Legal Aspects of Professional Psychology

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Legal Aspects of Professional Psychology
Terri Smith
PSYCH/545 Survey of Professional Psychology
Dr. Erica Wansel
August 26, 2012

Professional psychology has simplicities that set it apart from other recognized branches of psychology. The twist and turns of professional psychology make it where legal has to be taken into consideration. In any type of medical field legal always play a major role. The patients and clinicians have an obligation to one another to abide by the guidelines set forth according to the American Psychological Association (known as APA) that protects both parties’ rights. In this paper, the importance of maintaining confidentiality in a therapeutic relationship will be discussed. The influence of legislation on professional psychology will be evaluated. The role of competence in professional psychology will be explained. The legal issues related to informed consent and refusal will be analyzed. Finally, the legal issues associated with assessment, testing, and diagnosis in professional psychology will be evaluated. Importance of Confidentiality in a Therapeutic Relationship

Mental health professionals are encountered with a widespread range of ethical and legal issues involving confidentiality in therapeutic relationships. Their practice often comes in contact with other disciplines, which can lead to struggles in upholding confidentiality. For example, in the criminal justice field, people wonder if mental health professional can preserve the confidentiality of inmate/patient information. There are other issues that suggest whether mental health professionals should break confidentiality when patients are considering harming themselves or others. Confidentiality is important because mental health professional must know to whom the information should be disclosed to and how much information should they know. There are a number of ethical provisions dealing with confidentiality in therapeutic relationships. The Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) Code of Ethics (2004) states that exception to maintaining confidentiality has to be taken very seriously. They may be allowed where there is a serious risk to the patient or another person, where required by law, where part of approved research, or where there are overwhelming societal interests. However, the code does not provide examples of what constitutes such overwhelming societal interests. More precisely, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Code of Ethics (2004) provides that “psychiatrists shall strive to maintain patient confidentiality” and further expresses how they can achieve this. It recognizes that confidentiality cannot be absolute and that any breach requires a careful balance of conflicting interests. Among other specifications, it permits disclosure if a patient intends to harm an identified person or persons, and it acknowledges an overriding duty to inform victims or relevant authorities.

Legislation on Professional Psychology
Psychologist’s contemplated legal issues long before psychology and law could be developed in the United States as an acknowledged field in 1970. There were a lot of articles that didn’t relate to psychology but today members of the American Psychology-Law (APLS) influence policy in the American Psychological Association (APA). Both APA and APLS have significant resources to increase psychology’s influence on law-related policy issues (Heilbrun, 1995 & Ogloff, 1996). Unfortunately, growing influence has not brought increased concern for justice. When the field began, June Tapp and Felice Levine based Law, Justice, and the Individual in Society: Psychological and Legal Issues (1977) on their assumption that "the union of social science and law promotes justice". This assumption reflected the field's initial effort to "challenge and transform a prevailing 'judicial common sense' that had been used to keep the disenfranchised down so long" (Haney,...