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Ethical Issues in Psychology

These are the 9 Major Ethical Issues in Psychology

Psychology is a very sensitive field and ethical concerns are likely to arise when carrying out research and prescribing any method of treatment to an individual. The ethical issues in psychology will help discover the various areas in the field that should be tread upon with sensitivity.
Puja Lalwani
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
Psychology is a vast field that deals with the implications of our environment and our genes on ourselves. All the information that we have today and all the analysis we are able to make is because of the large amount of psychological research that has been conducted and continues to be conducted till date. While we have analyzed the results of the research, we have not been able to notice what has gone on behind the scenes, and whether the research that was carried out on participants followed certain ethical guidelines. How much did the participants have to suffer physically, emotionally, or psychologically to provide results for the tests carried out on them? There are certain ethical issues in psychological research, which have been discussed here, along with general ethical issues in the field of psychology.
What are the Ethical Issues in Psychological Research?
When research is carried out, it gives rise to certain ethical issues. Enlisted below are these ethical issues along with guidelines that should be adhered to for each.
  • Voluntary Participation: Every participant in the research should voluntarily participate in it, and should not be forced to do so. Even if research is being conducted on specific groups such as a particular group of criminals (say rapists), they should be given the option to participate in the research voluntarily, not forcibly encouraged to do so.
  • Informed Consent: All participants should be aware of the kind of tests that are going to be conducted and the effects of each test on them. Informed consent requires the participant to give the researcher written consent for the tests to be carried out.
  • Deception: No participant should be deceived or misguided regarding the test. No information should be withheld from the participant. However, in some cases, deception is an inherent part of research. In such cases, it should be ensured that deception is the only alternative to carry out the research. Participants should at least have a general idea of what is to be expected in the course of research. Researchers should make an attempt to find out what kind of reactions withholding information may elicit.
  • Debriefing: It is the responsibility of the researcher to ensure that a participant is not psychologically or emotionally affected after participating in the research. The expected results of the research should be communicated to the participant so that they are prepared for them. In short, they should not be overwhelmed after the research is over.
  • Permission to Withdraw from Participation: Every participant should be allowed to withdraw from the research process at any time should she/he feel uncomfortable or uneasy, irrespective of the payment incentive provided to them, which should be made to them in any case.
  • Confidentiality: Confidentiality of each participant should be maintained in terms of their personal information, the specific tests conducted on them, and the results of the research, unless otherwise specified in the initial stages, and officially written. In such a case a participant may choose to continue or withdraw from the research.
  • Safety of Participant: All participants should be asked if they have any pre-existing conditions that will interfere with the research, be it physical or psychological. Adequate protection must be provided to them in such a case, or they should not be allowed to participate if the intensity of the condition cannot be altered.
What are the Other Ethical Issues in Psychology?
When a patient goes to a psychologist for treatment, there is a certain amount of trust placed in the professional. It is a highly sensitive relationship that needs certain ethics to govern it. While some of the aforementioned ethical guidelines apply here, there are certain others that should be mentioned.
  • Professional Competency: Every professional should be able to and should willingly provide proof of competency in the field, that is achieved through education and work experience. Such professionals should also willingly provide referrals to patients whenever needed.
  • Respect for the Psychologist-Patient Relationship: Because psychologists discuss emotional and psychological issues with their patients who are very vulnerable, it is likely that either may get swayed emotionally. In such a case it is the psychologist's prerogative to draw a line, maintain respect for this relationship, and provide the necessary therapy or treatment.

Apart from these, in general situations the ethical issues of informed consent and confidentiality also apply in this area.
This was a brief overview of the ethical issues in psychology. However, different fields of psychology have their own ethical issues that can be delved into with further study. Respecting these issues and dealing with them in an appropriate manner is essential to maintain the sanctity of the field that is psychology.