The term, “bounded ethicality,” is used by psychology professionals to describe a notion that most of the unethical behavior people engage in does not occur because they are evil or immoral.  They pursue these activities because they are influenced by social stressors, organizational conditions and psychological tendencies that influence unethical behaviors. A good psychologist can help patients deal with life’s pressures and dilemmas such as marriage and family issues, anxiety, abuse and even unethical behavior, while rehabilitating for a better behavioral outcome. But what happens when a clinical psychologist, who knows right from wrong, participates in unethical practices resulting in welfare fraud? The Daily Mining Gazette reports that a Houghton clinical psychologist, who not only has some serious issues regarding ethics, is now bound by an electronic monitoring device.

The story doesn’t explain much about the woman’s background, but further research revealed that this clinical psychologist was quite the multi-tasker and had several jobs going on at the same time in addition to her private psychology practice. (At least she wasn’t lazy.) Perhaps she was trying to make additional income to make ends meet or for selfish reasons, like the purchase of a new luxury car. Who knows? Tough economic times can make a person do things they wouldn’t normally do, while justifying to themselves, “I deserve this.” Any number of social or job-related issues could have influenced her decision to commit welfare fraud, but the bottom line is that it is fraud.

The article reports that between 2007 and 2009, the clinical psychologist failed to report $81,000 of income for counseling services provided to a local mental health clinic. (Maybe they won’t notice if I don’t fill out that block on the form.)  At the same time, although her income level was too high to qualify, she was receiving food stamps, so the fraudster was ordered to pay more than $28,000 in restitution including $20,633 for over-issuance of food stamp benefits and $7,404.44 for the medical assistance program.

This woman got off easy. Charges of failure to inform of complete, or changes in, circumstances of income are usually harsher. Hopefully, by admitting guilt, she is on her way to making amends for the dishonest act of fraud.

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