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Applying the APA Code of Ethics

Applying the APA Code of Ethics

Case 14-37 involving Bonnie Bruised, a female student, and Professor Disclose, her instructor, presented by Koocher and Keith-Spiegel (2016, p. 478), is an example of the various ethical conflicts and issues educators and mental health professionals in learning institutions encounter. In this case, Bonnie Bruised reports to her instructor, Professor Disclose, about her issues with her boyfriend. Bonnie Bruised confines in Professor Disclose that her boyfriend beats her badly and has threatened and stalked her (Koocher and Keith-Spiegel, 2016, p. 478). She notes that she is worried for her life and safety. Although the Professor advises Bonnie Bruised to report the case to campus security and the counseling center, she is unwilling to do that (Koocher and Keith-Spiegel, 2016, p. 478). Professor Disclose is left with the dilemma of whether to protect the student or disclose the case the student entrusted her with to the authorities, as it is the educator’s duty to ensure the well-being of their students. Accordingly, it is essential to apply the principles and standards of the APA Code of Ethics to best highlight the ethical conflict presented in this case and the statement of culture and social orientations in the case.

APA Code of Ethics: Principles

APA Code of Ethics provides guidelines for psychology professionals to manage cases and make decisions based on the highest ethical ideals in psychology (O’Donohue, 2020). The five basic principles outlined in the APA Code of Ethics are the following:

Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence

The principle of beneficence and nonmaleficence guides psychology professionals to do their best to ensure the care provided and the relationship with their clients is beneficial to the client and does not harm them (American Psychological Association, 2017).

Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility

The principle of fidelity and responsibility reminds psychology professionals of the importance of establishing trusting relationships with their clients (American Psychological Association, 2017). The principle further highlights the responsibility psychology professionals have concerning the well-being of their clients.

Principle C: Integrity

The principle of integrity guides psychologists on the need to remain honest, truthful, and accurate throughout their interactions with their clients (American Psychological Association, 2017). The integrity principle complements the principle of fidelity and responsibility and can help psychology professionals establish long-term, trustful relationships with their clients.

Principle D: Justice

The principle of justice is focused on ensuring fairness and justice in the practice of psychology (American Psychological Association, 2017). The principle can guide professionals in psychology to ensure that all clients are fairly treated and have access to the best available psychological care regardless of the case and their social and economic status.

Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity

The ethical principle E of the APA Code of Ethics requires that professionals in psychology observe and guarantee the highest respect for the rights and dignity of individuals, including their decisions at any level of interactions during care (American Psychological Association, 2017).

The APA Code of Ethics principles that might apply to the ethical conflict in Bonnie Bruised and Professor Disclose’s case include the following:

  • Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence. Professor Disclose has the responsibility to help Bonnie Bruised and ensure her safety and well-being are met as per an educator’s moral duty to protect learners physically and mentally, including protecting them from peer violence and bullying (United Nations Children’s Fund, 2021). Reporting the case to the authorities is beneficial to Bonnies Bruised, regardless of her decision not to report it. The principle of beneficence is the most applicable from the perspective of a moral imperative in cases where the healthcare professional is faced with a case of poor patient autonomy (Nandifa et al., 2020).
  • Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility. In the presented case, Professor Disclose must ensure they establish a trusting relationship with Bonnie Bruised and act responsibly in addressing the situation to avoid any negative experiences and outcomes. Responsibility with patient information to guarantee privacy and confidentiality is essential in establishing relationships that ensure the best mental health outcomes (Aboujaoude, 2019).
  • Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity. Although Professor Disclose has a moral duty and obligation to Bonnie Bruised’s wellness as the tutor, the Professor must still respect the student’s decisions and rights when handling her case. Regardless of the responsibility to report the cases, considerations should always be based on the fact that the victim’s autonomy, dignity, and right to self-determination are respected (Holland et al., 2019).

APA Code of Ethics: Standards

According to American Psychological Association (2017), the APA Code of Ethics standards include;

  • Resolving ethical issues standard: Guides how psychologists can approach and resolve ethical conflicts they encounter in practice.
  • Competence standard: Provides the basic requirements and levels of expertise in professional practice.
  • Human relations standard: Guides on the best approaches to interact within practice settings
  • Privacy and confidentiality standard: Provides the expectations of the psychologist to be responsible for the client’s confidentiality
  • Advertising and other public statements: Set the standards for honesty when psychology professionals advertise services
  • Record keeping and fees: Provides requirements for keeping patient records and approaches to charging fair fees for services
  • Education and training behavioral standard: Guides psychology professionals when teaching and learning.
  • Research and publication standard: Guides psychology professionals in conducting and publishing ethical research and findings.
  • Assessment standard: Guides the administration of assessments for therapy.
  • Therapy standard: Sets the expectations for professionals during therapy.

The APA code of ethics standards applicable in Bonnie’s and Professor Disclose’s case include resolving ethical issues, human relations, and privacy and confidentiality. These include the standards of maintaining confidentiality, human relations, and assessment, and most importantly, competence and resolving ethical dilemmas. According to Ottman et al. (2020), therapist competency determines client outcomes in any interaction. These APA codes of ethics standards apply in Bonnie’s and Professor Disclose’s case as they will help guide the Professor on his course of action. They also ensure that the Professor is competent enough to manage Bonnie’s case in a way that maintains her confidentiality and does not affect the student-tutor relationship.

Statement of Culture and Social Orientations in the Case Study

A hypothetical statement of culture and social orientation in the case study is that Bonnie Bruised comes from an abusive and unsupportive background or family in which seeking help from authorities might be punished or stigmatized. This conclusion is based on her fear of approaching the school safety office or the counseling center. The student may then seek the Professor’s relationship for protection. In this case, the nature of the professor-student relationship will be an issue of concern, making the relationship quality critical from the student’s perspective. Accordingly, Tormey (2021) argues that student-tutor relationships, especially in higher education settings, influence their learning, classroom experiences, and their feelings of safety and trust. Therefore, these cultural and social factors must be considered when approaching Bonnie Bruised’s case and issues with her boyfriend.


Aboujaoude, E. (2019). Protecting privacy to protect mental health: the new ethical imperative. Journal of Medical Ethics, 45(9), 604–607.


Holland, K. J., Cortina, L. M., & Freyd, J. J. (2019). Advocating alternatives to mandatory reporting of college sexual assault: Reply to newins (2018). American Psychologist, 74(2), 50–251.

Koocher, G. P., & Keith-Spiegel, P. (2016). Ethics in psychology and the mental health professions: standards and cases (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Nandifa, V. N. P., Jena, Y., & Joewana, S. (2020). Beneficence Is The Highest Moral Imperative Of A Doctor Dealing With The Poor Quality Of Patient Autonomy. Jurnal Pendidikan Kedokteran Indonesia: The Indonesian Journal of Medical Education, 9(1), 44–51.

O’Donohue, W. (2020). Criticisms of the Ethical Principles for Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Ethics and Behavior, 30(4).

Ottman, K. E., Kohrt, B. A., Pedersen, G. A., & Schafer, A. (2020). Use of role plays to assess therapist competency and its association with client outcomes in psychological interventions: A scoping review and competency research agenda. Behavior Research and Therapy, 130, 103531.

Tormey, R. (2021). Rethinking student-teacher relationships in higher education: a multidimensional approach. Higher Education, 82(5), 993–1011.

United Nations Children’s Fund. (2021, August 27). Protecting children from violence in school. UNICEF.


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Overview: In order to understand how your case study presents an ethical conflict, you will need to understand the dominant ethical code. Professionals in the field of psychology refer to the APA Code of Ethics to guide their decision-making in their work environments. The American Psychological Association website provides the APA Code of Ethics, which is used in psychology.

Applying the APA Code of Ethics

Applying the APA Code of Ethics

Prompt: In Milestone Three, you will apply the APA Code of Ethics to your chosen case study vignette and expand the outline of your final case study analysis paper you began in Milestone Two. You will list and define each principle and standard in an organized fashion, as well as emphasize which principle and standard could be in question in your case study vignette. You will then make a statement discussing the cultural and social considerations in your case. All cases have considerations of this kind, but they may be less obvious in some case studies. You may also choose to create a hypothetical cultural or social consideration (e.g., What if a language barrier were present in your case study vignette?) for your case if you do not think it has one. You will expand upon this in Milestone Four.

Specifically, the following critical elements must be addressed within the final project outline template:

  1. APA Code of Ethics: Principles: List and define all principles in an organized fashion. Identify which principles might apply to your chosen case’s ethical conflict.
  1. APA Code of Ethics: Standards: List and define all standards in an organized fashion. Identify which standards might apply to your chosen case’s ethical conflict.
  1. Statement of Culture and Social Orientations in the Case Study: Identify and explain the cultural and social considerations in your chosen case. If the case does not have one, create a hypothetical cultural or social.

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