Professionalism and Ethics: Q & A Self-Study Guide for Mental Health Professionals


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Roberts, Laura Weiss and Hoop, Jinger G. (2008) Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing Inc. ISBN 978 1 58562 244 3. Xxvi + 251 pp. Paperback.Practicing mental health professionals are expected to follow their profession's code of ethics and to behave in an ethical manner. This is easy enough to say but much harder to follow in practice. There are many experts and views detailing what constitutes ethical behavior. This overabundance of information does not fit into a coherent whole that guides the practitioner. Where ethics is concerned the practitioner is put in the position of having to know about the unknowable. Because a thing is impossible doesn't mean that the professional is relieved of the obligation to behave ethically. Roberts and Hoop attempt to provide help with the task with this self-study guide.The volume has an interesting structure. In addition to the 2 authors, 6 others either authored or coauthored essays and 14 others are listed on the title page as contributors. Although it is a minor point, this work is apparently a collective effort and this reviewer wonders whether the authors should be listed as editors.To develop the study questions and answers an elaborate procedure was used. Experts from many mental health professions and practice areas were involved. The items are contrived case examples developed from the contributor’s experiences, with a multiple choice option and a discussion of the correct answer. They were subject to “ … blinded peer review, outside expert review, data and reference verification, and iterative crosschecks” (p. xiv). With a procedure this sophisticated it is too bad some data were not collected and an item analysis done.There are 3 brief introductions, each by a distinguished psychiatrist. These statements acquaint the reader with what makes ethical decision making so parlous. Taken singly they are useful, competent and logical statements. The only thing is they don't all reach the same conclusions. This is a good warning for those who would want to use this book as a way to arrive at pat answers.There are 3 parts to this volume. The first is a 70-page overview of ethical issues that concern mental health practice. It is an adaptation of a chapter previously published in the fifth edition of The American Psychiatric PublishingTextbook of Clinical Psychiatry. The coverage is comprehensive. The authors recognize that many dilemmas faced by practitioners cause severe strain and may be irresolvable. The acceptance of the decision made will depend on the response of other professionals and deciders such as the courts. Because the ethical decisions are made up some of them are artificial and do not pose real ethical issues. In one illustration it is said that there is an ethical dilemma the first time a medical student uses a difficult procedure. There could be if the student wasn't ready and there was improper supervision. Rather than posing an ethical problem, the introduction of a student to a new procedure is a situation where the patient will probably never get better care. This section is finished with a short essay on professionalism, ways of defining it, and the ways of interpreting it.The second part consists of the annotated multiple choice study questions. These are split into chapters dealing with professionalism, clinical practice, medical research, and interactions with colleagues and students. Part 3 has self-assessment questions similar in form to the prior questions. Here the answers are at the end of the chapter. There is no discussion but references to the source of the judgment used in providing the correct answer are provided.

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