Essential Ethics for Early Career School Psychologists

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: These handouts are fully formatted for distribution and available for downloading on the NASP website. Click on Communiqué Online.

Legal, ethical, and professional practice is a foundational pillar of school psychology service delivery (National Association of School Psychologists [NASP], 2010). Ethics are the principles that guide the practice of an individual, and applied professional ethics refer to the application of broad ethical principles and specific rules to address problems in one's field (Jacob, Decker, & Hartshorne, 2010). Ethical guidelines, such as the American Psychological Association's (2010) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct or NASP's (2010) Principles for Professional Ethics (PPE) are intended to (a) protect individuals receiving services from school psychologists, (b) help school psychologists reflect on and monitor their own professional behavior, and (c) provide standards to prevent and resolve issues related to unethical conduct.

NASP'S PRINCIPLES FOR PROFESSIONAL ETHICS

While school psychologists are guided by the same ethical principles as all psychologists, NASP's (2010) PPE is specifically applicable to school psychologists, and takes into account the distinct context of schoolbased practice. The PPE is organized around four broad aspirational themes which subsume 17 ethical principles. Each principle contains standards of conduct specific to school psychologists. The following includes the four broad ethical themes in the PPE, and a brief description of each.

1. Respecting the dignity and rights of all persons. School psychologists respect the autonomy, self-determination, and rights of those with whom they work. This includes attaining informed consent for services, maintaining privacy and confidentiality, and engaging in practice that is fair and just.

2. Professional competence and responsibility. School psychologists deliver services that benefit others, including practicing within their boundaries of competence, applying knowledge from the fields of psychology and education, and maintaining responsibility for the work in which they engage.

3. Honesty and integrity in professional relationships. School psychologists accurately represent themselves in professional promises, qualifications, and services delivered. Relationships that may be conflicts of interest or diminish professional effectiveness should be avoided.

4. Responsibility to schools, families, communities, the profession, and society. School psychologists work to promote healthy school, family, and community environments, and to maintain the public trust. This includes engaging in lawful and ethical practice, monitoring one's own practice and the practice of colleagues, and contributing to mentoring, teaching, supervision, and research in the field of school psychology.

DEVELOPMENT OF ETHICAL COMPETENCE: CONSIDERATIONS FOR EARLY CAREER SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS

Ethical competence is theorized to develop in stages over time, from that of novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert (Dreyfus, 1997). During each progressive stage, the school psychologist trainee or practitioner more effectively identifies and analyzes complex situations, and makes ethical decisions with increasing intuitiveness and automaticity. It is reasonable to assume that upon exiting their graduate training programs, many beginning school psychologists are at the novice to advanced beginner stages of ethical development, not yet having reached the competent stage.

Graduate training does not necessarily translate into ethical practice. School psychology trainees are likely to take at least one course in law and ethics during their school psychology training. Although this foundational coursework may introduce key concepts to school psychologists-in-training, legal and ethical issues are often not explicitly discussed or integrated throughout the training sequence (Jacob et al. …