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Cracking The Code: A Critical Discourse Analysis Of The Canadian Code Of Ethics For Psychologists

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posted on 2021-05-21, 15:18 authored by Ashley Ward
Hailed as “possibly the best psychologists’ code of ethics anywhere in the world” (Hadjistavropoulos, 2009, p. 4), the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists represents a powerful ethical and professional standard for practitioners of psychology. This ethical code boasts a strong theoretical and empirical basis, prediction and consistency, high educational value and relevance, and an empowering advantage for its users – psychologists. Yet, critical and feminist examinations of the CPA Code have identified problems with the Code, including its underlying structure and values, lack of regard for social justice, and ignorance of human subjectivity. These scholars’ critiques expose the problematic ideology of the CPA Code, throwing into question the ethical implications of this ethical code. Joining this broader project of critical psychology examining the undercurrents and effects of power in the discipline, this dissertation seeks to understand how the CPA Code produces ethical-professional practices and subjectivities. Framing this research within discourse, power, and governmentality or “the conduct of conduct,” I draw on the work of Michel Foucault and Foucauldian-informed psychologists to interrogate the ways in which the “ethical” practitioner is produced by the CPA Code. Further interested to explore the ethical-professional constructions of individuals and groups of people historically marginalized in Canadian society, I also analyze the CPA Code’s supplementary documents Guidelines for Ethical Psychological Practice with Women (CPA, 2007) and the Guidelines for Non-discriminatory Practice (CPA, 2001). This discourse analysis discovers the many dominant and appropriated discourses of the CPA Code, subject positions, as well as the discursive rules reinforcing the discourse practices and subjects. Dominant discourses constructing the CPA Code are science, objectivity, competence, expertise, legal, managerialism, and risk management discourses. Appropriated discourses are critical inquiry, betterment of society, and morality discourses. Sites where discursive rules are reproduced are education and training, licensure and regulation, ethical decision-making, consultation, and misconduct adjudication. Subjectivities of psychologists and clients are discussed. These findings are contextualized within Foucauldian theory and the broader critical psychology literature.



Ryerson University




Doctor of Philosophy



Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type