Personal Case Analysis
Social interactions are determined in part by the behavior of each party involved in the process. Individuals’ behaviors are influenced by their conformity to the ethical norms defined by their societies. Societal constructs such as families offer examples of the implications of an individual’s behavior, and their level of conformity to the ethical norms becomes apparent. Complexities in individual and group interactions are often present within the society that sometimes warrants psychotherapy. Mostly implicated groups include couples, young families, and families whose loved ones are undergoing any form of suffering (Candel, 2017). The case described below is a hypothetical couple presenting with issues regarding their relationship.
A Hypothetical Family
Taylor and Eric presented to therapy after months of a troubled relationship that threatened a breakdown. The two have been dating for the past five years and even have a 2-year-old male child called Brian. The genesis of their tribulations was three years ago when Eric lost his formal job. Since then, Taylor has assumed the role of providing basic needs. The problem between the couple was compounded when Taylor found out that Eric had been drinking alcohol and occasionally using hard drugs. Taylor also feels that Eric is not doing enough to get back to his feet and support the family. She accounts that her partner only drinks alcohol and does not care about her and their little boy. Eric, in his defense, says that he has been unlucky in his job-seeking endeavors and that he is hoping to get one soon. He also denies having neglected his partner and their child. He, however, has no explanation for his heavy drinking, though he sometimes links it to stress.
Background on the Hypothetical Family
Exploration of their backgrounds revealed that Eric was a 34-year-old male and was the youngest child in a family of three children. His two elder brothers are alive. His father died of suicide five years ago while his mother is alive, but he has been battling depression since her childhood. Eric worked as a teacher before being laid off for unprofessional conduct. Upon being laid off, he reverted to alcohol drinking and accepted to have used hard drugs occasionally.
Eric is an African-American male. He came from a middle-income family and reported having access to most basic needs growing up. He hails from a Christian family and has maintained the Christian faith to date. Eric’s history, however, reveals a significant history of various psychological issues. He was diagnosed with depression in his sophomore year in college. He has since started on medication but stopped. He also has a significant history of alcohol and drug abuse, especially during his schooling days. However, he claims to have stopped when he met Taylor. Recently, he has been experiencing symptoms of depression, such as hopelessness, sadness, loss of interest in most things, frequent anger, outbursts, and insomnia.
On the other hand, Taylor is 32 years old. She was the eldest of three children. Her parents are all alive but are divorced. Additionally, Taylor is a nurse at a local hospital. She is an African-American female who comes from a family of poor socioeconomic status. She is a Christian. Taylor accounts that she is a staunch believer in the social construct of the family as a source of her social well-being. In this regard, she maintains a close relationship with her parents and siblings. Taylor has no significant history of any psychological problems.
Upon exploration of the backgrounds of these two parties, the next step is to identify the main issues that are apparent and are attributable to the split in their relationship. Several ethical challenges are evident in attempting to resolve these problems, as described below.
Ethical Challenges when Working with the Hypothetical Clients
The first challenge is in maintaining neutrality and the ability to have dual relationships during the psychotherapy session. Working with couples requires an absolute understanding of the difference in viewpoints between the two parties. Additionally, the complexities of harmonizing these differing viewpoints and establishing a common ground remain a challenge (Shaw, 2022). Working with couples entails managing multiple alliances, with the possibility of having all of the parties on one side often remaining a challenge. Navigating through these often proves difficult due to the change in the dynamics whenever two persons are present in a room at the same time, as well as difficulties in establishing a common ground.
Caregivers, in this regard, have the mandate of designing a framework to which a common ground can be arrived at. The caregiver should also facilitate the process of understanding between the couples and aid them in establishing a workable framework in which their differences can be resolved without either of the parties feeling dissatisfied (Shaw, 2022). In most circumstances, the individuals presenting for these care processes would want to interfere with the psychologist’s neutral stance, with some giving invitations for favor upon their case. It is the caregiver’s responsibility to maintain neutrality in this regard and face these scenarios objectively to come up with a solution for both.
In handling the case, the psychologist is responsible for identifying the underlying issues in the relationship between Eric and Taylor. They should, in this regard, reject any call for favoritism towards either of the parties. Favoritism may tilt the outcomes in favor of either party and consequently create a feeling of dissatisfaction in the other. As presented by the parties, the two perspectives are different and antagonistic. Therefore, the psychologist should focus on identifying the truth and working to establish a working solution for this couple to prevent a breakdown in their relationship.
Another challenge for the therapist is considering the couple as a collective entity or as two different entities. Working with couples requires that their relationship should always be kept in mind and that interventions by the therapists should not lead to the destruction of the union. The therapists also have the mandate to consider individuals’ contributions to the case presented and rather not overlook these contributions as they may be implicated in conflict (Gurman & Burton, 2017). For instance, having to decide whether to prioritize the overall well-being of the relationship over the pain and suffering of either of the individuals may be tricky. This is especially pronounced when the pain and suffering are attributable to chronic conditions such as mental health and psychological and physical stressors. Addressing these predicaments without attributing their cause to the other party may be difficult.
Additionally, prioritization of individuals’ contributions over the collective entity may sometimes be difficult in scenarios with perceived inequities in the presented tasks or conflict. Initiators of the conflict and the victims of the conflict have differing responsibilities (Gurman & Burton, 2017). Accordingly, the therapist should clearly define these responsibilities to enable a wholesome intervention approach. As the case in the hypothetical case presented, Taylor is the victim of Eric’s changed behavior. Eric’s role would be to change his behavior, while Taylor’s responsibility would be to help Eric change his behavior. The difference in perspective of inequities should be defined clearly by the therapist. In all cases, the therapist should always strive to strike a balance between defining individuals’ contributions to the conflict and ensuring the preservation of the relationship.
Another challenge is whether to exclude some family members from an intervention. Ethical issues often arise when deciding whether some family members should be excluded from a psychotherapeutic intervention. In as much as there may be no consensus on this, it remains challenging for the therapist to choose whom to include (Peterson & Castronova, 2022). Some schools of thought reason that it is not ethical for one member of a family to be treated in the absence of other family members. Generally, individuals’ participation in psychotherapeutic interventions is voluntary and not imposed on a person. However, the therapist may recommend that all members be present during these sessions in some instances. This is especially so when the outcomes of the interventions are expected to benefit all members of the family.
The challenge is often bigger when couples are involved and when the presenting conflict threatens to break their relationship. In this case, the ethical dilemma would be to include both parties in interventions targeted at either party rather than both parties (Shaw, 2017). As evident in the case hypothesized, some problems are specific to Eric and may require psychotherapeutic interventions. The question is whether Taylor should always join him in these sessions or not. In all cases, the therapist should develop a solution that is workable for both parties. The therapist, in this regard, should outline the intervention to both parties and then give them a chance to deliberate and decide whether both of them will be present for the sessions.
The APA guidelines define ethical codes intended to govern psychologists and define the standard for their professional practice. The guidelines define ethical principles that govern individual interactions and professional practice. Principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, fidelity, responsibility, integrity, justice, and respect have been described in the guidelines (APA, 2017). The APA guidelines corresponding to the ethical challenges highlighted above include justice, beneficence, non-maleficence, and respect for people’s rights and dignity.
The ethical challenges of considering couples as either individuals or collective entities correspond to the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence. Beneficence requires that a caregiver does well to their clients, while non-maleficence requires that they “do not harm.” Essentially, this is the case when the caregiver works to preserve the relationship and, at the same time, works to resolve the individual’s problems that may have been affecting the relationship. Inculcating these ethical principles in practice may safeguard against ethical violations during a psychologist’s practice.
The ethical challenge of family members’ exclusion in psychotherapeutic interventions corresponds to the principles of integrity and respect for people’s rights and dignity. In this ethical issue, individuals within the family are informed if there is a need for a psychotherapeutic intervention in their family and then given a chance to choose whether or not they want to attend these sessions. Those who object are not forced, but rather, their decisions are respected. Integrity requires that the caregiver promote accuracy, truthfulness, and honesty in their practice. In contrast, respect necessitates that the psychologist respect the rights of individuals to decision-making, privacy, and self-determination (APA, 2017). Understanding the ethical provisions of integrity and respect and teaching them in professional practice may prevent psychologists from violating the requirements of the APA.
The ethical issue of neutrality corresponds to justice. In this case, the caregiver was expected to treat the couples equally without favoritism. Justice requires that psychologists maintain fairness to all persons, as is the case when handling a couple of clients. Maintaining fairness ensures a better outcome and prevents the psychologist from violating the provision of the APA.
Working with couples presents considerable ethical challenges. These challenges include maintaining neutrality, deciding whether to exclude some family members from therapy sessions, and whether to treat them as individuals or as a couple. In all instances, psychologists must exercise their professional judgment and establish a solution. These issues are evident in the hypothesized case and correspond to the ethical guidelines defined by APA.
American Psychological Association. (2017). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct (2002, amended effective June 1, 2010, and January 1, 2017). http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.html
Candel, O. (2017). Research Ethics and Social Values. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781483381411.n502
Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. https://www.apa.org. (2022). Retrieved 13 April 2022, from https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/.
Gurman, A., & Burton, M. (2017). Individual Therapy for Couple Problems: Perspectives and Pitfalls. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 40(4), 470-483. https://doi.org/10.1111/jmft.12061
Peterson, C., & Castronova, M. (2022). Ethics in Couple and Family Therapy.
Shaw, E. (2022). Ethics and the practice of couple and family therapy | APS. Psychology.org.au. Retrieved 13 April 2022, from https://psychology.org.au/publications/inpsych/2011/feb/shaw.
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Psych 550 week 7 assignment
Personal Case Analysis
Imagine that you are a professor teaching a psychology ethics course, and you have to decide on a hypothetical case that you will use to educate your students for a couples and family therapy learning module.
In the case analysis, please include the following information:
Describe a hypothetical couple or family (choose one) and the issues and concerns one or the other brings to you.
Provide some background on the couple or family, including hypothetical information related to race, socioeconomic status, culture, sexuality, and psychological issues.
Identify 3 ethical challenges you might face in working with your hypothetical clients.
Describe the APA guidelines corresponding with each and how you would safeguard against ethics violations.
The paper should be 5 to 6 pages and include a minimum of 3-5 scholarly resources.
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