As many people may have heard the American Psychological Association (APA) has been under great scrutiny regarding their engagement with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Department of Defense (DoD) in collaborating with the torture of military prisoners after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and as the Bush Administration’s War on Terror (including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) unfolded. After much pressure to do so the APA sought out an independent investigation of the organization’s role in torture during the Bush administration. The resulting Hoffman Report was released yesterday and it isn’t pretty. Many members of the organization and organizational leadership were implicated and the director of the ethics office at APA was immediately fired. Today, the New York Times offered a scathing critique of APA as well.
While it is a very dark and sad day for the American Psychological Association and for psychologists everywhere, the report and remarkable story of psychology colluding with military torture provides an opportunity to make important changes in and to the organization, reflect on their behavior, and hopefully make permanent changes for the better where high quality ethics trump all other concerns and interests. The road ahead for APA is likely a bumpy and challenging one.
A review of the APA ethics code makes clear that five core ethical values are held near and dear to the profession. These include respect, responsibility, integrity, competence, and concern for others (RRICC). These values must be a mantra for all psychologists.
Sadly, the organization and some members of the organization did not live up to these important and noble aspirational principles for reasons perhaps no one can fully understand. Yet, we must clearly embrace these ethical principles once again and ensure that they are valued above all other considerations in all that we do and say as psychologists as we move forward.
So many people (including those who regularly read the Psychology Today magazine and blog posts) trust psychologists with their emotional, behavioral, educational and relational health and well-being. They must be completely confident that psychologists always do the right thing and follow these important ethical principles without exception. It may take some time and effort to regain that important trust. But hopefully the organziation has been awakened to do so and do so with great vigor.
To read the APA press release about the Hoffman Report, see http://www.apa.org/independent-review/independent-review-release.aspx
So, what do you think?
Copyright 2015, Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP