University of Phoenix
Survey of Professional Psychology
September 8th, 2010
Legal Aspects of Professional Psychology
Professional psychology has many complexities that set it apart from other recognized branches of psychology. The intricacies of professional psychology make it fodder for legal consideration. The patients and clinicians have an obligation to one another to adhere to the guidelines set forth according to the American Psychological Association (heretofore known as APA) that protects both parties’ rights. In this paper, the legal aspects of professional psychology will be discussed in detail. The concepts of informed consent and psychological assessment/testing/diagnostics will be examined. The effects of legislation and competency will also be discussed as it pertains to professional psychology. The principle of informed consent is an integral component of the foundation of legal and ethical practice in professional psychology. According to the Encyclopedia of Human Genome: “ Historically informed consent has its origins in two parallel strands of thought within moral philosophy and within law. Within moral philosophy, the concept of individual autonomy has become increasingly important during the last 250 years. It has been realized that there is normally not sufficient justification to override the considered decisions of competent persons” (2003). Across the world, legal systems have traditional beliefs regarding the prohibition of the manipulation of an individual’s body without their consent. However, in recent years these prohibitions have been expanded to include intangible components of a person such as their personal information. This concept is bolstered by the focus on basic human rights that is founded in legal theory. In an ideal situation people consenting to treatment or research as part of a psychological experience would be capable of making their own logical decisions about participation through the application of informed consent. If someone is found to be taking advantage of a person or group of people without the use of informed consent they may face stiff penalties in accordance with the governing laws of their jurisdiction which may result in the revocation of their professional license and/or imprisonment. For most people, the words informed consent brings to mind a piece of paper that one must sign in order to receive treatment or participate in some sort of study, but in actuality it is much more complicated. Informed consent involves supplying the participant or patient with all relevant information as it pertains to the study being conducted or treatment given. Secondly, the person delivering the information must ensure that the person receiving the information has a full and thorough understanding of what is being explained. This would mean that the person making the decision to participate in research or receive treatment is capable of making such autonomous decisions of consent. It is essential to ensure that the person receiving the information is not being coerced in any fashion to protect their human and legal rights, whether it is the decision to accept treatment or to refuse. It is also important to note that once given, consent may be withdrawn at any time at the request of the participant or patient. When obtaining informed consent it may be necessary to have the interested participant(s) undergo psychological assessment, testing and diagnosis to ascertain their suitability to receive treatment or participate in a study. However, one must be sure to conduct all of these practices fairly and indiscriminately so as not to produce biased or tainted results that violate and/or exploit the interested person(s) basic human rights. Clinicians should be impartial in their approach and avoid hasty generalizations when doing psychological assessments and...