Seth Rose, PhD, CMPC, KBR Inc.
Carla Carter, EdD, CMPC, The Cognitive Clinic
Episode #1 “Coin Flip”
Hung over from another night of drowning grief for his late wife, Jimmy rides his bike to therapy because his car is out of gas. Bedraggled, he steps into the office with a put-together looking person in the other chair, who asks if Jimmy is okay. The viewer is led to believe that the other person is the therapist. Jimmy asks, “What’s on your mind?” The frame shifts, and the viewer realizes that Jimmy is actually the therapist.
CMPC Reality? Anybody (including mental performance consultants, sport psychology professors, and others) can suffer a loss that would rock their world. Accordingly, anybody can also be impacted enough by life circumstances to suffer impaired judgement.
Ethical Guidance: AASP’s Ethics Code contains a standard to address Personal Problems and Conflicts, stating clearly that members refrain from undertaking an activity when their personal problems may harm others to whom they may owe a professional or scientific obligation. At a minimum, it may become important to engage in some combination of self-care activities to mitigate potential impairment, such as (but not limited to): taking time off, reducing your caseload, consulting colleagues, seeking mentorship or supervision, and pursuing your own therapy.
Episode #2 “Fortress of Solitude”
Jimmy bails his patient (now friend?) Sean out of jail who moves in with Jimmy and his teenage daughter, meanwhile concealing the whole situation from his mentor.
CMPC Reality? As a mental performance consultant, you might be faced with difficult multiple role relationships that you can’t anticipate, or that put you in even trickier situations.
Ethical Guidance: While there is often talk in our field about the uniqueness of mental performance and the role of positive and virtue ethics (i.e., aiming to do good, rather than singularly focusing on avoiding harm; Ayogai & Portenga, 2010), we are often reminded that good intentions will only take you so far and that you may be held accountable for questionable decisions around matters such as knowingly entering into multiple role relationships (Herzog & Zito, in press). AASP’s Ethics Code makes it clear that we should strive to maintain objectivity, make a point to review and comply with the Ethics Code, seek mentorship or consultation, and aim to resolve unforeseen situations in a manner that looks out for the best interests of clients or other affected parties.
Episode #3 “Fifteen Minutes
Unsolicited and unannounced, Jimmy shows up and grabs a seat at his client Alan’s table at a restaurant while his date is away in the bathroom. Having witnessed Alan acting like a slimeball, Jimmy says, “I want these women you’re dating to see the kind, charming, vulnerable guy I’ve met in our sessions. Just be yourself.”
CMPC Reality? Mental performance consulting may offer you unique opportunities to observe behaviors you might not be able to see otherwise. You may even have influence over your client to help them be comfortable interacting in the world as their own authentic selves (a state free of self-consciousness also seems conducive to performance).
Ethical Guidance: Of course, you cannot insert yourself in contexts where you are clearly uninvited (hence, the importance of informed consent), however, when conducting embedded work with sports teams, military, performing arts, or others, you may have opportunities to provide feedback. You should proceed with caution, and again—aim for objectivity, look out for the best interests of your client(s), and seek consultation.
Episode #4 “Potatoes”
Sounding like a somewhat stalker-ish ex-boyfriend, Jimmy says on the phone, “Hey Grace it’s Jimmy again but you know that because you sent me straight to voicemail. Gimme a call.” (By the way, Jimmy had previously pressured his client Grace into leaving her husband, by threatening to terminate with her.)
CMPC Reality? Mental performance consulting may offer YOU opportunities to leverage authenticity, and maybe even a casual tone with clients, when appropriate.
Ethical Guidance: There are boundary blurrings, and then there are clear boundary violations. You must be sure about when you’re doing what, why you’re doing it, check in with others along the way, and document why you did what you did.
Episode #5 “Woof”
Jimmy consults his neighbor and his colleague casually about his concerns that Jimmy’s daughter has a crush on his client (and tenant/friend), Sean.
CMPC Reality? When (hopefully less outlandish) sticky multiple role relationships unavoidably occur with your mental performance clients, you might be tempted to discuss these situations with people you’re close to.
Ethical Guidance: Obviously, avoid messy multiple relationships; avoid rationalizing that it’ll be okay. If/when they happen, do consult but make sure that: 1) consultation (de-identified to preserve confidentiality) is woven into your informed consent; and 2) you’re consulting with others who are similarly bound to a code of ethics with standards of confidentiality.
Episode #6 “Imposter Syndrome”
Uncomfortable with Sean’s emotional struggles during a therapy session, Jimmy shifts the topic to jokes and hot wings.
CMPC Reality? Your clients may delve into topics that are uncomfortable for you. Knowing exactly why you’re uncomfortable is important.
Ethical Guidance: Determine if you’re uncomfortable because you’re truly looking out for the best interests of your client (e.g., ensuring their readiness to disclose specifics of trauma), or if you’re discomfort stems from honest self-appraisal regarding the constraints of your competence (e.g., you’re neither trained nor licensed to treat trauma). Of course (when you don’t refer the client to someone else), there are times when you should seek mentorship or consultation not just for competence reasons, but also to maintain objectivity when you find yourself getting triggered by a client or their story.
Episode #7 “Apology Tour”
After hosting a night of heavy drinking, Jimmy wakes up next to his colleague, Gabby. They both have regrets.
CMPC Reality? You may develop close relationships with fellow mental performance consultants and other colleagues.
Ethical Guidance: The Ethics Code clearly dictates that we should avoid sexual and/or romantic relationships with clients, students, mentees/supervisees, or romantic partners or family members of clients, students, or mentees/supervisees. Relationships with colleagues might require a little more nuanced discretion, however, for your own sake, for your colleague, for your agency, and for your clients, you may want to think carefully before being swept away in passion (and of course waiting till you’re both sober is a smart move).
Episode #10 “Closure”
It gets increasingly wild. Three episodes later, as the season ends, Grace’s unchecked aggressive ideation culminates as she pushes her husband off a cliff. (Arguably in self-defense). One can only imagine the chaos that will likely ensue in Season 2.
CMPC Reality? Even if you’re not a mental health care provider, people may have expectations that you are proficient in assessing mental health risk.
Ethical Guidance: Provide informed consent (ideally in both written and verbal form) regarding your areas of competence and the services you do and don’t provide. Seek out continuing education (e.g., in suicide assessment) and err on the side of caution (aiming to spot warning signs, seeking peer consultation, and/or referring out). Maintain documentation and consider consultation with the ethics committee and with an attorney as needed.
- Aoyagi, M. W., & Portenga, S. T. (2010). The role of positive ethics and virtues in the context of sport and performance psychology service delivery. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, 41(3), 253-259. doi:10.1037/a0019483
- Herzog, T. & Zito, M. (in press). Chapter 7: Ethics in Sport and Performance Psychology. In D. Tod, V. Krane, & K. Hodge (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Applied Sport Psychology-Second Edition. Taylor & Francis/Routledge.
Published: July 5, 2023 in the AASP Newsletter