American Psychological Association

Last updated
American Psychological Association
FormationJuly 1892;131 years ago (1892-07)
Headquarters750 First Street, NE
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Coordinates 38°54′00″N77°00′27″W / 38.89988°N 77.00753°W / 38.89988; -77.00753
Over 157,000
Cynthia de las Fuentes
Arthur C. Evans, Jr.
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
The American Psychological Association headquarters in Washington, D.C. The American Psychological Association headquarters in Washington, D.C.jpg
The American Psychological Association headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the main professional organization of psychologists in the United States, [1] and the largest psychological association in the world. It has over 157,000 members, including scientists, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. [1] It has 54 divisions—interest groups for different subspecialties of psychology or topical areas. [2] The APA has an annual budget of around $125 million. [3]



The APA has task forces that issue policy statements on various matters of social importance, including abortion, human rights, the welfare of detainees, human trafficking, the rights of the mentally ill, IQ testing, sexual orientation change efforts, and gender equality. [4]


APA is a corporation chartered in the District of Columbia. APA's bylaws describe structural components that serve as a system of checks and balances to ensure democratic process. The organizational entities include:

Good Governance Project

The Good Governance Project (GGP) was initiated in January 2011 as part of the strategic plan to "[assure] APA's governance practices, processes, and structures are optimized and aligned with what is needed to thrive in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex environment." [6] The charge included soliciting feedback and input stakeholders, learning about governance best practices, recommending whether the change was required, recommending needed changes based on data, and creating implementation plans. [6] The June 2013 GGP update on the recommended changes can be found in the document "Good Governance Project Recommended Changes to Maximize Organizational Effectiveness of APA Governance". [7] The suggested changes would change APA from a membership-based, representational structure to a corporate structure. These motions were discussed and voted upon by the council on July 31, 2013, and August 2, 2013. [7]

Organizational structure

APA comprises an executive office, a publishing operation, offices that address administrative, business, information technology, and operational needs, and five substantive directorates:

Membership and title of "psychologist"

APA policy on the use of the title psychologist is contained in the Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists: [13] psychologists have earned a doctoral degree in psychology and may not use the title "psychologist" and/or deliver psychological services to the public, unless the psychologist is licensed or specifically exempted from licensure under the law. State licensing laws specify state specific requirements for the education and training of psychologists leading to licensure. Psychologists who are exempted from licensure could include researchers, educators, or general applied psychologists who provide services outside the health and mental health field.

Full membership with the APA in United States and Canada requires doctoral training whereas associate membership requires at least two years of postgraduate studies in psychology or approved related discipline. The minimal requirement of a doctoral dissertation related to psychology for full membership can be waived in certain circumstances where there is evidence that significant contribution or performance in the field of psychology has been made. [14]

Affiliate organizations

American Psychological Association Services, Inc. (APASI) was formed in 2018 and is a 501(c)(6) entity, which engages in advocacy on behalf of psychologists from all areas of psychology. Its predecessor was the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO). APASI contains the Psychology Political Action Committee (PAC), which engages in lobbying on behalf of psychologists at the federal level.


Each year, the APA recognizes top psychologists with the "Distinguished Contributions" awards; these awards are the highest honors given by the APA.


The American Psychologist is the association's flagship, peer-reviewed journal. APA also publishes over 70 other journals encompassing most specialty areas in the field; APA's Educational Publishing Foundation (EPF) is an imprint for publishing on behalf of other organizations. [15] Its journals include: [16]

The APA has published hundreds of books. [17] Among these books are: the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (and a concise version titled Concise Rules of APA Style), which is the official guide to APA style; [18] [19] the APA Dictionary of Psychology; [20] an eight-volume Encyclopedia of Psychology; [21] and many scholarly books on specific subjects such as Varieties of Anomalous Experience . [22] The APA has also published children's books under the Magination Press imprint, software for data analysis, videos demonstrating therapeutic techniques, reports, and brochures. [23]

The Psychologically Healthy Workplace program

The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program (PHWP) is a collaborative effort between the American Psychological Association and the APA Practice Organization designed to help employers optimize employee well-being and organizational performance. The PHWP includes APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, a variety of APA Practice Organization resources, including PHWP Web content, e-newsletter, podcast and blog, and support of local programs currently implemented by 52 state, provincial and territorial psychological associations as a mechanism for driving grassroots change in local business communities. The awards are designed to recognize organizations for their efforts to foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance. The award program highlights a variety of workplaces, large and small, profit and non-profit, in diverse geographical settings. Applicants are evaluated on their efforts in the following five areas: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition. Awards are given at the local and national level. [24]

APA style

American Psychological Association (APA) style is a set of rules developed to assist reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences. Used to ensure clarity of communication, the layout is designed to "move the idea forward with a minimum of distraction and a maximum of precision." [25] The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association contains the rules for every aspect of writing, especially in the social sciences from determining authorship to constructing a table to avoiding plagiarism and constructing accurate reference citations. "The General Format of APA is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. General guidelines for a paper in APA style includes: typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11") with 1" margins on all sides. The font should be clear and highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font." [26] The seventh edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was published in October 2019. [27]


APA maintains a number of databases, including PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PsycBOOKS, PsycEXTRA, PsycCRITIQUES, PsycTESTS, and PsycTHERAPY. [28] [29] APA also operates a comprehensive search platform, PsycNET, covering multiple databases. [30]

PsycINFO is a bibliographic database that contains citations and summaries dating from the 19th century, including journal articles, book chapters, books, technical reports, and dissertations within the field of psychology. As of January 2010, PsycINFO has collected information from 2,457 journals. [31]



The APA was founded in July 1892 at Clark University by a small group of around 30 men; by 1916 there were over 300 members. [32] The first president was G. Stanley Hall. During World War II, the APA merged with other psychological organizations, resulting in a new divisional structure. Nineteen divisions were approved in 1944; the divisions with the most members were the clinical and personnel (now counseling) divisions. From 1960 to 2007, the number of divisions expanded to 54. [33] Today the APA is affiliated with 60 state, territorial, and Canadian provincial associations. [34]

Dominance of clinical psychology

Due to the dominance of clinical psychology in APA, several research-focused groups have broken away from the organization. These include the Psychonomic Society in 1959 (with a primarily cognitive orientation), and the Association for Psychological Science (which changed its name from the American Psychological Society in early 2006) in 1988 (with a broad focus on the science and research of psychology). Theodore H. Blau was the first clinician in independent practice to be elected president of the American Psychological Association in 1977. [35]


APA Presidents from the present to 1892
2024   Cynthia de las Fuentes
2023   Thema Bryant
2022   Frank C. Worrell
2021   Jennifer F. Kelly
2020   Sandra L. Shullman
2019   Rosie Phillips Davis
2018   Jessica Henderson Daniel
2017   Antonio Puente
2016   Susan H. McDaniel
2015   Barry S. Anton
2014   Nadine Kaslow
2013   Donald N. Bersoff
2012   Suzanne Bennett Johnson
2011   Melba J. T. Vasquez
2010   Carol D. Goodheart
2009   James H. Bray
2008   Alan E. Kazdin
2007   Sharon S. Brehm
2006   Gerald Koocher
2005   Ronald F. Levant
2004   Diane F. Halpern
2003   Robert J. Sternberg
2002   Philip G. Zimbardo
2001   Norine G. Johnson
2000   Patrick DeLeon
1999   Richard Suinn
1998   Martin E.P. Seligman
1997   Norman Abeles
1996   Dorothy Cantor
1995   Robert J. Resnick
1994   Ronald E. Fox
1993   Frank Farley
1992   Jack Wiggins Jr.
1991   Charles Spielberger
1990   Stanley Graham
1989   Joseph Matarazzo
1988   Raymond D. Fowler
1987   Bonnie Strickland
1986   Logan Wright
1985   Robert Perloff
1984   Janet Taylor Spence
1983   Max Siegel
1982   William Bevan (psychologist)
1981   John J. Conger
1980   Florence Denmark
1979   Nicholas A. Cummings
1978   M. Brewster Smith
1977   Theodore H. Blau
1976   Wilbert J. McKeachie
1975   Donald T. Campbell
1974   Albert Bandura
1973   Leona E. Tyler
1972   Anne Anastasi
1971   Kenneth B. Clark
1970   George W. Albee
1969   George A. Miller
1968   Abraham Maslow
1967   Gardner Lindzey
1966   Nicholas Hobbs
1965   Jerome Bruner
1964   Quinn McNemar
1963   Charles E. Osgood
1962   Paul E. Meehl
1961   Neal E. Miller
1960   Donald O. Hebb
1959   Wolfgang Köhler
1958   Harry Harlow
1957   Lee J. Cronbach
1956   Theodore Newcomb
1955   E. Lowell Kelly
1954   O. Hobart Mowrer
1953   Laurance F. Shaffer
1952   J. McVicker Hunt
1951   Robert R. Sears
1950   Joy Paul Guilford
1949   Ernest R. Hilgard
1948   Donald R. Marquis
1947   Carl Rogers
1946   Henry E. Garrett
1945   Edwin R. Guthrie
1944   Gardner Murphy
1943   John Edward Anderson
1942   Calvin Perry Stone
1941   Herbert Woodrow
1940   Leonard Carmichael
1939   Gordon Allport
1938   John Dashiell
1937   Edward C. Tolman
1936   Clark L. Hull
1935   Albert Poffenberger
1934   Joseph Peterson
1933   Louis Leon Thurstone
1932   Walter Richard Miles
1931   Walter Samuel Hunter
1930   Herbert Langfeld
1929   Karl Lashley
1928   Edwin G. Boring
1927   Harry Levi Hollingworth
1926   Harvey A. Carr
1925   Madison Bentley
1924   G. Stanley Hall
1923   Lewis Terman
1922   Knight Dunlap
1921   Margaret Floy Washburn
1920   Shepherd Ivory Franz
1919   Walter Dill Scott
1918   John Wallace Baird
1917   Robert Mearns Yerkes
1916   Raymond Dodge
1915   John Broadus Watson
1914   Robert Sessions Woodworth
1913   Howard Crosby Warren
1912   Edward Thorndike
1911   Carl Emil Seashore
1910   Walter Bowers Pillsbury
1909   Charles Hubbard Judd
1908   George Malcolm Stratton
1907   Henry Rutgers Marshall
1906   James Rowland Angell
1905   Mary Whiton Calkins
1904   William James
1903   William Lowe Bryan
1902   Edmund Sanford
1901   Josiah Royce
1900   Joseph Jastrow
1899   John Dewey
1898   Hugo Münsterberg
1897   James Mark Baldwin
1896   George Stuart Fullerton
1895   James McKeen Cattell
1894   William James
1893   George Trumbull Ladd
1892   G. Stanley Hall

Notable people


The APA has 56 numbered divisions, 54 of which are currently active: [36]

  1. Society for General Psychology – the first division formed by the APA, in 1945, concerned with issues across the subdisciplines of psychology [37]
  2. Society for the Teaching of Psychology – provides free teaching material for students and teachers of psychology and bestows many awards [38]
  3. Society for Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science
  4. Currently vacant – initially reserved for the Psychometric Society, which decided against becoming an APA division after the establishment of the similarly defined Division 5 [39]
  5. Quantitative and Qualitative Methods – previously named Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics [40]
  6. Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology
  7. Developmental Psychology
  8. Society for Personality and Social Psychology
  9. Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI)
  10. Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts
  11. Currently vacant – initially Abnormal Psychology and Psychotherapy, which joined Division 12 in 1946 [39]
  12. Society of Clinical Psychology – established in 1945 with 482 members. Became the Division of Clinical and Abnormal Psychology in 1946, and took its current name in 1998. In 1962 it created clinical child psychology as its first section. [41]
  13. Society of Consulting Psychology - originally Division of Counseling and Guidance Psychologists [42]
  14. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  15. Educational Psychology
  16. School Psychology – originally formed as the Division of School Psychologists in 1945, renamed in 1969 [43]
  17. Society of Counseling Psychology
  18. Psychologists in Public Service
  19. Society for Military Psychology
  20. Adult Development and Aging
  21. Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology
  22. Rehabilitation Psychology
  23. Society for Consumer Psychology
  24. Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
  25. Behavior Analysis
  26. Society for the History of Psychology
  27. Society for Community Research and Action: Division of Community Psychology
  28. Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse
  29. Psychotherapy
  30. Society of Psychological Hypnosis
  31. State, Provincial and Territorial Psychological Association Affairs
  32. Society for Humanistic Psychology
  33. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities / Autism Spectrum Disorder
  34. Society for Environmental, Population and Conservation Psychology
  35. Society for the Psychology of Women
  36. Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
  37. Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice
  38. Society for Health Psychology
  39. Psychoanalysis
  40. Society for Clinical Neuropsychology
  41. American Psychology-Law Society
  42. Psychologists in Independent Practice
  43. Society for Family Psychology
  44. Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
  45. Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues
  46. Media Psychology
  47. Exercise and Sport Psychology
  48. Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology Division
  49. Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy
  50. Society of Addiction Psychology
  51. Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinities
  52. International Psychology
  53. Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology
  54. Society of Pediatric Psychology
  55. Society for Prescribing Psychology
  56. Trauma Psychology – addresses issues of trauma with projects, working groups and via collaborations [44]

Positions on sexual orientation

Cause of sexual orientation

The APA states the following:

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation. [45]

In 1975, APA issued a supporting statement that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. [46] [47]

Conversion therapy

Conversion therapy (also referred to as reparative therapy) is the practice of attempting to change the patient's sexual orientation to heterosexual. Among the most prominent supporters of conversion therapy is the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which continues to characterize homosexuality as a mental disorder, despite the declassification of homosexuality as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973. [48] One of the most notable members of NARTH is founder and former president Joseph Nicolosi, who practiced conversion therapy and has published case studies of some of his clients. [49]

The American Psychological Association (APA) task force report on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation concluded that conversion therapy was "unlikely to be successful" and involved "some risk of harm". [48] Likewise, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action in 2001, concluding that "there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed". [50]

In the task force's report, the APA recommends that therapists adopt an affirmative, supportive approach for clients who present for therapy to change their sexual orientation rather than attempting to convert their sexual orientation. [48]

There is a concern in the mental health community that the advancement of conversion therapy itself causes social harm by disseminating inaccurate views about sexual orientation and the ability of homosexual and bisexual people to lead happy, healthy lives. [51] Most mainstream health organizations are critical of conversion therapy, and no mainstream medical organization endorses conversion therapy. [51] [52] [53] [54] [note 1]

The APA adopted a resolution in August 2009 stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. The approval, by APA's governing Council of Representatives, came at APA's annual convention, during which a task force presented a report [55] that in part examined the efficacy of so-called "reparative therapy", or sexual orientation change efforts.

The "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts" also advises that parents, guardians, young people, and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services "that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth." [56]

Same-sex marriage

The APA adopted a resolution stating that it is unfair and discriminatory to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage and to all its attendant rights, benefits, and privileges. It also filed an amicus brief in the federal court case in which Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. [57] The APA later praised the decision and denied the existence of any "scientific justification" for a ban on same-sex marriage. [58]

In August 2011, the APA clarified their support of same-sex marriage in light of continued research suggesting that the same community benefits accepted as result of heterosexual marriage apply to same-sex couples as well. Clinton Anderson, then associate executive director of the APA and director of the Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns, said that, prior to this research, "We knew that marriage benefits heterosexual people in very significant ways, but we didn't know if that would be true for same-sex couples." Anderson also put forward the APA's view that merely allowing same-sex civil unions is an inadequate option: "Anything other than marriage is, in essence, a stigmatization of same-sex couples. Stigma does have negative impacts on people." [59]

APA internship crisis for graduate students

The APA is the main accrediting body for U.S. clinical and counseling psychology doctoral training programs and internship sites. [60] APA-accredited clinical psychology PhD and PsyD programs typically require students to complete a one-year full-time clinical internship in order to graduate (or a two-year part-time internship). However, there is currently an "internship crisis" as defined by the American Psychological Association, in that approximately 25% of clinical psychology doctoral students do not match for internship each year. [61] [62] This crisis has led many students (approximately 1,000 each year) to re-apply for internship, thus delaying graduation, or to complete an unaccredited internship, and often has many emotional and financial consequences. [63] Students who do not complete an APA-accredited internship in the U.S. are barred from certain employment settings, including VA hospitals, the military, and cannot get licensed in some states, such as Utah and Mississippi. [64] [65] Additionally, some postdoctoral fellowships and other employment settings require or prefer an APA-accredited internship. [64] The APA has been criticized for not addressing this crisis adequately and many psychologists and graduate students have petitioned for the APA to take action by regulating graduate training programs.

Warfare and the use of torture

A year after the establishment of the Human Resources Research Organization by the U.S. military in 1951, the CIA began funding numerous psychologists (and other scientists) in the development of psychological warfare methods under the supervision of APA treasurer Meredith Crawford. Donald O. Hebb, the APA president in 1960 who was awarded the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1961, defended the torture of research subjects, arguing that what was being studied was other nations' methods of brainwashing. Former APA president Martin Seligman spoke upon the invitation of the CIA on his animal experimentation where he shocked a dog unpredictably and repeatedly into total, helpless passivity. Former APA president Ronald F. Levant, upon visiting Guantanamo Bay, affirmed that psychologists were present during the torture of prisoners, arguing that their presence was to "add value and safeguards" to interrogations. [66] Former APA president Gerald Koocher argued, referring to allegations of continuing systemic abuse by psychologists, that such allegations were originating from "opportunistic commentators masquerading as scholars." [67]

During the Iraq War, Amnesty International released a series of reports, calling attention to violations of the human rights of prisoners in Abu Ghraib Prison and American detention camps, and the role of the United States and the United Kingdom in enacting these abuses. [68] [69] [70] The reports called on the occupying powers to protect the human rights of any detained civilians by giving them a fair and timely trial, not detaining civilians arbitrarily, and treating all people ethically while in detention. Amnesty International also called for justice, by trying individual perpetrators of abuse for their crimes. [70]

Despite these reports, the Bush administration instituted "enhanced" interrogation techniques, stating publicly that reported abuses were isolated incidents, and not standard practice. Internal memos from the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that an executive order by George W. Bush had sanctioned certain interrogation techniques, such as playing loud music, depriving prisoners of sleep, and stripping prisoners of their clothing. [71]

The CIA reportedly required involvement from health professionals to continue its practice of "enhanced" interrogations on detainees, to maintain the lawfulness of their practices. Psychiatrists and medical doctors were reluctant to participate in interrogations, however some psychologists participated. [72] A report by a group of psychologists alleges the same, implicating a number of APA officials as well. [73]

When it emerged that psychologists, as part of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, were advising interrogators in Guantánamo and other U.S. facilities on improving the effectiveness of the "enhanced interrogation techniques", the APA called on the U.S. government to prohibit the use of unethical interrogation techniques and labeled specific techniques as torture. [74] Critics pointed out that the APA declined to advise its members not to participate in such interrogations. [75] [76] In September 2008, the APA's members passed a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where "persons are held outside, or in violation of, either international law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the U.S. Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights." [77] The resolution became official APA policy in February 2009. However, the APA has refused to sanction those members known to have participated in and, in some cases, designed abusive interrogation techniques used in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan interrogation centers. [78] [79]

The APA directive was in contrast to the American Psychiatric Association ban in May 2006 of all direct participation in interrogations by psychiatrists, [80] and the American Medical Association ban in June 2006 of the direct participation in interrogations by physicians. [81] An independent panel of medical, military, ethics, education, public health, and legal professionals issued a comprehensive report in November 2013 that "charged that U.S. military and intelligence agencies directed doctors and psychologists working in U.S. military detention centers to violate standard ethical principles and medical standards to avoid infliction of harm." [82] One group of psychologists in particular, the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, has been very harsh in its criticism of the APA stance on its refusal to categorically prohibit members from participating in any phase of military interrogations. They stated their continuing disagreement with APA leadership in an open letter posted on their website on October 31, 2012, in which they reiterated their condemnation of torture and enhanced interrogation techniques, and called for the APA to require its members to refuse participation in military conducted interrogations of any kind. [83]

After the abuses were made public, the APA created a task force called Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) and released a report stating that the APA Code of Ethics applies to psychologists working in any setting, and that psychologists do not facilitate or participate in any degrading or cruel behavior, referring back to the APA's 1986 Resolution Against Torture. The report also called on psychologists to report any suspected or observed inhumane treatment to the appropriate authorities and obey federal law. [84]

Amending the Ethics Code

In February 2010, the APA's Council of Representatives voted to amend the association's Ethics Code [85] to make clear that its standards can never be interpreted to justify or defend violating human rights. There is a history of similar issues with the Canadian Psychological Association. Following are the two relevant ethical standards from the APA Ethics Code, with the amended language shown in bold:

1.02, Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority

If psychologists' ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.

1.03, Conflicts Between Ethics and Organizational Demands

If the demands of an organization with which psychologists are affiliated or for whom they are working are in conflict with this Ethics Code, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code, and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights. [86]

In its 2013 "Policy Related to Psychologists' Work in National Security Settings and Reaffirmation of the APA Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the APA condemns the use of any of the following practices by military interrogators trying to elicit anti-terrorism information from detainees, on the ground that "there are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether induced by a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, that may be invoked as a justification." [77]

Hoffman report

In November 2014, the APA ordered an independent review into whether it cooperated with the government's use of torture of prisoners during the George W. Bush administration, naming Chicago attorney David H. Hoffman to conduct the review. [87] On July 2, 2015, a 542-page report was issued to the special committee of the board of directors of the APA relating to ethics guidelines, national security interrogations, and torture. [88] The report concluded that the APA secretly collaborated with the Bush administration to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners. [89] Furthermore, the report stated that the association's ethics director Stephen Behnke and others had "colluded with important Department of Defense officials to have the APA issue loose, high-level ethical guidelines that did not constrain" the interrogation of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. The association's "principal motive in doing so was to align APA and curry favor with DOD." [90] An APA official said that ethics director Stephen Behnke had been "removed from his position as a result of the report" and indicated that other firings or sanctions might follow. [90]

Ultimately, the findings of the Hoffman Report revealed that the APA had an unfair bias towards prisoners due to the organization's relationship with the federal government. This resulted in a tidal wave of consequences for the APA. On July 14, 2015, the APA announced the retirement of its CEO, Norman B. Anderson, effective the end of 2015, and of Deputy Chief Executive Officer Michael Honaker, effective August 15, 2015, and the resignation of Rhea K. Farberman, APA's executive director for public and member communication. Anderson had been CEO since 2003. [91] [92]

Ban on involvement

For at least a decade, dissident psychologists within and outside the APA, including the group WithholdAPAdues, [93] had protested the involvement of psychologists "in interrogations at CIA black sites and Guantánamo." Prior to the release of the Hoffman report, which undermined the APA's repeated denials and showed that some APA leaders were complicit in torture, the dissidents were ignored or ridiculed. [94] [95]

On August 7, 2015, just weeks following the release of the Hoffman report, the APA council of representatives met at the association's 123rd annual convention in Toronto, Ontario. At that meeting, the APA council passed Resolution 23B, which implemented the 2008 membership vote to remove psychologists from settings that operate outside international law, and banning the participation of psychologists in unlawful interrogations. With 156 votes in favor and only one vote against, the resolution passed with the near unanimous approval of council members. [96] The adoption of Resolution 23B aligned the APA's policy with that of the American Psychiatric Association and that of the American Medical Association by prohibiting psychologists from participating in interrogations deemed illegal by the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention against Torture. [95]

Implementation of the 2008 Membership Vote to Remove Psychologists from All Settings That Operate Outside of International Law (NBI #23B)

Council is asked to approve the substitute main motion below that includes a revised resolution with a new title, Resolution to Amend the 2006 and 2013 Council Resolutions to Clarify the Roles of Psychologists Related to Interrogation and Detainee Welfare in National Security Settings, to Further Implement the 2008 Petition Resolution, and to Safeguard Against Acts of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in All Settings. This resolution further aligns the APA policy definition for "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" (in the 2006 and 2013 Council resolutions) with the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Torture and ensures that the definition applies broadly to all individuals and settings; offers APA as a supportive resource for ethical practice for psychologists, including those in military and national security roles; prohibits psychologists from participating in national security interrogations; clarifies the intended application of the 2008 petition resolution... and calls for APA letters to be sent to federal officials to inform them of these policy changes and clarifications of existing APA policy. [97]

The ban will not "prohibit psychologists from working with the police or prisons in criminal law enforcement interrogations". [96]

Class action lawsuit by members claiming deceptive dues assessments

In 2013 a class action lawsuit was brought against APA on behalf of approximately 60,000 of its 122,000 members who were licensed clinicians. Those members paid an additional $140 practice assessment fee as part of their membership dues every year beginning in 2001 to fund the lobbying arm of APA, the APA Practice Organization (APAPO). The lawsuit accused APA of using deceptive means by representing that the assessment was mandatory for APA membership even though payment of the assessment was only required for membership in the APAPO. In 2015 APA settled the case by establishing a $9.02 million settlement fund to be used to pay claims made by members of APA who paid the practice assessment, as well as attorneys' fees and certain other costs. APA agreed to change its policies to make clear that the APAPO membership dues are not required for membership in APA. [98] [99] [100] [101] [102]

Animal research

Currently, the APA enforces ethical standards to protect nonhuman animal subjects from unnecessary harm during the research process. Some of the requirements for using nonhuman animals in research include: proper justification of the research, maintenance and inspection of appropriate housing for the animals, minimizing discomfort and stress whenever possible, and preference of noninvasive measures. [103]

Despite these guidelines, however, many advocacy groups exist to either reduce or eliminate animal research, arguing that it is unethical to capture animals and subject them to research procedures. [104] [105] [106]

Evidence-based practice

A current controversy among mental health professionals involves the use of the terms evidence based practice or evidence based treatment. Proponents of the evidence-based treatments movement argue that it is unethical to administer a therapeutic intervention with questionable research support when another treatment's effectiveness has been demonstrated for the client's condition, particularly when the intervention in question is potentially harmful (such as conversion therapy). Proponents argue that administration of an empirically questionable treatment violates the general Principle A of the ethical principles of psychologist: Beneficence and nonmaleficence (or "do no harm"). [107]

Critics of the evidence-based practice movement note ethical concerns regarding the research and practice of evidenced-based treatments themselves. Despite the demonstrated effectiveness of a range of treatments, including psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapies, [108] evidence-based practice is a term now associated only with short-term, manualized treatments which have been evaluated in randomized control trials. Among the problems associated with an exclusive focus on randomized control trials to determine treatment effectiveness is that the relevance of these trials (conducted on highly selected patient populations) is unclear for psychologists working with real-world patients. [109] Furthermore, while the public may assume evidence-based is synonymous for "likely to help", research studies indicate that most patients do not show meaningful improvement in so-called evidence-based treatments. [110]

See also


  1. Mainstream health organizations critical of conversion therapy include the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the National Education Association.

Related Research Articles

Medical psychology or medico-psychology is the application of psychological principles to the practice of medicine, primarily drug-oriented, for both physical and mental disorders.

Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of attempting to change an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to align with heterosexual and cisgender norms. Methods that have been used to this end include forms of brain surgery, surgical or hormonal castration, aversive treatments such as electric shocks, nausea-inducing drugs, hypnosis, counseling, spiritual interventions, visualization, psychoanalysis, and arousal reconditioning.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Psychologist</span> Professional who evaluates, diagnoses, treats and studies behavior and mental processes

A psychologist is a professional who practices psychology and studies mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior. Their work often involves the experimentation, observation, and interpretation of how individuals relate to each other and to their environments.

Clinical psychology is an integration of human science, behavioral science, theory, and clinical knowledge for the purpose of understanding, preventing, and relieving psychologically-based distress or dysfunction and to promote subjective well-being and personal development. Central to its practice are psychological assessment, clinical formulation, and psychotherapy, although clinical psychologists also engage in research, teaching, consultation, forensic testimony, and program development and administration. In many countries, clinical psychology is a regulated mental health profession.

Counseling psychology is a psychological specialty that began with a focus on vocational counseling, but later moved its emphasis to adjustment counseling, and then expanded to cover all normal psychology psychotherapy. There are many subcategories for counseling psychology, such as marriage and family counseling, rehabilitation counseling, clinical mental health counseling, educational counseling, etc. In each setting, they are all required to follow the same guidelines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph Nicolosi</span> American clinical psychologist (1947–2017)

Joseph Nicolosi was an American clinical psychologist who advocated and practised "reparative therapy", a form of the pseudoscientific treatment of conversion therapy that he claimed could help people overcome or mitigate their homosexual desires and replace them with heterosexual ones. Nicolosi was a founder and president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Medical institutions warn that conversion therapy is ineffective and may be harmful, and that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be changed by such treatments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ego-dystonic sexual orientation</span> Psychiatric diagnosis

Ego-dystonic sexual orientation is a highly controversial mental health diagnosis that was included in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) from 1980 to 1987 and in the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Classification of Diseases (ICD) from 1990 to 2019. Individuals could be diagnosed with ego-dystonic sexual orientation if their sexual orientation or attractions were at odds with their idealized self-image, causing anxiety and a desire to change their orientation or become more comfortable with it. It describes not innate sexual orientation itself, but a conflict between the sexual orientation a person wishes to have and their actual sexual orientation.

Steven C. Hayes is an American clinical psychologist and Nevada Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Psychology, where he is a faculty member in their Ph.D. program in behavior analysis. He is known for developing relational frame theory, an account of human higher cognition. He is the co-developer of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a popular evidence-based form of psychotherapy that uses mindfulness, acceptance, and values-based methods, and is the co-developer of process-based therapy (PBT), a new approach to evidence-based therapies more generally. He also coined the term clinical behavior analysis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Military psychology</span> Specialized field in psychological science

Military psychology is a specialization within psychology that applies psychological science to promote the readiness of military members, organizations, and operations. Military psychologists provide support to the military in many ways, including through direct clinical care, consultation to military commanders, teaching others and supporting military training, and through research relevant to military operations and personnel. Military psychology as a field has been growing since the early 20th century, evidence that the demands and needs for psychological clinical and operational application is continuing to grow steadily. There are many stressors associated with military service, including exposure to high-risk training and combat. As such, psychologists are critical support components that assist military leaders in designing appropriate training programs, providing oversight to those programs, and assisting military members as they navigate the challenges of military training and their new lifestyle. Military psychology covers a wide range of fields throughout the military including operational, tactical, and occupational psychology. Gender differences between military-trained personnel who seek mental health assistance have been extensively studied. Specific examples include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with combat, or guilt and family/partner difficulties accompanying extended or frequent deployments due to separation. Clinical providers in military psychology are often focused on the treatment of stress, fatigue, and other personal readiness issues. Previous wars such as the Korean war, Vietnam war, and WW 2 provide great insight to the workings and practices of military psychology and how the practices have changed and assisted the military over the years.

Gay affirmative psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy for non-heterosexual people, specifically gay and lesbian clients, which focuses on client comfort in working towards authenticity and self-acceptance regarding sexual orientation, and does not attempt to "change" them to heterosexual, or to "eliminate or diminish" same-sex "desires and behaviors". The American Psychological Association (APA) offers guidelines and materials for gay affirmative psychotherapy. Affirmative psychotherapy affirms that homosexuality or bisexuality is not a mental disorder, in accordance with global scientific consensus. In fact, embracing and affirming gay identity can be a key component to recovery from other mental illnesses or substance abuse. Clients whose religious beliefs are interpreted as teaching against homosexual behavior may require some other method of integration of their possibly conflicting religious and sexual selves.

Rodney L. Lowman is an American psychologist, academic administrator and entrepreneur whose major contributions have been in the areas of career assessment and counseling, ethical issues in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the integration of clinical psychology and I-O psychology and helping to develop the field of consulting psychology. In a study of the most prolific contributors to the Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Lowman was rated the second highest contributor for articles for the period 1992–2007.

Gerald Paul Koocher is an American psychologist and past president of the American Psychological Association (APA). His interests include ethics, clinical child psychology and the study of scientific misconduct. He is Dean Emeritus Simmons University and also holds an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School. Koocher has over 300 publications including 16 books and has edited three scholarly journals including Ethics & Behavior which he founded. Koocher was implicated as an author of the so-called "torture memos" that allowed psychologists to participate in torture during interrogations in the Hoffman Report, an APA investigation into psychologists' involvement in interrogation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The American Psychological Association (APA) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct includes an introduction, preamble, a list of five aspirational principles and a list of ten enforceable standards that psychologists use to guide ethical decisions in practice, research, and education. The principles and standards are written, revised, and enforced by the APA. The code of conduct is applicable to psychologists in a variety of areas across a variety of contexts. In the event of a violation of the code of conduct, the APA may take action ranging from termination of the APA membership to the loss of licensure, depending on the violation. Other professional organizations and licensing boards may adopt and enforce the code.

Stephen Houran Behnke is an American psychologist, ethicist, and author. From November 1, 2000 until July 8, 2015 he was the director of the Office of Ethics for the American Psychological Association.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean Maria Arrigo</span> American social psychologist

Jean Maria Arrigo is an American social psychologist and oral historian.

Barry S. Anton, Ph.D., ABPP is an American psychologist. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Puget Sound where he taught for 34 years. Anton founded Rainier Behavioral Health, a multi-discipline mental health practice where he practices clinical child and adolescent psychology and neuropsychology. Anton has co-authored, along with Professor Janet Matthews, a clinical psychology textbook, published over 90 articles, and has presented numerous conference workshops, invited addresses, keynote addresses, and panel discussions nationally and internationally. Anton served as the president of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2015.

Mathilda Bushel Canter was an American psychologist and leader in state and national psychological organizations. Known as the "First Lady of Arizona Psychology" for her service to her state board and state association of psychology, she was the first female president of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division of Psychotherapy. She won multiple national awards for career achievement in psychological practice.

Cynthia D. Belar is a scientist known for her contributions to clinical psychology with specific focus on health psychology, clinical service, and education. She is a Professor Emerita at the University of Florida Health Science Center.

Rachel Thies Hare-Mustin was an American clinical psychologist, known for her strong passion for social justice, civil rights, pacifism, and gender equality. As a scholar, she was known for her research in feminist postmodern theory, gender issues, and professional ethics, and for clinical application of feminist theory to family therapy.

Many health organizations around the world have denounced and criticized sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts. National health organizations in the United States have announced that there has been no scientific demonstration of conversion therapy's efficacy in the last forty years. They find that conversion therapy is ineffective, risky and can be harmful. Anecdotal claims of cures are counterbalanced by assertions of harm, and the American Psychiatric Association, for example, cautions ethical practitioners under the Hippocratic oath to do no harm and to refrain from attempts at conversion therapy.


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