Ethical Standards for Psychologists

What are ethical standards?

Psychologists are bound by strict and complex ethical standards of the profession of psychology in Canada. These standards exist to safeguard patient care and professional conduct.

Confidentiality is an example of an ethical standard, which refers to psychologists’ obligation to keep patient information private.

What are ethical conflicts (e.g., dual/multiple relationships)?

When ethical conflicts arise, psychologists have to act in certain ways to address or resolve such conflicts.

Example: If a psychologist were to see two close friends, partners, or family members in separate therapy treatments, this constitutes a “conflict of interest,” or more specifically “multiple relationships.” The primary function of this ethical standard is to protect patients For example, if both patients were seen by the same psychologist and one of the patients told the psychologist something the other person did not want the psychologist to know, it would place the psychologist in a dilemma that may negatively impact the care of the patient.

What may be confusing to patients is that under some circumstances, psychologists may not be able to acknowledge that there is a conflict of interest, because such a disclosure may actually jeopardize the confidentiality of another patient. In the example above, if the psychologist told the referred patient “I can’t see you because your best friend Joe is also a patient of mine,” Joe’s confidentiality is broken.