Ethics Education In Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Programs


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Virginia Tech


Mental health professionals place value on education in the hopeful expectation that ethics instruction will provide the knowledge and awareness required to empower therapists to make ethical clinical decisions. This study examined the current status of ethics education in accredited and non accredited marriage and family therapy graduate programs in the United States and Canada. Surveys were sent to ethics instructors in 123 graduate programs, 72 of which have full or provisional accreditation by the AAMFT Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. A total of 65 surveys were returned, resulting in an overall response rate of 53%.

Information was gathered using a modified version of a survey designed by Vanek (1990) that examined eight areas of ethics training: 1) professional and educational characteristics of the instructor, 2) structure of ethics education, 3) instructional methods, 4) goals for ethics education, 5) specific content areas, 6) evaluation indices, 7) instructional materials, and 8) rationale for ethics education. Particular attention was placed on ethical content areas that are unique to a systemic approach to therapy.

The future direction of ethics instruction was examined to determine whether instructors would significantly alter ethics education in the future. A series of paired t tests for within-group comparisons was used to determine if significant differences existed between the current and desired emphasis placed on 16 educational goals and 34 content areas. With the exception of four goals, there were statistically significant differences (p<.05) between the current and future emphasis placed on all other goals by ethics instructors. There were also statistically significant differences (p<.05) between the current and future emphasis placed on 22 of the 34 content areas by ethics instructors. These results indicated that the majority of ethics instructors place emphasis on these goals and content areas, but acknowledge a desire to place greater emphasis on them in the future. A series of t tests for independent groups determined that there were no significant differences (p<.05) between accredited and non accredited programs in the degree of emphasis currently placed on any of the specified goals or content areas.



Ethics, marriage and family therapy, Education, training