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Confidentiality in Ethical Decision making


"A psychologist is providing psychotherapy to another psychologist. The patient reveals that he has committed a serious ethical violation. The patient states that due to patient confidentiality, the therapist cannot report the violation".

-Describe this dilemma
-Apply each one of the 14 steps (attached) in the ethical decision making process to this confidentiality issue
-Explain the importance of ethical decision making in professional psychology


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Ethical decision making is fundamental in all types of professional counseling. The basic guidelines, to which there are some exceptions are whatever a client reveals to you, must be kept in strict confidence. The American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2002) has provided ethical guidelines for psychiatrists and psychologist to follow. The ethical guidelines of confidentiality addresses the following proposed questions:

Step 1: Identify the situation that requires ethical consideration and decision

The situation associated with this problem could suggest an exception to confidentiality. For example, under certain conditions, the counselor may have a moral obligation to break confidentiality. Licensed counselors are required by law, to break confidentiality if a client reveals an intent to commit violence to self or others.

Step 2: *Anticipate who will be affected by your decision

Sometimes a counselor is faced with difficult decisions as he or she may be privy to information that is required by law to report (different states have different rules) specific legal, protective or social service agencies. For instance, conditions may prevail in which you should notify family members of the suicidal thoughts of a client. The law (in a particular state) may require disclosure in these situations to other agencies, even if the client does not give consent.

Step 3: Figure out who, if anyone, is the client

There may be problems if you are counseling with a person with whom you may have had some relationship. Avoid counseling people with whom you currently or in the future have a relationship with. You still must honor the rules of confidentiality. If you don't feel comfortable within the session, it is best not to enter into the counseling relationship.
Is there any ...

Solution Summary

The American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2002) has provided ethical guidelines for psychiatrists and psychologist to follow in the treatment of clients. The ethical guidelines of confidentiality are discussed referring to what a client states to the counselor in the therapeutic session must be kept in strict confidence.