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About Me

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  1. Finally! Some therapists are recognizing the importance of acknowledging mistakes, apologizing for them, learning from them, and obtaining permission before engaging in interventions. http://www.nicabm.com/why-practitioners-need-to-talk-about-mistakes/ It's about time --- since these are considered basic professional responsibilities in most professions!
  2. I recently came across the article The Code Not Taken: The Path From Guild Ethics to Torture and Our Continuing Choices (https://kspope.com/PsychologyEthics.php), discussing ethics in psychology. Its main focus is the scandal about how APA policies supported “enhanced interrogation” policies at Guantanamo, etc., but it also speaks to more general ethical concerns for psychologists. A quote from the abstract: “The controversy … asks whether our lives and organizations reflect professional ethics or guild ethics. Professional ethics protect the public against abuse of professional power, expertise, and practice, and hold members accountable to values beyond self-interest. Guild ethics place members' interests above public interest, edge away from accountability, and tend to masquerade as professional ethics. Psychology's path to involvement in torture began before 9/11 and the "war on terror" with a move from professional ethics to guild ethics. In sharp contrast to its previous codes, APA's 1992 ethics code reflected guild ethics, as did the subsequent 2002 code (APA, 2002). Guild ethics are reflected in the questionable nature of APA's, 2006, 2007a, 2008a, and 2015 policies on interrogation and torture. This article examines tactics used to maintain the façade of professional ethics despite over a decade of publicized reports…of documentary evidence of psychology's organizational involvement in what came to be called "enhanced interrogations." It asks if we use versions of these tactics in our individual lives. If a credible identity, integrity, and professional ethics are not reflected in our individual lives, it is unlikely they will thrive in our profession and organizations.” I had a sense of irony in reading this, for two reasons. First, when I read (in around 2006) a book on ethics co-written by Kenneth Pope (I think it was the second edition of the book), my impression* was that it was more like what Pope here describes as “guild ethics” than what he describes as “professional ethics”. Second, because therapists I tried before 1992 engaged in practices (such as not answering questions about what they were doing and why) that I consider examples of “guild” rather than “professional” ethics. In a section called, “Choosing Ethical Awareness,” Pope writes, “The torture controversy and the choices that led up to it provide a grim inventory of guild ethics, willful ignorance, denial, and discrediting critics. If we call up the courage to take an honest look, do we see those tactics in our own lives? Have we stopped listening to colleagues of certain disciplines, theoretical orientations, or political views because what, after all, do they know? Do we jump to discount, discredit, silence, or avoid certain kinds of criticism and words—both spoken and written—that call our beliefs, approaches, and actions into question? Do we have a safe stock of go-to consultants we count on to give us the answers we want to hear? Do we live our professional lives in the safety of "gated communities" of like-minded colleagues who read the same journals, see things as we do, and aim criticism at outsiders, never at those within the community? If we see at least some forms of some of these tendencies in ourselves, as I'm pretty sure most of us will, and find they no longer fit who we want to be, what can we do? We can start to search out and listen to those who disagree sharply with us and are willing to challenge and critique our ethical assumptions, beliefs, choices, and actions. Luckily—or not—such folk are remarkably easy to find. We can read more widely, opening books and articles that challenge our outlook, our decision-making, and how we like to do things.” Sadly, he didn’t include “listen to our clients.” * Things I remember most strikingly from the book that gave this impression of “guild ethics” are connected with informed consent. First, informed consent seemed to be presented as something that only concerned a written document, not including the notion of informed consent as an ongoing process, where therapists explain why they propose to do something and ask if the client consents before proceeding. Second, the only example of an “informed consent document” they gave in the book was not an informed consent form for therapy, but for filing a complaint. Third, one of their “scenarios for thought and discussion” said (paraphrased from my memory) something like, “You have a new client who has recently lost his sight in an accident and is seeking therapy to help him adjust to this new circumstance. The informed consent form is not available in Braille. What would you do?” I found this astonishingly poorly thought out, since someone who recently lost his sight in an accident would not yet be able to read Braille!
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