[The Law, Standards of Practice & Ethics in the Practice of Psychology]

By Evans, David R.; O'Neill, Patrick | Canadian Psychology, August 1998 | Go to article overview

[The Law, Standards of Practice & Ethics in the Practice of Psychology]


Evans, David R., O'Neill, Patrick, Canadian Psychology


Laudatory reviewers sometimes say "all psychologists (lawyers, doctors, etc.) should have this book on their shelves." In the case of this new book on legal and ethical rules concerning the practice of psychology in Canada, I can make that claim without hyperbole. For Canadian psychologists, particularly those who transact business with the public, this book is essential. It will be to our profession in this country what Confronting Malpractice (Austin, Moline, & Williams, 1990) is to psychotherapists in the United States. The book lists David Evans as author, and indeed he writes or co-writes a significant number of the chapters. There are also some other authors or co-authors on specific chapters.

The strength of this book, as the title suggests, is its focus on Canadian law, legal precedent, and ethical standards. In the past when I have needed information on how Canadian law applies, I have relied on the excellent series by the Rozovskys, exemplified by their work in The Canadian Law of Consent to Treatment (Rozovsky & Rozovsky, 1990). The advantage of Evans's new book is that it focusses on psychology. With the Rozovsky series (which I highly recommend as another essential for the practitioner's shelf) the focus is on medical procedure and one must extrapolate to psychology. Also, Evans includes ethical standards as well as legal precedents as he discusses each point.

The book covers, among other things, informed consent, confidentiality, assessment and treatment of children and adults, custody and access assessments, assessment of young offenders and treatment of correctional clients, the practitioner as expert witness, and malpractice. In each section, Evans and his co-authors give relevant material from other countries (chiefly the United States), but makes it relevant by discussing relevant Canadian ethical and legal rules. My only substantive criticism is the inclusion of a chapter called The Governance of Practitioners in Psychology which is restricted entirely to rules and practices in Ontario!

This text is destined to become a standard, and because the law is constantly changing as cases set new precedents, it will have to be revised on a regular basis. In that context, I offer some minor criticisms that are intended to be possibilities for making the text stronger in future revisions: I would suggest that an index of names be added to the present subject index, and an index of the Canadian legal cases cited. At present these cases are merely referenced after each chapter without the page numbers that one would get in an index. There are appendices after most chapters (I counted 14 separate appendices). Next time around, Evans might consider adding a list of appendices, with hints about their contents, after the table of contents.

Now on to some of the many strong features of this book: In addition to good coverage of Canadian law following from or distinct from American law, there is also solid information on some distinctive Canadian areas. One of these is the Young Offenders Act, discussed in a chapter by Alan Leschied and Stephen Wormith. This Act carries with it a host of ethical and legal concerns. Leschied and Wormith rightly refer to the Act as a revolution in how youth courts were mandated to mete out justice to young people. This revolution brought with it various assessment issues for psychologists on such matters as assessment for pre-disposition, for transfer to adult court, and so on. …

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