Ethical Issues in Relation to Psychotherapy Clinical Practice

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Ethical Issues in Relation to Psychotherapy Clinical Practice Topic Analysis
Professional Practice Module: 588623

Tarsha Warin

Lecturers: Dr Antoinette McCallin & Peter Greener
Submitted: November 3rd 2005

Introduction
I will begin this topic analysis by dividing the assignment up into four sections. The topic I am choosing to analyse is the complexity of ethical issues in relation to psychotherapy practice. Specifically these ethical issues will include the relationship, privacy and confidentiality issues, and a brief discussion of sexuality and economic cost efficiency. In section one I will include a brief outline of ethics and general ethical issues within a psychotherapy context. Section two considers health reforms and professional regulation legislation within New Zealand’s health sector. In section three I discuss the specific ethical issues as stated above within a psychotherapeutic setting and finally in section four I outline the impact of the Treaty of Waitangi on ethical practice in psychotherapy.

Section One
Ethical Issues within Psychotherapy
It is important to begin this assignment by briefly defining the term “ethics.” The Oxford Dictionary (1999) describes ethics as a, “moral principle and a moral philosophy” (p.176). This gives a simple description that gives us a basic framework to begin to work from, however, it does not clarify the issues of complexity involved when dealing with ethical issues in professional practice or in general. Some of these ethical issues include, economic scarcity, delivery systems, different patient care, increasing information, advances in medical technology and changing interprofessional roles (Reigle & Boyle, 2000).

From my perspective ethics means a body of principles that we reflect on and act on both individually and corporately within a social setting. Ethics is the foundation for decision making, guidelines for professional practice and an expression of values individually and collectively. Ethics is therefore a process of human problem solving, involving emotions and reasoning. Ethics is not to do with finding objective truths or answers (Auckland University of Technology Lecture, 2005). Comstock (1994) states, “ethics are the study of arguments regarding moral right or wrong, good and bad, insofar as the arguments concern professional matters related to the maintenance of health, as well as those principles that prescribe how practitioners will work to actualise or improve the well-being of the client” (p.1297).

What is an ethical issue? What is an ethical decision? Why are they necessary? Who defines them? And why and how are they applied? These are important questions that are relevant to my psychotherapy practice and which I attempt to answer throughout this assignment. Mitchel (1996) describes an “ethical issue” as, “concerns involving disagreements or opposing views among two or more parties (patients, families, physicians, psychotherapists, insurance companies) about what is the right or best decision related to patient care” (p.10). An “ethical decision” is an attempt to reach a rational consensus through a systematic framework involving a diversity of individuals and opinions that possibly conflict (Comstock, 1994). Is ethics a necessary part of society? I’d have to answer yes, as ethics give us some basic guidelines, principles and assumptions with which to construct social meaning.

Psychotherapeutic practice is a specialised interpersonal health practice which works with individuals and bodies of individuals who suffer overwhelming life afflictions, discomfort, pain and conflict and who are in need of external help (Feltham, 1999). Besides the very diverse and complex biological, physicalogical and psychological world of these individuals, therapists also have to be aware of the environmental sources that have significantly impacted on these individuals, such as, school, work, family, community, culture and...
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