Academic year 2011-12
Date last modified
Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience
This course is an introduction into the field of ethics, and professional ethics in particular. Important elements of professional ethics are professional codes. It is, however, not always easy to apply these codes in daily practice. Apart from knowledge of the codes, professionals need to have a sense of relationship and responsibility. Cases will be used to discuss how to handle tensions and conflicts in practice. Coercion and compulsion are part of day-to-day care in forensic mental health institutions and create all kinds of moral dilemmas (autonomy versus safety; group versus individual client). The law provides criteria (danger is the main criterion) to justify an intervention. Yet, in practice the question is not solely when to intervene, but also how to intervene in a responsible way. In a national project, ethical criteria were developed with all interested stakeholders in the field of psychiatry to enhance the quality of coercion and compulsion. These criteria (communication, prevention, evaluation) are now implemented on a larger scale in Dutch mental healthcare institutions. The quality criteria will be presented and discussed using various cases. Good quality of care is partly the responsibility of practitioners. This responsibility entails more than only applying external, ready-made professional codes and moral standards. Defining morally good care is a contextual process, based on concrete experiences of care providers. Therefore, in daily practice, forensic mental health professionals are and will be confronted with moral tensions and dilemmas, again and again. These moral dilemmas are often complicated by institutional rules and resources (not enough staff, not enough time for consultation, standard rules that prevent individual treatment). Managers and policymakers therefore also have a responsibility to create the required conditions for good care, and to facilitate processes of cultural change within organisations.
Students will gain knowledge into various approaches to professional ethics, professional codes (NIP, APA, Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists), moral dilemmas and ethical quality criteria for coercion and compulsion, and the relationship between professional responsibility and the organisational and societal context of forensic mental health practice.
Bush, S.S., Connell, M.A., & Denny, R.L.. (2006). Ethical Practice in Forensic Psychology: A Systematic Model for Decision Making. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. E-reader.
(Professional) ethics, professional codes, moral dilemmas, forensic, mental health, coercion.,
© Maastricht University