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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Ethical Practice of Psychotherapy: Clearly Within Our Reach

Jeff Barnett
Image result for ethical psychologyPsychotherapy, 56(4), 431-440


This introductory article to the special section on ethics in psychotherapy highlights the challenges and ethical dilemmas psychotherapists regularly face throughout their careers, and the limits of the American Psychological Association Ethics Code in offering clear guidance for how specifically to respond to each of these situations. Reasons for the Ethics Code’s naturally occurring limitations are shared. The role of ethical decision-making, the use of multiple sources of guidance, and the role of consultation with colleagues to augment and support the psychotherapist’s professional judgment are illustrated. Representative ethics challenges in a range of areas of practice are described, with particular attention given to tele-mental health and social media, interprofessional practice and collaboration with medical professionals, and self-care and the promotion of wellness. Key recommendations are shared to promote ethical conduct and to resolve commonly occurring ethical dilemmas in each of these areas of psychotherapy practice. Each of the six articles that follow in this special section on ethics in psychotherapy are introduced, and their main points are summarized.

Here is an excerpt:

Yet, the ethical practice of psychotherapy is complex and multifaceted. This is true as well for psychotherapy research, the supervision of psychotherapy by trainees, and all other professional roles in which psychotherapists may serve. Psychotherapists engage in complex and challenging work in a wide range of practice settings, with a diverse range of clients/patients with highly individualized treatment needs, histories, and circumstances, using a plethora of possible treatment techniques and strategies. Each possible combination of these factors can yield a range of complexities, often presenting psychotherapists with challenges and situations that may not have been anticipated and that tax the psychotherapist’s ability to choose the correct or most appropriate course of action. In such circumstances, ethical dilemmas (situations in which no right or correct course of action is readily apparent and where multiple factors may influence or impact one’s decision on how to proceed) are common. Knowing how to respond to these challenges and dilemmas is of paramount importance for psychotherapists so that we may fulfill our overarching obligations to our clients and all others we serve in our professional roles.