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Ethical Responsibilities in reporting forensic assessment findings accurately

 An assessment completed by a Forensic Psychologist is unique and challenging. Interviewing a person who has been charged with a crime involves careful application of informed consent, detailed record keeping, specifically-selected and relevant assessment usage, careful consideration of civil liability and civil rights, and a full understanding of boundaries and competence and information disclosure (de Ruter & Kaser-Boyd, 2015). The American Psychological Association has applied specific standards and expectations for the specialized field of Forensic Psychology (de Ruiter & Kaser-Boyd, 2015).  However, five general ethical principles for all psychologists: beneficence and nonmaleficence, fidelity and responsibility, integrity, justice, and respect for people’s rights and dignity (American Psychological Association 2002).

Risks of failing to report accurately

Providing accurate and objective information to the legal issues of importance is the primary responsibility of the Forensic psychologist (de Ruiter & Kaser-Boyd, 2015). Accurate record keeping is a significant component of accurate reporting.  According to the American Psychological Association, “Records benefit both the client and the psychologist through documentation of treatment plans, services provided, and client progress” (2016c).  Accurate record keeping also documents and tracks planning, services and interventions provided and allows for accurate monitoring of case progress or lack thereof (American Psychological Association, 2016c). State and Federal Laws and regulations mandate accurate record keeping in practice.  In his article, Malpractice & Licensing Pitfalls for Therapists: A defense Attorney’s List, Brandt Caudill, Jr. Esq. , provides the common challenges experienced in mental health professionals work, that leads to liability and licensing board actions. This list includes but is not limited to: excessive or inappropriate self-disclosure, business relationships with patients, using techniques without proper training, using incorrect diagnosis deliberately, avoiding the medical model, inadequate notes, failure to obtain an adequate history, uncritically accepting what a patient says, use of inappropriate syndrome testimony, and failure to obtain peer consultation (Caudill, n.d.).

Potential Breaches of confidentiality that could violate ethical guidelines

The ethical and legal obligation to maintain confidentiality for clients is cited in the American Psychological Association’s Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology and states, “Forensic practitioners recognize their ethical obligations to maintain the confidentiality of information relating to a client or retaining party, except insofar as disclosure is consented to by the client or retaining party, or requires or permitted by law (EPPCC Standard 4.01). American Psychological Association, 2016c).

Example

Under the APA’s Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists, Code 8.04 Use of Case Materials in Teaching, Continuing education and other scholarly activities, forensic practitioners are reminded that when using materials related to a case for the purpose of teaching, training or research, they must do so in a manner that attempts to protect the privacy or the persons involved by cloaking and disguising relevant personal identifiable information of those individuals or parties who would claim interest in those cases (American Psychological Association, 2016c).

References:

American Psychological Association (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct

(2002, Amended June 1, 2010). www.apa.ort/ethics/code/index.aspx

American Psychological Association. (2016c). Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology. Retrieved

from http://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/forensic-psychology.aspx

Caudill, Jr. Brandt (n.d.). Malpractice & Licensing Pitfalls for Therapists: A defense Attorney’s List.

De Ruiter, C. & Kaser-Boyd, N. (2015). Forensic psychological assessment in practice:

                Case studies. New York, NY: Routledge.

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