Psychological Injury and Law

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 360–375 | Cite as

Functioning Well in a Dysfunctional System: Recommendations for Clinical Psychologists in Workers’ Compensation Settings

  • Shadi Gholizadeh
  • Vanessa L. Malcarne
  • Michael E. Schatman


Clinical psychologists working in workers’ compensation (WC) settings face unique and complex professional and ethical challenges. The present paper provides recommendations to clinical psychologists for avoiding the largely unintentional harm to clients and unethical practices that can occur within the realm of WC. Although the psychologists working in WC settings more often than not act in ethical ways grounded in years of academic and professional training, the unique tasks required of psychologists in WC settings (e.g., rating injuries; determinations of causality) and the pressures inherent in the system can potentially lead even the most well-intentioned mental health professionals into unsavory ethical and professional scenarios. The authors examine the (un)witting contributions of psychologists to the current dysfunction in the WC system and provide recommendations for traversing the oft-serpentine terrain of mental health evaluations and treatment in WC settings. Specifically, the authors discuss, among the many possible potential pitfalls, (1) bringing personal bias into the evaluative setting, (2) engaging in unsavory advertising practices, (3) cherry-picking and other missteps in record review, (4) engaging in cursory consenting, (5) failure to engage in evidence-based assessment and report writing, and (6) role challenges.


Workers’ compensation Psychological injury Ethics QME 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (national and institutional). No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, San Diego State UniversityUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Pain FoundationBellevue, WA/MiddletownUSA

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