Open Pages: Ethics in LGBTQ Psychology

APA Books Open Pages is an ongoing series in which we share interesting tidbits from current & upcoming books. Find the full list by browsing the Open Pages tag. APA Books recently published Teaching LGBTQ Psychology: Queering Innovative Pedagogy and Practice, edited by Theodore R. Burnes and Jeanne L. Stanley. The excerpt below comes from Chapter 4: Teaching Ethics in Relation to LGBTQ Issues in Psychology.

Conflict between students’ personal beliefs and actions or inactions in their training and client care within their educational institutions have escalated into legal disputes. Educators can use examples as teaching tools in class for discussing and working through such conundrums. Students may also learn about and discuss recent court cases in which students sued their educational institutions after they were dismissed from their programs for not meeting the program’s requirements for becoming multiculturally-competent providers where LGBTQ individuals are involved (Hancock, 2014). Three such cases, all involving MHPs [mental health professionals]-in-training, involve key areas of these debates: Ward v. Wilbanks, 2010; Ward v. Polite, 2012; and Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, 2010. These court cases are relevant for teaching MHPs and should be included in coursework because they give a view of how legal and ethical concerns can collide in regard to the competency of MHPs when working with LGBTQ individuals.

In the two Ward cases, Ms. Ward was a graduate student in the counseling master’s program at Eastern Michigan State University. After being assigned a gay male client who had previously received counseling regarding his same-sex relationship, Ward asked her supervisor whether she could refer the client because she could not support his same-sex behavior. Ward argued that she followed the ethical guidelines by referring a client she felt she could not support. The program countered that Ward chose to follow her personal beliefs that were discriminatory in practice and, therefore, inconsistent with the requirements of the program and the profession (Haldeman & Rasbury, 2014). The program offered her the following choices: to take part in a remedial program, voluntarily leave the program, or request a formal hearing. Ward chose the formal hearing and was dismissed from the program. After suing the university and after two court cases, an out-of-court settlement agreement was reached between and the student and the university.

The Keeton case involved a graduate student in counseling from Augusta State University. In her courses, Ms. Keeton asserted that if she were to work with LGBTQ clients, she would express her views of the immoralities of their same-sex behavior and then either use SOCE or refer the client to a practitioner who practiced SOCE to rectify the clients’ behavior. The program faculty expressed their concern to the student and asked her to complete a remediation program because of the deficits in her multicultural competency in working with LGBTQ clients. She refused remediation and then sued, claiming that the remediation plan violated her First Amendment rights. The court rejected Keeton’s claim on the grounds that the program did not ask her to alter her personal religious beliefs but to not use her beliefs to discriminate against clients. Keeton’s proposed actions were in direct conflict with the ACA Ethics Code because she planned to not only impose her values on clients but also to discriminate against them on the basis of their sexual orientation.

. . .

The court in the Keeton case cited the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, finding in favor of the educational institution, citing “if there is a legitimate educational concern involved, free speech can be regulated by the educational institution” (Hancock, 2014, p. 6). Students’ personal values as counselors may not outweigh their ethical obligations to the client, and the program, therefore, has to intervene to prevent harm to the client (Hancock, 2014). Bieschke and Mintz (2012) aptly argued that the core issue in these cases is one of the competences of the trainee in following the ethical requirements of their profession. Although such cases have not yet specifically involved psychologists or psychologists-in-training, similar cases are likely to follow.

 

References cited in this passage

Bieschke, K. J., & Mintz, L. B. (2012). Counseling psychology model training values statement addressing diversity: History, current use, and future directions. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 6, 196<en>203. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0030810

Haldeman, D. C., & Rasbury, R. L. (2014). Multicultural training and student beliefs in cultural context. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1, 289<en>292. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000076

Hancock, K. (2014). Student beliefs, multiculturalism, and client welfare. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1, 4<en>9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000021

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, 733 F. Supp. 2d 1368 (S.D. Ga. 2010).

Ward v. Polite, 667 F.3d 727 (6th Cir. 2012).

Ward v. Wilbanks, No. 09-11237 (E.D. Mich. 2010).