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Procedures for dealing with ethical issues

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Professional Psychology: Debating Chamber · Psychology Journals · Psychologists


In addressing ethical decisions public consultation with collegues and transparent decision making and action are the key.

Identify the relevant issues

  • What are the parameters of the situation
  • Is there research evidence that might be relevant
  • What legal guidance exists?
  • What do peers advise?

Identify the clients and other stakeholders and consider or obtain their views.

Evaluate the rights, responsibilities and welfare of all clients and stakeholders.

Use your relevant Code of Ethics to identify the principles involved.

Generate the alternative decisions preferably in consultation with others.

Establish a cost/risk-benefit analysis to include both short- and long-term consequences.

Make the decision after checking that the reasoning behind it is logical, lucid and consistent. Document the process of decision making.

Assume responsibility and monitor any outcomes.

Apoligise for any negative outcomes. Many formal complaints are often a client's only way of obtaining an acknowledgement of distress. Saving 'sorry' does not automatically admit liability.

Make every effort to correct any negative outcomes and remain engaged in the process.

Learn from the process for yourself, for others and for your professional body.

The thinking behind ethical decisions needs to be clear, especially where time is short and/or where high levels of emotion and risk are involved.

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