Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Clinical Psychology Competencies

pp 73-93

Ethical and Legal Issues

  • Genevieve L. Y. ArnautAffiliated withPacific University
  • , Dave A. HillAffiliated withPacific University


The ability to identify, understand, and resolve ethical and legal issues is an important competency for clinical psychologists. In this chapter we provide basic definitions of this ethical and legal territory and provide a rationale for why every psychologist must pay careful attention to this area, including providing competent services as well as meeting a minimum standard of care as part of risk management. We next give an overview of basic competency in this area, based on the National Council of Schools and Programs in Professional (2007) and Assessment of Competency Benchmarks Work Group (2007) approaches to competency as a psychologist. Both approaches highlight the fact that ethical and legal issues are present from the very beginning of training in clinical psychology and that a developmental course in competence is expected. The models complement each other in that one offers a view of ethics and legal issues as a general foundational competency underlying all of a psychologists (or trainee’s) activities, whereas the other model points to knowledge, skills, and abilities required in specific areas of practice. Subsequently, we consider aspects of competency that might be required of an expert (i.e., a psychologist entering professional practice): the ability to identify and sort through complex ethical and legal issues as well as to access resources for resolving these issues, and the application of one particular resource – ethical decision-making models – to resolve dilemmas.