Department of Psychology

Policy on Working with Diverse Clients

UNCW’s PhD program in Psychology is committed to preparing socially responsible psychologists who demonstrate ethical behavior and respect for individual and cultural differences in all aspects of their professional behavior. The APA Commission on Accreditation defines cultural and individual differences and diversity as including, but not limited to, age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, language, national origin, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.  Psychologists are held to an ethical standard that prohibits “unfair discrimination based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status or any basis proscribed by law” (Ethical Standard 3.01, p. 5, APA, 2010). The commitment to competent ethical practice and referral applies to psychologists and trainees working in all practice settings.  

UNCW provides a training process that ensures graduate students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to work effectively with diverse members of the public. When graduate students’ attitudes, beliefs, or values create tensions that negatively impact the training process or their ability to effectively treat members of the public, the program faculty and supervisors are committed to a developmental training approach designed to support the acquisition of professional competence. Faculty will work respectfully to support graduate students in finding a belief- or value-congruent path that allows them to work in a professionally competent manner with all clients.

For some trainees, integrating personal beliefs or values with professional competence in working with all clients and patients may require additional time and faculty support. Ultimately, though, to complete the program successfully, all graduate students must be able to work with any client placed in their care in a beneficial and non-injurious manner. Professional competencies are determined by the profession for the benefit and protection of the public; consequently, students do not have the option to avoid working with particular client populations or refuse to develop professional competencies because of conflicts with their attitudes, beliefs, or values. If trainees do not feel comfortable or capable of providing competent services to a client because it conflicts with the trainee’s beliefs or values, it is the trainee’s responsibility to bring this issue to the attention of his or her supervisor. Because client welfare and safety are always the first priority, decisions about client assignment and reassignment are the responsibility of the faculty and supervisors.

Click here to learn more about addressing conflicts between professional competence and trainees’ beliefs.