Too many professionals complete their training without the
emotional education and awareness needed to avoid self-
deception and to act in the prudent, considered manner that
society expects and that represents professional ethical excellence.
are ill or have problems, psychologists use their education
and knowledge to help. As educated citizens, psychologists
contribute to the community and, in return, draw strength
from their participation. But, if education is viewed in strictly
cognitive terms and valued only as an intellectual activity, it can
leave little room for nurturing emotional intelligence.
Although one would hope that colleagues are taught to use,
and continue to use, their internal processes to monitor the
impact of their behavior on others, not all psychologists hold
such a broader understanding of education. Accordingly, Pope
and Vasquez (2007) discuss “emotional competence,” which
“involves self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-monitoring.”
Therapists must recognize their emotional strengths and
weaknesses, their needs and resources as well as their abilities
and limitations for doing clinical work (see Pope et al., 2006).
Another crucial form of education pertains to self-care (Baker,
2003; Barnett, Baker, Elman, & Schoener, 2007; Norcross &
Guy, 2007). Properly understood, self-care refers not merely to
avoiding impairment and ethical violations, but also to avoiding
ethical mediocrity and moving toward excellence.
Yet not all trainees in professional preparation programs
have the opportunity to acquire these skills. Too many
professionals complete their training without the emotional
education and awareness needed to avoid self-deception and to
act in the prudent, considered manner that society expects and
that represents professional ethical excellence.
A final way in which education can make people vulnerable
is when psychologists fail to continue their learning process.
New ways of understanding may be neglected, as psychologists
continue to rely on what they once learned, even if it’s outdated.
Applying DOVE: A case example
As a child and adolescent, Evangelina Cruz, PhD, had
experienced both victimization and discrimination. She
developed a desire to help others at a young age and saw
becoming a psychologist as the way to achieve her goal of
helping others and making a difference. She worked hard in
school. Despite economic obstacles, she was accepted at a
prestigious university, and a professional preparation program
of equal rank, with a strong emphasis on multiculturalism and
It was just what she had hoped for. Cruz was an outstanding
student and won a coveted internship at a large urban mental
health center that specialized in treating trauma victims and
torture survivors. This position allowed her to develop expertise
in treatment approaches for women with post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD). Her scholarly writing and public advocacy
won her early career awards and the respect of her colleagues.
These experiences deepened her personal values and increased
her desire to help the disempowered.
Shortly after entering independent practice, Cruz was
consulted by Angie Immel, who presented with moderately
severe symptoms of acute anxiety and depression she claimed
were the result of sexual harassment by her boss, Alex Morse.
She said Morse began pursuing her from the time she started
working for him. When she rejected his initial overtures,
she reported, his advances increased, and he began making
inappropriate, highly sexualized remarks in private. Immel
said that she tolerated this behavior and had not become
symptomatic until Morse began to touch her; then she became
Immel said she complained to the human resources
department, but nothing had been done because, according to
her, Morse was best friends with and the golfing partner of the
human resources director. Immel also made oblique references
to filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
complaint and a lawsuit, but Cruz did not fully appreciate what
Immel meant by these references. Cruz assumed she would not
be personally involved in the legal process, and she and Immel
never discussed it. She saw the legal issues as unrelated to her
work and chose to maintain focus on the distress of her client.
At the same time, she supported Immel’s efforts based on her
own belief that Immel had been exploited.
Cruz treated Immel with cognitive-behavioral therapy, but
Immel did not respond as well as Cruz expected. In part, Cruz’s
efforts were frustrated because at every session Immel asked
her to document the aversive incidents that occurred during
the previous week. Cruz informed Immel that this recording of
events was unnecessary, but Immel persisted, and Cruz deferred
to her client’s wishes. Although the treatment was not going
well, Cruz persevered.
One day, she received a telephone call from Blanca
Knox, Immel’s attorney, who informed her that she would
be calling Cruz to testify as an expert witness in a sexual
harassment case against Morse and his company. Cruz first
resisted Knox’s request because she knew the data she had
were limited and that she could not directly address the legal
question regarding what caused Immel’s condition. But Knox