In this paper I will examine the relationship of a school psychologist and the relationship of his client and how boundaries were crossed when the school psychologist entered a sexual relationship with his minor client. To complete this assignment, the ethical dilemma will be discussed, the 14 steps in the ethical decision making process will be applied, further I will briefly discuss the importance of ethical decision making in professional psychology.
Ethical Dilemma. A psychologist working in the Baltimore City Public School System with middle school students in the Promoting Respect Integrity Discipline Education (PRIDE) Program starts to develop sexual feelings toward one of the young male student’s. At first the psychologist could resist his temptations for wanting to engage in sexual activities with the young man, but the more time he spent with the student the stronger his desires became. The psychologist finds ways to meet with the student alone and he builds a trusting relationship with him and his mother.
He accomplishes this by offering to be a mentor/big brother to the student because the mother is a single parent. The mother was appreciative that the psychologist was spending time with her son, by helping him with his homework, taking him to the movies, and helping to purchase school supplies. The psychologist convinced the mother to allow him to give the boy a cell phone claiming that the boy and his mother could stay in contact because the mother worked overtime, and the child would be home alone.
The mother agreed to this, not thinking there was anything to the relationship. The psychologist continues to buy his client gifts and take him out to dinner and to the movies. The school psychologist finds that the boy loves dogs and asks the boy if he wanted a job after-school and on the weekends walking his dogs, he convinced the boy by taking the job they could spend more time together.
The boy tells his mother about the job and the mother agrees to this and finally the psychologist asks the mother if he could take the boy on a weekend camping trip, which the mother agrees. It was on the camping trip the psychologist expresses his feelings toward the boy and the boy shares his feelings toward the psychologist and he and the boy engage in sexual relations. The sexual relationship continues the rest of the school year and throughout the summer.
When the new school year begins the psychologist is still engaging in sexual relations with the student, begins to develop feelings for another student and starts spending less time with the first young man, as a result of this the boy starts acting out in class, not doing his homework, failing his test, fighting with the other students, and he becomes aggressive toward the psychologist. As a result of the boy’s acting out behaviors a parent conference is scheduled, the boy reveals that he and the psychologist have been engaging in sexual relations for the past seven to eight months.
A formal investigation is conducted and it comes out that the psychologist has been spending time with the young man outside of the school, the young man spent several nights at the psychologist home, the boy told how the psychologist took him to Delaware for a weekend trip when the mother thought the boy was staying the weekend with his grandmother. The psychologist even allowed the young man to drive his car on several occasions. When the psychologist was confronted with these allegations, he broke down and confessed that he and the young man were in love and that the sex was consensual.
The psychologist was arrested, fired from his job, lost his license, his apartment, and he has to register as a child sex offender. When the information was released by the media several other young boy’s came forth from different schools stating that he had a sexual relationships with the psychologist as well. The young man and his mother had to relocate to another state, he and his mother are in family counseling with a female psychologist who works with youth who have been molested.
Steps in Ethical Decision Making According to Pope and Vasquez (2007), there are 18 steps used in the ethical decision making process, and these steps serve as a guide for every professional psychologist. The steps are available to help the psychologist know when he or she must think through and know how to respond appropriately to an ethical dilemma, how to take responsibility for his or her actions to the response that he or she has made.
These steps will also assist the psychologist in coming up with a way to see specific aspects of the situation, he or she will be able to consider both the negative and the positive consequences in which an individual could respond, and finally the steps will help the psychologist to develop different approaches to meet the needs of the client. The first 14 steps will be considered in this section as it relates to the role of the psychologist and what boundary issues are. 1) Identify the situation that requires ethical consideration and decision making.
The psychologist has developed sexual feelings toward a young male client at the school in which he works. 2) Anticipate who will be affected by your decision. The parties that will be affected is the child, the mother, the psychologist, and any other students which he has had sexual relations with. 3) Figure out whom, if anyone is the client. The young boy is the client, as well as the other boy’s he molested. 4) Assess your relevant areas of competence, and of missing knowledge, skills, experience, or expertise in regards to the relevant aspects of this situation.
The psychologist has engaged in this type of behavior before. When he started having these feelings for the client he should have referred the client to the social worker and worked with his other clients. 5) Review relevant formal ethical standards. The psychologist failed to abide by the code of ethics and the ethic codes are very clear about psychologist/client sexual relationships. The ethical standards are helpful in understanding the boundary issues in this particular situation. 6) Review relevant legal standards.
In this situation the law states that an adult cannot take a minor across state lines without parental consent. It is illegal for an adult to have sex with a minor. 7) Review the relevant research and theory. The laws are very clear about sex with minors, and transporting minors across state lines. 8) Consider how, if at all, your personal feelings, biases, or self-interest might affect your ethical judgment and reasoning. In this situation the psychologist was moved by his feelings and lost sight of what he was suppose to be doing and that was helping his client deal with his issues as an emotional disturbed individual.
His decision to engage in sexual relations with a minor will be frowned upon by his colleagues, society, and the school system. 9) Consider what effects, if any, that social, cultural, religious, or similar factors may have on the situation and on identifying ethical responses. The social, cultural, and religious sectors here disapprove of sexual relations with members of the same sex, and the law clearly states that sex with a minor is illegal, and it is not considered consensual when the child is under 18 years of age.
10) Consider consultation. The psychologist should have been in therapy himself because he needs someone that he can trust to help him resist the urge to have sex with a minor. 11) Develop alternative courses of action. The psychologist should have sought out an individual that he could confide in about his desire to have sex with young boys. He should have also removed himself from working with young boys if he knew that this was a weakness for him. 12) Evaluate the alternative courses of action. The worst possible impact that this situation has is the psychology will lose everything and go to jail.
He also has caused harm to the young man which he was trusted to care for. The psychologist violated the trust of the mother, and corrupted the mind of the young man. 13) Try to adopt the perspective of each person who will be affected. The young man who was involved believed that the psychologist loved him; the mother believed that the psychologist really wanted to help her son, and the psychologist was just looking to satisfy his sexual urges of having sex with young men. 14) Decide what to do and then review or reconsider it. In this situation the right thing to do is not engage in sexual relations with a minor.
Remove yourself from the equation and avoid working with young men if you know this is a weakness for you. The Importance of Ethical Decision Making In professional psychology ethical decision making is important because it helps to steer the psychologist in the right direction, helping him or her to avoid major pitfalls and getting into dilemma’s that there is no good outcome. Every psychologist must understand that there are lives at stakes and each decision that he or she makes will have a negative or positive effect not only on him or her, and the client but also on all parties closely related to the client.
Conclusion In conclusion the relationship between the school psychologist and the young male client who he had sexual relations with was analyzed. The psychologist violated the ethical codes and standards by engaging and acting on his sexual feelings toward a minor client. He further violated the trust of the young man and his mother who believed that the psychologist was helping the young man, but rather he created more harm than good. The steps in the ethical decision making process were applied and the importance of ethical decision making was discussed.
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