Truly ethical behavior requires more than simply avoiding action by a disciplinary body. For psychologists, behaving ethically is a positive goal that involves striving to reach our highest ethical ideals.

Guided by APA's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Knapp, VandeCreek, and Fingerhut provide short sketches illustrating the standards that psychologists must follow, and show how psychologists can actualize their personal values and ethical acumen in their daily work.

They discuss a variety of ethically tricky areas for psychologists, including

  • patient confidentiality
  • inappropriate relationships with patients
  • financial issues
  • informed consent
  • forensic and legal issues

Readers will learn how to attend to their own emotional well-being, how to use risk-reduction strategies as well as a five-step decision-making model for difficult ethical quandaries, and how to base their professional conduct on overarching ethical values.

This third edition of Practical Ethics for Psychologists: A Positive Approach includes new findings on the science of morality and on working with morally diverse clients, and ethical issues regarding the use of social media and other online communications.

Table of Contents

Preface to the Third Edition


  1. The Legal Floor and Positive Ethics
  2. Foundations of Ethical Behavior
  3. Ethical Decision Making
  4. Competence
  5. Informed Consent, Empowered Collaboration, and Shared Decision Making
  6. Boundaries and Multiple Relationships
  7. Confidentiality, Privileged Communications, and Record Keeping
  8. Life-Endangering Patients
  9. Forensic Psychology
  10. Assessment
  11. Special Topics
  12. Business Issues
  13. Psychologists As Educators
  14. Consultation and Clinical Supervision
  15. Research and Scholarship




About the Authors

Author Bios

Samuel Knapp, EdD, ABPP, is the director of professional affairs for the Pennsylvania Psychological Association.

He has written or edited 16 books and about 100 articles and made almost 400 professional presentations on ethics and other professional issues. He was the editor-in-chief of the APA Handbook of Ethics in Psychology (2012).

He holds a diplomate in counseling psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology, and he is a fellow of APA, Division 31 (State, Provincial, and Territorial Psychological Association Affairs).

Leon D. VandeCreek, PhD, ABPP, is professor emeritus in the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University.

He has authored or edited more than 20 books and about 200 articles and professional presentations. He was an associate editor of the APA Handbook of Ethics in Psychology (2012).

He holds a diplomate in clinical psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology, and he is a fellow of several divisions of APA.

In 2005, he served as president of APA Division 29 (Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy).

Randy Fingerhut, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at La Salle University and the director of La Salle University's PsyD program in clinical psychology.

Dr. Fingerhut is a fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and has been practicing cognitive–behavioral therapy as a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania for more than 15 years.

His research interests include perinatal mood anxiety disorders and self-care for graduate students.

Dr. Fingerhut has taught ethics within La Salle's doctoral program and has presented workshops on ethical decision making for the Pennsylvania Psychological Association.

Reviews & Awards

These well-known authors have written yet another book that simplifies complex issues and includes many tales of psychologists attempting to deal with perplexing everyday situations. They help readers clarify personal values and discover how they align or conflict with ethics and laws, informing professional conduct in various roles. Understanding the culture of ethics is crucial in developing competence and addressing the range of lifestyle changes in today's psychological ecosystem.
—Thomas F. Nagy, PhD
Independent Practice of Psychology; Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA

This easy-to-read book is filled with practical case examples that bring ethics alive. Practicing psychologists and psychologists-in-training will find it a useful guide for how to prepare for and respond to the many ethical challenges and dilemmas we each will face.
—Jeffrey E. Barnett, PsyD, ABPP
Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean for the Social Sciences and Graduate Programs, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore

This current revision has made a great book even better. The authors' optimistic views of ethics and risk management remain a refreshing approach to ethical problem solving and ethical dilemmas. It is a must-read for both early career and senior mental health professionals.
—Jeffrey N. Younggren, PhD, ABPP
Clinical Professor, University of Missouri, Columbia

Both trainees and professionals will find much value in this book, including comprehensive coverage of the APA Ethics Code, an update on the empirical literature concerning ethical practice, and an appreciation of how humans make ethical decisions in the real world.
—Mitchell M. Handelsman, PhD
Professor and CU President's Teaching Scholar, University of Colorado Denver