Law, Standards, and Ethics in the Practice of Psychology (3Rd Edition)

Article excerpt

Law, Standards, and Ethics in the Practice of Psychology (3rd Edition), David R. Evans, Toronto, Ontario: Carswell, 2011, 581 Pages (ISBN 978-0-7798-3834-9, CAN $101)

Reviewed by PIERRE L.-J. RITCHIE

DOl: 10.1037/a0032673

Beginning with the first edition, this text has been the best single source for thoughtful information on the ethical, legal, and regulatory framework for the practice of psychology in Canada. As did the second edition, the latest iteration provides timely updates on essential topics as well as selected additional information and commentary. This book belongs to the relatively uncommon group of texts that serve as the "go-to" source for both generalists and specialists. Although especially useful for students preparing for a career in one of the branches of applied psychology and early career psychologists working on postgraduation requirements set by the regulatory system, it is a valuable resource throughout a psychologist's career path.

Although Evans is the central author, with overall responsibility for the book's conceptualisation, organisation and selection of topics, the third edition again benefits from the specific expertise of other psychologists as well as lawyers. They capture both subject matter knowledge as well as an appreciation of "how it works" in particular jurisdictions. The book is organized in 15 chapters, each with its own references and some with appendixes. The latter typically provide useful tools. For example, the chapter on Dual Relationships has an appendix offering a "Framework for Ethical Decision Making and Risk-Benefit Worksheet." The chapter on Informed Consent provides "Guidelines for Providing Information to Incapable Persons," and the chapter on Client Information and Records includes an appendix on "Handling Clinical Records."

The book's utility and contributions are best illustrated through selected highlights. In addition to a user-friendly nicely elaborated Table of Contents, there is also a very useful Table of Cases containing in a single place the jurisprudence cited in the book. Evans wrote the preface and an introductory chapter that provides both an historic perspective and also addresses current issues in most Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan). In addition, a few topics deemed especially pertinent to professional practice are included in this initial overview: complaints, quality assurance and risk management, statutory law and client well-being, and components of professional practice. Beyond the value of the information presented, the real value added for this chapter is the observations, thinking, and analysis of a senior colleague who experienced the profession's evolution over the past 40 years.

Evans has his own clear sense of where we come from and how the psychologist's world in the early 21st century is different than the one he first knew. Although this can provide grist for debate on the "correct" interpretation and understanding of issues, it is part of what makes these aspects of the book intellectually stimulating. Given the book's purpose to provide a substantial amount of factual information, it is important to note that the commentary, analysis, and opinion components do not limit or distort presentation of basic subject matter, either by Evans or other authors.

The next four chapters address the current regulation of psychology in specific provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario. These are written by experts in the governance and regulation of the profession in the respective provinces (e.g., Registrars and others with recognised knowledge and experience together with a lawyer coauthor for Ontario). As a result, they provide well-informed, timely, and useful information. For those looking for more than "how it is done" in their own province, taken together they provide a valuable snap-shot of the state of psychology as a regulated profession in Canada.

The rationale for the choice of the actual provinces receiving full-chapter treatment is that these jurisdictions have had "major changes to their legislation and standards of practice since the last edition." Although some readers would prefer more attention to other jurisdictions, the fundamental choice for any work such as this is between comprehensive inclusion and selectivity. Evans opted for selectivity. Hence, the rationale for what is included, whether in terms of topics or jurisdictions rests on its own merits. Nonetheless, it is peculiar that two jurisdictions, New Brunswick and Quebec, are neither accorded sectional treatment in the initial chapter described above, nor do they receive the more expanded attention provided by a dedicated chapter. Nonetheless, the Index provides multiple examples across several chapters where specific attention is given to New Brunswick (e.g., misconduct, mandatory reporting, sexual abuse). However, the Index provides only a single Quebec specific reference (regarding privacy legislation). The Territories are ignored with no reference in the Index to the Northwest Territories or Nunavut where psychology is regulated, nor to the Yukon which remains the regulatory outlier.

Given that approximately half of all psychologists in Canada practise in Quebec (and those practising there in English are greater in number than in several provincial/territorial jurisdictions), the absence of information and commentary on Quebec is the book's major limitation. The absence of Quebec in this book could simply be taken as another example of the reality of Canada's two solitudes. Quebec's legal system is indeed distinct. Among other consequences, it compels a Code of Ethics for Psychologists (as for all professions regulated in Quebec) that conforms to certain of principles and procedures derived from that legal tradition. Nevertheless, a content analysis of the latest Quebec Code and of the Canadian Code (adopted in all other Canadian jurisdictions) suggests a high level of similarity. In the past 15 years, Quebec psychology has also been an active participant in all national decisions that have dramatically changed the rules on professional mobility in Canada. Indeed, Quebec's initial work on moving toward the competency-based framework that under- pinned the ultimate adoption of a doctoral entry standard in Quebec became a key starting point for the work that led to a national agreement. Hence, it can be hoped that Quebec will receive greater attention in the fourth edition.

The remaining 10 chapters are those to which anyone with an interest or immediate need to be informed about the topics captured in the book's title will gravitate, regardless of where they practise. Readers are rewarded with a gold mine of information and informed commentary on all the subject matter topics that could reasonably be expected of a contemporary book in this area. Evans himself wrote the chapters on Business Aspects of Practice, Client Information and Records, as well as Informed Consent. Together with psychologist colleagues who wrote the chapters on Confidentiality, Informed Consent, Dual Relationships: Managing the Boundaries, and the Practitioner as Expert Witness, they provide a comprehensive review of essential topics that represent a strong consensus of "what everyone needs to know." They are ably complemented by a lawyer-written chapter on Malpractice. In addition, there are two chapters focused on specific applications and populations. One is a broad consideration of the pertinent issues related to the assessment and treatment of children and adults and the other speaks of practice with young offenders and adult correctional clients. Looking to the next edition, the major demographic driver of an increasingly aged population will likely prompt a dedicated chapter dealing with services to older Canadians. Some other chapters should also consider the implications of psychologists increasingly maintaining professional practices beyond the historic age of retirement.

All of us who teach or practise psychology are the beneficiaries of Evans' sustained dedication to maintaining the currency of a book that has justifiably become a classic. The lucid contributions of colleagues who update or produce new material also merits note. As a whole, the book does a fine job of balancing the ethical, regulatory standards and legal elements that must be understood together to practise competently. It belongs not only in academic courses and in settings providing professional training. Psychologists, like other regulated professionals, are increasingly reminded of their multiple accountabilities and the necessity of integrating sound ethical sensibility with proactive risk management. Hence, this book is also an excellent resource beyond entry-to-practice for all psychologists. It reminds us of what is important across time and of what we have to learn to keep up in an environment that is continually evolving.

David R. Evans is Professor Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario. He has been a consultant to many service agencies spanning addictions, hospitals, and the police. For more than 30 years, he has been also in the forefront of the profession's leadership at the provincial, national, and international levels including being President of the Ontario Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association.

[Author Affiliation]

Pierre L.-J. Ritchie is Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa where he is also Director of the Centre for Psychological Services and Research. He is the Main Representative (Psychology) to the World Health Organisation and Executive Director of the Canadian Register of Health Psychologists. He has contributed to the leadership of many professional and scientific organisations in Canada and internationally including as Executive Director of the Canadian Psychological Association and Secretary-General of the International Union of Psychological Science.


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