The practice of psychology in rural communities: Potential ethical dilemmas

Ethics and Behavior 13 (4):367 – 384 (2003)
Abstract
The practice of psychology in rural areas offers unique challenges for psychologists as they try to provide optimal care, often with a minimum of resources. Psychologists are frequently required to be creative and flexible in order to provide effective services to a wide range of clients. However, these unique challenges often confront psychologists with ethical dilemmas and problems for which their urban-based training has not prepared them. The author examines how certain characteristics of rural communities may lead to specific ethical dilemmas. By being a part of a small community, psychologists will inevitably face multiple relationship dilemmas. Confidentiality is harder to maintain in a small town, particularly with its informal information-sharing network. To provide services to meet community needs, with a limited number of referral options, psychologists typically need to be generalists. This may lead to concerns about scope of practice, training, and experience with diverse populations. Psychologists also face other competency issues, such as a lack of supervision and consultation resources. Other concerns addressed include the psychologist's visibility in the community, having clients know about the psychologist's personal life, and the blurring of professional and personal roles. Suggestions are made for coping with each of these ethical issues, although more quantitative research and discussion are needed on the practice of psychology in rural areas.
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Judi L. Malone (2012). Professional Ethics in Context. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 9 (4):463-477.
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