TEACHING ABOUT ETHICAL ISSUES IN PSYCHOLOGY
The professional practice of psychology is submitted to ethical principles that are variously enforced in countries. In France, a chart of ethical rules has been adopted in 1995 by the major groups and associations of psychologists but it has not yet reached a legal status. University diplomas being the sole requisite for practicing psychology, the university bears responsibility for introducing the psychologists-to-be to an ethical awareness. A recent survey shows that ethics are not taught in all universities in France, or only superficially.
This presentation will describe the major ethical problems confronting psychologists in France (practice, research and teaching) and suggest ways to teach the subject of ethics in university settings. To teach ethics is a delicate matter: the goal for the student is not to learn a list of set rules but to be able to autonomously determine an ethical set of actions when eventually confronted with real life situations. This particular teaching is best done in workshops with small groups through a Socratic type of approach to knowledge. Discussion around real life cases and situations, role playing, information about ethical rules in other professions are possible techniques which should lead the student to a deep understanding of ethical principles. Case situations are drawn from a pool of descriptions that were sent to the French National Committee on Ethics in Psychology Practice (CNCDP), founded in 1997. The student group is asked to pinpoint eventual ethical issues in the situation, both from the viewpoint of the client and the psychologist, as well as from the viewpoint of the society in general. Role playing is performed whenever necessary for a better understanding. This is followed by a free discussion oriented towards a reflection on the principles underlining the code of ethics. Students are then asked to write individually an opinion. Finally the opinions are pooled and discussed in the group and a consensus opinion is produced. Problem situations are known to arise in any field of practice: educational, clinical, social, forensic, organisational, research etc. Typical issues touch on the scope and meaning of responsibility of the psychologist, confusion in roles and missions, obligations to the client and employer, why and how to guarantee confidentiality, specific issues in child and adolescent clinical interventions, ethical rules in psychology research, respecting the testee in personality assessment, including in forensic settings.
Teaching about ethical issues in psychology is essential at the university level and should be conceived as a training for developing in the future psychologist an awareness of these issues and a natural inclination to constantly exercise a critical mind in all professional acts.
© 2008 Victor Karandashev