Question of Ethics

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I recently turned in my ex wife for having a sexual relationship with a patient, which was the reason for the divorce. She was dismissed from the Psy.D program and did not receive her degree. I discovered that she planned or plans to move my children in with this patient as I found a lease to an apartment with both their names on the lease.

The situation is this, I discovered a relationship that should have never started 1 week after my ex graduated with her Psy.D. It was clear she has crossed a line she should have never have crossed and most likely was a pattern that would continue. I feel that turning her into authorities was necessary and do not regret doing this as she has now been dismissed from the Psy.D program and will not be getting her degree.

Did I do the right thing, was I suppose to look the other way and live with myself knowing what she was doing? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

A. Your ex-wife violated an ethical code of conduct and you reported the situation. When someone violates the rules and gets caught there are usually consequences. Your ex-wife is now facing those consequences and as a result of her behavior she may never be able to practice as a therapist. From a strictly ethical perspective, your decision to report her is how one ideally “should” react to an unethical situation that he or she becomes aware of. By this standard, your decision to report her wrongdoing was the correct one.

If you are being honest however, part of why you reported her may have had to do with anger or revenge. You did not detail the sequence of events that led to the breakdown of the marriage but from what you wrote, you discovered that she was having an affair, was planning to leave you for the individual she was cheating with and had plans to take the children. Many people in your situation would have been shocked and devastated as well as extremely angry and hurt and possibly looking for revenge. These feelings are understandable.

You made the decision to report your ex-wife and you did it. It’s done. She was reprimanded for her behavior. Part of why you reported her might have been related to morality, justice and ethics but it may also have been due to retribution. “What’s done is done” but it is important for you to examine what motivated you to report her. I hope this answer helps you in that process.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Sep 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Question of Ethics. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/09/15/question-of-ethics/