The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) is the learned and professional body for the profession of psychology in Ireland. The Society has grown significantly since its foundation in 1970 and now has almost 3000 members. The primary aim for which the Society was established is to ‘advance psychology as a pure and applied science. To further this aim, PSI strives to promote good psychological practice. They achieve this by setting and maintaining high standards of professional education, training and conduct for the profession. Furthermore, the Society seeks to establish and monitor standards of ethical behaviour, competence and practice within the profession.
The PSI Code of Professional Ethics consists of four overall principles, which subsume a larger number of specific ethical standards. They comprise the professional code of ethical practice to which registered psychologists in Ireland are bound. As a member of the Psychological Society of Ireland, I too am bound to practice under the code. They form the foundation of every professional engagement I undertake.
Code of Ethics Principle 1: Respect for the rights and dignity of the person
This principle requires psychologists to treat their clients as persons of intrinsic worth with a right to determine their own priorities. Psychologists must respect their clients' dignity, and give due regard to their moral and cultural values. Psychologists shall take care not to intrude inappropriately on clients' privacy. They shall treat as confidential all information (including oral, verbal, written and electronic) obtained in the course of their work, except where the law requires disclosure. As far as possible, they shall ensure that clients understand and consent to whatever professional action they propose.
Code of Ethics Principle 2: Competence
Psychologists must constantly maintain and update their professional skills and ethical awareness. They shall recognise the limitation of psychological knowledge and of their own expertise and capacity for work, and take care not to exceed the limits.
Code of Ethics Principle 3: Responsibility
In their professional and scientific activities, psychologists must act in a trustworthy, reputable, and accountable manner towards clients and the community. They shall avoid doing harm to clients and research participants, and act to prevent harm caused by others. Psychologists shall co-operate with colleagues and other professionals to ensure the best service to clients, and act positively to resolve ethical dilemmas. They shall ensure that those whom they supervise act ethically. In research with animals, they shall take care to treat the animals humanely.
Code of Ethics Principle 4. Integrity
Psychologists must be honest and accurate about their qualifications, the effectiveness of the services which they offer, and their research findings. They shall take steps to manage personal stress and maintain their own mental health. They shall treat others in a fair, open and straightforward manner, honour professional commitments, and act to clarify any confusion about their role or responsibilities. Where possible, they shall avoid the use of deception with research participants. They shall not use the professional relationship to exploit clients, sexually or otherwise, and they shall deal actively with conflicts of interest. They shall take action against harmful or unethical behaviour in colleagues or members of other professions.
Provision of Therapy & Consultation Online
It is becoming increasingly common for psychologists, consultants and therapist to make use of online technology to facilitate client support. This support includes interventions and services delivered in private on a person to person basis. However, technology has presented an additional means of delivering services.
Individuals may experience difficulty in attending face to face sessions, but might consider engaging with a professional online. Research has shown that some people are less inhibited in online interactions, and digital platforms may lead to expression of previously unexpressed thoughts and feelings.
The use of technology also makes geographical distance much less of an issue. Potential clients residing in remote areas where there are sparse services may benefit vastly from online therapy. Additionally, individuals with a complex or specialised problem may be able to access professionals more specialised in that specific problem. Potential clients with ill health, restricted mobility, severe anxiety issues, or other disabilities which make leaving home physically difficult may not otherwise be able to access therapeutic services.