Invitation to collaborate in the development of Ethical Guidelines for Inclusivity and Non-Discrimination in Psychology

Invitation to collaborate in the development of Ethical Guidelines for Inclusivity and Non-Discrimination in Psychology1

Cannie Stark, Ph.D.2
Member, CPA Committee on Ethics

The CPA Committee on Ethics (CoE) has identified the need for an update, clarification, and expansion of the Guidelines for Non-Discriminatory Practice (1990, Updated 2001, 2017) and has approved the development of Ethical Guidelines for Inclusivity and Non-Discrimination in Psychology. These Ethical Guidelines will relate to all areas of psychology, i.e., research, application, teaching, supervision, and administration. They will be a further explication of how our Code of Ethics can help us to conduct ourselves ethically in the increasingly complex situations that we face.

The concepts of inclusivity and non-discrimination are interdependent: In order to be inclusive, one needs to be non-discriminatory and vice versa. In order to be inclusive and non-discriminatory, one needs to be aware of, sensitive to, and respectful of differences (e.g., cultural differences, linguistic differences, racial and ethnic differences, sexuality and gender differences, religious differences, experiential differences, and individual differences).

Our goals with this project are to provide clarification of the issues and to guide psychologists towards best practices. In keeping with our Code, these revised guidelines will be aspirational in nature rather than prescriptive or proscriptive.


As Coordinator of this endeavour, it is my pleasure to invite all CPA Members to collaborate with us on this endeavour to develop ethical guidelines for inclusivity and non-discrimination in psychology. To participate, I suggest that you consider taking the steps below, in responding to this invitation. However, should you not have the time to devote to all of the steps, be assured that we would welcome your input on any and all aspects of the development on any and all aspects of the development of Ethical Guidelines for Inclusivity and Non-Discrimination in Psychology:

  • Identify the ethical issues related to inclusivity and non-discrimination—in all/any domains of psychology—that need to be addressed, further delineated, and emphasised in these guidelines.
  • Provide examples of problematic situations that may be encountered in our various roles as psychologists.
  • If not addressed in your description of the issue, please describe how our Code is related to the issue that that you have raised.
  • Identify actions that you would recommend in order to facilitate inclusivity and non-discrimination in psychology.
  • Then please send your work on these issues to me at the following dedicated email address:

All submissions will be acknowledged, read, and considered. Further contact with you may ensue for clarification, suggestions, or discussion. Should you wish any parts of your submission to remain confidential, just mention that in your submission and your request will be honoured, except as required or justified by law (Standards I.43, I.45, IV.17, Iv.18).

Sample Submission:

The issue that I have chosen as an example of a potential submission is Ageism in Psychological Research. There has been a tendency in our research to lump together everyone over the age of 55 in an “old” category, although more polite labelling may be used. Two or three hundred years ago, 55 would possibly be considered ancient, but these days it is terribly young to be considered old.But there is more at stake here than “mere” linguistic labels or rudeness. There are many developmental stages within the over-55s. A 90-year-old faces very different challenges than an 80-year-old and both people in their 80s and 90s face very different challenges than those facing a 55-year-old. When everyone over the age of 55 is lumped together as one age category, the risk of “outliers” being excluded during analysis is increased, thereby presenting a distorted picture of whatever is being investigated; this in turn can result in unintended—and unwarranted—assumptions based on averages that do not taken into account those pesky outliers. In terms of inclusivity—necessary for the researcher to make any claims of generalisability/applicability—have appropriate proportions of people aged 65, 75, 85, 90+ been included in the research sample? Of course, sensitivity to age is only one issue that will also interact with other demographic differences such as race, ethnicity, immigration status, sex, gender identification, among many others.

This issue dovetails nicely with that of individual differences. Not all 55-year-olds are healthy or have all their marbles, just as not all 95-year-olds are infirm and demented. At times, it can feel like the over-55s are being considered a “messy variable”, much like women used to be considered decades ago. There are many individual context differences within the over-55s that can have an impact on your results. For example, is your participant mired in polypharmacy? Are they in pain, fatigued, angry, depressed, hopeful, joyful, distracted, hungry, forgetful, resentful, or confused? What about individual resilience? Are they active physically and/or socially? Are they living at home independently (whether alone or not), in a “seniors’ residence”, in “assisted living”, or “long term care”? Do they have robust relationships with family, friends, and/or pets? All of these independent variables can be affecting your dependent variables, be they physiological, perceptual, social, cognitive, attitudinal, or affective. Seniors have a lot to teach us about our research, but you often cannot see what you do not look for. And you cannot get answers to questions that you have failed to ask.

For the task of relating our Code to the issue of Ageism in Psychological Research as a relevant ethical issue and described problems stemming from that issue, I then examined each of the ethical Standards delineated in the Code. I discovered that 83 of the Standards fit this criterion. I then constructed a Table, organised according to Principles, Values, and applicable Standards, to illustrate the complexity of ageism in psychological research as an ethical issue. This proved to be somewhat of an arduous task (See Addendum Article) and we do not expect you to make this effort. Rather, we would appreciate it if you would point us in the direction of the Values relevant to your issue.

Recommendations going forward. It is very important to know your population before you conduct research with them so that appropriate questions that will benefit their lives can be asked of the appropriate samples reflecting inclusiveness. With this in mind, the following recommendations are made. That the CPA Committee on Ethics advocate for:

  • Greater emphasis on critical evaluation of prior research and greater reliance on primary sources rather than on secondary sources;
  • Greater emphasis on avoidance of unfounded assumptions;
  • Greater emphasis on self-knowledge;
  • Greater emphasis on the importance of individual differences;
  • Greater emphasis on the importance of collaboration with potential participants from these age groups;
  • Greater emphasis, in both the education and training of students, on avoiding inappropriate generalisations from non-representative samples in psychological research;
  • Greater emphasis, in both the education and the training of students, on sensitivity to and awareness of potential discrimination and lack of inclusivity factors in research, including the above six recommendations/cautions.
  • Examination of systemic sources that may be maintaining ageism in psychology.

Ultimate Steps

Once I have collated and organised all of your contributions, a Working Group of the Committee on Ethics will develop the new Guidelines. A draft of these Guidelines will be sent to the contributors for comment, prior to submission to the Committee on Ethics for finalisation.

Many of the factors embedded in the ethical issue of inclusivity and non-discrimination can be found in earlier articles in Psynopsis. For added inspiration, you may find the following useful:

  • Special Issues of Psynopsis:
    • Cohen, K.R. (Ed.) (2014). Diversity in the science and practice of psychology. Psynopsis, 36(3).
    • Danto, D. & Ansloos, J. (Eds.) (2019). Indigenous Peoples: Mental health and wellbeing. Psynopsis, 41(3).
    • Danto, D. & Chalmers, J (Eds.. (2022). Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Psynopsis 44(1).
    • Eskie, K. &. Sinacore, A.I. (Eds.) (2020). Human rights and social justice: Addressing systemic discrimination, oppression and marginalization. Psynopsis, 42(4).
    • C.H. Kuo, B.C.H. (Ed.) (2018). Refugee Mental Health. Psynopsis, 40(4).
    • MacDougall, J. (2017). Disability in Canada: The Role for Psychologists. Psynopsis, 39(3).
  • Particularly relevant articles:
    • Abdulrehman, R.Y. (2018). Working with refugees from Syria and the Middle East: A guide to better helping without cultural bias.  Psynopsis, 40(4), 12-13.
    • Calavez, S. & Hunter, P. (2019). Psychologists called to act on ethical principles. Psynopsis, 41(3), 34.
    • Kuo, B.C.H. (2018). Responding to refugee mental health needs by training Canadian psychologists in cultural clinical competence. Psynopsis, 40(4), 4-5.
    • McQuaid, R,J, Bombay, A., Matheson, K. (2019). Contextualizing Indigenous mental health and wellness by understanding historical trauma and resilience. Psynopsis, 41(3), 12-13.
    • Sinclair, C. & McMurtry, M. (2022). Social justice and the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists. Psynopsis, 44(2), 25-26.
    • Wendt, D. “Careful the tale you tell” Indigenous Peoples and alcohol use problems. (2019. Psynopsis, 41(3). 11. 13.

I look forward to receiving your submissions, asap but no later than mid-February, via

If you have any questions to ask of me, feel free to email me.


1Drs Paulette Hunter and Meghan McMurtry, in their capacities as Co-Editors of Ethics Corner, in Psynopsis, have provided me with invaluable suggestions and support in developing this article. I am also very grateful to Drs Janel Gauthier, Don Stewart, Olga Heath, Rick Kleer, Carole Sinclair, and Hélène Richard for their assistance in refining this Invitation.

2Professor Emerita of Psychology; Former President, CPA; Honourary Life Fellow, CPA