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Ethics and Minors

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Maria is a 32 year old, Latina woman. Her child, Rosalinda, age 6, was referred to counseling after having been exposed to domestic violence (Maria reports having been the victim) in the home.

Maria is separated from Rosalinda's father who is the alleged perpetrator in the domestic violence.

When Maria brought Rosalinda to her first evaluation session (symptoms included: nightmares, regression, easily moved to tears, clingy with Maria), Maria read and signed an informed consent form while in the waiting room. The form was fairly standard issue, citing all the usual exceptions to confidentiality. The psychology intern properly introduced herself to Maria and briefly went over the informed consent. Maria expressed understanding of and agreement with the evaluation and treatment for her daughter.

Maria was the principal informant during the assessment, and the psychology intern documented in her notes that Maria reported she had started to date again. She noted that Rosalinda's symptoms had gotten worse (for example, she is upset when left with the family babysitter).

Can Rosalinda's Dad have access to the child's record?

What about the reference to Maria starting to date - should this be documented in the record? Should Rosalinda's father have access to this information?

Explain your reasoning, referring to the appropriate rules and citing ethical guidelines (these may include the practice act, rules of board, etc.).

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Ethical behaviors are those that fulfill the fundamental moral obligations to: protect individuals from self harm, to maximize good and minimize harm, guard against problems that lead to exploitation to individuals with whom psychologists work (Ethical guidelines & code of conduct, APA.org).

(1) Can Rosalinda's Dad have access to the child's record?

Ethical decision making is important because therapeutic services carry significant potential harmful consequences. For example, sometimes confidentiality is violated just on the basis of careless or insufficient awareness to the extent that some disclosures can affect clients. In the case of children, because of the potential relationship between parent and child, confidentiality may not apply. For instance, under the American Psychological Association' (APA, 2002) ethical guidelines (Standard 4.05a) psychologists can disclose confidential information to a legally authorized person. Thus, operating under the assumption, relative to the vignette that Rosalinda' Dad has custody (or at least partial custody) and access to her records may be in accordance with state law. As Beresoff (2003) explains, parental divorce requires a "restructuring" process of parental rights and responsibilities in relation to children. For example, if there is an agreement between the parents, there is no legal dilemma involved. On the other hand, "If the ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses a specific case study regarding ethics to be considered when counseling with a minor.