The subjective experience of a group of South African psychologists regarding the HPCSA and the ethical code
Van der Merwe, Pieter Schalk
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The profession of psychology in South Africa has not always been regulated by a statutory body such as the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Currently, the profession of psychology is regulated by the HPCSA and psychologists and the HPCSA find themselves in a lawful and interminable relationship. The HPCSA’s motto is to protect the public and to guide the profession, but it was questioned whether psychologists actually experience guidance from the HPCSA. In response to this problem, this study aimed to explore the subjective experiences of a group of South African psychologists regarding the HPCSA as well as the ethical code which serves as a guideline for the conduct of psychologists. This study made use of a sequential mixed method design, which comprised of a qualitative phase followed by a quantitative phase. All participants in this study were qualified psychologists. Seven participants took part in the qualitative phase and 74 participants took part in the quantitative phase. The data from the qualitative phase was grouped into broad categories and served as the basis for compiling a questionnaire for the quantitative phase. After collecting the completed questionnaires, the data was read into SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), which was used for the statistical analysis of the data. The data was analysed by means of frequency distributions and mean scores. During the analysis of the data, six themes where identified: five regarding the HPCSA as the regulator of psychology and one regarding the ethical code that guides the conduct of psychologists. The themes include “guidance and mentorship”, “the HPCSA as a watchdog”, “the HPCSA’s motive”, “reverence that psychologists have for the HPCSA”, “the competence of the HPCSA” and “psychologists’ view on the ethical code”. The results indicated that an ambiguous relationship exists between this group of psychologists and the HPCSA, as these two entities seem to function separately. Generally, psychologists who took part in this research have a negative view towards the HPCSA, although they realise the necessity for the HPCSA as a regulating body for psychology. The recognition of this need is a platform for a workable relationship between psychologists and the HPCSA. The participants provided less detail and responded more neutral regarding their views on the ethical code, and it is concerning that quite a number of psychologists indicated that they did not know the code. This study concludes with recommendations for the HPCSA to be more approachable and to provide psychologists with more support.
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