What’s the point of Ethics?

People are often curious about ethical codes in the mental health field and the purpose of there existence. Questions often asked include: “What was the real purpose for developing the first Ethics Code?” and “Do they ever make changes to previous outdated ethical codes?”.

Here’s a brief explanation…

The first Code of Ethics was created by the American Psychological Association. It seems that the main purpose for creating the first ethical values was to protect individuals in research projects. Without any set rules in place, as we have seen, there has been significant history of unethical practices in the psychology field. If some type of standard or code of ethics was never created these practices, although barbaric, probably would still be occurring (i.e. shocking people). As humans we have universal rights which the code of ethics represents. I would also say the APA created the first ethical codes to create a standard throughout research. When these codes did not exist psychologists and researchers would use their own personal moral compass to judge what was ethical and was not, which leaves a large degree of error. Creating universal codes that every researcher must follow creates a clear understating of what is ethical and what is not.

The Ethics Code revisions from 1992 to 2002 seemed to focus primarily on taking the law more so out of the psychologists’ hands and making the codes more clear cut. By making these revisions, adding to the reasons for the Ethics Codes initially, is to make sure there really is no grey area when working with research subjects. Whenever there is area that is fully understood, we will take upon ourselves to create our own ethical code.

General principles. (2010). In Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: 2010 amendments. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.