Category Archives: Ethics

Right Use of Power: the Heart of Ethics

Cedar Barstow asked:

Both Meg and Rob were thinking about grief.  So a bit more about that.  Grief, of course, has it’s own rhythm and pace, and is a process….neither to be rushed nor clung to.  I’m reminded of the Sensitivity Cycle from the Hakomi Method.  The Sensitivity Cycle describes the process of becoming more and more sensitive and effective.  It has four phases:  clarity, effectiveness, satisfaction, and relaxation.  All four phases need attention and organically move on to the next.  In thinking of grief, for example, first you need to be clear about what you’re grieving, then take some kind of effective action, then find and integrate some satisfaction from the action you took, and then relax and let go—so that you will have made space for a new cycle.  It is easy to get stuck at each phase and with grief it seems that the most common place to get stuck is in letting go.  Getting unstuck and letting go when it is time seems to involves having a “gut” sense of the timing. It also involves trusting that letting go of the process of grieving for a person, thing, or event, doesn’t mean letting go of it all, but rather knowing that you have integrated it, or the learning from it, within you.

In responding to Sally who is looking for some more depth, I’d like to say something about two kinds of ethical decision-making edited from pages 59-61 of my book:  Right Use of Power: The Heart of Ethics.  I find that we as professionals most often think of ethical decision-making simply and solely as the second kind I describe as complex decision-making without putting conscious attention toward ordinary moment, every day kind of ethical decision-making.

Ordinary moments—ethical attention.

The basic ethical question is: Is what I am doing in the best interest of my client? With this question in mind, the preponderance of ethical decisions are made moment to moment in the ordinary process of sessions with your clients. Commitment to the best interests of your clients is the often unnamed and yet constant foundation that guides your interventions. Everyday ethical decisions involve both personal integrity and professional responsibility. For example, supporting your client’s accurate self-assessment of progress, conveying compassion for suffering, holding hope when your client has lost their hope, making sure you complete a session in a timely way. Ethical decision making is deeply embedded in your professional relationships. Moment to moment decisions create trust.

Ordinary Moment Ethical Decision-making

Let’s break this down a little further.  When being ethically sensitive and aware, there are two kinds of ethical decision-making. The first arises in everyday, ordinary service moments. These require tracking subtle energetic cues, attitudes of integrity, and attunement to being in right relationship. Here are some everyday, normal instances using client questions:

•How often should I be coming to see you?

•Will you write a recommendation for me?

•Can we go later today?

•Can I pay at a reduced rate?

•Would you meet me for coffee to talk about a business idea?

•Is this situation I’m in a healthy one?

•Tell me about your marriage.

Decision-making Using Ethical Codes & Power Spiral

Far less frequently, you are called to make complex ethical decisions that require time to think through your response, consulting with your supervisor, referring to your Ethical Code, and/or using the Power Spiral model in the Right Use of Power book. Examples of such ethical challenges might be:

•deciding how to manage an inevitable dual role relationship

•making a DSM4 diagnosis and considering the ramifications

•reporting impending or actual harm effectively and skillfully

•confidentiality exceptions

•deciding whether your client is being re-traumatized

•making appropriate referrals

•responding and adapting to cultural diversity

•use of touch

•self-disclosure

•handling sexual issues

•dealing with possible unethical behavior by colleagues.

In these non-ordinary complex situations, there are many forces and influences to consider. Some of these include: regional laws, ethical code, clinical assessment, gut intuition, standards of practice, transference, supervisor recommendations, cultural norms, risk to client and/or caregiver, employer policies, client wishes, client’s life circumstances, and your personal issues and feelings.

I hope you will find it useful to think in terms of these two different categories of ethical decision-making.  I look forward to hearing from you if you wish to respond.

Cedar Barstow

For more information about Right Use of Power see www.rightuseofpower.com

©Copyright 2007 Cedar Barstow, M.Ed., C.H.T. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The following article was solely written and edited by the author named above. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the following article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment to this blog entry. Click here to contact Cedar and/or see her GoodTherapy.org Profile

Ethics in Education

Emily Wyschynskyj asked:

In a post WorldCom, post Enron world, should colleges be doing more to prepare graduates for what lies ahead in the ‘real world’? It is safe to say that somewhere along the line ethics education has failed within this country. One need look no further than the front page of their morning paper, or the quarterly update of their portfolio, to realize how desperate this situation has become.

            Not so long ago businessmen, and women, were looked up to; the title of CEO came with an underlying respect from the employees of an organization, as well as outsiders. It really meant something to hold the highest position within a company. Flash back to today and the title Chief Executive Officer evokes quite a different picture. Type ‘CEO’ into any popular search engine and within 5.8 seconds you will be bombarded with over 300,000 results. Many of which also contain phrases like: crisis, bailout or lawsuit.

            In an effort to remedy this situation, Universities have begun to integrate ethics education into their business curriculums, as well as into the regular curriculum for all students. In a study conducted by Angela Hernquist, doctoral candidate from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, 90% of responding institutions indicated that Ethics was part of their curriculum. Over a decade earlier the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy passed the requirement that all licensed Certified Public Accountants complete a four hour, board approved, ethics course (VanZante). This requirement was later supplemented by two hours or ethics courses every three years. Following the Enron, and subsequent Anderson LLP collapses, TSBPA required an additional four hours of ethics every two years beginning January of 2005 (VanZante).

            It is certainly nice to hear that things are being done to ensure that graduates leaving their field of study will be better prepared for the workplace, but are we really meant to believe that a five credit course, or a mere four hours can change who a person really is? From personal experience I can confidently say no, the ethics education that I have received in college has done nothing to influence what kind of person I am. A brief rundown of the course syllabus may hold the key as to why I do not feel that I got my money’s worth of ethics. While utilitarianism and other various philosophies may be at the foundation of a great education, what do they really have to do with ethics today? Will I make a better CEO because I understand Ayn Rand?

            Time in the classrooms of our Universities would be better spent teaching mathematics, writing, or even psychology. Perhaps if we understood why people behaved unethically we could do something to stop it. One thing is clear; the ethics we are being taught today are failing us. Failing us as students, and as citizens of the world. If we are really to believe that we do not learn ethics until college that what hope is there when nearly 25% of Americans never make it that far (Henry). Are we a nation of heathens running around like a ticking time bomb? I propose that we begin learning ethics much earlier than college, even earlier than grade school. Ethics begin in the home, the community, and the individual.

            People are beginning to recognize the need for early ethics education in children, and have started to do something about it. Patti Martin, B.S., M.A., Director of Ethical Education, has opened an ethics course for children ages 2-12. Her program is called Sunday Ethical Education for Kids, or SEEKS. SEEK aims to do what some parents apparently cannot, to instill ethics into the children of the community in one hour segments. SEEK meets once a week, on Sundays naturally, at the University of Missouri Extension Center, in Mid Rivers Missouri. There are no expectations, just the hope that parents will bring their children by to get some much needed guidance on becoming a better person.

            Maybe more programs are needed in colleges, or maybe the child ethics courses offered at the University of Missouri are the answer. Whatever that answer may be, one thing is for sure, we haven’t found it yet, and if we do not find it soon we are setting ourselves up for more disaster. I don’t know how the rest of the country feels, but I am not looking forward to a lifetime of paying the high salaries of today’s CEOs in what feels like a never ending stream of corporate bailouts.

Henry, Tamara. “Report: Greater Percent of Americans Educated”. USA Today 6/05/2002

 Hernquist, Angela. “A Survey of Ethics Courses in State College and University Curricula”. University of Nevada Las Vegas. February 2005

“Raising Ethical Children”. Mid Rivers Ethical Society. 11/28/2008 .

VanZante, Neal. “Improving Professional Ethics”. The CPA Journal May 2005

Right Use of Power: the Heart of Ethics

Cedar Barstow asked:

Both Meg and Rob were thinking about grief.  So a bit more about that.  Grief, of course, has it’s own rhythm and pace, and is a process….neither to be rushed nor clung to.  I’m reminded of the Sensitivity Cycle from the Hakomi Method.  The Sensitivity Cycle describes the process of becoming more and more sensitive and effective.  It has four phases:  clarity, effectiveness, satisfaction, and relaxation.  All four phases need attention and organically move on to the next.  In thinking of grief, for example, first you need to be clear about what you’re grieving, then take some kind of effective action, then find and integrate some satisfaction from the action you took, and then relax and let go—so that you will have made space for a new cycle.  It is easy to get stuck at each phase and with grief it seems that the most common place to get stuck is in letting go.  Getting unstuck and letting go when it is time seems to involves having a “gut” sense of the timing. It also involves trusting that letting go of the process of grieving for a person, thing, or event, doesn’t mean letting go of it all, but rather knowing that you have integrated it, or the learning from it, within you.

In responding to Sally who is looking for some more depth, I’d like to say something about two kinds of ethical decision-making edited from pages 59-61 of my book:  Right Use of Power: The Heart of Ethics.  I find that we as professionals most often think of ethical decision-making simply and solely as the second kind I describe as complex decision-making without putting conscious attention toward ordinary moment, every day kind of ethical decision-making.

Ordinary moments—ethical attention.

The basic ethical question is: Is what I am doing in the best interest of my client? With this question in mind, the preponderance of ethical decisions are made moment to moment in the ordinary process of sessions with your clients. Commitment to the best interests of your clients is the often unnamed and yet constant foundation that guides your interventions. Everyday ethical decisions involve both personal integrity and professional responsibility. For example, supporting your client’s accurate self-assessment of progress, conveying compassion for suffering, holding hope when your client has lost their hope, making sure you complete a session in a timely way. Ethical decision making is deeply embedded in your professional relationships. Moment to moment decisions create trust.

Ordinary Moment Ethical Decision-making

Let’s break this down a little further.  When being ethically sensitive and aware, there are two kinds of ethical decision-making. The first arises in everyday, ordinary service moments. These require tracking subtle energetic cues, attitudes of integrity, and attunement to being in right relationship. Here are some everyday, normal instances using client questions:

•How often should I be coming to see you?

•Will you write a recommendation for me?

•Can we go later today?

•Can I pay at a reduced rate?

•Would you meet me for coffee to talk about a business idea?

•Is this situation I’m in a healthy one?

•Tell me about your marriage.

Decision-making Using Ethical Codes & Power Spiral

Far less frequently, you are called to make complex ethical decisions that require time to think through your response, consulting with your supervisor, referring to your Ethical Code, and/or using the Power Spiral model in the Right Use of Power book. Examples of such ethical challenges might be:

•deciding how to manage an inevitable dual role relationship

•making a DSM4 diagnosis and considering the ramifications

•reporting impending or actual harm effectively and skillfully

•confidentiality exceptions

•deciding whether your client is being re-traumatized

•making appropriate referrals

•responding and adapting to cultural diversity

•use of touch

•self-disclosure

•handling sexual issues

•dealing with possible unethical behavior by colleagues.

In these non-ordinary complex situations, there are many forces and influences to consider. Some of these include: regional laws, ethical code, clinical assessment, gut intuition, standards of practice, transference, supervisor recommendations, cultural norms, risk to client and/or caregiver, employer policies, client wishes, client’s life circumstances, and your personal issues and feelings.

I hope you will find it useful to think in terms of these two different categories of ethical decision-making.  I look forward to hearing from you if you wish to respond.

Cedar Barstow

For more information about Right Use of Power see www.rightuseofpower.com

©Copyright 2007 Cedar Barstow, M.Ed., C.H.T. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The following article was solely written and edited by the author named above. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the following article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment to this blog entry. Click here to contact Cedar and/or see her GoodTherapy.org Profile

What is More Ethical Blogs or News Media?

Rob Glenn asked:

We are hearing more and more that readers believe the information contained in Blogs is more reliable than the print news media. (I don’t think a direct comparison between the electronic media and Blogs makes much sense, so my comparison is direct: written material vs. written material.) While I find this shift in ‘believability’ to be somewhat surprising, I must admit that I don’t think I personally know anybody that reads the newspaper without a nagging suspicion and a bit of doubt. Even more, I continue to be amazed at the growing number of people I know that do not even bother to read the newspaper.

Well, how does this relate to the subject of ethics?

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a person who serves on a national group that investigates allegations of breach of conduct by the news media. As a professor of journalism, it was clear to me that he wants the profession to uphold the highest standards. When does a misquote become more than a minor issue? How about reporters that leave out details because they don’t understand them or don’t believe their readers could understand them? Or, editors that cut out segments of a reporter’s story and completely lose the intent? And, headline writers that mislead the readers by sensationalizing the story? Worse still, how about reporters who know that their information and their sources are tainted? Do these issues rise to the level of an ethical breach?

While I am very new to blogging (and admit some consternation about putting my thoughts into writing for the world to see), I am extremely fascinated that blogs offer the opportunity to say whatever you want — in your own words — without any opportunity for misquotes, editing, media bias, etc. This is what our First Amendment rights are all about. I know of one elected official that has launched a blog for the purpose of making sure his positions on issues are not taken out of context, twisted, turned — or, even, unreported — by the news media. This is a very interesting approach! If the media wants his input on an issue, he plans to post their question and his answer.

Perhaps the question remains: what does the print media need to do to regain the public trust and perform consistently in an ethical manner?

Like most complex issues, I believe trust and ethics are directly related to the quality of the individual and his or her commitment to excellence in their professional life. Thirty years ago, I was a corporate media spokesperson at a frighteningly young age. I took the time to get to know the reporters, rely on them for guidance, explain the subject in great detail; similarly, the reporters took the time to understand the issue and double-check facts and figures. Intriguingly, I was never misquoted. Never. Not once. I considered these individuals to be seasoned professionals, mentors, and true professionals. No, their reporting was not always to my liking, but the manner in which they performed their job was beyond reproach.

But, that was then and this is now. What has changed? Everything.

I will offer one perspective on the issue of blogs vs. newspapers. A blogger, like me, is taking the time to write about an issue that I want to write about and that I feel passionately about. Question: so, what about the subject of ethics? Answer: I do not have a deadline, I have no editor that is biased, and I even get to write my own headline!

If we were to agree (for the sake of argument) to remove any allegation of intentional breach of ethics by the media, I would say that today’s journalist does not have the same commitment to the profession as their predecessors. They seem to be in too big of a hurry, they don’t take the time to get all the facts and double-check them, they are not well-versed in what is going on in their community and therefore have no context, institutional knowledge, or historical perspective. They very quickly make a public impression of themselves as either a credible reporter — or, one that won’t be in that line of work much longer…

Poor reporting, just like anything else, becomes a behavior that the public ultimately recognizes — and then the public reacts accordingly. For example, if the editorial page editor is extremely liberal, the public picks up on that, and filters (and, maybe, even ignores), the columns written by that individual (or his or her editorial team). Likewise, if a news reporter consistently ‘gets it wrong’ the public will pick up on that as well and tend to discount (or at least question) whatever that reporter writes. Once the public trust is lost, the situation spins further out of control because sources of information to the reporter become less and less willing to waste time with them; and, reporters, not knowing anything about the story they are required to write by their editor (to be fair), continue to turn out a work product (in this case, a ‘story’) that would be considered inferior by the standards of any other industry.

In the end, just like with any other job or relationship, you can forever lose your ethics in just a brief moment of lapse in judgment. Weirdly, this critical issue does not seem to apply to reporters — or maybe reporters just think they can say whatever they want to say without consequence or accountability — but, in reality, they are ultimately personally responsible (although not liable) for conducting themselves in an ethical manner.

As for me, I think the opportunity to say what I want to say about whatever issue is of importance to me tends to indicate blogging is the best source of information available to the thoughtful individual, both today and in the foreseeable future.

Ethics in Education

Emily Wyschynskyj asked:

In a post WorldCom, post Enron world, should colleges be doing more to prepare graduates for what lies ahead in the ‘real world’? It is safe to say that somewhere along the line ethics education has failed within this country. One need look no further than the front page of their morning paper, or the quarterly update of their portfolio, to realize how desperate this situation has become.

            Not so long ago businessmen, and women, were looked up to; the title of CEO came with an underlying respect from the employees of an organization, as well as outsiders. It really meant something to hold the highest position within a company. Flash back to today and the title Chief Executive Officer evokes quite a different picture. Type ‘CEO’ into any popular search engine and within 5.8 seconds you will be bombarded with over 300,000 results. Many of which also contain phrases like: crisis, bailout or lawsuit.

            In an effort to remedy this situation, Universities have begun to integrate ethics education into their business curriculums, as well as into the regular curriculum for all students. In a study conducted by Angela Hernquist, doctoral candidate from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, 90% of responding institutions indicated that Ethics was part of their curriculum. Over a decade earlier the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy passed the requirement that all licensed Certified Public Accountants complete a four hour, board approved, ethics course (VanZante). This requirement was later supplemented by two hours or ethics courses every three years. Following the Enron, and subsequent Anderson LLP collapses, TSBPA required an additional four hours of ethics every two years beginning January of 2005 (VanZante).

            It is certainly nice to hear that things are being done to ensure that graduates leaving their field of study will be better prepared for the workplace, but are we really meant to believe that a five credit course, or a mere four hours can change who a person really is? From personal experience I can confidently say no, the ethics education that I have received in college has done nothing to influence what kind of person I am. A brief rundown of the course syllabus may hold the key as to why I do not feel that I got my money’s worth of ethics. While utilitarianism and other various philosophies may be at the foundation of a great education, what do they really have to do with ethics today? Will I make a better CEO because I understand Ayn Rand?

            Time in the classrooms of our Universities would be better spent teaching mathematics, writing, or even psychology. Perhaps if we understood why people behaved unethically we could do something to stop it. One thing is clear; the ethics we are being taught today are failing us. Failing us as students, and as citizens of the world. If we are really to believe that we do not learn ethics until college that what hope is there when nearly 25% of Americans never make it that far (Henry). Are we a nation of heathens running around like a ticking time bomb? I propose that we begin learning ethics much earlier than college, even earlier than grade school. Ethics begin in the home, the community, and the individual.

            People are beginning to recognize the need for early ethics education in children, and have started to do something about it. Patti Martin, B.S., M.A., Director of Ethical Education, has opened an ethics course for children ages 2-12. Her program is called Sunday Ethical Education for Kids, or SEEKS. SEEK aims to do what some parents apparently cannot, to instill ethics into the children of the community in one hour segments. SEEK meets once a week, on Sundays naturally, at the University of Missouri Extension Center, in Mid Rivers Missouri. There are no expectations, just the hope that parents will bring their children by to get some much needed guidance on becoming a better person.

            Maybe more programs are needed in colleges, or maybe the child ethics courses offered at the University of Missouri are the answer. Whatever that answer may be, one thing is for sure, we haven’t found it yet, and if we do not find it soon we are setting ourselves up for more disaster. I don’t know how the rest of the country feels, but I am not looking forward to a lifetime of paying the high salaries of today’s CEOs in what feels like a never ending stream of corporate bailouts.

Henry, Tamara. “Report: Greater Percent of Americans Educated”. USA Today 6/05/2002

 Hernquist, Angela. “A Survey of Ethics Courses in State College and University Curricula”. University of Nevada Las Vegas. February 2005

“Raising Ethical Children”. Mid Rivers Ethical Society. 11/28/2008 .

VanZante, Neal. “Improving Professional Ethics”. The CPA Journal May 2005