by Donald N. Bersoff (editor)
American Psychological Association , 1999
Review by Jerome Young on Oct 31st 2001
Bersoff's Ethical Conflicts in Psychology (Second Edition)
is a textbook aimed at providing graduate level psychology students
with a comprehensive overview of the kinds of ethical issues they
are likely to encounter when they begin their practice, or, as
Bersoff expresses it, begin their "ethical voyage".
The book would also be an excellent resource for psychologists
who have finished their studies and are already engaged in teaching,
practice, or research. As a philosopher, I also found the book
quite stimulating and think any philosophers interested in ethics
and psychology would find it a valuable book.
The book is quite impressive in its depth and breadth in addressing
many contentious ethical issues and doing so in an easily accessible
way. Bersoff's book is divided into ten chapters, with excerpts
taken from psychology journals, books, legal texts, and official
policy statements from the American Psychological Association.
The texts are excerpted in order to focus on specific ethical
issues and to make the book as comprehensive as possible (no easy
task!) of the wide variety of ethical conflicts encountered in
psychology. Each chapter is introduced by the author and each
excerpted text is followed by a brief commentary. The readings
contained in this book are very good in that they are spiced with
vignettes that pose ethical challenges students can sink their
teeth into. The first three chapters serve as an introduction
to the types of ethical issues faced in practice, how codes of
ethics are applied in these situations, and a definition of fundamental
moral principles necessary for solving ethical dilemmas. The other
chapters look at specific topics of concern for psychologists
in their daily practice, such as ethical conflicts arising out
of concerns about confidentiality, privacy, boundaries in clinical
practice, expert testimony, and legal liability, to name a few.
Although the author states that he tried to make the second edition
of this book less ethnocentric, the viewpoint represented throughout
the text is Western. His inclusion of the Canadian Code of Ethics
and the Canadian Psychological Association's system for ethical
decision making is good and does, in fact, provide the American
audience with a good source to contrast approaches. However, though
there are differences between Canadians and Americans, the contrast
is not as striking as it might be with similar texts from another
(non-Western) culture. Alternatively, he might have tried to include
texts addressing the difficult ethical problems clinicians encounter
with patients from non-Western cultures living in the West. Since
the length of the text in its present form is 600 pages, it is
difficult, or perhaps overly ambitious, for it to do more however.
Given that its target audience is Western, the ethnocentricity
of the text is perhaps unavoidable.
Bersoff's book is one that will, without doubt, help many graduate
students to begin their ethical voyage and to offer the seasoned
clinician guidance in times of conflict. Moreover, though the
target audience is not philosophers, they too would benefit from
all the hard work and insights Bersoff's extensive experience
© 2001 Jerome Young
Jerome Young is a foreign
lecturer at Keio University SFC (Kanagawa, Japan) and a post-graduate
student in the Philosophy of Mental Health program at the University
of Warwick (England).