Professional ethics in context: Practising rural Canadian psychologists

Judith Malone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


The complexities of professional ethics are best understood and interpreted within their sociohistorical context. This paper focuses on the experience of twenty rural psychologists from across Canada, a practice context rife with demographic and practice characteristics that may instigate ethical issues. Employing hermeneutic phenomenology these qualitative research results are indicative of professional struggles that impacted the participants' experience of professional ethics and raised key questions about policy and practice. Concerns regarding competition concerns highlight potential professional vulnerability, beget the idea of fostering general psychological practice, and question the role of professional bodies in addressing rural shortages. Dependency on government funding models and decisions highlights the benefits and medical cost-offset effect of psychological services' role in funded medical care. The controversial prescriptive authority debate for psychologists raises a myriad of concerns that are particularly salient to rural practitioners including changes to training and practice with risks of psychopharmacology gaining prominence over behavioural health interventions. National inconsistencies in level of registration add to the growing shortage of practitioners. Finally, the results illuminate the need for advocacy to move beyond the literature and into public policy to increase public awareness, decrease the stigma of mental illness, and develop rural Canadian psychology. Although limited to this study, these results allowed for a fuller and more robust understanding of rural practice in consideration of professional ethics which may inform policy, science, or ethical clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-477
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


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