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Asian American Psychological Association Response to the American Psychological Association’s Report of the Independent Review Relating to Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture

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July 31, 2015

The Executive Committee of the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA), on behalf of the AAPA, wishes to express our sadness and dismay upon reviewing the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Report of the Independent Review Relating to Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture.

This is not the first time in the history of our nation or of our profession that foundational understandings and guidelines for legal, ethical, or moral behavior have been ignored or overturned. The current situation raises echoes for us of a dark chapter in American history during World War II when – under the guise of a national security threat – over 110,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens, were imprisoned in concentration camps and denied their rights, essentially setting aside the United States Constitution. We are heartened that, unlike the experience of Japanese Americans, it did not take four decades to investigate the events and begin the process of prioritizing ethical and just processes and practices.

Although AAPA is a separate organization from APA, we recognize that the actions of APA, as the largest professional organization of psychologists, reflect on the public’s perception of psychology and psychologists more generally. Consequently AAPA, as an independent organization of psychologists, would like to voice our stance on ethical issues even as we recognize that it is up to APA and its governance to address the specific findings and shortcomings.

The AAPA condemns torture or abuse of any person, for any reason, including interrogation. As psychologists our goal is to heal, not to harm. Furthermore, we believe that ethical guidelines for psychologists should make clear the unacceptability of such practices and should be shaped by an ongoing dialogue within the profession about the meaning of “torture” and “abuse.”

As an association founded to address inequities within the field of psychology, we are disturbed by findings described in the report that suggest that the APA’s governing processes, policies, ethical guidelines, reports, and public statements were used to support or justify the development or application of oppressive or harmful practices. We are also disturbed by findings that the development of these processes and policies was influenced strongly by external bodies (e.g., the Department of Defense) and political agendas. The report further indicates that much of this influence was clandestine. Furthermore, we are deeply concerned by descriptions in the report that suggested that APA generally, and the Ethics Office specifically, prioritized advancing the economic and standing interests of the discipline and member psychologists, rather than the well being of the people and communities whom psychologists serve.

As a psychological association dedicated to addressing inequities and promoting health for all people, but particularly those historically marginalized, we assert that psychologists and psychological associations have the responsibility to prioritize beneficence to others above personal or professional advancement. Furthermore, we assert that ethical guidelines for psychologists generally, and in any specific association, should be guided by the standards of the field as developed by those with expertise in the field, through public and transparent dialogues and processes.

The findings of the Independent Review indicate that the APA moved alarmingly away from its mission to “advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives” and its vision to be “an effective champion of the application of psychology to promote human rights, health, well being and dignity.”

We call on APA to acknowledge past errors, and engage in revising guidelines, policies, processes, and organizational culture to more fully and deliberately embrace the values and priorities above. We urge APA to develop a process that is open and transparent in order to create purposeful and sustainable change to psychology’s engagement with ethics in general and in specific relation to military involvement and torture. Furthermore, we urge the APA to shape a process that includes the multiple perspectives and diverse professional expertise of all psychologists. All psychologists, regardless of APA membership, have a stake in a common goal of individual and societal health.

Finally, we call on AAPA members and all psychologists to actively participate in rebuilding public trust in us and in our profession. There should be no doubt that our research and practice of psychology advance and promote individual, social, and systemic understanding, psychological health, well being, and justice.

Download pdf of Statement here.

Convention Program now available!

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Make the most out of your time at Convention by checking out this year’s program [Download pdf of AAPA_2015 Convention Program]. In addition to noting this year’s outstanding talks and research presentations, learn more about the numerous opportunities to network and connect with fellow AAPA members (Early Bird Reception and Breakfast, Lunchtime Discussions, etc). See you in Toronto!

Message to AAPA Members about the Hoffman Report

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Dear AAPA Members and Friends:

As you most likely know, the report commissioned by APA’s Board of Directors to examine the association’s conduct in regard to the Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) Task Force and the association’s relations with the Department of Defense and the CIA in relation to torture and interrogation techniques has been made public. The report document (also referred to as the Hoffman Report) and related materials are available at http://www.apa.org/independent-review.

Although AAPA is an organization independent of APA, we recognize that many of our members are also APA members and that actions of the APA (as the largest organization for our profession) have considerable impact on the public’s view of psychology.

We know that many of you have strong feelings about the past and present practices and policies of APA issues, as well as fears about the impacts on our profession of these practices and the findings of the investigation. This is a difficult moment for the APA and for the profession of psychology, and it will take considerable time for each of us, as psychologists, to understand and digest the implications for the profession, for our own professional activities, and for our own organizations. During this process and time, the Executive Committee of AAPA seeks to ensure that our members are well informed about these issues and the APA response that is still unfolding.

To that end, we offer the following current information and recommendations:

  • We encourage you to directly review the Hoffman report (the Executive Summary is 72 pages, at the beginning of the report) and the APA response. There are many perspectives on these issues, and popular media articles have their own slants on reporting.
  • We also encourage you to review the initial recommendations from the APA Board: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/07/independent-review-release.aspx
  • APA is working to develop active processes through which members, psychologists, and the public can comment and/or participate in discussions and recommendations. To that end:
    • APA has set up a public comment mechanism (at the bottom of the independent report page): http://www.apa.org/independent-review/index.aspx
    • APA/CoR will hold a Town Hall Meeting related to these issues at the APA Convention on Saturday, August 8 from 3-4:30pm.
    • APA CoR is working on on-line venues for people who cannot attend convention to discuss the report.

Given the complexity of these issues, there will be extensive discussions on the APA Council of Representatives and throughout APA as an organization, with careful consideration of how best to proceed to ensure that the resulting process, policy, and procedures are ethical and reflect the best values of the process. Therefore, as further events unfold, we will do our best to keep you well informed.

On behalf of the AAPA Executive Committee,

Sumie Okazaki
AAPA President

Karen L. Suyemoto
AAPA Observer to the APA Council of Representatives

Convention News: Schedule now available, Clinicians & Researchers coming together

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Convention News Highlights:

  • Register by July 21st! Prices go up for on-site registration.
  • Want to plan your Convention day? Download the schedule.
  • Researchers & clinicians are invited to join together at a special lunchtime networking session, titled “Writing Case Studies: Highlighting Practice-Based Evidence and Evidence-Based Practice.” The event, co-sponsored by the Asian American Journal of Psychology and the AAPA Practice Task Force, will discuss the journal’s new guidelines for case study submissions. For more information:
    • Are you a clinically-oriented researcher seeking to increase your publication record and collaborate with research-oriented clinicians?
    • Are you a clinician with interesting case material to share but limited time and resources to publish?

Case studies provide practical examples of culturally-informed approaches to service delivery that can be evaluated alongside the research literature to inform treatment decisions. In a growing field such as Asian American psychology, case studies also may be especially helpful for exploring understudied phenomena and generating hypotheses that may be explored in future research. We encourage participants to come prepared to discuss ideas for case studies and present areas of expertise that they could contribute to the shaping of others’ case studies. Students are welcome!

In this lunchtime interactive session, we will:
1. Present the guidelines and requirements for submission of case studies to the AAJP Case Study Section.

2. Develop ideas for case studies highlighting innovative approaches to service delivery involving Asian Americans.

3. Provide opportunities to network and meet potential collaborators that can help bridge gaps in research and clinical practice.

TO REGISTER: Email the AAJP Case Study Section Editor, Doris F. Chang, at changd@newschool.edu and provide the following information:

1. Name and job title
2. Area of expertise
3. What kinds of case studies would you be interested in working on? (Examples: case studies involving kids and families; treatment of depression; spiritually-focused interventions; applications of mindfulness)
4. What kind of concrete assistance would be helpful? (Examples: information about the latest research on X to help ground my literature review; access to library databases or statistical help; consultation on a case formulation; help with taking my case notes and turning them into a paper; someone to edit my work)
5. What kind of assistance can you provide?
6. Do you have an idea for a case study that you wish to workshop or discuss during the session? (Y/N)

AAJP 2014 impact factor goes up, #1 ethnic studies journal

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Good news! The 2014 Impact Factors have been released, and AAPA’s flagship journal, Asian American Journal of Psychology, received a score of 1.686 for 2014. This figure is up from 1.405 for 2013.  Furthermore, AAJP ranked #1 among Ethnic Studies journals – evidence of AAJP’s success in disseminating our thriving membership’s scholarly contributions and interdisciplinary reach!

Please join in congratulating Founding Editor Fred Leong and current Editor Bryan Kim for their leadership and vision, and thanks to all the authors who helped make 2014 an impactful year for AAJPaap-150.

 

 

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