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GSAPP Ethics Policy

Policy on Ethics and Practices at GSAPP, its Psychological Clinic
and other Practicum Settings

As psychology faculty and psychology students in training, the community of GSAPP members adheres to the tenets of the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association (APA; http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx). This includes adhering to the following general principles in interactions and arrangements among faculty, students, and clients in general, and at GSAPP's Psychological Clinic and its other practicum settings in particular: 

Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence
Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons, and the welfare of animal subjects of research. When conflicts occur among psychologists' obligations or concerns, they attempt to resolve these conflicts in a responsible fashion that avoids or minimizes harm. Because psychologists' scientific and professional judgments and actions may affect the lives of others, they are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political factors that might lead to misuse of their influence. Psychologists strive to be aware of the possible effect of their own physical and mental health on their ability to help those with whom they work.

Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility
Psychologists establish relationships of trust with those with whom they work. They are aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to society and to the specific communities in which they work. Psychologists uphold professional standards of conduct, clarify their professional roles and obligations, accept appropriate responsibility for their behavior, and seek to manage conflicts of interest that could lead to exploitation or harm. Psychologists consult with, refer to, or cooperate with other professionals and institutions to the extent needed to serve the best interests of those with whom they work. They are concerned about the ethical compliance of their colleagues' scientific and professional conduct. Psychologists strive to contribute a portion of their professional time for little or no compensation or personal advantage.

Principle C: Integrity
Psychologists seek to promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in the science, teaching, and practice of psychology. In these activities psychologists do not steal, cheat, or engage in fraud, subterfuge, or intentional misrepresentation of fact. Psychologists strive to keep their promises and to avoid unwise or unclear commitments. In situations in which deception may be ethically justifiable to maximize benefits and minimize harm, psychologists have a serious obligation to consider the need for, the possible consequences of, and their responsibility to correct any resulting mistrust or other harmful effects that arise from the use of such techniques.

Principle D: Justice
Psychologists recognize that fairness and justice entitle all persons  access to, and to benefit from, the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists. Psychologists exercise reasonable judgment and take precautions to ensure that their potential biases, the boundaries of their competence, and the limitations of their expertise do not lead to or condone unjust practices.

Principle E: Respect for People's Rights and Dignity
Psychologists respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination. Psychologists are aware that special safeguards may be necessary to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making. Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.

Following from these principles, the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct contains a more specific code of conduct that includes such areas as maintaining confidentiality between clinicians and clients (including procedures relevant to the HIPPA legislation) and obtaining informed consent for services provided. While we recognize that, like other organizations, the physical, human resource, and other constraints of our Psychological Clinic and other practicum settings restrict our ability to attain perfect compliance at all times with the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct, the faculty are completely committed to continuously sensitize and educate each other about the nature and implications of the code in our relationships with each other, the students, and our clients in the Psychological Clinic and our other practicum settings. Besides this statement on the GSAPP web site, our commitment to APA's Principles and Code of Conduct is reflected by the following:

  1. At the beginning of each school year, all first-year students are oriented to the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct, including its implications for their actions with each other and with their clients.
  2. At the beginning of each school year, the Dean and Department Chairs email the GSAPP faculty and students to highlight the importance of GSAPP's commitment to abiding by APA's Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct.   
  3. In the spring or summer of their second year, all students take a course on Professional Ethics, Standards, and Career Development that includes a special focus on the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct and related documents from the APA, going in depth into their meaning and implications in a myriad of particular clinical situations. Both knowledge of specific conduct codes and the general process of ethical decision-making are emphasized.
  4.  In the summer of their second year, students take a Comprehensive Exam, including a question focusing on identifying problematic legal and ethical situations in clinical practice and how to address them effectively.  
  5. Faculty are alert to potential violations of the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct and seek preventive or remedial action when they occur. In line with this, students are encouraged to report such violations to the faculty.