Faced with an ethical dilemma? Taking certain steps can help you navigate through it while also maintaining the professional goals of honoring client privacy and doing no harm, agreed panelists Robert Kinscherff, PhD, JD, Linda Campbell, PhD, Daniel Krauss, PhD, JD, Sandra McPherson, PhD, Julia Ramos-Grenier, PhD, Anne Hess, PhD, Elizabeth Swenson, PhD, JD, and APA Ethics Office director Stephen Behnke, PhD, JD, in a discussion at APA's 2004 Annual Convention in Honolulu.

Specifically, they advised psychologists to:

  • Consult with a colleague or ethics expert and consider calling your state board or state psychology association for additional assistance.

  • Document the steps you took and those you considered but didn't take, and your reasoning behind those decisions.

  • Aspire to the general principles in the Ethics Code and consider whether and how the five principles help inform the decision-making process.

  • When the law and the Ethics Code conflict, review Standard 1.02, which allows psychologists to follow the law after first making known their commitment to the Ethics Code.

  • If a conflict of interest, such as having a relationship with someone closely associated with a client, can reasonably be expected to jeopardize your objectivity, carefully consider your options, most notably refraining from the relationship.

  • Any time you decide to terminate counseling, follow Standard 10.10: Offer the client a referral to another mental health professional, Kinscherff recommended.

Above all, said Kinscherff, if you find yourself in an ethical decision-making process, "Show that you were careful, reasonable, prudent and that you did the best you could."