Psychology Primer: Etiquette

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Academy Library


Psychology Primer
By Cyndi Lupo, BA Psych

Tutorial 1: Theory

Tutorial 2: Application

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At this point I think it is important to address some rules of etiquette with regards to the counseling situation. First and foremost the counselor’s office is a place of safety and solace, and the client must respect that. Any violent outbursts or threats made to the counselor must be dealt with immediately and decisively. If the outburst is not directed at the counselor, the counselor must immediately regain control by telling the client to calm down.

It is entirely appropriate for the counselor to suspend the session if the client continues to escalate or engage in disrespectful behavior. This should not be confused with obnoxious behavior, which the counselor can address in a myriad of ways from direct observations about the behavior to refusing to listen to the client until they cease and desist their offensive actions. The counselor must address this behavior once calm or order has been restored and make it clear that such actions will not be tolerated in the counselor’s office.


In the event that a veiled or direct threat has been made towards the counselor, security should be called immediately. If the client protests and says something like “just because I said I feel like punching you in the face, doesn’t mean I was actually going to do it.”, you should point out that you will not tolerate threats of any kind towards your person, implicit or implied. If they calm down when security arrives, you can choose to have security posted outside the office on “stand by”, and your point will have been made. If the threat was against you directly, you need to inform the Security personnel that the individual in question is to be taken to the brig for a period of 72 hours for reasons of being a threat to himself or others, during which time you and the CMO will consult regarding his or her treatment, and determine what steps should be taken for his or her health.

If this threat was made in the office, but in relation to a performance review, or fit for duty report, you need to inform the security staff to detain the client under charges of threatening an officer with bodily harm, and refer the matter to the First Officer, who will refer it to the CO who will make a determination as to what actions are to be taken. It makes no difference, by the way, if the person making the threat is a superior officer in either case. This brings us to the question of “operational authority”.

Operational Authority

Simply put, the Counselor position operates outside the bounds of the chain of command in some very limited instances, much the way that the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) position does. Once the client, whoever they may be, enters your office, rank ceases to become an issue, with the exception of addressing the staff member in a courteous manner such as by their rank. Beyond that, attempts to intimidate or stifle you under color of authority have no place and you are not required to submit to them.

For example, let’s say that you are a Lieutenant and your client is a Lieutenant Commander, and they begin addressing you as “lieutenant”, perhaps saying something like “You are out of line, Lieutenant. I’m ordering you to change the subject…” A good response would be, “If I choose to change the subject, Commander, it will be for me to decide when and where that might occur. I may choose to change the subject simply because of your unwillingness to talk about it at this time, however we will discuss it again at a later time of my choosing. I would like to remind you also, Commander that your lack of cooperation and attempt to bully me under color of authority will be documented in my report. Lastly let me remind you, that apart from my ethical duty to be courteous, once you step through that door, I’m not required to salute you, sir you or show you any military courtesy whatsoever.”

An obvious exception to this would be if the situation being discussed is classified, and the officer indicates that they cannot discuss it for those reasons. Then of course it would be your duty as a Starfleet officer to drop the issue until such a time as you could be, if possible, “read into” the classified information for the purposes of helping your client to deal with whatever issues are plaguing them over the classified materials. Of course, your attempts to contact Starfleet headquarters or whoever in pursuit of this clearance are just one more example of how you can find something for your character to do.