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Ethical Issues in Psychology

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 1266 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Ethical Issues in Psychology

I chose to study Situation 6 in which Mr. M has been diagnosed with depression.  His psychiatrist has prescribed medication for him, but Mr. M has told his psychologist he wants no part of psychotropic medication due to the side effects.  According to the American Psychological Association’s “Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct” (2013), psychologists must have informed consent from the client or patient prior to treatment.  In other words, a medication can be prescribed, but the client must give consent to take the medication.  The psychologist has the duty to “inform their clients/patients of the developing nature, the potential risks involved, alternative treatments that may be available, and the voluntary nature of their participation” (American Psychological Association, 2013, subsection 10.01 Informed Consent to Therapy).  The client chooses voluntarily to take the medication.  If Mr. M chooses not to take the medication, no one can force him otherwise.

Alternative Treatments

Because Mr. M does not want to take the antidepressant prescribed for him because of the possible side effects, I would seek alternative treatments that don’t involve side effects.  Bet, Hugtenburg, Penninx, and Hoogendijk (2013) found in their study of antidepressants in a naturalistic setting that many clients report having side effects long-term to these psychotropic drugs, such as sleeplessness, dry mouth, nausea, weight gain, profuse sweating, dizziness, etc. (Table 2).  However, an alternative treatment, St. John’s Wort, reported no side effects.  In another study by Warren, Cowen, and Harmer (2019), St. John’s wort produced similar positive effects on emotional processing as antidepressants (subsection Discussion).  Therefore, based on these studies, because Mr. M has serious concerns about the possible side effects of taking the medications prescribed for him from his psychiatrist, I would advise the client trying St. John’s Wort.

Who is the Client

According to Chapter 1 of the PSY5005 Coursepack involving works by John and Rita Sommers-Flanagan (2019), “The professional must decide whose needs and what needs must be served” (subsection AND WHO IS THE CLIENT?)  It is the client’s needs we are serving as psychologists; therefore, in this situation, the therapist must take it upon herself/himself to best serve the patient as he needs.  In this case, since Mr. M does not want the “traditional” antidepressant to treat his depression, it is up to his psychologist and psychiatrist to determine the best course of treatment for him.  In this case, it would most likely be best to consider alternative treatments.

Victim’s Advocate

This issue relates to my future career in psychology as I hope to serve mental health clients in the court system.  A possible job I am considering is a victim’s advocate.  As a victim’s advocate, I would be deciding whose needs I must serve (the victim) and whatever his/her needs are.  Just as in the case study, I must determine what is the best course of treatment for my client.  Other principles from the “Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Ethics” also relate to my future in psychology, such as competence, privacy and confidentiality, record keeping, research and publication, and assessment.  As a victim’s advocate I must be competent to be able to advocate for my client, whether it be in the court system, the hospital, a law office, etc.  I must have the necessary training and real-life experience to advocate.  I cannot discriminate against my client, bring harm to him or her, and I must obtain informed consent for any treatment plan I devise.  Confidentiality is always critical, as well as precise documentation.  Such documentation should be held in a secure area.  If I choose to further my education and go for a PhD, any research I undertake must be met with informed consent from participants (American Psychological Association, 2017, Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct).

Research vs. Human Subject

According to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, research is an investigation to contribute to knowledge and a human subject is an individual from whom the researcher obtains through intervention or private information (Electronic code of federal regulations, 2018, 46.102 Definitions for purposes of this policy).  Human subject research must meet both definitions.  However, in the case of my interview with a psychologist, I am not seeking to collect personal information or somehow intervene and conduct an experiment.  Therefore, I am not conducting research in the field of psychology. 

Ethics and Psychologist Interview

The ethical principles most applicable to my professional interview are competence and human relations.  I must be aware of what is expected for my professional interview, and I cannot harass or discriminate against the professional.  That would not bode good fortune for my professional career (American Psychological Association, 2017, Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct).  In other to ensure I adhere to ethical principles during my interview, I will use the Information Gathering Questions handout from the courseroom to form research questions that will yield helpful information for my career.  I will also keep the APA’s Code of Conduct in mind for my personal behavior during the interview.


  • American Psychological Association. (2017). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index
  • Bet, P. M., Hugtenburg, J. G., Pennix, B. W. J. H., and Hoogendijk, W., J., G. (2013). Side effects of antidepressants during long-term use in a naturalistic setting. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 23(11), 1443-1451.
  • Information gathering questions. (n.d.). Capella University.  Retrieved from PSY5002 course room.
  • Research definition. (n.d.). Capella University. Retrieved from PSY5002 course room.
  • Electronic code of federal regulations. (2018). E-CFR. Retrieved from https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=83cd09e1c0f5c6937cd9d7513160fc3f&pitd=20180719&n=pt45.1.46&r=PART&ty=HTML#se45.1.46_1102
  • Warren, M. B., Cowen, P. J., and Harmer, C. J. (2019). Subschronic treatment with St John’s wort produces a positive shift in emotional processing in healthy volunteers. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 33(2), 194-201.
  • Ch. 1: Counseling ethics and the big picture by Sommers-Flanagan, John; Sommers-Flanagan, Rita. (2019). In PSY5002: Foundations of Theory and Practice for Master’s Psychology Learners, July 2019.  Retrieved from PSY5002 course room.


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