Ethical dilemmas experienced by clinical psychology trainee therapists

Poornima Bhola, Ananya Sinha, Suruchi Sonkar, Ahalya Raguram

Abstract

Ethical dilemmas are inevitable during psychotherapeutic interactions, and these complexities and challenges may be magnified during the training phase. The experience of ethical dilemmas in the arena of therapy and the methods of resolving these dilemmas were examined among 35 clinical psychologists in training, through an anonymous and confidential online survey. The trainees’ responses to four open-ended questions on any one ethical dilemma encountered during therapy were analysed, using thematic content analysis. The results highlighted that the salient ethical dilemmas related to confidentiality and boundary issues. The trainees also raised ethical questions regarding therapist competence, the beneficence and non-maleficence of therapeutic actions, and client autonomy. Fifty-seven per cent of the trainees reported that the dilemmas were resolved adequately, the prominent methods of resolution being supervision or consultation and guidance from professional ethical guidelines. The trainees felt that the professional codes had certain limitations as far as the effective resolution of ethical dilemmas was concerned. The findings indicate the need to strengthen training and supervision methodologies and professional ethics codes for psychotherapists and counsellors in India.

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