Succeeding in Graduate School: The Career Guide for Psychology Students

By Steven Walfish; Allen K. Hess | Go to book overview

14
Learning to Become Ethical
Mitchell M. Handelsman

Just as it takes training and experience to become an excellent psychologist, it takes training and experience to become an ethical psychologist. The term professional ethics refers to decisions about right and wrong behaviors. We have all heard celebrated cases of unethical behavior: therapists who sleep with their clients and researchers who fudge their data. However, all professionals are faced with situations every day that may seem less extreme but are no less ethically charged. The purpose of this chapter is to present some of the themes that you will encounter throughout your career as a graduate student and a psychologist, and to give you some advance warning about the ethical traps inherent in your chosen profession. To get us started, consider the following case, from three perspectives. Picture this:

Case 1a. You are a professor in a university psychology department. At the department's end-of-semester party, one of the more attractive students in your graduate seminar strikes up a conversation with you. After several minutes your keen clinical intuition picks up a mutual attraction. You say to the student, “Listen, I've already turned the grades in, so don't take this the wrong way. But would you like to go out to dinner with me tomorrow night?”

Case 1b. You are a graduate student at the end-of-the-semester department party. In an effort to do that networking thing that you've heard is so important, you decide to mingle with as many people as you can. You approach the closest person, the rather demanding professor you just had for a course. After several minutes of amiable conversation you plan to excuse yourself to talk to others, but the professor says to you, “Listen, I've already turned the grades in, so don't take this the wrong way. But would you like to go out to dinner with me tomorrow night?” Struggling to pick your jaw up from the floor, you consider the consequences of accepting or refusing the professor's invitation. You remember that (a) there is a policy against faculty dating students over whom they have

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