Practical Wisdom: A Review of Foundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in Psychology and Counseling

By Cotton, Fatima A. | The Qualitative Report, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Practical Wisdom: A Review of Foundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in Psychology and Counseling


Cotton, Fatima A., The Qualitative Report


In this second edition of Foundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in Psychology and Counseling, Kitchener and Anderson (2011) discuss ethical decision-making and provide additional information for a wider audience, as well as psychologists and counselors. The intended audience is for psychologists, counselors, researchers, and teachers. While the first edition was predominately about ethical reasoning and decision-making, this second edition goes more in depth into ethical decision-making and the principles of psychology. The authors address issues pertaining to child abuse, HIV disclosures, and what competent treatment means for professionals.

Both editions use James Rest's model of moral behavior. Kitchener and Anderson (2011) use Rest's four components of his model to assist practitioners. The first is moral behavior, second is ethical and moral sensitivity, next is ethical and moral decision making, and last is the ego strength to carry out the decisions.

I think this book is an accessible read for anyone doing research or interested in learning about ethics and the issues involved in making informed decisions in their research or practice. Kitchener and Anderson (2011) begin by defining ethics, what it is and what it is not. The cases are examples of challenges a psychologist, researcher and teacher would have to deal with. There are two distinctions that are explained between ethics and the law and ethics and values. While ethics and the law are concerned with what is "just" the law may differ from state to state to determine what is exactly considered to be "just" (p. 6). Ethics and values are based on doing the "right thing or be good" (p. 9). In the next chapter "Thinking Well About Doing Good" (p. 12) the authors use a diagram to show the levels of moral reasoning. There were considerations made in multicultural settings, and consideration of the social issues today.

Each individual has a different value system according to his or her culture, life experiences, and gender and will make moral decisions based on their beliefs. The authors provide help for students to understand the ethics codes based on the Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association (APA), which is only one model that provides a professional code of ethics.

Kitchener and Anderson (2011) suggest a model that presents five foundational principles for researchers, psychologists, and counselors. The principles are: autonomy (freedom of action and choice), beneficence (doing good), nonmaleficence (avoiding harm), justice (fairness), and fidelity (keep promises, be faithful). These principles are one model they propose would be paramount for psychologists and counselors in their work (p. 17). These models would fare well as templates for practitioners and researchers, as long as they understand the differences in the people they are working with. The focus should be on doing no harm to the individual or the people involved in the study.

In chapter five "Beyond Ethical Decision Making," Kitchener and Anderson (2011) move onto virtue ethics. In certain situations, therapists may decide to disregard one principle to follow another or if they are unable to find a workable solution. By doing this, they may have doubts on their abilities to make ethical decisions. One example is the case of the HIV gay man. He disclosed his HIV status to his psychologist and because he was depressed about his illness he participated in unprotected sex with other gay men in bars. His live-in partner was not aware of his activities. His psychologist concerned with doing what he believed was right and not disclosing his client's confidence found a solution that worked for him. He went to the health department nearby and left information on risky sexual behavior and asked the local bookstores if he could leave safe sex behavior literature. In addition he met with his client to continue counseling.

Learning how to become knowledgeable in ethical decision-making may require using other options if needed. …

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Practical Wisdom: A Review of Foundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in Psychology and Counseling
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