FORENSIC ETHICS

First a bit about forensic psychology. The term forensic comes from another term that means “in the forum” and the forum is in some type of legal setting. Forensic ethics applies to the application of ethical principles to the work psychologists do in the Courts. Everyone stuggles with ethics just like everyone struggles with the right thing to do in complex situations. There are major codes of ethics applicable to forensic psychology but they don’t cover every circumstance. Plus in legal settings attorneys have a distinctly different role in a case from the psychologist. The lawyer is an advocate for the client. The psychologist’s job is to bring the scientific study of human behavior to the legal issue at hand. It is very easy to be caught up in the battle between the advocates. However, it is wrong to do so and the psyc. must maintain objectivity and focusĀ on the data. Nowhere else is this a problem than in child custody disputes. These disputes and the legal system set up to deal with them often brings out the worst in parents. I have seen perfectly rational, logical and healthy people become irrational, illogical and unhealthy in dealing with child custody. It is quite tragic for everyone except that the environment is a breeding ground for ethical viruses. I have observed psychologists and other mental health professionals act unethical and contrary to the normal way in which they behave. The explanation is deeper than the money they make. The system itself is unhealthy in my opinion. Many professions have specific ethical principles that apply to child custody disputes. While very important they don’t stop unethical conduct. In one case I found a psychologist who was very threatened by the expertise and seniority of another psychologist and reacted to this in a bizarre and juvenile manner desperately trying to protect the turf that this psyc. had carved out for years in a small community. There are many disturbing aspects of this especially that misconduct in NOT in the best interests of the child!

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