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Review of "Decoding the Ethics Code"

By Celia B. Fisher
Sage Publications, 2003
Review by Michael Sakuma, Ph.D. on Sep 3rd 2004
Decoding the Ethics Code

Lets be honest, for most of us in the field of clinical psychology, learning ethics is boring. Certainly not because the material is unimportant, rather many of the principles seem so darn obvious and commonsensical.  Of course I wouldn't trade live chickens for therapy, (at least not in this stage of my career). Decoding the Ethics Code, A Practical Guide for Psychologists by Celia Fisher, is an excellent exercise in bringing life to the dry 2002 revision of the APA ethics code. For the psychology student trying to learn the code, this is an excellent overview of the code with clear positive and negative examples illustrating many of the concepts that have more than once, I should admit, applied glaze to my eyes.  

The book is organized around the 10 ethical standards put forth/revised by the APA ethics task force in 2002.  The 10 standards deal with situations revolving around conflict resolution, competence, relationships, privacy, advertising, reports, education, research, assessment and therapy.  There is an introductory chapter outlining the history of the code and appendices in the back describing the code without the author's commentary.

 I very much liked the author's use of example in describing behavior in accord with the code and behavior transgressing the code.  These learning modules kept my mind active and with the author in her commentary.  This type of material demands active learning exercises and this book is very good- though it isn't perfect.  Specifically, what I didn't like was the fact that all the examples are demarcated with a check or an "x" depending on the "correctness" of the behavior.  I would have much preferred the exercises to be unmarked so that I might have more blindly quizzed myself as to the application of the given example.  Of course most of the examples are quite obvious, however, this simple step would have made the book more interactive, and a better teaching tool. Alas, perhaps a suggestion for the revision.  I should address the seeming contradiction of this idea from my opening statement about the APA ethics code.  I had thought that the code was easy to understand; some of the examples in this book showed me that I was mistaken. 

 In all, this book is an invaluable guide for psychologist's who are studying for their licensing exams, taking an ethics course or just reading ethics for fun.  There are many books out there that do the same thing.  I can't imagine any being much better than this.


© 2004 Michael Sakuma

Michael Sakuma, Assistant Professor, Psychology Department at Dowling College, Long Island, New York.