Clinician's Digest


Clinician's Digest

A Battle for the APA's Soul

By Garry Cooper

January/February 2008


As the controversy has grown about waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation" techniques used with suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and other secret prisons around the world, the role of psychologists in these practices has also become the focus of intense debate. At its annual convention this summer in San Francisco, the American Psychological Association (APA) specifically proscribed its members from assisting directly in more than 20 kinds of interrogation procedures, including those involving prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, and sensory assaults. It also reaffirmed the duty of psychologists at these facilities to report any abuses they witness and threatened sanctions against psychologists who fail to do so. Nevertheless many critics continue to insist that APA hasn't gone far enough.

Specifically they've urged the APA to follow the lead of the American Psychiatric and American Medical associations, which have forbidden their members from associating even indirectly in the enhanced interrogations of suspected terrorists. Among the most recent higher-profile protestors of the APA's policies are psychologist and bestselling author Mary Pipher, who's returned her 2006 APA Presidential Citation. Marybeth Shinn, past president of two APA divisions, and Uwe Jacobs, clinical director of Survivors International, have publicly resigned from the organization. In addition, six college and university psychology departments have formally called…

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