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Friday, July 21, 2017

Enabling torture: APA, clinical psychology training and the failure to disobey.

Alice LoCicero, Robert P. Marlin, David Jull-Patterson, Nancy M. Sweeney, Brandon Lee Gray, & J. Wesley Boyd
Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, Vol 22(4), Nov 2016, 345-355.


The American Psychological Association (APA) has historically had close ties with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Recent revelations describe problematic outcomes of those ties, as some in the APA colluded with the DOD to allow psychologists to participate, with expectation of impunity, in harsh interrogations that amounted to torture of Guantanamo detainees, during the Bush era. We now know that leaders in the APA purposely misled psychologists about the establishment of policies on psychologists’ roles in interrogations. Still, the authors wondered why, when the resulting policies reflected a clear contradiction of the fundamental duty to do no harm, few psychologists, in or out of the military, protested the policies articulated in 2005 by the committee on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS). Previous research suggested that U.S. graduate students in clinical psychology receive little or no training in the duties of psychologists in military settings or in the ethical guidance offered by international treaties. Thus psychologists might not have been well prepared to critique the PENS policies or to refuse to participate in interrogations. To further explore this issue, the authors surveyed Directors of Clinical Training of doctoral programs in clinical psychology, asking how extensively their programs address dilemmas psychologists may face in military settings. The results indicate that most graduate programs offer little attention to dilemmas of unethical orders, violations of international conventions, or excessively harsh interrogations. These findings, combined with earlier studies, suggest that military psychologists may have been unprepared to address ethical dilemmas, whereas psychologists outside the military may have been unprepared to critique the APA’s collusion with the DOD. The authors suggest ways to address this apparent gap in ethics education for psychology graduate students, interns, and fellows.

The article is here.