psychology but today members of the American Psychology-Law (APLS) influence policy in the American Psychological Association (APA).
Both APA and APLS have significant resources to increase psychology’s influence on law-related policy issues (Heilbrun, 1995 & Ogloff, 1996). Unfortunately, growing influence has not brought increased concern for justice. When the field began, June Tapp and Felice Levine based Law, Justice, and the Individual in Society: Psychological and Legal Issues (1977) on their assumption that "the union of social science and law promotes justice". This assumption reflected the field's initial effort to "challenge and transform a prevailing 'judicial common sense' that had been used to keep the disenfranchised down so long" (Haney, 1993 pg. 75). Shortly afterwards, though, Craig Haney remarked that "psychologists have been slow to decide whether they want to stand outside the legal system to study, critique, and change it, or to embrace and be employed by it" (1980, pg. 152). Competence in Psychology Competence is defined as being sufficiently able, or qualified; adequate. ” There are a lot of other terms that can be used as competence (mastery, skill and effectiveness etc ;) Competence has become as common a term in psychology today as it is in other health professions (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, 2000).
Competence is developmental and generic (Alverno College Faculty, 1994). According to Hoge, educational programs are expected to produce competence, professional credentialing bodies are expected to certify individuals as competent, policy makers laud competence, and consumers increasingly demand it (Hoge et al. , 2005). In addition, as professions are regulated to ensure public protection, we have a responsibility to ensure via education, training, and ongoing life-long assessment that practicing psychologists and future generations of psychologists provide quality and safe psychological services.
Psychologists perform a number of tasks that call for a lot of training and skill. Competence refers to their ability to appropriately perform these tasks. It is an ethical issue because a psychologist should not provide services that are outside their areas of competence. Every psychologists has their own area of expertise, therefore they all cannot be experts. For example, if there was an adult who needed counseling and the only psychologist available is one who practices with children. That psychologist should not get involved with that client. Therefore they would not be competent in that particular area.
Legal issues related to Informed Consent and Refusal Informed consent is often seen as the primary means of respecting client personhood and protecting the self-determination rights of those with whom psychotherapists work. The increasing emphasis in healthcare in general and psychotherapy in particular reflects a societal shift from the traditional paternalistic medical model of health care to one that respects the autonomy, agency, and self-determination of clients (Fisher, 2003a). Informed consent is an essential part of the treatment process in psychology. Legally it protects the psychologist and the client receiving the treatment.
According to Pope and Vasques, (2007) informed consent provides the client and the therapist the opportunity to understand his or her legal rights and they both have an equal interest in the treatment process. Throughout the world legal systems have beliefs that it’s unacceptable in trying to manipulate a person without their consent. Informed consent and informed refusal are linked together when it involves consent from clients. This means a client can consent to therapy but they also have the right to refuse treatment. When a client wishes to refuse they should have documentation that shows they are qualified in making that decision.
Legal issues associated with assessment, testing, and diagnosis in Psychology Psychological testing is very important in the field of psychology. According to Carmara, Nathan, & Puente, (2000) psychological testing has been a very important function for psychologists since the field inception. To ensure that all testing is legal and not being conducted unethically, the psychologists have to follow the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association. The legal deliberation in the use of psychological testing is covered by the Employment Equality Act of 1988.
One of the main issues that cause legal issues in psychology testing is discrimination and some of the test goes against individuals rights. By law, psychologist cannot apply tests or any other type of selection procedure that may result in unfair discrimination or adversely impacts a favorable ratio of the sexes, races, or ethnic groups. Psychologist may be called upon to support the use of specific testing, and demonstrate the test’s validity and job relevance, and whether it is necessary to address the individual’s capability for functioning as it supports the operation of the business (Hogan, 2007).
With psychologist facing some many challenges when administering psychological tests, they must ensure that they pay close attention to the Ethical law. Administering a test unlawfully could cause a psychologist to lose his/her license. Conclusion Psychologist cannot say that an individual does not have the right to say they are not incompetent because they feel the individual is incapacitated. In this paper several topics have been discussed to address clients refusing treatment because of their misunderstanding, fear or lack of trust in their psychologist.
A lot of clients feel skeptical about entering into a therapy session due to individuals stereotyping them. Everyone in society sometimes need to talk with a professional because they don’t feel comfortable talking with friends or family. In this paper, the importance of maintaining confidentiality in a therapeutic relationship was discussed. The influence of legislation on professional psychology was evaluated in its entirety. The role of competence in professional psychology was explained on how psychologist had to be competent in their field of study.
The legal issues related to informed consent and refusal was analyzed on how individuals had the right to consent or refuse. Finally, the legal issues associated with assessment, testing, and diagnosis in professional psychology was discussed and evaluated.
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