Scandinavian Ethics Code for Psychologists

Scandinavian Ethics Code for Psychologists

 

I was emailed a google-translate of the Etiske Principper for Nordiske Psykologer Denmark.Sweden.Norway and I was asked for comment regarding possible ethical violations for Scandinavian psychologists similar to the professional concerns surrounding American psychologists, and others internationally.

I cannot make official comment on the Scandinavian ethics code until I locate an official English translation, then I can provide formal comment and analysis because then I’ll be on solid ground regarding what’s being said by the constructs used, but I can provide some initial thoughts based on this translation.

Professional Competence is discussed in Section II.2

II.2 Competence

The psychologist strives to develop and maintain a high level of professional qualifications in his work.

First, I would note how they incorporated “high level” as the standard for practice.  I am unaware of the translated construct in the original language, but if an appropriate construct was used that would bear the weight of argument, I would emphasize that the ethics code for Scandinavian psychologists specifically designated a “high level” of professional practice.

That would mean application of knowledge – Bowlby, Munuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick – that is entirely consistent with “high level” – and failure to apply established knowledge would NOT meet this “high level” standard.

From the Translation: The psychologist seeks awareness of his professional and human strengths and weaknesses so that he can realistically assess with which competence he can take on tasks.

This sentence says… “It is your responsibility as a psychologist to know what the limits of your competence are.”  It’s not up to you, the consumer, to identify it… it’s up to them to know their limitations, and to practice only within those limitations, which is the next sentence.

From the Translation:  The psychologist takes on only the tasks, offers only the services and uses only those methods he is qualified by virtue of education, training and experience.

That’s the core sentence.  What Foundations does, and an attachment-based model of pathogenic parenting surrounding divorce does (AB-PA), is establish that a knowledge of five domains of professional psychology are needed for competence,

  • Attachment
  • Family systems therapy
  • Personality disorders
  • Complex trauma
  • Neuro-development of the brain in childhood

I use a main person in each field to represent each domain, Bowlby (attachment), Minuchin (family systems therapy), Beck (personality disorders), van der Kolk (complex trauma), and Tronick (neuro-development of the brain).  This is established knowledge. 

Working with complex family conflict surrounding divorce requires professional competence in all five of these domains of knowledge.  That’s what the work of Dr. Childress asserts.  It is now up to them to either,

A.)  Know and apply the knowledge domains, i.e., be competent, or,

B.)  Defend why they don’t need to know that knowledge domain for the type of work they do.

Notice too, the method of qualification, “education, training, and experience” – that’s their vitae.  Show us, on your vitae, where is your “education, training, and experience” in those five domains of knowledge.

I suspect that no psychologist currently has professional-level “education, training, and experience” in all five of those domains of knowledge.  I do, because I’m competent in what I do.  If I need to know it, I know it.  But for other psychologists, that then becomes the leverage point for them to receive additional training for professional competence. 

Do I care what type of training?  No, I don’t. 

As long as every mental health professional on the planet who is working with court-involved pathology receives additional training in whatever they don’t know from those five domains.  If you know attachment and trauma, but don’t know family systems therapy… hurry-hurry, all five for competence… go get “education, training, and experience” in family systems therapy – hurry-hurry, required for competence.

I might be asked to help in the transition, but I don’t speak Swedish, or Spanish, or Japanese.  Each country will need to develop its own “high level” of professional knowledge applied.  I can help, it’s up to you to do it, because you want to do it. It is the right thing to do… apply knowledge to solve pathology.  It’s what we do as psychologists.

I’m a catalyst for change.  I established the solid foundations of knowledge that change can rest on, the scientifically grounded foundations of professional psychology, where debate is answered by the question and answer, “What does the research say?”  That’s the answer.

I recently provided an invited lecture at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.  I was part of a panel, with additional Dutch psychologists from attachment and trauma also presenting.  Yay.  Exactly as it should be.  There was no “parental alienation” on the panel – that is a construct beneath professional standards of practice – trauma… attachment… family systems therapy… personality disorders… the neuro-development of the brain in childhood – Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick.

I am not the source of knowledge, but I can be a helpful orienting conduit TO the knowledge during a transitional up-grade in professional standards of practice.  I don’t speak Danish.  I don’t speak French.  I don’t speak Italian. Each nation will have to find psychologists within your country who step up to deliver the highest level of professional practice for the courts.

The courts deserve the HIGHEST standards of professional practice.  Lives hang in the balance of court decisions.  Professional standards of practice for court-involved psychology need to excel, they need to be at the absolute-top in the application of knowledge and scientific research to the information and to decision-making.  People’s lives hang in the balance of the court’s decision, there is no tolerance for professional ignorance and sloth.

There will be a transition period.  We need indigenous psychologists within each country to understand their professional responsibilities in this regard, and the professional responsibilities of their colleagues.  Continuing education on the matter of foundational knowledge is warranted as the application of scientifically established knowledge is increased.

Reading the Scandinavian ethics code, there are exceedingly positive indicators of sanity.  The next sections reveal these.

Ethical Awareness

From the Translation: A prerequisite for a high professional competence is that the psychologist is aware of the ethical principles and integrates ethical assessments into its professional practices.

This establishes, clearly establishes, that the line of discussion and critique we are taking into professional dialogue is a requirement of consideration for all psychologists in Scandinavia.  Ethical practice is central to the required “high level” of professional practice.

Competence and Skills Development

From the Translation: The psychologist works in accordance with scientific principles and substantiated experience and endeavors for continuous professional development. The psychologist acquires knowledge about scientific and professional development within its scope of work.

This is an interesting statement, “in accordance with scientific principles and substantiated experience”- that seems identical to Standard 2.04 of the APA ethics code requiring the application of scientifically established knowledge.  An English translation, however, may not capture nuanced complexity to the original language terms used, so I will defer to a native interpretation for this requirement. But it seems to me, it’s saying that you must apply Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, and Tonick.

Limitations of Competence

From the Translation: The psychologist works within the limits on his own competence that stems from education, training, experience and personal strength and limitation, and seeks professional help and support in difficult situations.

You are not allowed to be incompetent.  You need to know what you’re doing if you are going to do it.  Note again, the qualifications, “education, training, experience.”  Note also, the direction made to psychologists to seek professional consultation support in difficult situations, again deferring to meaning in the original-language as to intent.

Method Limitations

From the Translation: The psychologist is aware of the limitations that lie in the methods and methods of the subject, and the limitations that must be placed on the conclusions that can be drawn.

Know your limitations.

As psychologists, we shouldn’t be in the business of judging human frailty and vulnerabilities to decide who “deserves” to be a parent.  We fix things.   We shouldn’t go beyond the scope of what we know and what we can do.  Parents – normal-range parents – should be afforded wide latitude to parent according to their cultural, personal and spiritual values.  If it’s not child abuse, then we should not be judging human frailty, that’s not the role of psychologists.

Be aware of our limitations, and the limitations of what the scientific evidence will support and will allow us to say.  What are the psychometric properties of your assessment protocol, what is your referral question?  Stay within the limitations of our professionally grounded knowledge.

Limitations of the Framework Conditions

From the Translation: The psychologist is aware of how social and working conditions can promote or inhibit the appropriate use of his competence and methods.

We are working with the court.  The court appreciates evidence.  In clinical psychology, our term is documentation.  In research methods, the term is data.  Professional psychology should ground its interactions with the court in clean documentation and clean data for decision-making. 

Not a problem.  Clearly documented assessment, clearly documented diagnosis, case conceptualization and written treatment plan, and outcome measures documenting treatment response and treatment outcome should be standard of practice.

The lives of multiple people, including children, hang in the balance of the court’s decisions surrounding the family.  It is essential that court-involved professional psychology provides the court with the highest standards in the application of professional knowledge and standards of practice.  It is vital for court-involved professional psychology to be aware of how its input to the court can have dramatic long-term impacts on multiple people, necessitating the highest standards of practice in the application of professional knowledge.

The Liability section contains the provisions regarding Avoiding Harm

II.3 Liability

From the Translation: The psychologist is aware of the professional and scientific responsibilities he has for its clients and that organization and the community in which he lives and works.

We have responsibilities.

From the Translation: The psychologist avoids causing harm and is responsible for his actions.

The psychologist avoids causing harm and is responsible for his actions. That seems simple, direct and clear.  There are no exclusions noted.  There was no, “avoids causing harm, except with parent litigants in divorce – them… it’s okay to harm them, but not other people.”  It doesn’t say that.  No exceptions were indicated.

The statement was clear and direct in its simplicity, and the psychologist is clearly held accountable, no “just following instructions” excuses… “responsible for his actions” – “the psychologist avoids causing harm.”

Did the actions of the psychologist, either directly or through failed application of knowledge (a violation of II.2 Competence)… harm you?

With the mere assertion of this, it then becomes incumbent upon the psychologist to DEMONSTRATE through vitae and in their documentation of their assessment, diagnosis, and treatment… that they applied knowledge; Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, and Tronick – attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, the neuro-development of the brain in childhood, consistent with their obligations under II.2 Competence.

From the Translation: Secures as far as possible that his benefits are not abused.

It’s not simply that the psychologist avoids harming people – anyone – even you – the psychologist must also “secure” (defer to the original term) that BENEFITS are indeed benefits, and are not misused and abused.

The Scandinavian professional ethics code expects a “high level” of professional responsibility.  Know what you’re doing, make sure it helps and doesn’t hurt, and that is YOUR responsibility to ensure, not someone else’s.

Responsibility

From the Translation: The psychologist takes responsibility for himself the quality and consequences of its work, but at the same time be aware of, that he is experienced by others as a representative of his stand.

Do quality work, and also understand that you represent the entire field of professional psychology.  Represent well, the professional standards of practice for psychologists.

Avoidance of Abuse / Injury

From the Translation: The psychologist strives to avoid that psychology professional knowledge or practice being abused and taking responsibility for, that an injury is inevitable, and which can be foreseen will be as small as possible.

This seems identical to Standard 3.04 of the APA ethics code.  Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people – anyone, there are no exceptions noted in the code – and when harm is “inevitable” (defer to the original term), then psychologists make it as “small as possible” (defer to the original term).

Conclusion

The Scandinavian ethics code for psychologists contains nearly identical standards in II.2 Competence as in the APA ethics code Section 2: Competence.  The Scandinavian ethics code for psychologists mandates knowing the established domains of psychology relevant to the domain for practice:

From the Translation:  The psychologist takes on only the tasks, offers only the services and uses only those methods he is qualified by virtue of education, training and experience (APA: Standard 2.01a)

And the ethics code for Scandinavian psychologists mandates the application of scientifically established knowledge:

From the Translation: The psychologist works in accordance with scientific principles and substantiated experience and endeavors for continuous professional development. The psychologist acquires knowledge about scientific and professional development within its scope of work. (APA: Standard 2.04)

These requirements would seemingly mandate knowing and applying the scientific principles” (defer to original term) for attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, and the neuro-development of the brain in childhood – Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick.

Where questions are answered with the question and answer of, “What does the research say, that’s the answer.”

The ethics code for Scandinavian psychologists also has nearly an identical Avoiding Harm standard as APA Standard 3.04 Avoiding Harm.

From the Translation: The psychologist avoids causing harm and is responsible for his actions.

Psychologists are not allowed to be ignorant or incompetent (II.2 Competence), and psychologists are not allowed to hurt people – even you – (II.3 Liability).  You might want to check the exact cultural-legal use of the term, because the term “liability” has legal responsibility meaning in the United States.

Craig  Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 1885

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