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Ethical Dilemma in Psychology: Case Study

The Circumstantiality Trap and Ethical Decision Making

Case Study:

The circumstantiality trap states that there cannot always be right or wrong as answers to a given ethical situation. A certain action may not always be unethical depending upon the circumstance under which that particular action was taken resort to. For instance, a person breaks a signal in order to take his pregnant wife who is about to give birth to the hospital. An official of police catches him but does not give him a ticket and lets him go. In this situation the person driving deserved to be given a ticket but the official decided not to give him the ticket because his action was ethical in the circumstance. (Leach, Stevens, Lindsay, Ferrero & Korkut, 2012) So in the given scenario I being psychologist have to act as per the circumstance since I know the wife is having an affair with one of my friends I should talk to the friend concerned about the problem and try to resolve it. I need not inform my clients about the fact that the said person is my friend as it would do no good.
The ethical trap of who will benefit is the result of the uncertainty as to who would benefit from a certain decision. This decision requires the decision maker to take sides. The resolution of the dilemma would not necessarily be in the interest of the client. It might be in the interest of other people as well. (Francis, 2009) For instance, If one of my clients reveal that he/ she is planning to rob a bank then the client’s interest would be served if I maintain confidentiality. This would be a short term interest of the client. However if I report to the authorities then my clients larger interest would be served as he would be saved from getting caught while doing the act and being subjected to very harsh punishment. The interest of the public at large would also be served with this decision.
From the above study we can see that the psychologist in the given situation is facing a dilemma.
If I being the psychologist in the given situation reveal to the wife that the husband is aware of her illicit relationship then I would be breaching the principle of confidentiality as provided under point A5.1 of the Code of Ethics. ('Code of Ethics Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association', 2009)But the principle of honesty provides that such honest decisions must not be taken which have the potential to harm people at large. So in this situation if I reveal to the husband that I personally know the person with whom his wife has affair, it would not serve any good to anybody. However if I reveal to the wife that her husband is aware of her illicit relationship and talk to my friend with whom the wife is having an affair, as well, then I might be able to solve the problem.
I have to deal with this scenario by first identifying the problem for which the clients are seeking my help. I will then have to assess the options available. If it seems that the best available option is to continue with the therapy notwithstanding the revelation of the client then I should continue with the therapy. (Australian Psychological Society, 2012)
As provided in the Code of Ethics this is a case of multiple relationships as the psychologist is in a non professional relationship with a party associated with the client. Psychologists should generally not get involved in multiple relationships. But point C3.3 provides that when a psychologist cannot help but get involved in multiple relationships he/ she must adhere to pint A.3 which talks about informed consent. This provision provides that psychologists must acquire the consent of the client in writing.
By using the guidelines stated above a decision will have to be made. I being the psychologist am accountable to both the husband and the wife. Since both of them are my clients. Moreover even if the husband wants me not to disclose to the wife that he knows she has an illicit affair yet it is the ethical duty of the psychologist to inform her about the fact. As I personally know the person with whom the wife has an affair I should even consider talking to him about the entire situation in spite of the fact that it would breach my code of conduct. I am in this case faced with a circumstantial ethical trap. Thus even if I breach the code of confidentiality by talking to my friend yet my action would not be unethical as it is the need of the situation. But I ought not disclose to husband that I personally know the person with whom his wife is having an illicit relationship.

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