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, as stated in the Society’s Memorandum of Association, is to ‘advance psychology as a pure and applied science in Ireland and elsewhere’. To further this aim, PSI strives to promote good psychological practice 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.
Ethical Principle 1: Respect for the rights and dignity of the person
This principle requires of psychologists that they treat their clients as persons of intrinsic worth with a right to determine their own priorities, that they respect 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.
Ethical Principle 2: Competence
Psychologists must constantly maintain and update their professional skills and ethical awareness. They shall recognise that psychological knowledge and their own expertise and capacity for work are limited, and take care not to exceed the limits.
Ethical Principle 3: Responsibility
In their professional and scientific activities, psychologists are required to 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. They 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.
Ethical Principle 4. Integrity
Psychologists are obliged to 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 type of problem may be able to access professionals who are more specialised in their 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.