Professional Issues

Course Details

Course Number: 5143  Section Number: 201

Fall 2013

Location: O'Donohoe Hall

Classroom Number: 110

Days & Times:

TR 12:30-1:50

Course Attachments

2013 syllabus PSYC 5143  PSYC 5143 Syllabus Fall 2013-20130909-103725.pdf


MSU Faculty Member
Dr. Laura C. Spiller   
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Course Objectives


This course is designed to accomplish the following objectives:

  1. To familiarize students with the standards of practice and ethical principles and codes of conduct which have a direct bearing on ethical and legal issues in clinical psychology;
  2. To critically evaluate these principles/codes and apply them to “real” and potential ethical dilemmas;
  3. To examine the reasoning behind various applications of the principles/codes;
  4.  To provide students with skills and resources for ethical decision-making and to explore the moral values/assumptions that underlie these decisions;
  5. To critically examine emerging professional issues in clinical psychology; andTo increase student awareness and knowledge of diverse perspectives and the role of their personal value systems in understanding and applying the ethics principles/codes.

Course Expectations

Assignments and Grading


Examinations:   There will be three exams.  Each exam will be composed of objective multiple choice and true/false items, as well as a few short essay questions requiring you to respond to a given scenario.  Each test is worth 100 points.  The 3rd exam will be given during the final exam period (Thursday, Dec 12, 10:30-12:30).


Reaction papers: Part of being an active learner and class participant is reflecting on what you are learning. A great way to do that is through short reaction papers, in which you use what you are reading and discussing in the course. In the reaction papers you can integrate the readings with (a) class discussions, (b) something that you read in the newspaper, (c) something that you study in another course, or (d) something that happened to you. You can design an empirical study to test an idea you have. You can look up laws (in Texas or elsewhere) and report on what you find. You can present two arguments on different sides of an issue. In any case, it should be obvious from your reaction papers that you’ve been to class, done the reading, and thought about what’s happening. Each reaction paper is to be no more than two pages, typed (12-point font), double-spaced. You will submit 3 papers to me during the course, no more than one in any given week (this is so that you will be thinking throughout the semester!). The papers will be graded on a 50 point scale for a total of 150 points toward your total grade.  Full credit (50 point) papers will demonstrate excellence by being well-written and demonstrating a thoughtful approach to the issues discussed. I am looking for your take on the subject, so don’t just summarize the readings.  You may submit more than 3 if you choose. I will use the 3 reactions papers with the highest scores to calculate your grade.


Mini-Assignments: Four assignments will be given over the course of the semester.  There will be two options for the 3rd assignment. They will each be worth 50 points each for total of 150 points. 

1)       Chapter 2 Mini-Assignment – Ethical Decision Making:   Read and consider the case example I will provide and outline your thoughts following the ethical decision making strategy outlined in the chapter (pp. 21-23).  For each step, explain what factors you would consider and how you would implement that step. 

2)       Chapter 5 Mini-Assignment – Therapy Contract: Develop a therapy contract and explain why you chose to include or exclude the various possible elements (see K & KS pp. 105). You are limited to 3 pages so part of the challenge is to decide what elements you will include and to write the contract in concise language that would be understandable to a typical client.

3)       Choose one of the following:

A.      Chapter 9 Mini-Assignment - Do It Yourself Testing: Find a test that measures some kind of psychological phenomenon on the Internet, take it, and report on what you think of its reliability, validity, and potential for good or harm to those who take it seriously.

B.      Chapter 15 Mini-Assignment – Self-help Books: Go to a bookstore or library and look in the “psychology” or “self help” sections.  Pick out a book, not written as far as one can tell by a licensed mental health professional, that purports to offer great benefit to those suffering from some problem.  (Unfortunately this criterion is hampered by the fact that many authors list diploma mill degrees, giving the appearance of credibility.)  Answer the following questions:

(a)     Is there evidence of a factual or research base? 

(b)    Does the author make up words and symptoms? 

(c)     Is the advice common sense? 

(d)    Does any of the advice cause concern?

(e)     Would there be any harm done if an individual who self-diagnosed him or herself as having the relevant problem?

(f)      Would that individual be disadvantaged if this book was the only assistance sought?


Participation:  To learn the most from this course, you must read the readings prior to the class for which they are assigned and be prepared to discuss the material.  The class meetings will focus on discussion and activities designed to promote integration and deeper understanding of the material.  To encourage preparation and participation, you will be graded on this aspect of your performance.


Participation will be graded daily on a scale from 0 (absent) through 4 (highest), using the criteria below. The criteria focus on what you demonstrate and do not presume to guess at what you know but do not demonstrate. I expect the average level of participation to satisfy the criteria for a "3".  I will use these daily grades to calculate a final grade for participation at the end of the semester.  Participation grades can be lowered by poor listening, disrespectful, rude or insensitive comments, or attempting to dominate class discussions.


Grading Standards

Final Grades



Available Points

% of total grade

3 Exams



Reaction Papers









Total Points




Once points are calculated, grades will be assigned as follows:



90% = +585


80% =  520 - 584


70% =  519 or fewer


Final Exam12/12/2013  10:30-12:30

Submission Format PolicyNote: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.

Plagiarism Policy Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception. Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters. We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student. We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed. Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Writing Proficiency Requirement All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed English 1113 and English 1123 and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.