Legal Aspects of Psychology

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Legal Aspects of Professional Psychology
Heidi Andrews
University of Phoenix – Psych 545
Dr. Meghan Kelley
August 2, 2010

Legal Aspects of Professional Psychology
The legal aspects and issues are a large part of the world of psychology. This topic covers a vast area such as assessments, testing, diagnosing, HIPPA, confidentiality, written consent, case studies, and many more. Professionals struggle with making sure they are not breaking any laws every day and still caring for every patient to the best of their abilities. There are various ways of legally mistreating a patient and this will also be covered in this paper. Throughout this paper, the different legal aspects will be covered and some statistics will be brought to light and examined as their relation to the field of psychology. Legal Issues Related to Informed Consent and Refusal

The definition of informed consent is the result of a process of reaching an agreement to work collaboratively. The process of informed consent provides the client and the therapist a chance to get on the same page. The client needs to understand what treatment that the therapist has in mind for them. This also tends to be a recurrent process. The patient can consent to an initial psychological assessment but then months later it should be altered based on the results of reactions of the patients progress. (Rosenfeld, 2010)

In 1972, the case of Cobbs v. Grant this was quoted “It is the prerogative of the patient, not the physician, to determine for himself the direction in which he believes his interests lie. To enable the patient to chart his course knowledgeably, reasonable familiarity with the therapeutic alternatives and their hazards becomes essential”. There is case after case with quote after quote giving patients the right to choose their own treatment or refuse their treatment. (Pope and Vasquez, 2007)

Legal Issues Associated with Assessment, Testing, and Diagnosing
Assessments, testing, and diagnosing are very important in psychology and can change a client’s life. These tools have deciding factors on custody, a person’s reputation, involuntary hospitalization, employment, and possibly even going to prison. The client must fully understand the nature, purpose, and technique of the assessment. Assuming the client understands the testing is not just a written test. Some simply nod out of being anxious or trying to please the therapist out of fear of looking ignorant. It is the therapist responsibility to explain fully and to decide whether or not the client understands what is being said before they proceed. (Pope and Vasquez, 2007)

The legal issues involved with diagnosis are the importance of using the correct diagnosis especially when a client has insurance. Some insurance do not provide coverage and services for certain diagnoses. It has been brought to providers’ attention that some physicians will change the diagnosis so that the client can receive benefits from the provider. This comes back to the physician. The providers have begun to hire investigators and legal teams to stop physicians from doing this with clients. (Psychological Association 1963, 2010) Importance of Maintaining Confidentiality in Therapy

Confidentiality is one of the worst for therapist’s areas of violations. It is not usually out of malicious intent. It is from stress, fatigue, and becoming unaware. There are many things that can happen to therapist that are just easy for them to overlook. They do not even have the luxury of going home and speaking to their spouse about their day in fear of accidentally mentioning a client’s name. They cannot go to the gym to blow off some steam due to the off chance that someone there may know them and may know their patients and put two and two together. They cannot have the luxury of being unorganized and having other client’s charts lying around their office while they have a session with another client with the chance that someone will see...
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