Friday, June 19, 2009

American Psychological Association : undermining the mental health of professional providers as well as those w/ chronic mental health challenges

APA made hard times more difficult

by Marsha V. Hammond, PhD, Licensed Psychologist NC

I have been documenting the profound difficulties experienced by NC mental health practitioners and recipients of public mental health care, as associated with mental health reform, which was enacted in 2001 in NC, via my blog, ,, for the past two years. I have had the satisfaction of participating with others---ALL non-psychologists----- across the state as we attempted to round up the usual suspects and document to hell and back matters pertinent to health care in NC.

Related to those time consuming efforts, instead of assistance from APA and the NC Psychological Association, an arm of APA, what I have received and noted are deaf ears and isolation. Members of the NCPA Public Psychology committee have refused to contact me; I got 'assigned' to a former NCPA president because of my deep concern with the state of public mental health care in NC. I was assumed to be a renegade nut who needed professional supervision from someone who had nothing but shutting me up as an agenda.

On top of this, I felt a 'duty to warn' re: psychologists roles within the military as pertaining to the use of their expertise to HARM instead of HELP.

Instead of assistance and comraderie, what I have experienced is a monkey-see-no-evil mindset which is absolutely maddening. Except for the groundswell of individual psychologists over the past 5 years, a tiny bit of acknowledged noise from the divisions within APA concerned w/ social justice, and the more recently big pile on as associated with frankly shoving the APA Board of Directors into saying something----- the last 8 professional years has been one long , lonely inability to bring little attention, save for the APA yearly meeting w/ its scattered meetings about the PENS committee results, leaving me with a sense of inability to participate in these two professional organizations which make such a very big deal about the advantages of membership.

According to the NYT, the American Medical Association only has as members 20% of the physicians in the US.

Relatedly, US Representative Patrick Kennedy, speaking at the Boston APA meeting last year, made the excellent point that the reason that universal health care reform did not move along 30 yrs ago can be credited mostly to the AMA's refusal to allow 'socialized medicine' into their little world. I might imagine that physicians who were concerned w/ the welfare of their patients found less and less a reason to be a member of such an authoritarian organization.

I wonder what the membership numbers are re: APA and NCPA and I question what will happen as time goes on.

What is the point of being tortured by one's professional mental health organizations? Ducking and diving continues to be the preferred behavior of professional organizations who have lost their way related to their membership except for members who like to see the award plaques and their own pictures, standing with the latest edition of the big kahuna,on their office walls and in the thin newsletters full of nothing but 'good news everyone!' scenarios.

Here is the letter from the American Psychological Association's Board of Directors which flew outta D.C. at the speed of light as associated with a (pretty obvious) reaction to heavy hitter Bryant Welch, PhD, JD, resignation and statement about 'just who's been cooking in the kitchen w/ Dinah' : (see here: : Torture, Psychology, and Daniel Inouye: The True Story Behind Psychology's Role in Torture

June 18, 2009
An Open Letter from the Board of Directors

Dear Colleague,

As a psychologist and member of the American Psychological Association
(APA), you no doubt share our serious concerns about reports regarding
the involvement of psychologists in torture and abusive interrogations
as part of the Bush administration's "war on terror." We recognize that
the issue of psychologist involvement in national security-related
investigations has been an extremely difficult and divisive one for our
association. We also understand that some of our members continue to be
disappointed and others angered by the association's actions in this
regard. Although APA has had a longstanding policy against psychologist
involvement in torture, many members wanted the association to take a
strong stand against any involvement of psychologists in national
security interrogations during the Bush administration.

Information has emerged in the public record confirming that, as
committed as some psychologists were to ensuring that interrogations
were conducted in a safe and ethical manner, other psychologists were
not. Although there are countless psychologists in the military and
intelligence community who acted ethically and responsibly during the
post-9/11 era, it is now clear that some psychologists did not abide by
their ethical obligations to never engage in torture or other forms of
cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The involvement of
psychologists, no matter how small the number, in the torture of
detainees is reprehensible and casts a shadow over our entire
profession. APA expresses its profound regret that any psychologist has
been involved in the abuse of detainees.

This has been a painful time for the association and one that offers an
opportunity to reflect and learn from our experiences over the last five
years. APA will continue to speak forcefully in further communicating
our policies against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading
treatment or punishment to our members, the Obama administration,
Congress, and the general public. In so doing, we will continue to
highlight our 2008 petition resolution policy, Psychologists and
Unlawful Detention Settings with a Focus on National Security. APA will
ensure that association communications convey clearly that the petition
resolution is official association policy and must be central to
psychologists' assessment of the appropriateness of their roles in
specific work settings related to national security. Our association's
governing body, the Council of Representatives, will soon be receiving
guidance from various governance groups regarding further steps to
implement this resolution. The history of APA positions and actions
related to detainee welfare and professional ethics can be found at

On a closely related matter, the Ethics Committee and APA governance as
a whole are focused intently on Ethics Code Standards 1.02 and 1.03,
which address conflicts between ethics and law and between ethics and
organizational demands, respectively. In light of Bush administration
interrogation policies and uncertainty among our membership, the Ethics
Committee has issued the attached statement, "No defense to torture
under the APA Ethics Code" (
torture.pdf ).

Invoking language from the U.N. Convention Against
Torture, this statement clarifies that the Ethics Committee "will not
accept any defense to torture in its adjudication of ethics complaints."
APA will continue to monitor material in official reports related to
psychologist mistreatment of national security detainees, will
investigate reports of unethical conduct by APA members, and will
adjudicate cases in keeping with our Code of Ethics. The association's
focus on these ethical standards is consistent with its position that no
psychologist involved in detainee abuse should escape accountability.
In conclusion, as part of APA's elected leadership, we have an
obligation to protect and further psychology's longstanding commitment
to the highest standards of professional ethics--including, and
especially, the protection of human welfare.


American Psychological Association 2009 Board of Directors
James H. Bray, PhD
Carol D. Goodheart, EdD
Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D.
Barry S. Anton, PhD
Paul L. Craig, PhD
Norman B. Anderson, PhD
Rosie Phillips Bingham, PhD
Jean A. Carter, PhD
Armand R. Cerbone, PhD
Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD
Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD
Michael Wertheimer, PhD
Konjit V. Page, MS

Here is a video associated w/ the APA trajectory pertaining to these matters:

Roy Eidelson, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, associate
director of the Solomon Asch Center at Bryn Mawr College, president-
elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and associate member
of the University of Pennsylvania's Program in Ethnic Conflict.
He has created a remarkable 10-minute video "No Place to Hide: Torture,
Psychologists, and the APA."
The video takes the viewer through a time-line, showing the evolution of
APA's policies governing psychologists' participation in detainee
The video includes documentary footage and direct quotations from
international treaties, APA documents including the APA ethics code,
U.S. government documents, etc.
The video is online at YouTube:
It is also online at other sources, such as the Psychologists for Social
Responsibility web site:

Did APA IN FACT TIME the release of its statement for a reason?:

"Enclosed is the APA Committee Statement - this was unavailable when accessed via the APA release. At issue is whether the the Statute of Limitations (5 years for non-members, 4 years for members) has expired for offenses committed during the 2002-2004 and prior period. Whether the delays that occurred in the release of APA memo until this time were a function of the SOL period remains unknown. Only BOA members can speak to this issue. ..."

Psychologists for Social Responsibility: From: Anthony Marsella Sender: : PsySR is an independent organization of psychologists and others committed to promoting peace and social justice
What is the problem w/ the Letter of the APA Board:

ethicist Steven Miles, MD, Professor of Medicine & Bioethics at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. He is an Affiliate Faculty for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and for the Law School's Concentration in Health Law and Bioethics.

"APA Board of Directors
>Re: Your Open Letter to APA Membership of June 18, 2009 on
>Psychologists and Torture
>Dear Board,
>I have been extensively involved in studying the issue of health
>professional involvement in abusive interrogations in the war on terror
>Your June 18, 2009 letter to the APA membership is a welcome but
>incomplete shift of APA policy.
>It is welcome because it states that the APA has retreated from its
>untenable insistence that no psychologists were involved in torture or
>other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
>This official acknowledgment is new but the fact of these abuses has
>been established for several years.
>[end excerpt of Miles letter]
>Here's another excerpt:
>[begin excerpt]
>The APA Board's letter was also welcome because, it states that the
>2008 petition, Psychologists and Unlawful Detention Settings with a
>Focus on National Security, would be fully integrated into APA policy.
>That resolution was openly opposed by the Defense Department operating
>those same detention centers.
>After passage by the membership who voted in accordance with APA by-
>laws, APA governance gave that position second class status by
>asserting that since it did not pass through the conventional internal
>ethics policy making process, it could not serve as a standard for
>assessing the conduct of APA members.
>The current Board's position, as outlined in the June 18 letter,
>remains incomplete.
>1. It lays out a process for incorporating the 2008 referendum
into APA >policy but it does not give a timeline.
>2. Its newly passed "No defense to torture under the APA ethics
code" >statement ( is
>a hastily written statement that does not define torture; ignores the
>concept of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; does not address
>the duty to report observing such abuse and so on.
>3. It does not acknowledge the failure of the APA to manage the
>conflicts of interest in membership and process of the PENS Task Force.
>These failures stained the reputation of APA, divided APA's membership,
>separated APA from the larger community of health oriented
>professionals and produced a report that was tailor made to the design,
>policies, and operation of previous United States system of abusive
>4. It states the APA will monitor and will investigate reports of
>ethical misconduct by APA members but it does not address the status of
>previously filed allegations.
>[end excerpt]
>Again, as with all excerpts that I circulate, I strongly urge those
>interested to read the complete document rather than rely on a few
>The letter is online at:



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