When conducting forensic assessments, it is important for forensic mental health professionals to have a thorough understanding of the following:
• Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct Including 2010 Amendments
• Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology: Adopted by APA Council of Representatives
Ethical issues are commonly present when completing forensic assessments. Read the scenario below and discuss the ethical issues therein.
Dr. Smith was contacted by the District County Attorney’s office to evaluate Mr. Doe as part of a sexually violent predator civil commitment hearing. Dr. Smith agreed to complete the evaluation and contacted the prison facility, where Mr. Doe was being held, to schedule an appointment.
Upon arrival at the prison, Mr. Doe’s attorney indicated that he wanted to be present for the interview and psychological testing. Dr. Smith agreed, and they proceeded with the interview. During the interview, while discussing his sex offense history, Mr. Doe admitted to offending against two adult females. He also reported offending against his three-year-old daughter. He indicated that his relationship with his wife, although rocky at times, is generally supportive. Upon inquiry, he reported a history of domestic abuse, which was never reported. He explained that due to his arrest and incarceration, his wife has had to find a job to be able to continue to afford their housing. He reported that he previously worked as a general maintenance worker at a local trucking company. He explained that he cheated on his wife with a coworker, who has since stopped all communication. He indicated that this coworker used to visit and send him letters and money when he was first “locked up.” He reported that he was angry that she ceased all communication, without explanation, and spoke of her with rage and hostility. He said, “If I ever see her again, I’ll kill her.”
During the administration of the psychological tests, Mr. Doe asked to use the restroom once and was provided another five-minute break. There was a great deal of background noise throughout the interview and administration. On two occasions, Mr. Doe asked his attorney how he should answer the question. He was advised, and he answered as such. Upon the completion of testing, Dr. Smith thanked Mr. Doe and his attorney for their time and indicated that he would see them in court.
If released, Mr. Doe will return to his home with his wife and two daughters. He has reported to the prison staff that he will also return to his previous job and may enroll in vocational classes at an area community college.
As a forensic mental health professional, discuss the ethical issues in the scenario. Refer to the following resources:
• American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct including 2010 amendments. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx
• American Psychology-Law Society. (2011). Specialty guidelines for forensic psychology: Adopted by APA Council of Representatives [Unofficial version]. Retrieved from http://www.ap-ls.org/aboutpsychlaw/SGFP_Final_Approved_2011.pdf
Write a 5- to 6-page report in a Microsoft Word document addressing the following:
• Identify the appropriate APA ethical code(s) and the specialty guidelines that may apply to this scenario.
• Examine the limits of confidentiality. How might those limits be affected by some of the information contained in the scenario?
• Discuss specific circumstances in the case study in which there might be a duty to report or duty to warn.
• Explain the limitations of what the evaluator can and cannot say.
• Discuss the implications of the third-party observer to the overall evaluation.
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