Personal Problems and their Potential Interference with Clinical Work

It may sometimes be the case that personal problems may interfere with one's ability to function as a psychologist or trainee. The important issue, however, is how to deal with such problems. As stated in Ethical Standard II. 11 of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists, it is your responsibility to be alert for and to recognize when personal problems are interfering with your effectiveness, and to take appropriate action. It is your responsibility to refrain from activities if your performance is impaired and patients/colleagues/students may be harmed.

As a trainee, a first step would be to discuss the possible impact of your personal problems with the Clinical Program Director, as well as your clinical and/or research supervisor. There are a variety of avenues to explore, such as obtaining assistance with your personal problems (see Therapy for Students), modifying or suspending your training, taking a leave of absence from the program, etc.

We (faculty and students) also collectively share an ethical responsibility to take action if we believe that a person's personal problems may be harmful to clients. The appropriate action would be to bring your concern to the attention of the person whom you believe to be impaired. If that does not result in a corrective response, and you still perceive a risk, it would be appropriate to consult with the Director of the Clinical Program.