Term Paper: Ethics in School Psychology Counseling and Consultation

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Ethics of School Psychology

The development of systems and subsystems that ensure the health and well being of children in and out of the school setting goes back hundreds of years. Children are members of the worlds most vulnerable of populations, and in this population there is a subgroup of people who fall into a category that leaves them even more vulnerable, that of the mentally ill. (Fagan & Warden, 1996, p. 58) (Lowen, 1993, p. 22) Many mental illnesses stem from childhood and begin to show symptoms in children giving light to what might be lifelong problems, and many situations of childhood create the need to seek out those who might possess abnormalities or are simply in need of early intervention to stave off psychological problems in the future. School psychology is a broad field, offering many roles and even more responsibilities to its practitioners. This work will discuss ways in which professional ethics govern school psychologists in their duties of counseling and consulting with support members such as teachers, parents and school administrators.

It is also imperative to understand that the field of psychology (and school psychology) goes through progressive changes, with regard to understanding of psychological phenomena and its connection to behavior and biology. (Kratochwill, 1988) Understanding of changing theory and principles that are current and effective is sought as an ethical goal, of both the industry and the individual and much of this can occur within the school setting, at every level as interaction and intervention are at a near constant, offering countless opportunity for learning accompanied by constant reevaluation of ethic and efficacy. (Fagan, 2002) (Dupaul, 2003)

Therefore school is a place where psychology becomes exceedingly important and where ethics are imperative, to protect children and to protect public opinion of the profession. In addition to the mission of seeking out and helping individual children in need of professional psychological services, the school psychology movement is also charged with creating a healthy school learning environment, as can be seen from the mission of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) the largest school psychologists organization and the determining source of the ethics of the practice. (NASP, 2000, p. 5) The code of ethics that is most widely recognized by the industry is the NASP code, which is not enforceable in one sense but is expected to be utilized and followed by individual school psychologists as a personal and professional obligation. In short it is not the law, though there are laws and policies which govern ethics at every level the NASP code is a framework that should be referred to by professionals in times of need for clarity and incorporated in ethical decision making on a daily basis. (NASP, 2000, p. 14)

Counseling Ethics:

The issue of counseling and consultation of support persons are an area where ethics are significant in that direct contact with students and others demands decorum on a personal and professional level that responds to all the guidelines of the profession as well as laws and "best practices" of the setting. The NASP code therefore assumes that, "depending on the role and setting of the school psychologist, the client could include children, parents, teachers and other school personnel, other professionals, trainees, or supervisees." (p. 15) The guidelines then follow a general group of ethical principles which include confidentiality (and its restrictions based upon the station of childhood and informed consent of these guidelines) voluntary intervention, the process for intervention and reporting of ethical violations by others as well as many specific guidelines depending on the category in which the "client" falls. The overarching theme of the guidelines is supportive of two basic concepts,

The principles in this manual are based on the assumptions that 1) school psychologists will act as advocates for their students/clients, and 2) at the very least, school psychologists will do no harm. These assumptions necessitate that school psychologists "speak up" for the needs and rights of their students/clients even at times when it may be difficult to do so. School psychologists also are constrained to provide only those services for which they have acquired an acknowledged level of experience, training, and competency. Beyond these basic premises, judgment is required to apply the ethical principles to the fluid and expanding interactions between school and community. (NCSP, 2000, p. 13)

The role of advocate is also essential tot the development of a core set of ethics which comply with the terms of the NASP, and the demonstrative message o the work is that primary advocacy should always be for that of the child, and this is especially true when conflicts arise between clients, such as when treatment or intervention could negatively effect the school and/or district.

When the school psychologist is confronted with conflicts between client groups, the primary client is considered to be the child. When the child is not the primary client, the individual or group of individuals who sought the assistance of the school psychologist is the primary client. (NCSP, 2000, p. 25)

This basic set of ethics is also supported by the general code of ethics that is detailed by the American Psychological Association (APA) which concludes in 10.02 Therapy Involving Couples or Families, that:

a) When psychologists agree to provide services to several persons who have a relationship (such as spouses, significant others, or parents and children), they take reasonable steps to clarify at the outset (1) which of the individuals are clients/patients and (2) the relationship the psychologist will have with each person. This clarification includes the psychologist's role and the probable uses of the services provided or the information obtained. (See also Standard 4.02, Discussing the Limits of Confidentiality.) (APA, 2002, p. 15)

The APA code also specifically discusses the limitations of confidentiality, regarding minors and the necessity of informing the child and whoever seeks intervention of these limitations, a strong point also made by the NASP code.

School psychologists recognize the importance of parental support and seek to obtain that support by assuring that there is direct parent contact prior to seeing the child on an ongoing basis. (Emergencies and "drop-in" self-referrals will require parental notification as soon as possible. The age and circumstances under which children may seek services without parental consent varies greatly;

be certain to comply with III-D-5.) School psychologists secure continuing parental involvement by a frank and prompt reporting to the parent of findings and progress that conforms to the limits of previously determined confidentiality. (NASP, 2000, p. 21)

The code is clearly demonstrative of the principles of advocating for the child, at all costs, and as a practice of professional core beliefs. The manner in which this is done, can be guided by all areas of expertise including, understanding of laws and regulations as well as a step above set of core standards for professional ethics with regard to a greater understanding of professional guidelines and practices.

Reporting Suspected Abuse:

The NASP code also stresses the importance of informing the child of parental notification laws and requirements as well as any legal requirements regarding the nature of the information given by the child, such as the legal responsibility to report any suspicion or evidence of harm or pending harm to the child, no matter the offending party. Reporting laws, as they are termed are variable by state (Maney & Wells, 1988, p. 4) (Domrowski & Gischlar, 2006, p. 234) but it is clear that the ethics code of the NASP support the idea that ethical standards of the school psychologists must sometimes go beyond the regional laws to protect the child, and there is at least some discretion on the part of the professional to seek outside assistance and report to law enforcement, school officials and departments of human services, incidence of suspected or documented abuse of children, even in cases of suspected self-abuse or fear of suicide (which do not always fall clearly in reporting rules and laws). (Eckert, Miller, Dupaul & Riley-Tillman, 2003, p. 57)

NASP acknowledges that the Guidelines set requirements for services not presently mandated by federal law or regulation and not always mandated in state laws and administrative rules. Future amendments of such statues and rules, and the state and local plans resulting from them, should incorporate the suggestions contained in this document. Furthermore, NASP understands that school psychological services are provided within the context of ethical and legal mandates. (NASP, 2000, p. 39)

The validation of the idea that even in situations where reporting laws are not formally strict enough to create a clear situation for reporting a suspected incident of abuse the school psychologist has an ethical duty to report, utilizing professional discretion regarding confidentiality, to the point where believed harm is occurring. This ethic is supported by the APA and the NASP, and both work toward protecting the school psychologists, and other personnel from liability in such cases. The ethics codes also support the idea that individuals must remain current on their understanding of such laws in their… [END OF PREVIEW]

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