The Forensic Psychology

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Forensic Psychology is a branch of psychology that studies human behavior in relation to violations of the law and other legal systems (Roos, Scholtz and Wessels, 2016). Despite the critical function of forensic psychology, psychologists must adhere to a universal code of ethics. According to Herlihy and Corey (2014), forensic psychologists must follow certain ethical criteria. The American Counseling Association (ACA) is a universal code of ethics that its members apply in a variety of settings for scientific, professional, and educational goals, as well as to empower families in their efforts to achieve mental health, education, and wellness (Herlihy and Corey, 2014). Therefore, this paper will relate the Forensic Psychologists’ guidelines and the CAC Code of ethics. Also, this paper gives conflicting information about the two codes of ethics.

Respects to the rights and the privileges of the clients

According to the Forensic Psychologists’ guidelines on confidentiality and the rights, the forensic psychologists must conduct themselves with respects that maintain confidentiality as well as privileges of the clients. The Forensic psychologists have complete control over the records and the client is only bound to provide information upon request by the law enforcement statutes such as the court orders (Committee on Ethical Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists, 1991). According to ACA Code of Ethics section B (1) and subsection b, there is need to uphold the privacy of the clients (Herlihy and Corey, 2014). The Counselors need not only to respect the perspective privacy but also the private lives of the current customers (Herlihy and Corey, 2014). Besides, Herlihy and Corey (2014) assert that the code of the ethics requires that the Counselors can only seek private information when it is deemed useful to the process of counseling. However, there are conflicting ideas between the guidelines and the code of the ethics. While the guidelines purport that the Forensic psychologists have active and total control over the information, the code of ethics bestows all the authority to the client and can only release the same when deemed beneficial by court orders and other legal systems.

Limitations of the clients’ privilege and confidentiality

Section B of the Forensic Psychologists’ guidelines requires the counselor to provide the clients with an understandable statement that covers the limitations of the clients’ privilege and confidentiality (Committee on Ethical Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists, 1991). The section nonetheless conflicts the requirement by the ACA Code of Ethics. Section B. (1). Subsection d of the code of ethics requires that the counselor provides the client with an in-depth explanation of the limitations and not a statement of confidentiality (Herlihy and Corey, 2014). The explanation for the reason for a limitation must take place not only at the initiation stage but also throughout the counseling process (Herlihy and Corey, 2014). Therefore, section B of the Forensic Psychologists’ guidelines highlights contradicting information as far as confidentiality and the privilege of the client under the CAC Code of ethics is concerned. Further, in section B (1) and subsection b of the ACA Code of Ethics, the counselors are obliged to protect the confidential information of the clients. The Forensic Psychologists’ guidelines conspicuously omit the circumstances under which there are exceptions to the confidentiality and the rights of the clients.


Section D of the Forensic Psychologists’ guidelines explains the situation of confidentiality and the privilege in the case of absent client. It requires the counselor to only provide information to the legally authorized third party (Committee on Ethical Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists, 1991). The section expounds that the information must be in line with other regulations such as the ethical principles, education and psychological testing standards. Contrarily, section B (3) and subsection d of the ACA stipulates the circumstance under which the third party can be provided with information but fails to mention consistency with other statutory laws and regulations (Herlihy and Corey, 2014).

Even though confidentiality and the rights of the clients many be limited, the Forensic Psychologists’ guidelines highlight that a counselor involved in information acquisition must still guarantee the customer confidentiality of the information (Committee on Ethical Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists, 1991). The section, therefore, agrees with the ACA Code of Ethics which asserts that even though exceptions do exist, a minimal disclosure is must be guaranteed. Section B (2) of subsection e, the client must be informed of the confidential information to be disclosed and be physically involved in every disclosure decision-making activity.

In conclusion, forensic psychology remains useful in the study of the criminal behaviors of the human beings. Even though the ACA Code of Ethics conflicts to some degree with the Forensic Psychologists’ guidelines, there are also sections where there are collective agreements. Despite the need to have the confidentiality and the privileges of the clients to be obeyed by the psychologists, there are also limitations. However, regardless of the existence of the constraints, the clients must be involved in a minimal disclosure of information release.


Roos, V., Scholtz, J. G., & Wessels, C. (Eds.). (2016). An Introduction to forensic psychology. Verbum.

Committee on Ethical Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists. (1991). Specialty guidelines for forensic psychologists. Law and Human Behavior, 655-665.

Herlihy, B., & Corey, G. (2014). ACA ethical standards casebook. John Wiley & Sons.

April 26, 2023


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