Making Ethical Decisions and Taking Action

Recent years have seen much interest in how humans make judgments. Such interest focuses exclusively on the prevalence of dubious decisions and the reasons why people who ought to stay informed execute them. The main goal is to pinpoint the origins of erroneous conclusions that could endanger our clients and us. If we have been working as mental health professionals for any time, we have almost likely encountered at least one ethical challenge that either directly affected us or concerned a colleague we know well.


Most disasters involving people and harm to the world are caused by self-deception, which is ubiquitous. Even when an objective analysis might disclose a drastically divergent conclusion, we frequently perceive what we expect to see. Self-interest is frequently superimposed to minimize guilt by leading us to believe that our actions were moral. A range of terms, including rationalization, ethical withering, blatant hypocrisy, denying, inhibition, perceptual deformation, motivated reasoning, and egotistical morality, etc., describe the delusion processes that occur when we consider taking action. Our steadfast conviction that no one understands us better than we recognize ourselves is untrue. We possess blind patches that others may notice, which leads us to believe that getting input from others may be more helpful than we initially thought.

Red Flags

This somewhat new interest in the decider rather than just the choice aids in explaining a behavior we frequently noticed while sitting on ethics committees. Many of the psychologists who appeared before the committee seemed to be improbable ethical breakers, even if some of them merited to be criminally prosecuted. Warning indicators frequently remained unnoticed because of justifications, intense stress, incapacity in a particular circumstance, or negligence. Therefore, we are likely to act by forces we need not entirely recognize if we digest important information without clear recognition. However, if a situation indicating possible risk is obvious, it is vital to consider it carefully and make necessary adjustments in the following phase.

Making Role-Blending Decisions

A significant fraction of therapists' worst or most careless decisions result from role mixing. Amid self-serving conditions, frontiers become flimsy and cross a line if not recognized and corrected promptly. Roles become incongruous when one role's expectations call for actions or behavior that conflicts with another. There are three criteria to measure the harm caused by role merging. First, there is a greater chance of harm as the ideals of professionals and individuals they serve diverge. Second, there is a greater chance of losing objectivity and having divided loyalties as job responsibilities diverge. Third, the risk of exploitation increases when the therapist's influence and reputation outweigh the client's needs.

Making Decisions When There is Lead Time

Some researchers claim that hasty, intuitively, or instinctively motivated conclusions about complicated issues are preferable to those that have been carefully considered. Other studies have demonstrated that complicated, tough choices require deliberate planning instead of the "follow our instinct" strategy, which is not only unwise but probably even deadly. Inadvertently depending on a poor predictor (such as an emotive or gut response) while deciding based on a complicated assortment of variables is typically significantly riskier than ignoring a reliable predictor. Snap judgments could ruin a career when it involves making moral decisions that may have repercussions.

With time, it is possible to develop alternative viewpoints, pay greater attention to the big picture, and evaluate one's motivations—actions that the therapist in the following scenario did not perform. Every mental health care provider should internalize a decision-making process to help them deal with any ethical dilemmas. We anticipate that following such a procedure will increase the likelihood of a morally correct outcome, but we fully admit that this does not invariably occur. Despite one's best efforts, certain results will continue to be problematic. Those who can show that they made a concerted, thoughtful effort to address the problem will be greatly advantaged if their choices and actions are ever questioned.

We must emphasize right away that using ethical decision-making techniques does not result in a decision being made. However, a thorough analysis of the circumstance will significantly impact the choice.

Strategies for Decision-Making

Ethical Decision-Making Under Behavioural Emergencies and Crisis Conditions

Frenetic communications from clients or their families, threats made by clients to hurt themselves or others, unanticipated client behavior or requests, and startling disclosures throughout a session are not uncommon events. Consequently, ethical conundrums requiring a quick solution can and do emerge abruptly.

Therapists may understandably feel anxious and become more inclined to act less than adequately if they need more time to formulate a properly considered conclusion utilizing a technique like the one we just described. It is also feasible that anxiety can induce unethical, self-serving, or even protective choices. Although behavioral catastrophes and emergencies are frequently used identically, differentiating between the two may be important for making decisions.

A behavioral emergency demands an urgent response and intervention to prevent potential injury. Suicidal or violent behavior, as well as interpersonal victimization, are behavioral crises. The client's state must be assessed first, and then an intervention to lower the risk of damage must be made. Interventions might be as simple as listening without judgment or as complex as directing inpatient hospitalization.

Finally, a strategy for the subsequent steps needs to be developed for an outside occurrence that upsets a person's psychological balance and makes it difficult for them to cope. These can range from less serious but stressful situations, including reacting to a spouse who abruptly asks for a separation or losing a job, to the anguish brought on by a life-or-death circumstance. The person may request help or, at the very least, greet it.

When deciding and responding amidst emergency or critical settings, persons in the mental health profession rate highly among those in occupations subject to ethical and statutory constraints. These circumstances apply when therapists are worried about a client's health, when the appropriate action to take is ambiguous, when the scenario is impassioned, when the clock is ticking or when a bad outcome happens, and the stakes are great. Adapting and both decision-making abilities must be used.

Even though disclosing would undermine trust in the process, alerting the proper authorities would be permissible. Irrespective of the real or potential danger, therapists may experience anxiety or distress if there is an oncoming emergency and they are forced to make several difficult decisions at once. In times of potential disaster, especially when it comes to affairs of life and death, the most socially responsible course of action might entail comforting grieving family members, divulging information that would have remained private under ordinary situations, exercising more patience, or touching clients or their partners more frequently than usual, or even particularly searching for them.

Preparation for Emergencies in Advance


Making moral choices can help us maintain our integrity, create a positive image of ourselves in professional situations, and produce work we are pleased with. It can be difficult and time-consuming to properly incorporate ethics into our decision-making properly, yet doing so can improve our reputation and sense of value. By prioritizing ethics in our working practice, we can improve our capacity to act in a manner that reflects our underlying values.