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Running head: LEARNING TASK 2 1

Learning task 2: Ethical decision-making assignment

Gabriel Abraham Mandel
University of Calgary


Learning task 2: Ethical decision-making assignment
The Issue
Despite asking the women participating in my dissertation not to reveal the identities of
their former therapists, I have learned their names and am now forced to decide what to do with
this information. Since this information has come out during a non-invasive research activity
and not within a therapist-client relationship between the women and me, I may not feel any
obligation to act on their behalves or on any of my own merits. I may not have any grounds to
file a complaint on these therapists, nor may I hold an appropriate relationship with the women
involved as to give them advice regarding any action they would like to take. On the other hand,
as a student intending to become a practicing psychologist in the near future, I may feel ethically
obligated (both personally and professionally) to safeguard any further effects these womens
former therapists behavior may have on their clients and my participants. Moreover, I may
consider myself obligated to follow The Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (The Code;
2000), since I will soon be entering the discipline of psychology and will make many decisions
in the future practicing under The Code. I must familiarize myself with The Codes ethical
decision-making model, and can choose to use this model now to decide my next course of
Using The Codes (2000) Ethical Decision-Making Model
Step 1. Identification of the Individuals and Groups Potentially Affected by the Decision
The participating women involved (i.e., the two who have named their former
therapists; The Women).
The Womens former therapists.
These former therapists current and future clients.

The Womens current therapists
Step 2. Identification of Ethically Relevant Issues and Practices, Including the Interests,
Rights, and Any Relevant Characteristics of the Individuals and Groups Involved and of
the System or Circumstances in Which the Ethical Problem Arose
Looking through the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (The Code; Canadian
Psychological Association, 2000), several ethical principles, values, and standards stood out as
relevant to this scenario. In the table below, there are 20 standards, categorized by their
respective values and principles. Of these 20 standards, 12 fall under the first ethical principle,
Respect for the Dignity of Persons; two under Principle II, Responsible Caring; three under
Principle III, Integrity in Relationships; and, two under the fourth principle, Responsibility to


Value: General respect

I.1 Demonstrate appropriate respect for the
knowledge, insight, experience, and areas of
expertise of others.

I.3 Strive to use language that conveys respect
for the dignity of persons as much as possible
in all written or oral communication.

My Thoughts

I need to maintain respect for The Womens
current therapists by not infringing on any
therapeutic progress that may be occuring
within the womens sessions.

If I consult with The Womens current
therapists, I must do so in a way that does not
undermine their progress or rapport with their
clients. If I decide to confront the former
therapists or make formal complaints against
them, I must do so in a way that conveys
respect for their dignity as a person, despite the
feelings I, and their former clients, may have
for them.


Value: General Rights

I.8 Respect the right of research participants,
clients, employees, supervisees, students,
trainees, and others to safeguard their own

Value: Non-discrimination

I.10 Act to correct practices that are unjustly

Value: Informed Consent

I.16 Seek as full and active participation as
possible from others in decisions that affect
them, respecting and integrating as much as
possible their opinions and wishes.

I.18 Respect the expressed wishes of persons to
involve others (e.g., family members,
community members) in their decision making
regarding informed consent. This would
include respect for written and clearly
expressed unwritten advance directives.

In order to respect the right of these women to
safeguard their own dignity, it may be
necessary to either encourage them to file
formal complaints against their former
therapists or for me to file complaints on their

I may have a duty, as a psychologist, to file
complaints myself if I discover that The
Women have been receiving advantageous or
disadvantageous therapeutic consequences due
to their relationship with their former
therapists. For example, The Women may have
been given lower fees as a benefit to their
relationships, or their sessions may have been
threatened if they were to cease their

I must include The Womens participation in
forming my decision as they are central
individuals in this situation. My decision could
directly impact the lives of these women, so I
have to respect and integrate their opinions and
wishes as much as possible.

I should also include The Womens current
therapists in deciding what to do since they are
involved since referring their clients to my
project. This would ensure that my actions will
not affect their current progress in therapy and
The Women would have support and guidance
from someone they trust.

The Women may like to involve others in their
decision to provide consent if I were to make a
formal complaint to their former therapists
(whether the complaint is on their behalf, or
not). The Women, for example, may wish to
include their current significant others as the
decision may affect their relationships.

I.21 Establish and use signed consent forms
that specify the dimensions of informed
consent or that acknowledge that such
dimensions have been explained and are
understood, if such forms are required by law
or if such forms are desired by the
psychologist, the person(s) giving consent, or
the organization for whom the psychologist

I.25 Provide new information in a timely
manner, whenever such information becomes
available and is significant enough that it
reasonably could be seen as relevant to the
original or ongoing informed consent.

Value: Freedom of Consent

I.27 Take all reasonable steps to ensure that
consent is not given under conditions of
coercion, undue pressure, or undue reward.

Value: Privacy

I.37 Seek and collect only information that is
germane to the purpose(s) for which consent
has been obtained.

I.40 Respect the right of research participants,
employees, supervisees, students, and trainees
to reasonable personal privacy.

If The Women would like me to make a
complaint on their behalf, I may request a
signed consent form specifying that it is upon
their desire.

If I feel it is my ethical duty to file a complaint,
The Women may request a consent form that
prohibits any further involvement on their

The Womens current therapists may require
The Women sign a consent form that specifies
their (the therapists) opinions or degree of
involvement in the matter.

I should keep The Women and their current
therapists updated following whatever course
of action I choose to take as the consequences
could directly impact them. For example, the
complaint could eventually call upon The
Women to testify about their relationships with
the former therapists, an event which may not
have been specified in the consent form.

I must make sure The Women understand that
they are free to decide if they would like to
make a formal complaint themselves, have me
file on their behalf, or choose not to have any
further involvement with their former

I should ensure that, if I decide to file a
complaint (on behalf of The Women, or not), I
only base it on information directly relevant to
the issue.

This issue directly involves The Womens
personal lives, and so I must respect their rights
to personal privacy if they choose to abstain
involvement in my course of action.


Value: Confidentiality

I.45 Share confidential information with others
only with the informed consent of those
involved, or in a manner that the persons
involved cannot be identified, except as
required or justified by law, or in circumstances
of actual or possible serious physical harm or


Value: General Caring

II.3 Accept responsibility for the consequences
of their actions.

Value: Offset/Correct Harm

II.41 Act also to stop or offset the
consequences of harmful activities carried out
by another psychologist or member of another
discipline, when the harm is not serious or the
activities appear to be primarily a lack of
sensitivity, knowledge, or experience, and
when the activities have come to their attention
outside of a confidential client relationship
between themselves and the psychologist or
member of another discipline. This may
include talking informally with the
psychologist, obtaining objective
information and the assurance that the harm
will discontinue and be corrected


Value: Straightforwardness/Openness

III.16 Fully explain reasons for their actions to
persons who have been affected by their
actions, if appropriate and if asked.

I must receive The Womens informed consent
if I were to consult a colleague in my decision
making; or, I must maintain anonymity for The
Women during my chosen course of action if
they choose to cease their involvement in my

If The Women choose to file complaints using
any advice or guidance on my part, I must
accept responsibility for any consequences that
may occur.

As I learned the names of The Womens former
therapists outside of a confidential client
relationship (I even specifically asked all of the
women participating in my dissertation not to
divulge this information, yet they did
voluntarily), I should speak informally with the
two womens former therapists. Standard II.41
obliges me to give the other persons (former
therapists) a fair chance to explain and take
responsibility for their actions and avoid future
harm (Sinclair & Pettifor, 2001).

Whatever I choose to do, I must fully explain
my actions to the women involved, their
current therapists, their former therapists, or to
all parties involved.

III.18 Honor all promises and commitments
included in any written or verbal agreement,
unless serious and unexpected circumstances
(e.g., illness) intervene

Value: Reliance on the Discipline

III.38 Seek consultation from colleagues and/or
appropriate groups and committees, and give
due regard to their advice in arriving at a
responsible decision, if faced with difficult


Value: Beneficial Activities

IV.13 Uphold the disciplines responsibility to
society by bringing incompetent or unethical
behavior, including misuses of psychological
knowledge and techniques, to the attention of
appropriate authorities, committees, or
regulatory bodies, in a manner consistent with
the ethical principles of this Code, if informal
resolution or correction of the situation is not
appropriate or possible.

Value: Extended Responsibility

IV.30 Encourage others, in a manner consistent
with this Code, to exercise responsibility to

Whatever involvement The Women consent to,
and no matter the action I choose to take, I
must follow through with whatever decision is
made. For example, if The Women consent
and I decide to act on their behalf, I must honor
this commitment and file the complaint.

I might want to consult colleagues of mine in
forming a decision around my next course of

According to this Standard, I have a duty to
uphold the discipline of psychologys
responsibility to society by bringing the actions
of The Womens former therapists to the
attention of their supervisors, ethics
committees, and/or regulatory bodies. As
included in Standard II.41, however, I should
first approach these therapists informally to
offer an opportunity for them to take
responsibility themselves.

The code suggests that I should either
encourage The Womens former therapists to
take responsibility for their own unethical
behavior, or to encourage The Women to make
their own formal complaints against their
former therapists.


Step 3. Consideration of How Personal Biases, Stresses, or Self-Interest Might Influence the
Development of or Choice Between Courses of Action
As a graduate student, not yet licensed or accredited under any college or organization, I
wonder where my competencies and responsibilities lie in this situation. I acknowledge that I
lack experience encountering ethical dilemmas and have never had to refer to an ethical code
when guiding any decisions. I thus realize that I lack a degree of confidence in the area of
ethical decision-making a realization that could add stress to my decision-making process. It is
possible that this added stress could make me self-conscious about my decision-making ability,
making me second-guess any possible courses of action that I might consider taking. I also need
to realize, however, that I am close to becoming a psychologist, and will learn to gain confidence
by thinking back to my ethics course and looking towards The Code (2000) for guidance.
Further, as a soon-to-be psychologist, I feel angry and ashamed, on behalf of the
discipline, that colleagues would take advantage (intentional, or not) of their role as therapist.
Individuals seeking or engaged in psychological services are considered vulnerable persons
(CPA, 2000), and therapists must acknowledge and embrace this fact by maintaining a strict
therapist-client relationship. During decision-making, I may feel a duty to bring the former
therapists to justice, so to speak, and end up basing my actions strictly out of indignation. I will
have to put effort into keeping focused on the welfare of The Women and the welfare of these
therapists current female clients.
Lastly, I may feel hesitant to get involved any further with The Women and their
relationships with their former therapists because I dont want to start my professional career
with a reputation for destroying others careers. I want to eventually offer psychological services
locally, where I am living now during my dissertation. I may fear alienation from potential

colleagues if information about my involvement in the reprimands of The Womens former
therapists were to spread to other local professionals.
Step 4. Development of Alternative Courses of Action
There are several courses of action that I feel are worthy of consideration.
Alternative 1.
As I have not yet earned my doctorate, am not a licensed and practicing psychologist, nor
am I The Womens therapist, I may feel that I do not have grounds for acting in a way which
could impact The Womens own decisions and feelings, or their former therapists careers and
reputations, in any way. Therefore, one course of action would be not to do anything further
with my newfound information.
Alternative 2.
A second course of action is to encourage The Women to file formal complaints against
their respective former therapists. Before I advise them to do so, however, I should get their
permission to speak with their current therapists for consultation surrounding my dilemma and
the impact that my advice to The Women could have on their present therapies (Standard I.16).
If these therapists believe that encouraging The Women to file complaints may be beneficial to
The Womens well-being (e.g. give closure, restore sense of trust, etc.) and not impede any
progress within their sessions, then I will advise The Women to do so. I should also encourage
The Women to include their families or significant others in their decision, as stated in Standard
I.18. This alternative allows me to have an indirect role in filing the complaint, which may be
appropriate as I still may not feel obligated under The Code (2000) to personally take any direct


Alternative 3.
A third alternative is to file a formal complaint against The Womens former therapists
myself, with or without The Womens consent. I may feel comfortable, and obliged, to be
guided by The Codes (2000) principles, values, and standards to take direct action in this
scenario, seeing how I am amidst the end-stages of training to becoming a practicing
psychologist. Following Standard I.18, (The Code, 2000), I would encourage The Women to
include their families or significant others in deciding consent for me to file the complaint on
their behalf (I.18). If The Women do wish that I file on their behalf, I should also try to speak to
their current therapists for the same reasons as in Alternative 2. If The Women do not wish me
to make a complaint on their behalf (do not give consent), their current therapists disagree with
my involvement, I would still feel an obligation under Principle IV.13 to file my own complaint.
In this case, I must keep anonymity for The Women by filing a complaint which excludes their
names or further involvement. .Further, as to respect the former therapists dignity as persons,
and to maintain Standards II.41 and III.16 of The Code, I would informally approach the subject
with each of these former therapists. This would allow these therapists opportunity take
responsibility for their actions by reporting their unethical behaviors to their appropriate
regulatory bodies themselves.
Step 5. Analysis of Likely Short-term, Ongoing, or Long-term risks and benefits of each
course of action on the individual(s)/group(s) Involved or Likely to be Affected
Possible Positive Consequences

Alternative 1

Moving forward, life would go on as if I had
not learned the names of these therapists.
Nobody would be affected by any direct, or
indirect, action due to my involvement.
Possible Negative Consequences

In the short- and/or long-term, The Women
may develop feelings (or continue to feel) that
their former therapists did, indeed, take
advantage of them and ought to be

Alternative 2

In the short-term, and with support from The
Womens current therapists and
family/partners, The Women could feel a sense
of relief and closure by recognizing the
unethical nature of their past relationships with
their former therapists. The consequence could
be beneficial to their well-being.

The Women would testify to the intimate
relationships in question, and the well-being of
the former therapists current female clients
would be safeguarded by official investigations
or reprimands concerning these therapists

I have no direct involvement with filing the
complaint, and will not create a negatively-
perceived reputation for myself amongst my
future colleagues.
reprimanded for their intimate dual-
relationships. The Women may not have the
courage or know-how to make formal
complaints on their own, and may yearn for
closure of the entire situation which could
negatively impact their emotional well-being
moving forward.

In the long-term, without a formal
investigation, the former therapists could
continue abusing their therapist role with
future female clients. The potential well-being
of countless women could be at risk.

The Womens current therapists disapprove of
their clients filing the complaint, and so a
complaint would not be filed because I also do
not deem myself an appropriate complainant.

The Womens current therapists do approve,
but The Women nevertheless develop feelings
of guilt for what they have done to the former
therapists, and also begin to resent their
relationship with their current therapists and

The Womens families and/or significant
others either did not know about their partners
past intimate relationships with their therapists
or do not want to dwell on the past, and filing
the complaint creates turmoil within The
Womens current relationships.

The act of testifying causes feelings of
sympathy towards The Womens former
therapists and guilt for the consequences
testifying have produced.

By not taking direct involvement, local
professionals, should they happen to hear about
this, may believe that I do not have what it
takes to practice ethical decision-making as a

Alternative 3

A complaint would be filed no matter what,
whether it is from me with, or without, The
Womens support, or whether The Womens
former therapists take responsibility
themselves. Any further unethical behavior by
those therapists would cease to occur,
protecting the well-being of other female

The Women, whether they consented or not,
may feel the sense of closure and experience an
increased emotional well-being.

psychologist, and alienate me for that reason.

These therapists current clients, of whom are
not being subjected to any unethical behaviors,
may be compromised if sessions come to an
abrupt halt.

If not consented, The Women may regret ever
participating in my dissertation, and feel
sympathy and remorse for whatever happens to
their former therapists.

Step 6. Choice of Course of Action after Conscientious Application of Existing Principles,
Values, and Standards.
The possible effects of Alternative 1 seem to be unbalanced with respect to the risks
versus benefits, risks outweighing the benefits. Either nothing beneficial and nothing negative
happens, or only negative effects occur. For this reason, I will rule out the first alternative.
Alternative 2 takes into account some values and standards of Principle I, Respect for the
Dignity of Persons, however, not feeling a complete sense of duty to The Code limits the number
of disciplinary standards and values that I would adhere to. This alternative also risks The
Womens well-being when it comes down to testifying. Further, in filing the complaint
themselves, The Womens current relationships may encounter conflict and strife, and I may also
earn a reputation of tepidness and be alienated by potential colleagues.
In Alternative 3, however, the possible effects of furthering The Womens current
progress in therapy, increasing their well-being by producing feelings of closure, and/or halting

any further unethical behavior by the former therapists each individually outweigh the possible
negative consequences listed in Step 5. Moreover, this course of action accounts for values and
standards under all four of The Codes (2000) principles. Since I am determined to become a
practicing psychologist, and am almost through my doctoral training, I will choose to carry out
Alternative 3.
Step 7. Action with a Commitment to Assume Responsibility for the Consequences of the
I will have to accept responsibility for filing the complaint as a third party, whether it is
on behalf of The Women, or not. If it is on their behalves, I will keep them up-to-date with the
regulatory bodys investigation, or with information regarding their need to testify. I would also
accept these former therapists current clients as my own, or refer them to other professionals as
quickly as possible.
Step 8. Evaluation of the Results of the Course of Action
I will check in with The Women and their current therapists to ensure their well-being
during the investigations against the former therapists, offering my own services if they are in
Step 9. Assumption of Responsibility for the Consequences of Action, Including Correction
of Negative Consequences, If Any, or Re-engaging in the Decision-making Process If
Ethical Issue is Not Resolved
If, in fact, The Women were lying this whole time, I would have to accept responsibility
of making accusations against the former therapists and discrediting their reputations. If The
Womens emotional well-being declines due to my filing complaints, I would offer any
psychological services I can to them.

Step 10. Appropriate Action, as Warranted and Feasible, to Prevent Future Occurrences of
the Dilemma
This dilemma seems to have been unpreventable, as the participants acted against my
requests; however, in the future, if I were to engage in another research project, I would state my
wishes (or lack thereof) even more explicitly than I had during my dissertation. I will also try to
prevent myself and other colleagues from engaging in inappropriate dual relationships with
clients by regularly reviewing The Code (2000), attending ethics workshops, and continuing to
report unethical behaviors when I encounter them.


Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. (1999). Code of ethics. Ottawa: Author.
Sinclair, C., & Pettifor, J. (Eds.) (2001). Companion manual to the Canadian Code of Ethics for
Psychologists (3
ed.). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Psychological Association.