CAP THE MONITOR C

THE CAP MONITOR
To serve the interests of the public and guide the profession of psychology.
Winter| 2012
Issue | 41
WORKING WITH CHILDREN OF SEPARATION AND DIVORCE:
PITFALLS, MISCONCEPTIONS AND BEST PRACTICES
By Stephen Carter and Patricia Hebert
C
aring, competent psychologists are getting themselves into ethical and legal difficulties by not recognizing the special nature of
working with families in custody disputes and the underlying ethical issues.
Two main areas of concern are noted. The first is working with children in a counselling/therapeutic capacity without consent of both
parents and the second is making statements, written or verbal, that in any way impact on a child’s time with either parent.
Parental consent for therapy
IN THIS
Issue
1 Feature Article: Working with Children of Separation and Divorce: Pitfalls,
Misconceptions and Best Practices
2 From the Desk of the Director,
Professional Guidance
3 Council News
3 Important Notice: The CAP Monitor
going electronic
3 Correction Notice
4 Register Updates
4 Examination Results
8 Providing professional services/
recommendations for children in the
absence of one or more guardians
11 Update on the Continuing
Competence Program
12 Professional Conduct Report: The
whole truth and nothing but the truth
14 Council
14 College Staff
15 Resources
The College of Alberta Psychologists Professional Guidelines for Psychologists, Limits to
Confidentiality and Consent for Services: Special Issues in Working with Minors, Section II
(revised March 2010) states:
Parental written consent or that of the guardian is required and must be documented
for the provision of psychological services to a minor. Normally, consent from only one
of the parents is acceptable. However, when the parents are separated or divorced,
a psychologist must inquire who has legal guardianship of the minor. In cases when
a court order or a custody agreement stipulates that both parents must be involved
in the decision-making for a child, both parents must provide consent for services
to the child. It is important to recognize the increasing complexity of family units
and who may actually be the legal guardian of the child. Biological parents, adoptive
parents, step-parents, divorced parents (biological or adoptive), former common-law
parents (biological or adoptive), foster parents or even a guardian appointed through
an agreement, will, or by a court order, may be allowed to determine whether a child
can receive services.When questions arise, it is advised that the psychologist actually
ask to see the appropriate orders or documents, or even seek legal opinion, in such
cases prior to providing services in order to confirm who has the authority to
provide consent for the child. Ideally, guardians will also inform each other regarding
the fact that psychological services have been engaged.
As pointed out in the preamble to the above-referenced guideline, “guidelines
are not intended to be mandatory or exhaustive, and may not be applicable to
every professional and clinical situation. Rather, guidelines are a bridge between the
aspirational intent of the Code of Ethics and the minimum requirements set by the
Standards of Practice.”
The CAP Standards of Practice state:
(2) Psychologists shall carry out informed consent processes with those persons who
are legally responsible or appointed to give informed consent on behalf of persons not
competent to consent on their own behalf, seeking to ensure respect for any expressed
Continued on Page 5
Issue 41
Page 2
…From the Desk of the Director, Professional Guidance
I
maintain contact with psychologists on a daily basis through telephone and email and the volume of contacts has increased
steadily since I started in this position approximately two years ago. During the first few months I usually received 25 to 30
requests for information per month; in recent months the requests have increased to approximately 60 per month. Often I
answer recurring questions and therefore, to disseminate this information, I have listed below a few of the common questions
and answers. Also, for those who are not aware, please note that any psychologist facing a practice-related issue is welcome to
contact the College for guidance. We cannot give you practice advice but we can provide you with regulatory information. Since
the two often appear to be intertwined, please do not hesitate to call or email; the latter is preferable. If we cannot answer your
questions, we will refer you to the appropriate resources.
1.
Does the College have a guideline on telepsychology?
No, the College does not have a guideline on electronic media/telepsychology at this time but there are numerous issues to consider, such as the Standards of Practice in the other province/country (if applicable), informed consent, provision for emergency care, insurance coverage and others. For a discussion of these issues please refer to the CPA Ethical Guidelines for Psychologists Providing Psychological Services via Electronic Media, which can be found on the CPA website. The Association of Canadian Psychology Regulatory Organizations is in the process of formulating an integrated interprovincial approach. As well, the entire December 2011 issue of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice is also devoted to this issue.
2.
How to respond to a subpoena? Is client consent necessary to release information? Can any information be withheld?
Refer to an article titled Responding to a Subpoena in Issue #30 of The CAP Monitor, which can be found on the College website. It was drafted by a lawyer and should answer all your questions regarding subpoenas.
3.
Can client files be stored electronically?
Yes, but files must be stored in accordance with the Standards of Practice, specifically Standards 10 and 11 on the Maintenance and Retention of Records. Some documents may need to be stored in their original/paper form for legal purposes.
4.
Are psychologists allowed to form a professional corporation?
No, psychologists cannot form a professional corporation under the Health Professions Act (HPA), but they can form a business corporation. Sections 103–104 of the HPA deal with professional corporations. Consultation with an accountant and/or a lawyer is recommended prior to setting up a private practice. The Psychologists’ Association of Alberta may have additional information.
5.
Is consent from both parents necessary for the provision of psychological services to a minor client? Does consent have to be in writing?
Refer to a guideline titled Limits of Confidentiality and Consent for Services: Special Issues in Working with Minors, which can be found on the College website under Regulatory Information. Situations involving consent for minors can be complex; consultation with colleagues, or with practice advisors through the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta, the College or legal counsel is recommended in cases that do not clearly conform to this guideline.
If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact the Deputy Registrar and Director, Professional Guidance, Joanna
Dabrowski, at [email protected]
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The CAP Monitor
NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
COUNCIL NEWS
Practice Permit Renewal Fee Increase for 2012–13
A
t the College of Alberta Psychologists Council meeting on November 19, 2011, a revised fee schedule received
unanimous approval. Fees for a registered psychologist will increase by $25.00 per year, to a total of $650.00. For
a registered provisional psychologist, the increase will be $12.50 per year, to a total of $325.00.
Our College continues to experience increasing operating expenses due to our regulatory requirements under
the Health Professions Act. The Council remains committed to operating the College in a fiscally responsible manner;
through careful planning and fiscal prudence we will continue to successfully self-regulate.
The application for renewal of practice permit has been mailed out to all members in early February. If you have not
received your renewal forms, please contact the College office or download them from the members only section
of the College website.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: THE CAP MONITOR GOING ELECTRONIC
Thank you for reading The CAP Monitor.
Starting in the winter of 2013 The CAP Monitor will be published in an electronic (e-newsletter) format. The
new format will be more cost-effective to produce, convenient to access and friendly to the environment.
Issues will be emailed to all members. Please ensure the College has your correct, current email address.
Current and past issues are available on our website at www.cap.ab.ca. Don’t miss an issue!
Notice to all Psychologists
CORRECTION
Incorrect information appeared in the article entitled “Recent Changes in the Law Governing Psychologists in Alberta”
on page 8 of the fall 2011 issue (#40) of The CAP Monitor.
The article stated that the Traffic Safety Act mandates psychologists to report a person whose condition impairs their
ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. In fact, there is no mandatory reporting obligation for psychologists under
the Traffic Safety Act. Sections 60 and 60.1 protect psychologists from liability and protect their identity if they report
voluntarily.
Issue 41
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REGISTER UPDATES
New Members
Congratulations and welcome to the 36 new registered psychologists who were added to the register between October 1
and December 31, 2011.
Margaret Brennan
Linda Buchan
Kelly Butler
Daniel Bzdel
Jeannine Crofton
Charlene Cullen
Avra Davidoff
Margaret Davidson
Phoenix Deerhawke
Amelie Doucet
Michelle Emmerling
Meredith Evans
Christina Ferber
Linda Forde
Sheena Gauthier
V. Charlene Hann
Jessica Hartel
Marianne Hrabok
Jodi Kresowaty
Jessica LeHuquet
Richard Letendre
Reanna Lomheim
Tanya Mah
Rochelle Major
Aliya Manji
Kendra Massie
Laura McKenna
Breanne McTaggart
Sarah-Jane Meachen
Jennifer Mullane
Jennifer Ostlinger
Veronique Poirier
Daniel Rochman
Stephanie Salamon
Kathleen Schwartzenberger
Theresa Zolner
Reinstatements
The following registered psychologists were reinstated between October 1 and December 31, 2011:
Melissa Gates
Amber Gear
Jason Spurrell
Death Announcements
The College has learned, with regret, of the passing of three of our members.
Arthur Bolle David F. Merchant
Richard Winnick
The College extends condolences to their families, friends and professional colleagues.
EXAMINATION RESULTS
Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP)
A total of 29 candidates wrote the EPPP during the period from October 1 through December 31, 2011.
Results were:
Pass:45%
Fail:55%
Oral Examinations
A total of 76 candidates undertook the oral examination during the period from September 26 through
October 14, 2011. Results were:
Pass:
Fail:
93%
7%
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WORKING WITH CHILDREN OF SEPARATION AND DIVORCE, cont’d...
preferences of persons not competent to consent.
Up to 80% of divorces (including custody issues between never-married couples) are solved without going to court except to
file papers. Another 10% to 15% may involve one court appearance. Typically the new family structure functions reasonably well.
However, approximately 5% of custody cases are seen to be high-conflict.
It is seen that, in general, children from divorced families have more adjustment difficulties than children from intact families,
regardless of the custody arrangements (Dacey, Kenny and Margolis, 2000). In addition, the phenomena referred to as the “sleeper
effect” suggests that negative impacts of divorce on children may not become manifest until adolescence (Jaffe, 1998). Hayes
(2010) stated “a significant body of research has demonstrated the negative impact of ongoing inter-parental conflict on children
(p. 698). Fidler and Bala (2010) reported that when high-conflict parental behaviour is combined with child alienation the risk
to the well-being of the child is even greater. It has also been noted that it is not the physical presence of one or two parents
in the lives of the child that makes a difference, rather it is the quality of interactions the child has with the parents with whom
they are involved. In contrast, other authors state that children love, need and want both parents (Ricci, 1997). Steinberg (2002)
described adjustment difficulties that are possible for children of divorce, including increased rates of drug and alcohol use, school
and community behavioural problems, school performance difficulties, interpersonal relationship difficulties with members of the
opposite sex, precocious sexual activity and a more negative view of marriage. As adults, children of divorce may experience
lower levels of occupational attainment and higher rates of divorce.
It is also seen that a large majority of parents in high-conflict divorces show signs of personality dysfunction (Eddy, 2008). Such
individuals seek to enlist the support of mental health professionals to “prove their case” and can appear (initially) as sincere and
concerned.The unwitting psychologist who does not seek out “the facts” can make this worse and add to a dynamic of alienation
for the child.
While CAP standards and guidelines may not state the issue as clearly as possible, the phrase from the Standards of Practice “with
those persons who are legally responsible” points to the need for both parents/guardians to provide consent. Guardianship refers
to the largest list of rights and responsibilities towards children. Not all parents are guardians, and not all guardians are parents.
Wherever there is more than one legal guardian, those rights and responsibilities are shared between the guardians or divided
between them by a specific court order.
Best practices for working with a child of divorce is to have one of the following three conditions met:
1)
Have written consent of the other parent.
2)
The parent bringing the child shows proof of sole guardianship or—if there is more than one guardian—sole responsibility for decisions or sole custody.
3)
A court order is in place allowing the parent to bring the child for counselling or directing the child into counselling. Please keep in mind that a court order is not valid until signed and stamped by the court. Lawyers actually write the orders, but until an order is signed and stamped it is only a draft, with no legal effect.
Working with children of divorce requires specialized knowledge/competence, and not all psychologists who work with children
are able to work with children of divorce without additional education/training.
Providing opinions regarding counselling with children
Examining the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice helps clarify this issue.The Canadian Psychological Association Code of Ethics
(2000) states that the principle of respect for the dignity of persons, with its emphasis on moral rights, should be given the highest
Continued on Page 6
Issue 41
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WORKING WITH CHILDREN OF SEPARATION AND DIVORCE, cont’d...
consideration. Additionally the first step of the ethical decision-making process is stated as “identification of the individuals and
groups potentially affected by the decision.” Ethical standard I.5 states, “Avoid or refuse to participate in practices disrespectful
of the legal, civil, or moral rights of others.”
The CAP Standards of Practice (2005), section 8(2), states, “Psychologists rendering a professional opinion about a person that has
or could have implications for that person’s legal or civil rights (for example, about the fitness of a parent in a custody hearing)
shall not do so without direct and substantial professional contact with or a formal assessment of that person.”
Without getting into the specifics of informed consent, here is the first and most serious pitfall well-meaning psychologists can
fall in to. For example, a client brings in their 11-year-old child to help the child deal with “stress.” The psychologist has not asked
anything about the marital status of the parents and is told by the parent that the biggest source of stress for the child is that the
child would like to attend a specific sports program located in one school in the city. The psychologist meets with the child, who
also states that they very much want to attend that sports program although their other parent will not allow it. Later, the parent
who brought in the child calls the psychologist and asks if he or she could write a quick letter supporting that the school with
the sports program would be the best choice for the child and would reduce the child’s stress level. The psychologist, wanting to
be helpful, writes the letter and does not think about it again until he or she is contacted by CAP, informing them of a pending
complaint. What has actually transpired is that the child was in a divorce situation and had been “convinced” by the one parent
that the best possible program to attend would be that specialized sports program. However, the current access arrangements
had been that the child lived full-time with the other parent, 200 kilometres away, and only saw the parent who brought in the
child for counselling every second weekend and on holidays. The sports program just happened to be located across the street
from the house of the non-residential parent. The non-residential parent’s lawyer submitted the psychologist’s document in
court, which created a complete change in the residential arrangement for the child. What has happened is that the psychologist
made a custody/access recommendation without even realizing what they had done.
This is perhaps the most subtle of examples. Other more obvious ones are when a child states they are “scared” of their other
parent and the psychologist writes a letter to say that the child should either not have to visit or that access should be supervised.
If protective concerns exist, the issue should be referred immediately to Children’s Services. To make a comment about access
or about visit supervision is to make recommendations regarding a person you have never met and clearly have not assessed.
Psychologists need to be aware of all of the ethical guidelines, standards of practice and practice guidelines even if they do not
appear to directly relate to their area of work. CAP Standards of Practice (2005), section 8(2), states, “Psychologists rendering a
professional opinion about a person that has or could have implications for that person’s legal or civil rights (for example, about
the fitness of a parent in a custody hearing) shall not do so without direct and substantial professional contact with or a formal
assessment of that person.”
The guidelines for Child Custody Assessment (2002) state:
A comprehensive child custody assessment typically requires an evaluation of the parenting capacities of parents, and their new partners, and an evaluation of the needs of the children, as well as observations of the interactions among them. Extensive sources of data help to provide information representative of families’ and children’s lives. An assessment of limited scope utilizes a more limited set of data that should be restricted in its use. If the parenting capacity of only one parent is evaluated, then no recommendations can be made favouring custody and access for one parent over the other parent. If only the psychological needs of a child are evaluated, then no recommendations can be made regarding custody and access.”
If such a thorough assessment is required to make any recommendations regarding custody or access, then clearly a psychologist
Continued on Page 7
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WORKING WITH CHILDREN OF SEPARATION AND DIVORCE, cont’d...
who has only met with the child and perhaps one parent in a counselling role has no business making such a comment.
The best practices of providing reports (verbal or written) for children you are seeing for counselling, or even assessment are
that:
1)
You cannot provide any opinion about a person you have not fully assessed, and such an assessment needs to take place under the conditions of informed consent with a written retainer provided in advance.
2)
If you have genuine concerns about a child’s safety that are not being adequately addressed by a parent, you have a duty to report those concerns to Children’s Services.
3)
Do not, without conducting a full parenting/custody assessment, make any comment about access time, or about the need for supervision or any change of circumstance that would impact the child’s time with either parent.
4)
You can write a narrative of what the child said, and if it appeared genuine or that they were repeating what was told to them by someone else.
Ethics, standards and guidelines are the “bullet proof vest” for psychologists. Not only can making mistakes lead to disciplinary
action, it could also lead to a civil suit for damages. Take time to read them all and remember: when in doubt—consult.
References
Canadian Psychological Association. (2002). Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists,Third Edition.
College of Alberta Psychologists. (2005). College of Alberta Psychologists Standards of Practice.
College of Alberta Psychologists. (2010). Professional Guidelines for Psychologists, Limits to Confidentiality and Consent for Services: Special Issues in Working with Minors.
College of Alberta Psychologists. (2002). Professional Guidelines for Psychologists, Child Custody Assessment.
Dacey, J., Kenny, M., & Margolis, D. (2000). Adolescent Development (3rd ed.). Carrollton, TX: Alliance Press.
Eddy, Bill. (2008). High Conflict People in Legal Disputes. Scottsdale, AZ: HCI Press.
Fidler, B. J. & Bala, N. (2010). Children resisting postseparation contact with a parent: concepts, controversies and conundrums. Family Court Review, 48(1), 10–47.
Hayes, S. W. (2010). More of a street cop than a detective: an analysis of the roles and functions of parenting coordinators in North Carolina. Family Court Review, 48(4), 698–709.
Jaffe, M. L. (1998). Adolescence. New York: Wiley & Sons.
Ricci, I. (1997). Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making two homes for your child. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Steinberg, L. (2002). Adolescence (6th ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill.
About the Authors:
Stephen Carter, PhD, Registered Psychologist, works in the area of counselling and assessment with children, teens, adults and
families, and has been a psychologist since 1992. Dr. Carter has worked in the area of intervention with high-conflict separation
and divorce since 1997 and has done numerous presentations on topics regarding high-conflict divorces locally, nationally and
internationally. He has recently published a book on working with high-conflict divorced families.
Patricia Hebert, BA, LLB, has been a family lawyer since 1995 who focuses her work on children’s issues. She represents
children in high-conflict custody cases, abductions and child protection matters. Ms. Hebert assists parents in mediation settings
and in litigation. She has presented locally and nationally on issues relating to children’s participation in family cases. She teaches
law at the University of Alberta and is active with local charities and the national Canadian Bar Association.
Issue 41
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PROVIDING PROFESSIONAL SERVICES/RECOMMENDATIONS FOR
CHILDREN IN THE ABSENCE OF ONE OR MORE GUARDIANS
By Richard Spelliscy
T
he College of Alberta Psychologists (the “College”) has professional standards/guidelines in place to assist members who
work in circumstances where children may be seen for professional services in the absence of one or more guardians.
Many of these situations are commonplace, such as seeing a child for a psycho-educational evaluation. In other situations one
or more children may be perceived to be at risk for emotional and/or physical harm, either in the immediate or the long term.
From time to time these professional activities result in a complaint to the College. Often the psychologist will have deviated
from the College-approved practices out of a perceived urgent sense of duty, typically to what they believe to be in the child’s
best interest. Usually, the psychologist will act with information from only one guardian.The purpose of this article is to highlight
common pitfalls when providing services in the absence of one or more guardians so that practitioners may gain an increased
appreciation of the complexity that surrounds such work and of their professional obligations.
Establishing guardianship/informed consent
The concept of guardianship in contemporary society is far from simplistic and not always easily understood. Nevertheless,
the first step in providing any professional psychological service should be establishing guardianship for both the purpose of
obtaining proper consent and of fully understanding the referral context. It is no longer acceptable to assume that the person
who brings a child for professional services is the sole guardian and that all other guardians support the referral.
Section 2(2) of the College of Alberta Psychologists Standards of Practice (2005) outlines the psychologist’s preliminary primary
obligations in relation to obtaining informed consent from those legally able to provide consent:
2(2) Psychologists shall carry out informed consent processes with those persons who are legally responsible or appointed to give informed consent on behalf of persons not competent to consent on their own behalf, seeking to ensure respect for any expressed preferences of persons not competent to consent.
Underlying the above obligation is the often misguided assumption that the child is residing in an intact family. Section II in the
College of Alberta Psychologists Professional Guidelines for Psychologists: Limits to Confidentiality and Consent for Services: Special
Issues in Working with Minors (2010) speaks directly to this issue:
Parental written consent or that of the guardian is required and must be documented for the provision of psychological services to a minor. Normally, consent from only one of the parents is acceptable. However, when the parents are separated or divorced, a psychologist must inquire who has legal guardianship of the minor. In cases when a court order or a custody agreement stipulates that both parents must be involved in the decision making for a child, both parents must provide consent for services to the child.
Reviewing any and all court orders is one way to ensure that the individual who presents with the child has the legal authority
to obtain services. Conducting a thorough child and family history prior to rendering services is also advisable. Directly asking
whether the other parent or guardian is supportive of the referral issue is sound practice. Obtaining and validating the absent
guardian’s consent is advisable.
Clearly documenting all aspects of the consent processes is a critical professional obligation. It is even more important when the
consent process is complicated and may be the subject of a dispute. The psychologist’s obligation is outlined in Section 2(6) of
the College of Alberta Psychologists Standards of Practice (2005):
2(6) Psychologists shall document the discussion held with their clients and whether informed consent was obtained.
Continued on Page 9
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CHILDREN IN THE ABSENCE OF ONE OR MORE GUARDIANS, cont’d...
Psychologists must conduct their own informed consent procedures. It cannot be left to administrative or other personnel
as they are often unable to fully discuss the methodology that will be employed, alternative methodologies, confidentiality/
privacy limitations, potential benefits and/or risks of any intervention as well as the ability of the client to withdraw consent.
Psychologists working in high conflict/litigious areas may wish to develop detailed written consent forms to accompany informed
consent discussions (College of Alberta Psychologists Professional Guidelines for Psychologists: Informed Consent: Ethical Guidelines,
Principles and Standards, (2008)). When a professional conduct complaint is received, the initial inquiry frequently focuses on the
informed consent process and on whether it has been appropriately documented.
Clarifying the referral issue
Often the initial referral issue is unclear and/or multi-layered. For example, a request for an educational evaluation may actually
be an attempt to gain support for a particular school placement or a second opinion on the presence of issues such as attention
deficits. Similarly, a request to outline a child’s anxiety in a counselling summary may be an initial effort to change/modify an
access or custody arrangement.
Psychologists are well advised to clarify the referral reason in advance, in order to establish the parameters of any intervention
and to determine whether they possess the basic competencies to provide the requested service. Fully understanding the
purpose of the intervention is critical. This is also true for understanding the purpose of any written reports and their intended
audience.
Establishing whether or not all other guardians are aware and supportive of the requested service is good practice and may alert
the psychologist to underlying referral issues. Psychologists are well advised to directly clarify with all guardians what service is
being proposed and what is the intended outcome. This is to ensure that any ancillary concerns/issues are fully addressed prior
to providing any services.
Psychologists must also address all written communications to the intended audience. Any communication must conform to
both the informed consent and release of information practices adopted by the College. For example, it is unacceptable to
write “To Whom it May Concern” letters (College of Alberta Psychologists Professional Guidelines for Psychologists: Advertising and
Other Public Communication, (2002)). Often the latter becomes the subject of a professional conduct complaint when one party
introduces the correspondence into a court process. Stating that a report was not intended for that purpose is more difficult
when the audience and intended purpose are not clearly identified in the written communication.
Clarifying your role
Psychologists are also advised to exercise extreme caution and avoid taking on additional roles either directly or indirectly
when services are being provided, particularly in the absence of one or more guardians. Psychologists should always have a clear
understanding of their role and must not occupy more than one role with the same client. Psychologists are prohibited from
engaging in multiple or dual relationships. The College of Alberta Psychologists Professional Guidelines for Psychologists: Dual Roles:
Guidelines for Conducting Assessments and Providing Therapy with the Same Client (2004) provides these guidelines:
Guideline 1. Psychologists carefully define professional roles at the outset of providing service and are cautioned against undertaking
additional roles with the same client.
Guideline 2. Psychologists are cautioned against undertaking an assessment role which impacts on the legal rights of a client or the
client’s access to funding or compensation if the psychologist has or has had a previous therapeutic role with the client.
Continued on Page 10
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Guideline 3. Psychologists recognize the fundamental differences between information gained within a therapeutic context and the
standard of proof required in the provision of a legal opinion. Psychologists give opinion evidence only on matters within their defined role.
Further, section 15(1) of the College of Alberta Psychologists Standards of Practice (2005) states:
15(1) Psychologists shall not undertake or continue a professional relationship when they are aware or should be aware that they face a potentially harmful conflict of interest as a result of a current or previous professional, familial, social, sexual, emotional, financial, supervisory, political, administrative or legal relationship with the client or a relevant person associated with or related to the client (College of Alberta Psychologists Standards of Practice, 2005).
Psychologists seeing children for therapeutic services, particularly in the absence of one or more guardians, should not make
recommendations that may directly or indirectly impact the access/custodial rights of any party. This is because it is outside
the bounds of a therapeutic role and they often have not done a suitable inquiry that would justify recommendations of such
magnitude (College of Alberta Psychologists Professional Guidelines for Psychologists: Child Custody Assessment, (2002)). Typically
psychologists acting strictly within a therapeutic role with a single party would lack the substantive contact with one or more
parties to support custody/access recommendations.
Restricting professional opinions
Psychologists must restrict professional opinions to their areas of consent, competence, referral issues, evidence and individuals
at hand. It is unacceptable to provide an opinion on issues outside their training, education and/or experience. Furthermore,
it is a violation of the College of Alberta Psychologists Standards of Practice (2005) to provide an opinion without sufficient
professional knowledge of the individuals involved:
8(2) Psychologists rendering a professional opinion about a person that has or could have implications for that person’s legal or civil rights (for example, about the fitness of a parent in a custody hearing) shall not do so without direct and substantial professional contact with or a formal assessment of that person.
A common source of professional conduct complaints is when psychologists offer opinions solely based on discussions with
the child(ren) and/or one guardian. This often involves allegations of emotional, physical or sexual harm. Psychologists should
exercise caution when accepting as fact allegations that have not been formally investigated and adjudicated by the appropriate
authorities.
Psychologists must be aware of both the child in need of protection and of reporting obligations under existing statutes as
well as the risk/benefits of not reporting allegations of potential harm. Psychologists should respect the due process rights of
all individuals who may be impacted by such allegations and appropriately qualify statements that may require judicial scrutiny
to determine their veracity. Psychologists must also consider the potential adverse implications of their actions and consider
whether less intrusive measures are available.
Summary
Psychologists are required to be aware of and to adhere to existing ethical and professional obligations governing their practice.
This includes the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (2000), the College of Alberta Psychologists Standards of Practice (2005)
Continued on Page 11
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PROVIDING PROFESSIONAL SERVICES/RECOMMENDATIONS FOR
CHILDREN IN THE ABSENCE OF ONE OR MORE GUARDIANS, cont’d...
and various professional guidelines. Providing professional services/recommendations for children in the absence of one or more
guardians presents additional risks for professional conduct complaints. Establishing the guardianship status of minor children,
seeking informed consent of all guardians, clarifying the referral issue, avoiding dual or multiple roles and appropriately restricting
professional opinions are critical steps to reducing the risk for professional misconduct complaints.
Psychologists are also advised to routinely reflect on their professional obligations, to be fluent in all regulatory documents
governing their practice and to seek both informal and formal consultation when required. Being aware of common ethical
pitfalls allows psychologists to learn from the mistakes of others. It also provides for increased public confidence in the practice
of psychology and elevates the profession as a whole.
UPDATE ON THE CONTINUING COMPETENCE PROGRAM
T
he Continuing Competence Program will not be mandatory in 2012, as anticipated.
In February 2010, after membership consultation, the College forwarded the Psychologists Profession
Regulation to Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW), as per procedures outlined in the Health Professions
Act. The Regulation has yet to be approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. We therefore cannot
implement the mandatory Continuing Competence Program in 2012, as anticipated.
On January 21, 2012, the College Council decided to continue the program on a voluntary basis
in 2012–13. We encourage members to complete the documents and consult the continuing competence
consultants or the College with any questions or feedback they may have. Members are not required to
submit documents at this time.
Watch for further program updates through The CAP Monitor or visit the College website (www.cap.ab.ca)
and click on the Members Only section.
EMAIL ADDRESSES
Email addresses are now mandatory for all members of the College, as all important information from the College will be sent
out through email. It is crucial for every member to ensure that the College has his or her correct, current email address.
CHANGING YOUR ADDRESS?
Please notify the College promptly, in writing, of any changes to your postal address, phone and fax numbers, or email address.
A Change of Address Form is available on the College website.
Please note that information about your business address, phone and fax number, and email address is available to the public.
If you are providing a residential address to the College, clearly indicate this on the Change of Address Form so that this
information will be kept confidential.
Issue 41
Page 12
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT REPORT: The Whole Truth and Nothing
But the Truth
T
he College of Alberta Psychologists (CAP) was contacted in July 2010 by a non-regulated mental
health professional who believed that a provisionally registered psychologist co-worker may
not have provided entirely accurate information in the description of her CAP registration history
prior to the provision of expert evidence in a first degree murder trial.The co-worker did not want
to make a formal complaint. Given the serious nature of the allegations the Complaints Director
assumed the role of complainant and appointed an investigator to collect relevant information.
During the preliminary investigation the Complaints Director obtained a copy of the court
transcript. The provisionally registered psychologist’s credentials were initially reviewed by the
crown prosecutor during the qualification process that enables professionals to provide expert
opinion evidence. The provisional psychologist was then subject to cross examination of her
professional qualifications by the accused’s defense lawyer. This is a routine process that occurs
prior to allowing the provision of expert testimony.
Under oath the provisional psychologist testified in response to questioning from the crown
prosecutor that she had not written the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology
(EPPP) because of a heavy workload at her place of employment. When questioned by counsel
for the defense, the provisional psychologist admitted to writing the EPPP on one earlier occasion
but failing to obtain a passing score. The number of times she wrote the EPPP was a focal point
in the qualification process.
Shortly after providing her testimony the provisional psychologist disclosed to her workplace
colleague that she now remembered writing the EPPP a second time approximately four years
earlier. She cited a significant family event at the time as the reason for her lack of immediate recall.
The workplace colleague advised the provisional psychologist to immediately contact the crown
prosecutor to correct the oversight. The provisional psychologist subsequently sent the crown
prosecutor an email acknowledging that she had failed the EPPP on a second occasion.
The co-worker remained concerned about what he saw as a significant professional error with
potentially serious repercussions for both the alleged offender and the credibility of the workplace
organization. Based on previous workplace discussions he was also under the impression that the
provisional psychologist had written the EPPP on multiple occasions. As a result, a call was placed
to the College.
Upon investigation several facts were established. First, it was established that the provisional
Continued on Page 13
Page 13
The CAP Monitor
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT REPORT: The Whole Truth and Nothing
But the Truth, cont’d...
psychologist had in fact failed to obtain an EPPP passing score on five separate occasions prior
to her court testimony. Second, it was also established that there were a number of mitigating
factors, including the psychologist having had more than one supervisor during her tenure as a
provisional, and that she was possibly placed in a situation uncommon for an individual with such
limited experience. Additionally, the psychologist also disclosed a number of personal stressors.
During the investigation the provisional psychologist contacted the Crown and provided them
with accurate information regarding the number of times she had failed the EPPP. As a result of
this disclosure the Crown made a request for a second psychological assessment. Upon advising
the psychologist of the outcome of the investigation, and in light of her admission to the Crown,
a Settlement Agreement was entered as an alternative to having the matter heard by a hearing
tribunal. The conditions of the settlement agreement included:
•
The provisional psychologist will not engage in any professional services that require her to testify in any legal proceedings.
•
If the provisional psychologist is compelled to testify in any legal proceeding she must notify the College as soon as practicable.
•
The provisional psychologist must enroll in and successfully complete an ethics course in psychology.
•
The provisional psychologist must undergo an ethics /practice review and pay all related costs for the review.
•
The provisional psychologist must pay a portion of the College’s costs related to the investigation and other matters arising from the complaint, in the amount of $4,500 dollars, within 30 days of signing the agreement.
•
If the provisional psychologist is found guilty of unprofessional conduct in the future, the circumstances surrounding this complaint may be considered in determining any penalties.
Providing expert evidence in court can be challenging even for the most experienced psychologist.
Simply passing through court house security is anxiety-invoking for many. Lack of familiarity with:
court room protocol; the qualification process to provide expert opinion evidence; verbatim
transcribed testimony; and the often adversarial nature of legal proceedings are additional
stressors. Fundamental to the entire process is the simple axiom to provide the whole truth and
nothing but the truth. This axiom also applies when discussing one’s academic and professional
history. Providing courtroom testimony is a professional activity and is subject to review under
the Health Professions Act.
Issue 41
Page 14
COUNCIL 2011-12COMMITTEE CHAIRS
PresidentChair, Credentials Evaluation Sub-Committee
Roy FrenzelK. Jessica Van Vliet
Past-PresidentChair, Oral Examinations Committee
Donella ScottErik Wikman
President-ElectChair, Practice Advisory Committee
Roger GervaisChristoph Wuerscher
TreasurerChair, Registration Advisory Committee
Lorraine Stewart Jean Pettifor
Members-At-Large Chair, Registration Approvals Sub-Committee
Paul Jerry, Stephanie Mitchell, Christina Rinaldi
Patricia Schuster
Public Members
Chair, Substantial Equivalency Sub-Committee
David Ellement, Dora Lam, Bob Sprague
Ali Al-Asadi
SUPERVISION CONSULTANTS
Jon Amundson and Walter Goos, supervision consultants for the College, provide consultation to provisional psychologists
and supervisors, and assist in the resolution of conflicts between provisional psychologists and supervisors.
Contact information for the supervision consultants is:
Jon Amundson
Ph: (403) 289-2511
Email: [email protected]
Walter Goos
Ph: (780) 986-7592
Email: [email protected]
CONTINUING COMPETENCE CONSULTANTS
Consultants are available to provide consultation and guidance to members for queries related to the Continuing Competence
Program. The consultants are also available in special circumstances, such as when a member does not have access to other
regulated members who are able to review their plan. These circumstances would be on a very limited basis, as psychologists
are encouraged to develop a professional network of peers.
Contact information for the continuing competence consultants is:
Dennis Brown Christoph Wuerscher
Bonnie Rude-Weisman
(780) 441-9844
Ph: (403) 234-7970 Ph: (403) 526-8116
Email: [email protected] Email: [email protected]
Ms. Jana Hyer Davies has resigned from the Practice Advisory Committee and the Continuing Competence Ad Hoc
Committee. We thank her for her valuable contributions given to the College over the past 10 years.
COLLEGE STAFF
Registrar: Alexandra Kinkaide
Deputy Registrar and Director, Professional Guidance: Joanna Dabrowski
Complaints Director and Privacy Officer: Richard Spelliscy
Coordinator, Administration and Finance: Wendy El-Issa
Administrative Assistant, Complaints and Professional Guidance: Lindsey Bowers
Administrative Assistant to the Registrar: Kathy Semchuk
Registration Coordinator: Leanne Vanderhelm
Credentials Evaluation and Examinations Coordinator: Shenade Finnestad
FQR Administrative Coordinator: Allison Wells
Receptionist/Office Assistant: Renetta Geisler
The CAP Monitor
Page 15
RESOURCES
CAP Publications
A complete listing of our publications is available on the College website at www.cap.ab.ca.
All CAP Professional Guidelines are currently under review and revision. We will advise
members through a future issue of The CAP Monitor when the revisions are completed and
the revised publications are posted on the website.
Online Resources
The College website, at www.cap.ab.ca, serves two purposes: communication with the
public and communication with members. The website is updated regularly and is a good
source of information.
Other Useful Websites for CAP Members
•
•
•
•
Health Professions Act—www.gov.ab.ca/qp
Psychologists’ Association of Alberta—www.psychologistsassociation.ab.ca
Canadian Psychological Association—www.cpa.ca
Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards—www.asppb.org
CALENDAR OF MEETINGS
The most up-to-date calendar can be found on the College website under
“Register as a Psychologist.” Please note that dates are subject to change as
scheduling conflicts occur.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW TO ATTEND THE 2012 ANNUAL MEETING!
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Calgary, AB
CONTACT US:
2100 Sun Life Place
10123 99 Street NW
Edmonton AB T5J 3H1
THE CAP MONITOR
College of Alberta Psychologists
Phone: (780) 424-5070
1-800-659-0857 (in Alberta)
Fax: (780) 420-1241
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.cap.ab.ca
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at the time
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