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Discuss Informal Resolution of Ethical Violations in Psychology

Discuss Informal Resolution of Ethical Violations in Psychology

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 Standard 1.02, Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or

Other Governing Legal Authority, and Standard 1.03, Conflicts Between Ethics and Organizational


Professional and scientific misconduct by psychologists can harm coworkers,

distort the public’s ability to make decisions informed by knowledge generated by

members of the profession, and harm the profession itself by instilling public distrust.

When an ethical violation by another psychologist occurs, members of the

profession are in the best position to recognize the violation and select a course of

action that could ameliorate harm or prevent further violations. Standards 1.04 and

1.05 underscore the responsibility of psychologists to be concerned about and,

when appropriate, address the scientific or professional misconduct of their colleagues

(Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility).

Standard 1.04 requires psychologists to attempt an informal resolution when

they suspect an ethical violation has occurred that could be adequately addressed

through discussion with and subsequent remedial actions by the violating psychologist.

In such instances, psychologists should discuss the violation with the

offending psychologist to confirm whether misconduct has actually occurred and,

if appropriate, recommend corrective steps and ways to prevent future ethical violations.

Examples of misconduct psychologists might encounter, in which an informal

resolution is appropriate, include the following:

A psychologist with no prior education, training, or supervised experience in neuropsychological

assessment began to incorporate a number of such instruments into a

battery of tests for elderly clients (Standard 2.01a, Boundaries of Competence). After

a colleague brought her lack of training to her attention, an informal resolution was

achieved when the psychologist agreed to obtain appropriate training in neuropsychological

assessment before continuing to use such techniques.

A psychologist working with a non-English-speaking psychotherapy client asked the

client’s son to serve as an interpreter during sessions. He agreed to use an independent

translator after being approached by a colleague who explained that he was

jeopardizing the value of the treatment by using an untrained interpreter and potentially

jeopardizing the mother–son relationship (Standard 2.05, Delegation of Work to


A consulting psychologist hired to help management plan for a shift in organizational

structure planned to take stock options in partial payment for the work. When a

colleague pointed out that this might impair her objectivity and expose the company

to harm (Standard 3.06, Conflict of Interest), the psychologist agreed to discuss alternative

compensation with the organization.

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