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Professional Ethics in Context

Practising Rural Canadian Psychologists

Abstract

The complexities of professional ethics are best understood and interpreted within their sociohistorical context. This paper focuses on the experience of 20 rural psychologists from across Canada, a context rife with demographic and practice characteristics that may instigate ethical issues. Employing hermeneutic phenomenology, these qualitative research results are indicative of professional struggles that impacted the participants’ experience of professional ethics and raised key questions about policy and practise. Concerns regarding competition highlight potential professional vulnerability, beget the idea of fostering general psychological practice, and question the role of professional bodies in addressing rural shortages. Dependency on government funding models and decisions highlights the benefits and medical cost-offset effect of psychological services’ role in funded medical care. The controversial prescriptive authority debate for psychologists raises myriad concerns that are particularly salient to rural practitioners. These include changes to training and practice, with risks of psychopharmacology gaining prominence over behavioural health interventions. National inconsistencies in level of registration add to the growing shortage of practitioners. Finally, the results illuminate the need for advocacy to move beyond the literature and into public policy to increase public awareness, decrease the stigma of mental illness, and develop rural Canadian psychology. Although limited to this study, these results allowed for a fuller and more robust understanding of rural practice in consideration of professional ethics, which may inform policy, science, or ethical clinical practice.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Colonization and residential schools for the North American Aboriginal peoples meant the loss of cultural or traditional socialization for generations. This is noted as a potential cause of violence, abuse, and unresolved grief from this abandonment (Struthers and Lowe 2003; Whitbeck et al. 2004).

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Correspondence to Judi L. Malone.

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Malone, J.L. Professional Ethics in Context. Bioethical Inquiry 9, 463–477 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-012-9394-7

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Keywords

  • Sociohistorical context
  • Rural practice
  • Professional ethics
  • Psychology
  • Canada
  • Policy recommendations