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Decoding the Ethics Code

Decoding the Ethics Code
A Practical Guide for Psychologists

Fourth Edition

568 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Revised to reflect the current status of scientific and professional theory, practices, and debate across all facets of ethical decision making, this latest edition of Celia B. Fisher’s acclaimed book demystifies the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. The Fourth Edition explains and puts into practical perspective the format, choice of wording, aspirational principles, and enforceability of the code. Providing in-depth discussions of the foundation and application of each ethical standard to the broad spectrum of scientific, teaching, and professional roles of psychologists, this unique guide helps practitioners effectively use ethical principles and standards to morally conduct their work activities, avoid ethical violations, and, most importantly, preserve and protect the fundamental rights and welfare of those whom they serve.
Part I: Introduction and Background
Chapter 1: A Code of Ethics for Psychology: How Did We Get Here?

The 2010 Amendments: The Controversy Over Psychologists’ Involvement in Inhumane Military Interrogations

Format and Distinctive Features of the APA Ethics Code

Chapter 2: The Introduction and Applicability Section, Preamble, and General Principles: What Do They Mean?
Understanding the Introduction and Applicability Section and the Preamble

What Is the Relevance of Specific Language Used in the Ethics Code?

How Is the Ethics Code Related to APA Ethics Enforcement?

How Is the Ethics Code Related to Sanctions by Other Bodies?

How Is the APA Ethics Code Related to Law?

General Principles

Chapter 3: The APA Ethics Code and Ethical Decision Making
Ethical Commitment and Virtues

Ethical Awareness and Moral Principles

Ethical Awareness and Ethical Theories

Ethical Absolutism, Ethical Relativism, and Ethical Contextualism

Ethical Competence

Steps in Ethical Decision Making

Doing Good Well

Part II. Enforceable Standards
Chapter 4: Standards for Resolving Ethical Issues
1. Resolving Ethical Issues

Chapter 5: Standards on Competence
2. Competence

Chapter 6: Standards on Human Relations
3. Human Relations

Chapter 7: Standards on Privacy and Confidentiality
4. Privacy and Confidentiality

Chapter 8: Standards on Advertising and Other Public Statements
5. Advertising and Other Public Statements

Chapter 9: Standards on Record Keeping and Fees
6. Record Keeping and Fees

Chapter 10: Standards on Education and Training
7. Education and Training

Chapter 11: Standards on Research and Publication
8. Research And Publication

Chapter 12: Standards on Assessment
9. Assessment

Chapter 13: Standards on Therapy
10. Therapy

Appendix A: Case Studies for Ethical Decision Making


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  • A Microsoft® Word® test bank is available containing multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions for each chapter. The test bank provides you with a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity for editing any question and/or inserting your own personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding.
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“This book is to be praised for emphasizing a working decision-making model as opposed to the ‘What should you do if…?’ hypothetical approach that can create a false sense of security. It is gratifying to hear students approach ethical questions in this way. . .”

Dr. Tom J. Brian
The University of Tulsa

“I have continued to use the Fisher text because I find it clear, succinct, current, and accessible. Student reviews have been consistently positive about the text over the years.”

Richard P. Halgin
The University of Massachusetts Amherst

“I think [the Hot Topics and Need to Know sections] are very attractive components of the text, especially given the organizational structure of walking step by step through the code.”

Jeff Ashby
Georgia State University

“The Hot Topics and Need to Know boxes are excellent additions. They bring in the most relevant practice changes in the field.” 

Dr. Ida Dickie
Spalding University

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 5

Chapter 13

Celia B. Fisher

Celia B. Fisher, PhD, Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education and Professor of Psychology, holds the Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics and directs the NIDA funded HIV/Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Institute. Dr. Fisher served as a member of the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Ethic Committee and later Chaired the APA Ethics Code Task Force responsible for the 2002 revision of the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct that, with the addition of language on human rights amended in 2010 and 2017, is today’s current code. She has also Chaired the Ethics Code Revision... More About Author

For instructors

Also available as a South Asia Edition.