Psychology Ethics Assignment 1

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Psychology Ethics Assignment
Psychology Ethics Assignment

Select ONE of the provided ethical cases, and write your essay on the ethical dilemma therein.

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The purpose of this assignment is for you to understand and apply aspects of the American Psychological Association Code of Ethics to a specific ethical dilemma. You will choose from one of a series of “ethical dilemmas,” which are provided on Ulearn. In the essay, you will take on the role of “prosecutor” or “defense” and argue for or against the behavior of the fictional psychologist in the case, based on the APA code of ethics.

You will select one of the provided ethical cases, and write a 3-4 page paper in which you explore the issues presented and take a position on the actions of the psychologist described in the scenario. This will require you to review the APA code to find relevant ethical codes/principles, briefly summarize the relevant codes that pertain to the case, and offer an informed opinion about the topic.

Whichever topic you choose, your paper should include the following sections:

Psychology Ethics Assignment

1. Overview of the topic – what is the ethical dilemma (or dilemmas) that appear to be present in the case? What is the conflict here in this situation? [about 1 page]

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2. Argument for or against the behavior – this is the largest part of the paper, in which you will evaluate the actions of the psychologist based on the APA code of ethics. You will take on the role of a “prosecutor” if you believe that the psychologist acted unethically, or the “defense” if you believe that the psychologist acted appropriately. Be sure to clearly and thoroughly explain why you are arguing for or against their actions, based on the APA ethical code or ethical principles, citing specific codes that illustrate appropriate behavior. You must also cite any sources from outside the code. [1-2 pages]

3. Conclusion – briefly summarize your arguments for or against the psychologist’s behavior, and if you argued “against” the psychologist, suggest what they should have done instead, OR if you argued “for” the psychologist, give some suggestions as to how they might prevent similar situations in the future. [about 1 page]

4. References – include a References list (in APA style) of the credible sources you used to learn about this topic. You must include the APA code of ethics (see Ulearn) as a source for the paper. Credible sources might include journal articles, news reports, or textbooks. Websites may be acceptable, as long as you can establish where this information is coming from and can explain why this perspective is trustworthy.

Note: Your paper must be in APA writing style (check Ulearn for APA style references and tutorials if you are not familiar with APA style). Most importantly, the paper MUST contain a References page, as well as in-text citations. Failure to cite sources may constitute plagiarism. Points will be deducted for more than 5 APA style errors.

Scoring Rubric (15 points total)

Psychology Ethics Assignment

[5 pts] Topic overview presents a clear explanation of the problem, and identifies one or more ethical codes relevant to the situation described. [5 pts] Writer makes a reasonable argument for or against the psychologist’s behavior, appropriately using the APA code of ethics to explain why the behavior was appropriate or inappropriate. [2 pts] Sources cited are credible and accurate reflections of the issue discussed. [3 pts] Paper is written in clear and professional language, with no more than 5 APA style errors.

Ethical Dilemma #1 – Working with Thomas

Dr. Smythe, a therapist, has been working with Thomas, a 22 year old male, for about 6 months at the college counseling center where you are employed as a counselor. Based on his report and past records Dr. Smythe has received, Thomas has an autism spectrum disorder. At times, Thomas behaves in ways that are inappropriate for typical college students – he has called professors at home late at night to ask questions, he has appeared at University offices outside of his regular appointments and demanded to be seen, and has a habit of regularly calling his therapist between appointments to seek reassurance for his anxiety.

Thomas is aware these behaviors are inappropriate, and with Dr. Smythe’s help he has made some small progress in reducing them. He has never been physically threatening toward the therapist, or anyone else at the college as far as Dr. Smythe can tell; however, Thomas’ large stature and difficulty with self-control have made some staff and students frightened of him and reluctant to work with him. He is an average student, and receives substantial assistance from your school’s Disability Services office.

One day the counseling center director approaches Dr. Smythe and asks if she will attend a meeting with the director and with other University staff who work with Thomas, for the purpose of planning and “figuring out what to do” with Thomas. Dr. Smythe gets the sense that this meeting will occur whether she attends or not, and she concerned about what may happen as a result of the meeting, so she agrees to go.

At the meeting, Dr. Smythe sits down with the counseling center director, the Dean of Student of the college, and a member of the Disability Services staff. The Dean plays some voicemails he received from Thomas late at night, in which Thomas expresses high anxiety and furiously demands that the Dean call him right away. The Dean also has a voicemail in which Thomas called back later that evening and apologized for calling the Dean so late at night. The Dean looks to Dr. Smythe as the therapist, asking “what should we do about Thomas?” Dr. Smythe gives some general information about Thomas’ diagnosis, and the work they have been doing, but declines to share her notes about the case with the Dean or the Disability Services staff member. Dr. Smythe suggests that the Dean give Thomas some firm limits about when he can or cannot call the Dean, and expressed hope that if people can be consistent with their limits, eventually Thomas will learn to abide by them. Dr. Smythe speaks with the Disability Services agent about coordinating their work together, and they tentatively agree on some ideas for making these behavioral limits clear to him.

Psychology Ethics Assignment

In your essay, you will evaluate Dr. Smythe’s actions, and argue for or against her decision. Make sure to follow the assignment instructions, and include all necessary sections of the essay!

Ethical Dilemma #2 – Teaching Tara

Dr. Rudy, a psychology professor, has been teaching and supervising a graduate student, Tara, for about one year, since she began the Psychology doctoral program where he works. Tara is a bright and enthusiastic student, though at times she confides to Dr. Rudy that she has a lot of “personal issues” that sometimes get in the way of her graduate work, but she declines to give more detail than that.

In the classroom, Tara is usually an active and dedicated student, and completes her work on time (or ahead of schedule). Dr. Rudy appreciates the work she does in class, and in addition to giving her high grades consistent with her work, he regularly praises her in class.

As time goes on, as part of Tara’s work on her thesis, she often spends hours each week meeting with Dr. Rudy in his office at the University, discussing the project and her work progress on it. From time to time, Tara and Dr. Rudy will have a meal together, either in his office or at a nearby diner, so they can continue their work. Dr. Rudy usually pays for the meals, as he knows that as a graduate student Tara probably does not have much money.

One December afternoon, after completing their thesis meeting for the day, Tara asks for a ride home rather than having to wait for a bus or ordering a ride service. Noting that it is already getting dark, and that it is beginning to snow outside, Dr. Rudy agrees and drives Tara the 10-minute trip to her apartment. Tara thanks him for the ride and they do not mention it again.

As the new school term begins in January, Dr. Rudy notes that Tara’s work has declined somewhat. She still completes her assignments, but often will turn them in late. The quality of work is still generally good, but not to her same level as before. Knowing that Tara has “personal issues,” Dr. Rudy continues to give her high grades, hoping that eventually things will get back to normal.

Dr. Rudy privately expresses some concern about Tara to Dr. Cline, another faculty member in the program, who teaches Tara in another class. Dr. Cline says that Tara seems to be completing her work in this other class just fine (and on time), and has not mentioned any personal issues or concerns to her. Dr. Cline gently suggests that Dr. Rudy might be giving her “too much leeway” and that he should consider spending less time with Tara to “get a clearer perspective.” Dr. Rudy is shocked by this suggestion, but agrees to consider it. When he returns to his office, Dr. Rudy sees an email from Tara in which she asks for a meeting “over lunch” the next day and states that she has some things she needs to tell him about. Dr. Rudy is unsure how to respond, and decides to put off responding to the email until the next day.

In your essay, you will evaluate Dr. Rudy’s actions, and argue for or against his decisions. Make sure to follow the assignment instructions, and include all necessary sections of the essay!

Psychology Ethics Essay


Overview of the topic

In the second ethical dilemma called teaching Tara, it shows us the the story between psychology professor Dr. Rudy and his female student Tara. In the beginning, they have maintained good relations between teachers and students. Soon afterwards, for the convenience of work, they start to meet in office even hang out for dinner every week.

I think the first conflict occur this point. The relationship between these two people or their actions like hanging out for dinner will be more of a friendship rather than the normal relationships between professors and students. Now, the issue is Dr. Rudy always pay the dinner when they eat together. I do not think it is a good idea, because their relationship will become more complicated if they mix finances and friendship.

Tara had great performance in class before, but she did not perform well in class, either on her work. Dr. Rudy still gave her the same score as before, because he thought that he knows her well. Also, he considered that maybe Tara is struggling in her personal issue.

I think the problem here is Tara’s performance in his course is worse than before, but she still got high grades. It seems unfair to the other students in the same class. If her classmates feel the professor is bias , that will injure trust and respect of each other. But more seriously, the relationship between professor and Tara may be misunderstood by others.

Dr. Rudy also talked his consideration about Tara to another professor called Cline. I am not sure what did Dr. Rudy said to Cline in detail, because if he did not told Cline about Tara’s personal issue, only talked about her class participation is fine. But, if he also told her personal issue to the third people without her agreement, that is the invasion of privacy. Also, According to Dr. Cline’s words, another problem here is Tara’s performance only change in Dr. Ruby’s class. That means it might be something wrong about her attitude to Dr. Rudy, because she treats him differently.

Argument for the behavior

In the beginning, I support with Dr. Rudy’s action. He praises Tara in class, and give her good grades based on her great performance in class. And also, as a professor to help her and give advices on personal issue. Everything until now is reasonable for me until increased frequency of their meeting.

I did not agree with them when they hang out and have meal together weekly. I think they should not be as close as friends. Based on number 3 human relations in APA ethical code of ethics, “(a) Psychologists refrain from initiating an activity when they know or should know that there is a substantial likelihood that their personal problems will prevent them from performing their work-related activities in a competent manner.” that means if Dr. Rudy knows his action will affect their normal relationship, he has to avoid instead of ignore the problem and have dinner with Tara. (American Psychological Association) Another point I strongly against with, is Dr. Rudy paid the meal for Tara. Their relationship became more deeper or closer than the professor’s relationship with his other students this time. In code 3.05, it explains that “the multiple relationship could reasonably be expected to impair the psychologist’s objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing his or her functions as a psychologist.” (American Psychological Association)

Different than buying a meal for student, I agree with Rudy when he sending student back home in bad weather day. I think is kind of manner and protection for students instead of ethical problem. But a detail here, is they stay together until it’s getting dark outside. I think they should not meet until late time. If they end up earlier, they may avoid this awkward situation. In number 3 human relations in APA ethical code, it says “(b) When psychologists become aware of personal problems that may interfere with their performing work-related duties adequately, they take appropriate measures, such as obtaining professional consultation or assistance and determine whether they should limit, suspend or terminate their work-related duties.” (American Psychological Association)

I also strongly against Dr. Rudy’s behavior here, when he still gave Tara high grades when she perform worse in class. That means his decision has be affected by their friendship already, and it seems unfair to other students. Also, Rudy made up excuses for Tara, that she act weird because she has personal issue and he knows that well. Rudy is a professor, he should not have double standard for students. In 7.05 Mandatory Individual or Group Therapy, “(b) Faculty who are or are likely to be responsible for evaluating students’ academic performance do not themselves provide that therapy.” And also in 7.06 Assessing Student and Supervisee Performance, it says“(b) Psychologists evaluate students and supervisees on the basis of their actual performance on relevant and established program requirements.” (American Psychological Association)

In the last part in this article, Dr. Rudy shared his consideration about Tara with Dr. Cline. When Dr. Cline said he did not hear personal issue from Tara, that means Rudy may talked about that Tara has personal issue. I don’t agree his behavior this time because I thought that he violated the privacy law, because he told the third person about Tara without her agreement. In standard 4 Privacy and Confidentiality in APA ethical code, part 4.04 explains to us that “Psychologists include in written and oral reports and consultations, minimizing Intrusions on Privacy. Also in code 4.06, “When consulting with colleagues, psychologists do not disclose confidential information that reasonably could lead to the identification of a client/patient, unless they have obtained the prior consent of the person or organization or the disclosure cannot be avoided, and (2) they disclose information only to the extent necessary to achieve the purposes of the consultation.” (American Psychological Association)


I support some of Dr. Rudy’s behaviors, like giving Tara good grades when she works hard, helping her to solve problem and sending her back home in snow day to avoid danger. I think these things that he did are within the relations between teachers and students. The behaviors that I against, like having meeting and dinner together frequently, paying for meals. All of these problems reflect their friendship, but they should keep same distance as Dr. Rudy with other students in the same class. The most important thing is as a professor, Dr. Rudy lost justice here, because he did not change grades when Tara’s participation become worse. This against justice rule in APA ethical code. When he shared his thoughts about Tara with Dr. Cline, especially told him that Tara has personal issue, that broke the law of privacy. According to APA ethical code about multiple relations, “If a psychologist finds that, due to unforeseen factors, a potentially harmful multiple relationship has arisen, the psychologist takes reasonable steps to resolve it with due regard for the best interests of the affected person and maximal compliance with the Ethics Code. ” (American Psychological Association) So I recommend Dr. Rudy to refuse her dinner invitation in the future. Also fix her grades based on normal standard for evaluation, show fairness to the class. Trying to reduce times of helping Tara with her personal problem, only focus about course or academic topics. After the course done, end the relationship before it caused problem for both Rudy and Tara.


American Psychological Association. (2010, June 01). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and

Code of Conduct. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from

ng2019_PSYC1020_PA_35482_DP/APA ethical code.pdf

Professional Ethics for Psychologists

Big Questions: Values, ethics, decisions

What are your personal values?

How do these values influence your morality and decision-making?

What are ethics?

How do psychologists make ethical decisions, and deal with ethical conflicts?

Values vs. Ethics vs. Laws



Your personal belief system, what is important to you

A set of behaviors that a group has identified as “correct” or appropriate


Enforceable rules about what to do/not to do in a specific community

Ethical Codes: What’s the point?

APA developed Code in 1950s

Purposes of codes

Protect consumers / Protect the profession

Give identity to profession (outline values)

Guide professional behavior

Offer framework for decision-making

Protecting clients

Clients often vulnerable to exploitation, manipulation

Clients in distress may bring out inappropriate feelings/behaviors in counselors

Protecting the profession

Provides acceptable standard of behavior/standard of care among psychologists

Can offer some defense of behavior in legal setting

Ethical codes: What’s the point?

Ethical Codes: What’s the point?

Codes change over time, as society changes, or professional values change

No code is perfect

Does not always give clear answers

Can’t predict every potential issue, can’t always “keep up” with societal changes

Conflicts can exist between codes/laws/values

Ethics and Values

“Values-Aware” Counseling vs. “Values-Free” Counseling

Nearly impossible to be “values free”

Can be dangerous to ignore influence of your values!

We must ask: “Whose needs are being met?”

If unsure, must consider *who* I’m doing this for

Must act in client’s best interest, even if we don’t 100% agree

Our responsibility to always uphold ethics

Joining a profession, or holding license, means you agree to uphold ethical code

What are your Values?

Rokeach Value Survey (1983)

“Your goal is to rank each value in its order of importance to you. Study the list and think of how much each value may act as a guiding principle in your life…. When ranking, take your time and think carefully. When you have completed the ranking… the result should represent an accurate picture of how you really feel about what’s important in life.”

Rokeach: Rank Values 1-18


EQUALITY (equal opportunity for all)



FREEDOM (independence, free choice)

INNER HARMONY (free from inner conflict)

HEALTH (physical, mental well-being)

MATURE LOVE (sexual/spiritual intimacy)

NATIONAL SECURITY (protection, safety)

PLEASURE (enjoyable, leisurely life)

SALVATION (saved; eternal life)

SELF-RESPECT (self-esteem)


SOCIAL RECOGNITION (respect and admiration)



A WORLD OF BEAUTY (beauty of nature and the arts)

A WORLD AT PEACE (a world free of war and conflict)

Ethics and Values

What were your Top 3 values? Bottom 3 values?

In what areas do you think it is possible that your personal values and professional ethics may conflict?

A case of conflict… Julea Ward vs. Board of Regents of Eastern Michigan University

Ethics and Values

Read the article about Ward v. EMU and answer these questions as a group:

What is the issue the student (Julea Ward) had?

What position did her program at EMU take?

What was the outcome of the case?

What is happening in other states that may affect future conflicts of this kind?

What do you think? What side of the issue would you agree with?

Ethical Codes: What’s it all about?

The welfare of the client is highest priority

APA Code of Ethics:

Principle A: “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm….psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally (APA, 2010).”

What’s in the Code: APA Guiding Principles

APA 2010 General Principles

Beneficence and Nonmaleficence

Fidelity and Responsibility



Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity

What do Ethical Codes Cover?

1. Resolving Ethical Issues

2. Competence

3. Human Relations

4. Privacy & Confidentiality

5. Advertising & Other Public Statements

6. Record Keeping & Fees

7. Education & Training

8. Research & Publication

9. Assessment

10. Therapy

So what’s the problem?

“Hot Spots” – areas psychologists often have trouble

Legal issues (e.g., reporting/not reporting)

Social/Cultural Issues

Boundary Issues (e.g., dual relationships)


Informed Consent

Professional Practice Issues (e.g., competence, misrepresentation)

Hot Spots: Major Ethical Issues

Legal issues

Understand state laws governing practice

Understand duty to report, duty to warn

Duty to warn mandatory in MA, not in RI

Hot Spots: Major Ethical Issues

Social/Cultural issues

Practice culturally aware/competent services

Code 2.01 (b): “Where scientific or professional knowledge in the discipline of psychology establishes that an understanding of factors associated with age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status is essential for effective implementation of their services or research, psychologists have or obtain the training, experience, consultation, or supervision necessary to ensure the competence of their services…”

Hot Spots: Major Ethical Issues


Strictly protect confidentiality, and know its limits

Code 4.01: “Psychologists have a primary obligation and take reasonable precautions to protect confidential information obtained through or stored in any medium, recognizing that the extent and limits of confidentiality may be regulated by law or established by institutional rules…”

Hot Spots: Major Ethical Issues

Boundary Issues/Multiple relationships

Multiple relationship: having both a professional and non-professional relation w/ client

Avoid or manage “multiple relationships”

Code 3.05 (a): “A psychologist refrains from entering into a multiple relationship if the multiple relationship could reasonably be expected to impair the psychologist’s objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing his or her functions as a psychologist, or otherwise risks exploitation or harm to the person with whom the relationship exists…”

Hot Spots: Major Ethical Issues

Informed Consent

Therapy clients, research participants, students, supervisees need to know what to expect, so they can decide to participate (or not)

Code 3.10 (a): “When psychologists conduct research or provide assessment, therapy, counseling, or consulting services … they obtain the informed consent of the individual or individuals using language that is reasonably understandable to that person or person…”

Hot Spots: Major Ethical Issues

Professional Practice issues

Practice only what you are competent to do

Code 2.01 (a): “Psychologists provide services, teach, and conduct research… only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience

Hot Spots: Major Ethical Issues

Professional Practice issues

Clearly, accurately represent qualifications/credentials

Code 5.01 (b): “Psychologists do not make false, deceptive, or fraudulent statements concerning their training, experience, or competence; their academic degrees; their credentials; their institutional or association affiliations; their services; the scientific or clinical basis for, or results or degree of success of, their services…

(c) Psychologists claim degrees as credentials … only if those degrees (1) were earned from a regionally accredited educational institution or (2) were the basis for psychology licensure…

Ethical decision-making

Ethical Problem-solving Model (Forester-Miller, et al)

Identify problem (Ethical? Clinical? Legal?)

Review relevant ethical guidelines, and applicable laws

Determine nature of dilemma, impact on guiding principles

Beneficence, Justice, Fidelity, Integrity, etc.

Consult, consult, consult!

Consider possible courses of action, potential consequences

Select, evaluate a course of action

Test of justice

Test of publicity (“newspaper test”)

Test of universality

Implement action, assess the outcome

What’s a psychologist to do? Ethical decision-making

Know the Code and follow it

Know the law and follow it

Carry liability insurance

Various orgs offer low-cost insurance for students (ACA/HPSO  less than $50/year)

Inform your supervisor/director of any potential ethical violations, legal issues

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