Professional Ethics in Rural and Northern Canadian Psychology

Article excerpt

Although the literature in rural, northern, and remote (R&N) psychology and professional ethics for this setting is limited, it is clear that this area of psychological practice presents a specific context which must be considered for ethical decision-making. Existing literature suggests that overlapping relationships, community pressure, generalist practice, interdisciplinary collaboration, and professional development concerns are aspects of R&N practice that may be more prevalent. When they are, they pose risks by complicating professional practice and the resolution of related ethical issues. This article highlights the ways that demographic and practice characteristics may instigate ethical issues in R&N professional practice. We briefly review these considerations in relation to the literature, professional ethics, the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (Code), and case examples from our own practices. More specifically, we discuss how the Code provides guidance in applying the ethical principles to decisionmaking in R&N communities. Further, we suggest practical applications for ethical decision-making acumen inherent in the Code.

Keywords: rural, northern, remote, professional ethics, Canadian

Résumé

Si la littérature sur l'exercice de la psychologie dans les régions rurales, nordiques et éloignées (R et N) et sur l'éthique propre à ce milieu est restreinte, il est clair que le psychologue évolue dans un contexte précis dont il faut tenir compte dans la prise de décisions éthiques. La littérature suggère que les relations interdépendantes, la pression de la communauté, la pratique de généraliste, la collaboration interdisciplinaire et les préoccupations relatives au perfectionnement professionnel sont des aspects parfois prédominants en régions R et N. Et lorsqu'ils le sont, ils constituent des risques puisqu'ils compliquent l'exercice de la profession et la résolution des problèmes éthiques connexes. Cet article met en relief les façons dont les caractéristiques démographiques et de la profession dans les régions R et N peuvent donner lieu à des problèmes édiiques. L'article présente ces éléments au moyen de la littérature existante, la déontologie, le Code canathen de déontologie professionnelle des psychologues et d'exemples de cas. Il explique en quoi le Code constitue un guide pour l'application de principes édiiques dans la prise de décisions concernant des collectivités R et N. Des applications pratiques sont ensuite suggérées pour la prise de décisions éthiques selon le Code.

Mots-clés : rural, nordique, éloigné, éthique professionnelle, canadien.

Psychologists are in the business of relationships and are continually immersed in the complexity of human interaction (Bauman, 1999). This dynamic is intensified for rural, northern, and remote (R&N) psychologists where intricate relational matrices, together with demographic considerations, have the potential to create ethical challenges that are more prevalent, complicated, or perhaps even less easily resolved. Practice characteristics, such as overlapping relationships, community pressure, generalist practice, interdisciplinary practice, professional isolation, and limited opportunities for professional development may foster ethical dilemmas that require a nuanced understanding of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (Code), (Canadian Psychological Association [CPA], 2000).

In this article we highlight how R&N practice may instigate ethical issues for psychologists and how the Code provides guidance in applying the ethical principles to decision-making in R&N communities. We will provide case examples that are a compilation of our own experiences and that of other R&N psychologists with whom we have worked and suggest practical applications for ethical decision-making using the Code. By way of background, we are both practicing R&N psychologists in Canada. The first author has a independent practice in her lifelong community of North Eastern Alberta. …