“When to Fire Your Psychotherapist: Ethical Issues in the Practice of Psychology” will be presented by Dr. Mitch Handelsman, author and psychologist, on Thursday, May 14, 11:30 a.m.—1 p.m. at the UTC University Center, Chattanooga Room. This event is free and open to the public and sponsored by the 2009 UTC Instructional Excellence Committee.
Handelsman received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas in 1981. He is currently professor of psychology and a CU President’s Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado Denver, where he has been on the faculty since 1982. He served for a year (1989-1990) in Washington DC as an APA Congressional Science Fellow. In 2003-2004 he was president of the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. He is a licensed psychologist and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.
“Psychotherapy is a very popular but very private enterprise. Clients often find it difficult to judge when psychotherapists have engaged in unprofessional or unethical behavior, or perhaps warning signs of unethical behavior to come,” Handelsman said. “This presentation will explore the ethical code of psychologists, which is similar to codes for other professional psychotherapists like counselors and social workers. Among the major topics will be confidentiality, multiple relationships and other boundary issues, and informed consent.”
Handelsman said he believes therapy clients might have difficulty recognizing the warning signs of unethical behavior for two reasons.
“First, they are in some degree of pain and really need some help. The second reason is that often unethical behavior, at least at first, might actually feel good. To be invited to dinner, for example, by your therapist may feel like you are really special! It’s only later that you might feel really taken advantage of, really exploited, and in more pain than when you started,” Handelsman said.
Handelsman has won numerous teaching awards, including the 1992 CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) Colorado Professor of the Year Award, and APA’s Division 2 Excellence in Teaching Award in 1995. He has published several book chapters and over 50 articles in journals ranging from the Professional Psychology: Research and Practice to the Journal of Polymorphous Perversity.
His major research area is professional ethics. Handelsman’s forthcoming book Ethics for Psychotherapists and Counselors: A Proactive Approach was co-written with Sharon K. Anderson and set for release in August 2009 by Wiley-Blackwell. It includes “positive discussions accompanied by a variety of thought-provoking exercises, case scenarios, and writing assignments to introduce readers to all the major ethical issues in psychotherapy.” The text is “designed to engage students and psychotherapists in the process of developing a professional identity that integrates their personal values with the ethics and traditions of their discipline.” The authors encourage the reader “to go beyond following the rules and to strive for ethical excellence.”