Standards On Human Relations In Apa Essay Samples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Psychology, Ethics, Nursing, Relationships, Patient, Health, Subset, Standard

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2021/02/03


This paper examined the twelve subsets of ethical principles categorized in the Human Relations Standard 3 of the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics. Each subset principle was examined in detail, and six separate sources were consulted in support of this examination, including five scholarly sources and one website (APA). Finally, this author compared personal opinions and experiences to the ethical principles in the APA code, to reach a final conclusion regarding the ability to adhere to such strict standards in future fulfillment of professional duties and requirements in the mental health community. The overall result of this examination was a supported position that the APA ethical codes are effective and necessary. Therefore, my conclusion is a personally firm belief that adhering to such codes and principles will fit very well with my personal moral and ethical codes, so I am ready, willing, and able to accept such a serious responsibility.
The field of psychology can be one of the most effective, helpful, and healing professions in the medical arena. However, before ethical codes were implemented in both the medical and mental health fields, patients were mistreated, misdiagnosed, abused, neglected and sometimes worse. Fortunately, with the implementation of medical and mental health codes of ethics, professionals accepted the challenge to provide care to patients while maintaining a standardized set of behaviors and adhering to a rather strict set of directives.
With the American Psychological Association’s development of the Code of Ethics, divided into numerous Standards and subsets of principles, patient care improved and the profession saw found itself in an entirely new age of ethical, professional, patient-oriented care. As implementation of these ethical standards became required by all professions in the field, and the principles were copied and adapted by numerous other ‘sister’ health care professions, the potential for long-term change and advancement became a reality.
In many professions, especially those that directly touch the lives of those being helped by the professionals licensed to practice, there are established codes of ethical behavior. According to Koocher (2008), ethics is “traditionally a branch of philosophy dealing with moral problems and moral judgments” (p. 4). Although this definition is a fairly accurate assessment of the basics of ethics, the definition does not truly do justice to the myriad difficulties that arise when professionals face real-life ethical dilemmas.
In fact, Koocher (2008) more carefully defines the world of psychology ethics by stating that it is sometimes an imperfect system, because “we may all strive to be responsible and good, [but] there is often a gap between the ideal outcome and what can realistically be accomplished” (p. 5). This statement is a much more accurate assessment of the quandary many mental health professionals face, on a daily basis, in the performance of even the most rudimentary requirements of tasks necessary to successfully assist patients.
The field of psychology is unique in that it has its own well-established ethical code. According to Koocher (2008), the American Psychological Association (APA) has an ethics code that is applicable “to most mental health professions andsimilar to the provisions in most other codes” (p. 5). As noted by the American Psychological Association [APA] (2010), the most recent version of the APA ethics code is officially designated the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. This lengthy name describes the existence of several ethical tenets, which all professional psychologists must rigorously adhere to. The code consists of an introduction, preamble, general principles, and ten standards. Within each standard are subsets (also referred to as sections), which relate to the more general standard. The subsets are statements of ethical behavior, as it is expected of psychology professionals, in terms of behavior, decisions, patient relations, and numerous other topics (APA, 2010).
Within the Code, Standard 3 is entitled: Human Relations. This standard directly addresses the expected ethical behavior of psychologists as it applies to relations between professionals and other humans. There are twelve subsets within the Human Relations Standard, each one detailing carefully organized ethical behaviors and expectations of psychologists.
The first subset is Unfair Discrimination 3.01 (APA, 2010). Essentially, this subset is a declaration that psychologists will not unfairly discriminate based on familiar traits such as gender, race, and religion as well as several additional traits not typically recognized by most federal and state law. This principle is extremely important in human relations, especially as it relates to mental health services, because every patient falls into at least one of the listed categories/traits. If a mental health professional were to discriminate against patients (or prospective patients) based upon one of these characteristics or traits, it would severely limit the effectiveness and accountability of the professional. Further, it would likely ostracize the patients and discourage any future participation in seeking mental health assistance due to previously derogatory treatment.
The second subset in the Human Relations Standard is Sexual Harassment 3.02 (APA, 2010). This subset is a firm statement that professionals will not harass in any sexually suggestive fashion. The subset also includes very specific definitions of behavior that is considered sexual harassment, which leaves almost no room for doubt, unlike many employment law standards that might be vague or non-inclusive. This principle is very important with respect to human relations, because many patients have already been sexually traumatized, abused, or otherwise harassed by others. Therefore, this very strict and specific principle is a mighty assurance that any psychologists who behave in the listed ways – or anything close to the listed behaviors – it is an ethical violation. Adherence to this principle ensures that both patients and the psychologists treating them understand the immovable guidelines, providing protection for all parties concerned.
The third subset in the Human Relations Standard is Other Harassment 3.03 (APA, 2010). This principle is essentially a combination of the Unfair Discrimination subset as it relates to harassment, overall. The principle declares that psychologists will not knowingly engage in harassing or demeaning behavior based on the factors listed in the first subset. This principle is even further assurance that any harassing behavior by a psychologist, whether sexual in nature or due to any of the numerous factors previously listed, will be considered an ethical violation.
The fourth subset in the Human Relations Standard is Avoiding Harm 3.04 (APA, 2010). This principle echoes the physician’s oath of ‘do no harm’, stating that psychologists will do everything possible to avoid harm to several types of people including clients, patients, students, and others. Further, the principle dictates that if harm is foreseeable yet unavoidable, the psychologist will do everything to minimize the harm. This principle is vital to the existence of the entire mental health profession, because it is the backbone of modern day practices. A psychologist who does not commit to avoiding harm will certainly be in violation of the ethical code.
One of the more controversial areas of psychology and psychotherapy is that of research, which employs the use of humans. According to Rowan (2000) in previous decades, people involved in research were referred to as ‘subjects’. However, the British Psychological Society then “decided it was wrong to call people subjects, because it suggested that they were subjected to the will of the researcher” (Rowan, 2000, p. 103). Although such a change was not seen as some sort of ethical consideration, it was considered imperative to the progression of the field, and treated as such.
The fifth subset in the Human Relations Standard is Multiple Relationships 3.05 (APA, 2010). This principle is a very in-depth declaration that psychologists will not engage in ‘multiple relationships’ with any person. The specific wording of this principle is indicative of the importance of maintaining the appropriate professional behavior with all persons the psychologist comes into contact with during practice. A general definition of multiple relationships is carefully described, after which, each type of multiple relationship is detailed. Further, instructions are given regarding what a psychologists must do if unforeseen factors lead to “a potentially harmful multiple relationship” (APA, 2010, 3.05 Multiple Relationships). Obviously, the amount of detail and explanation in this section is evidence of its importance to the practice of psychology because any professional who crosses the boundaries therein must immediately correct the situation or be found in violation of the Code.
According to Davis (1999), “the essence of any analytic relationship is the affective bond that develops between patient and analyst[and] it is this very affective bond that is conflictual and interferes” (p. 666). In fact, Davis specifies that terminations (of the psychologist-patient relationship) provide a great deal of conflict for the psychologist, if patient-initiated requests for termination are premature or ill-advised. For many psychologists, Davis (1999) warns that “the affective bond can be very intense on both sides despite the apparent neutrality or professional form” (p. 667). Hence, the reason that avoiding multiple relationships is so both difficult – and imperative.
Another complication of therapy – especially in the context of marriage and family therapy – is the fact that these therapists have a “potentially influential position with respect to clients, [so] they avoid exploiting the trust and dependence of such persons” (Brownlee, 1996, p. 498). Yet, the overall deciding factors with respect to ethical concerns “based on the codes, are the two central principles, impaired objectivity, and risk of exploitation” (Brownlee, 1996, p. 499). Utilizing these guideposts, the mindful and diligent psychologist should be able to navigate the sometimes murky waters of possible ethical conflicts and violations.
The sixth subset in the Human Relations Standard is Conflict of Interest 3.06 (APA, 2010). In a practical sense, this principle is a direct extension of the previous subset (Multiple Relationships) in that any remaining conflicts are specifically covered. This extension of subset five is vital to the continuation of professional behavior in the psychology community, to ensure proper objectivity and patient safety. Oddly, Sigmund Freud believed that he could not serve the interests of more than one party. According to Szasz (1998), Freud “consider[ed] himself the patient’s agenttried to do what he could for the individual patient and repudiated his obligation the family and society” (p. 20). Certainly, Freud’s belief was far beyond the requirements of this principle, but the underlying notion is still in practice today.
The seventh subset in the Human Relations Standard is Third-Party Requests for Services 3.07 (APA, 2010). This principle explains that when a ‘third party’ – not the psychologist and not the patient – requests services for a patient, at the outset the psychologist has a duty to clarify the relations and circumstances of all parties involved. Requiring that psychologists adhere to this ethical code is actually a truth in disclosure behavior, providing the patient and third parties with transparency of services. This can be very beneficial if patients already suffer from some form of paranoia or trust issues, by relieving the need to question motives of the psychologist and others who might be involved in obtaining treatment.
The eighth subset in the Human Relations Standard is Exploitative Relationships 3.08 (APA, 2010). This principle is somewhat unique, because it specifically states that psychologists will not exploit any “persons over whom they have supervisory, evaluative or other authority” (APA, 2010, 3.08 Exploitative Relationships). Further, there are numerous references to other sections that directly relate to such relationships, including section 3.05 Multiple Relationships.
This principle ensures that psychologists will behave in a professional manner and not exploit anyone under their charge or supervision, regardless of their titles. Adherence to this principle is paramount for successful working relationships in the mental health community, which allows for more successful patient treatment.
In Davis’ (1999) discussion of ethics and ‘being used’, he discusses the fact that “the analytic relationship is an object of both the patient’s and analyst’s minds, which change over the course of treatment[yet] unfortunately, the word ‘use’ has been confused with ‘manipulate’” (p. 663). This description of the analytical relationship is illustrative of the ongoing issue psychologists face in the attempt to avoid being exploitative towards anyone under their supervision or control.
The ninth subset in the Human Relations Standard is Cooperation with Other Professionals 3.09 (APA, 2010). This principle is a declaration that psychologists will cooperate with other professionals “when indicated and professionally appropriate” (APA, 2010, 3.09 Cooperation). For continuity of care and successful patient treatment – especially those patients who may have interdisciplinary issues – this principle is imperative.
The tenth subset in the Human Relations Standard is Informed Consent 3.10 (APA, 2010). Of all the principles in this standard, this is by far one of the most crucial. Providing patients with information about their care, and the ability to grant consent (based upon such information) is one of the most respected tenets of modern medicine. Obviously, the requirement of informed consent is an extremely heavy burden to carry, but one that the professional psychologist gladly shoulders.
Without informed consent, medicine and mental health treatments might return to the horrifying shadows of previous centuries gone by, when patients had no idea what was done to them and never had a chance to decline. Szasz (1998) goes further, saying that “if the analytical situation is contractual and free of coercion, the patient will realize it” (p. 17). Without such a give-and-take system of trust between psychologist and patient, the profession would no longer exist.
The eleventh subset in the Human Relations Standard is Psychological Services Delivered to or Through Organizations 3.11 (APA, 2010). This principle is primarily an extension and more inclusive version of 3.07 (Third-Party Requests for Services). Essentially, this principle specifies that even services not requested by third parties but specifically provided to (or through) organizations will include the same transparency of information requirements. However, should the psychologist be barred (through statute or otherwise), the patient will be informed at the outset. As mentioned previously, for mental health patients, both transparency and information are of the utmost importance to most. Therefore, this principle is just as vital as previously mentioned subsets. According to Szasz (1998), psychoanalysis is actually a type of ‘freedom’ for the patient. Although Sigmund Freud primarily focused on removing patients’ freedoms, recent analysis has been to “free the patient from the constricting effects of his neurosis[with] the modern psychoanalytic idea of normality somehow the same as freedom” (p. 17).
The twelfth and final subset of the Human Relations Standard is Interruption of Psychological Services 3.12 (APA, 2010). This principle is vital to mental health patients – just as similar principles are for medical patients and physicians – because the patient relies so greatly on the ongoing, reliable care of the psychologist. Specifically, this subset requires the psychologist to prevent the interruption of services to the patient unless otherwise barred or due to unavoidable circumstances.
According to Koocher (2008), adherence to these ethical codes and principles is a type of ‘risk management’ approach, with a “central focuson assisting in self-protection against the legal and other hazards of modern-day professional services” (p. 5).
As a mental health professional, I believe it is essential to follow the ethical guidelines of the APA. Certainly, today these guidelines and ethical codes are a standardized requirement of the profession. However, were they not already required I would personally implement some generalized form of the codes contained in the APA standards. It is my firm belief (personally) that all people – and most especially professionals in the medical and mental health communities – should function under personal requirements and standards such as those found in the APA code.
One of the most essential, basic tenets of the APA code is personal responsibility, which is one of the highest standards I hold myself to. Regardless of whether someone is successful or failing, it is vitally important to accept responsibility for all actions. Many of the principles found in the ethical codes – and especially in the Human Relations Standard – relate to accepting personal responsibility (in a professional manner) for all actions and non-actions. I wholeheartedly agree with this underlying idea, and I’m sure I will do everything in my power to follow all of the ethical principles that relate to the idea of personal responsibility, in a professional aspect.
Another one of the basic underlying tenets of the APA code is showing compassion to others, which is another one of the highest standards I hold myself to. Basically, this ‘golden rule’ (do to others as you would want done to you) is a belief I was raised with and I have carried with me throughout childhood and into adulthood. Because so many of the ethical principles are related to this moral, I am certain I will be able to adhere to all of the related principles because I am so comfortable with this type of personal ethics standard.


American Psychological Association. (2010, June 1). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: Including 2010 amendments. Retrieved from
Brownlee, K. (1996). Ethics in community mental health care: The ethics of non-sexual dual relationships: A dilemma for the rural mental health profession. Community Mental Health Journal, 32(5), 497-503. Retrieved from
Davis, H. B. (1999). The ethics of being used. Psychoanalytic Review, 86(4), 663-71. Retrieved from
Koocher, G. P. (2008). Ethics in psychology and the mental health professions: Standards and cases. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Rowan, J. (2000). Research ethics. International Journal of Psychotherapy, 5(2), 103-111. Retrieved from
Szasz, T. S. (1998). The ethics of psychoanalysis. Society, 35(2), 16-21. Retrieved from

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