Legal and Ethical Aspects of Professional Psychology Paper

Legal and Ethical Aspects of Professional Psychology Paper

PSYCH/660 – Ethics and Professional Issues


Legal and Ethical Aspects of Professional Psychology Paper

Professional psychology can be described in a numbers of ways. Nevertheless, there is one code of conduct with many standards that all psychologists have to follow. This is the Ethical Principles of Psychologist and Code of Conduct. The laws are in place to protect the psychologists, as well as the client. Professional ethics help psychologists maintain their competence by paying close attention to revision and regulation that may change.

In this paper, team B will analyze the ethical issues related to documenting informed consent and ethical release of treatment and assessment records, which enforceable standards are relevant to the release of treatment-related materials and disclosure of information arising out of treatment, we will provide specific examples of what each enforceable standard requires or prohibits, as well provide a rationale for your proposed actions in your example and why they are consistent with ethical guidelines, and finally we will evaluate the legal issues associated with assessment, testing, and diagnosis.

Ethical Issues Related to Documenting Informed Consent and Release of Assessment Records

There are several Ethical Standards that are relevant to the release of treatment-related materials and the disclosure of information. Standard Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity refers to the psychologist’s responsibility to protect the confidential information that is obtained from the client/patient (Fisher, 2013). Standard 4.01 of the American Psychological Association Ethic’s Code requires that all psychologists have to take reasonable precautions to protect the confidential information. Basically, information cannot be disclosed without the consent of the client/patient. Under the Ethical Code 3.10 informed consent can only be given by the client/patient or the legal guardian if the person is a minor or is unable to give consent based on medical needs.

Relevant Enforceable Standards to the Release of Treatment-related Materials and Disclosure of Information Arising out of Treatment

The enforceable standards that are relevant to the release of treatment are 2.01 Psychologists need to provide clients with services, within the boundaries of their competence. Code 2.01 coincides with Principle E, which state that psychologists need to protect their clients. 4.05 states that psychologists can release private information after getting consent from the organizational client, a patient, or a legal guardian of the client unless the law forbids it. (b) If the law states it is valid psychologist can release information without consent of client. (1) Provide needed professional services and also code 3.10 these enforceable standards are relevant due to the fact that psychologist are able to provide integrity for their profession and all clients by referring to the codes (Fisher, 2013).

Examples of What Each Enforceable Standard Requires or Prohibits

The code of ethics advises individuals that informed consent is covered in the ethical code of Standard 3.10, in which provides information about psychologists getting consent from their client/patient and in order to access the psychologist must retrieve written approval in order to transfer any client’s documents. The standard requires that the papers include the person who will retrieve the documents and the content of what is to be retrieved. All clients confirm these documents with their signature for protection otherwise; nothing is retrieved without a signature. Clients that are underage can get a legal guardian to provide the consent, this is stated in 3.10b. It provides those who are underage the opportunity to have legal representative or guardian to consent for the minor. This code also forbids psychologist in disclosing client information to any other individual without this consent. The HIPAA law, which has been active for years, also requires a written release of patients’ information.

Rationale for Proposed Actions Consistent with Ethical Guidelines

The examples of enforceable standards are consistent with ethical guidelines due to the fact that they ensure confidentiality for clients. Psychologist that study the codes and abide by what they are taught will not find it difficult to enforce the codes when the time is due. The proposed actions provide an ethical environment for psychologist and clients. The informed consent is seen as a way to provide privacy and protection to clients. These codes are consistent because psychologist following these ethical procedures will not have issues when it comes to the release of treatment related materials and disclosure of information.

Legal issues associated with assessment, testing, and diagnosis documentation

In the field of professional psychology there are standards by which psychologists are bound to follow with carrying out duties involving assessments, testing, and diagnosis documentation. From a legal perspective psychologists that provide expert testimony are bound by the five General Principles that help guild psychologists decision making by providing an analytic framework from which to identify those Ethical Standards that are appropriate to the situation at hand (Fisher, 2013). In this instant we are discussing the issues of expert testimony and record keeping as they relate to legal issues associated with assessment, testing, and diagnosis documentation in professional psychology. All records involved in an individual case are to be secured and maintained according to those ethical standards that are applicable. Psychologists make reasonable efforts to maintain the integrity and security of test materials and other assessment techniques consistent with law and contractual obligations, and in a manner that permits adherence to this Ethics Code (Fisher, 2013). Under the ethical standards psychologists do not allow unqualified persons to give or facilitate test that will become a matter of the client/patient records. Psychologists’ professional and scientific responsibilities to society and those with whom they work (Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility) include helping ensure that the administration, scoring, interpretation, and use of psychological tests are conducted only by those who are competent to do so by virtue of their education, training, or experience. Standard 9.07 prohibits psychologists from promoting the use of psychological assessment techniques by unqualified persons (Fisher, 2013). The information that is gleaned from these records and may play a vital role in court proceedings have come to the attention of the courts. Mental health professionals are not alone in receiving increased scrutiny of expert opinion in criminal and civil cases. In recent years, there has been an increase in federal and case law requiring judges to determine evidentiary admissibility of expert testimony based on the general acceptance of methods and procedures within the expert’s field (Fisher, 2013). Other information also has protection such as test that are given to the client/patient by a qualified psychologist and are shielded under the ethical standard 9.11 “Maintaining Test Security.” In addition to legal guidelines that may affect forensic assessments, ethical guidelines and rules will apply to the mental health professionals conducting the assessments. To carry out forensic assessments, the professional must be certified by his or her profession and, in some cases, must have certification specific to the conduct of forensic assessments. Examples of ethical guidelines governing mental health professionals include Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association, 1999), Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists (Committee on Ethical Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists, 1991), Ethical Guidelines for the Practice of Forensic, and Psychiatry (American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 2006). These guidelines will have a direct effect on the professional’s conduct of the forensic assessment (Hoge, 2012).

Legal Issues that Arise in Documenting Assessment, Testing, and Diagnosis

There are many legal issues that can arise when it comes to the misrepresentation of documentation of assessment, testing and diagnosis in the field of psychology. There are laws at both the state and federal level that regulate psychological record keeping. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPPA, consist of many guidelines for accurate record keeping. “HIPAA’s Privacy Rule and Security Rule have implications for the development, maintenance, retention, and security of medical and mental health records” (Record Keeping Guidelines, 2007)

According to Camara (1997), “Laws and legal documents about testing and assessment are generally vague and ambiguous, but it is clear that where they exist, they have greatly influenced both professional standards of conduct and professional practices in assessment and testing” (Camara, 1997). The government’s involvement in the regulation of testing is most evident in personnel testing. Issues such as discrimination of race, disability, religion, etc. are heavily discussed, but others such as validity of the measure are not acknowledged (Camara, 1997). Many of the legal issues that arise can refer to the qualifications of the persons executing these services or the delivery of the services, tools used, process of evaluating the results, or any combination of these elements (Camara, 1997). Such flaws in these areas can lead to class action lawsuits brought about by individuals who feel they were wrongfully assessed or diagnosed the mental health worker. The loss of such a suit can lead to the suspension or even worse the loss of one’s license.

Examples that Support Evaluation and Rationale for Proposed Actions Consistent with Legal Requirements

In the evaluation section of this paper, a psychologist being called as an expert witness is discussed in great length. Being called as an expert witness can create ethical challenges for the psychologist.

Scenario: Dr. Pines is called by the defense as an expert witness to attest to the mental status of their client. This client has never been diagnosed with a mental disorder, but the defense is hoping to plead not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI). After meeting with and assessing the client, Dr. Pines has come to a conclusion about his findings. The client has exposed a great deal of information to him. The doctor was sure to properly document all that the client has told him, but he is unsure of whether or not all of the information should be exposed, by him, in court.

There can be issues that arise surrounding what kind of information can be released in the courtroom because of ethical standards addressing confidentiality and disclosure. It wasn’t until 1962, following the case of Jenkins vs. US, that clinical psychologist were allowed to give an opinion of whether or not a mental disorder is present in the courts (Allan, 2010). If Dr. Pines repeats what was told to him during his interview with the client, he faces the possibility of a violation of the code of ethics. He also runs the risk of having his license suspended or taken away. Allan (2010) states, “The practice of psychologists’, who testify in court, even as witnesses of fact, is often scrutinized to a degree that is rarely experienced in other. Flaws in the professional conduct and performance of psychologists are therefore often exposed during court proceedings” (Allan, 2010).


To conclude, there will always remain many ethical standards that are designed to protect the clients, their privacy, and their rights when pertaining to legal recordkeeping. The Ethical Standards and Principles were solely produced to provide the direction for psychologists to comply with the many standards and to protect themselves, as well as their clients and/or patients (Fisher, 2013). Examining the ethical discrepanciesassociated with documenting and retrieving informed consent and the ethical release of assessment documents related to treatment will always prohibit any ethical violations if all Standards are followed effectively. Also, the enforceable standards remain imperative as it solely protects all parties in reference to the release of treatment-related documents and the disclosure of information presented throughout treatment.The examples provided above identifies the enforceable standards that are required, as well as those that are prohibited in order to protect the treatment of the clients, as well as the rationale proposed to understand the actions taken when an ethical issue arises. With the consistency of all ethical guidelines, any ethical or legal issues that occur can be resolved with the implementation of the ethical standards associated with all documentation involved in the psychology profession (i.e. assessment, testing, and diagnosis).


APA. (2015). Ethical Principals of of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Allan, A. (2010). Psychologists as expert witnesses in courts and tribunals. Retrieved October

25, 2015, from

Camara, W. (1997). Use and Consequences of Assessments in the USA: Professional, Ethical

and Legal Issues. European Journal of Psychological Assessment,13(2), 140-152.

Fisher, C. (2013). Decoding the ethics code: A practical guide for psychologists (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:: Sage.

Hoge, R. (2012, October). Forensic Assessments of Juveniles: Practice and Legal

Considerations. International Associaton for Correctional and Forensic Psychology, 39(9), 1255-1270.

Record Keeping Guidelines. (2007, December 1). Retrieved October 25, 2015, from

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