Legal and Ethical Issues in Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology deals with the study of mental and emotional disorders and the root causes of such behaviors. Professionals in this field are equally required to adhere to the laid down legal and ethical regulations while dealing with their clients. It is important to note that an unlicensed practitioner has a duty to ensure that the interaction between him and the client is supervised by a licensed professional. The objective of this paper is to analyze the legal and ethical issues related to licensed and unlicensed professionals in the field of abnormal psychology.

Legal issues deal with rules and principles that licensed professionals in the abnormal psychology field must comply with. Such rules govern the activities of these professionals and make sure they comply or face prosecution in a court of law. For instance, a licensed practitioner is required by law to provide satisfactory evidence that both educational and clinical field experience requirements have been met. These obligations must meet the expectations of the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professionals (Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation, 2010).

The unlicensed practitioners in the field of abnormal psychology are required by law to be supervised by licensed professionals who provide evaluation and therapy services to the referred clients. This implies that unlicensed abnormal psychology practitioners are permitted by law to offer advice but not therapy. Furthermore, they can not solicit patients as they are still considered to be under instructions or residence from their supervisors. After this residency, they are required to pass a licensure exam for them to become licensed (Davis & Buskist, 2008).

Ethical issues have a bearing on the psychologist-client relationship. In the field of abnormal psychology, both licensed and unlicensed professionals must uphold high ethical standards while dealing with their clients. For instance, the information between themselves and their clients must remain confidential. Moreover, the psychologist must be aware of issues such as bartering or befriending clients for sexual favors (Barlow & Durand, 2008). However, there are instances that the law becomes incompatible with the practice in abnormal psychology.

For example, the law assumes that people have free will and are responsible for their actions while actually a crime could have been committed out of insanity. The argument has been whether or not psychology should influence the due course of the law, which has been criticized for allowing dangerous people to avoid punishment.


  • Barlow, D. H. , & Durand, V. M. (2008). Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach. Belmont: Cengage Learning.
  • Davis, S. F. , & Buskist, W. (2008). 21st century psychology: a reference handbook, Volume 2. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
  • Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation. (2010). Requirements For Licensure As a Mental Health Counselor. Retrieved July 29, 2010, from http://www. mass. gov/? pageID=ocaterminal&L=6&L0=Home&L1=Licensee&L2=Division+of+Professional+Licensure+Boards&L3=Board+of+Registration+of+Allied+Mental+Health+and+Human+Services+Professionals&L4=Statutes+and+Regulations&L5=Rules+and+Regulations+Governing+A