Ethics of the Student and Professor Relationship Essay

Ethics of the Student and Professor Relationship Essay

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When discussing the importance of professional boundaries in mental health work, most people think first of relationships between psychotherapists and clients. However, similar boundary considerations are relevant for professor–student relationships, supervisor–supervisee relationships, consultant–consultee relationships, and researcher–participant relationships. Although different dynamics are at play, the relationships psychologists have with each other, with other professionals, and with the general public have boundaries that warrant ethical consideration as well. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers some guidance. The APA Ethics Code says, in Standard 7.07: "Psychologists do not engage in sexual relationships with students or supervisees who are in their department, agency, or training center or over whom psychologists have or are likely to have evaluative authority" (2010). This seems to preclude dating during the semester, and perhaps afterwards if there is a likelihood of an ongoing interaction (Handelsman, 2011). For example, what if a student needs a letter of recommendation for a job and would like the professor they are seeing socially outside of the classroom setting to write it? Although the code is silent regarding social relationships and sharing feelings, we have a little bit of help from other sources of guidance such as institutional guidelines and moral codes; some colleges and universities have rules about professors dating students (Handelsman, 2011).
It is common for adults working in corporate or professional settings to be briefed on the law and/or policy on sexual contact and romantic relationships in the workplace (Barbella, 2010). In a school setting, at least at the secondary level...

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.... ‘‘Ultimately what guides everything is that the student should respect the professor and the professor should respect the student,’’ stated President Williams; ‘‘that is the way it is in life anyhow’’ (Barbella, 2010).

Works Cited

Barbella, L. (2010). Sexuality & Culture. An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, Vol 14(1), pp. 44-48.
Handelsman, M.M. (2011, May 28). Social and Sexual Scenarios With Students: What Would You Do? Professors Dating Students: Sensitive, Stupid, or Sleazy? [Web Blog Comment]. Retrieved from
Knapp, S.J. (Ed.); Gottlieb, M.C. (Ed.); Handelsman, M.M. (Ed.); VandeCreek, L.D. (Ed.). (2012). APA handbook of ethics in psychology, Vol 1: Moral foundations and common themes. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

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