International Disaster Psychology Ethics: A Social Justice Model Imbedded in a Systems Paradigm

John W. Thoburn, Jacob A. Bentley, Zeba S. Ahmad, Kendra C. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The ethical provision of psychological aid following international disasters is influenced by cultural factors and questions about how to effectively promote social justice. A need for holistic, systemic postdisaster mental health approaches has been identified (Wessells, 2009). This article presents a systemic epistemology superimposed on a social justice framework as a model for conceptualizing ethical service delivery in international disaster psychology. Implications of three underlying conceptual perspectives in international mental health ethics-absolutism, relativism, and universalism-are discussed. A case example is provided that illustrates how a family systems epistemology offers a flexible, integrated way to understand the universalist approach while placing social justice concerns relevant to international disaster psychology into a nested model, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • disaster psychology
  • family systems
  • international code of ethics
  • mental health
  • relief aid
  • social justice
  • systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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