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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.

AAPA Statement on Mental Health Act

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AAPA Statement on Mental Health Act

The Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) is pleased to announce its support and appreciation for the nation’s commitment to improve mental health services through the new legislation,  “Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act”, introduced May 6, 2014 by Doris Matsui (CA-06), Ron Barber (AZ-2), Diana DeGette (CO-1), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), and Paul Tonko (NY-20). The bill identifies the need for comprehensive mental health care, specifically highlighting the need for critical mental health programs, prevention, training, research, and competent community-based services for at- risk and vulnerable populations. This bill would greatly benefit many Asian American communities who lack adequate mental health treatment due to the lack of bilingual providers and barriers to access appropriate services.

The AAPA urges Asian American consumers and providers treating various Asian American communities to participate on the Mental Health Advisory Board. Additionally, the AAPA supports increased training for culturally competent behavioral health professionals serving Asian American communities, as well as resources for the growing aging Asian American population.

AAPA Policy Committee

AAPA Statement on the Isla Vista/UCSB Shooting Tragedy

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The Asian American Psychological Association expresses our deepest condolences to the victims and their loved ones affected by the senseless, violent attacks committed on May 23 in Isla Vista, California. Our thoughts are also with the UCSB community facing the losses and the challenges brought on by the tragedy. Although the causes and motives for committing any acts of mass destruction are difficult to fathom, in this particular case the perpetrator has left a digital trail indicating his deep psychological disturbances mixed with misogyny and racism. Even as we all struggle to cope with yet another unspeakable acts of violence, AAPA is committed to providing whatever resource we can offer to help those in need of healing.

Shooting at The Sikh Temple in Wisconsin

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Minneapolis – The Asian American Psychological Association joins with the rest of the nation in mourning the tragic loss of the members at the Sikh Temple, Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In particular, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims, families and friends of those who have suffered a personal loss. As psychologists and counselors, we understand the complexities of this incident and the manifold needs and emotions that are now pulling at us as individuals, as a community, and as a nation.

First and foremost among these, are the needs of those individuals who have been directly affected by this tragedy. The Division on South Asian Americans (DoSAA), part of the AAPA strives to be a driving force in a community action among South Asian mental health providers and those interested in South Asian mental health. If you are experiencing distress in reaction to this event or have questions about mental health and wellness in response to trauma and crisis, please do not hesitate to call us at either dosaainfo@gmail.com or aapainquiries@gmail.com for information, support, and referral for services.

DoSAA has compiled a list of mental health resources in the Wisconsin community:

Other national resources include Counselors Helping (South) Asian/Indians (CHAI.) CHAI is dedicated to providing outreach, referral and educational services to the South Asian community on issues related to mental health and wellness, for more assistance contact 443-615-1355. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) also has a National Helpline available at 1-800-950-NAMI.

Please feel free to contact either the AAPA or DoSAA team for more assistance and support.

As we learn more facts about this incident, we also wish to acknowledge at this time that the Sikh community in the US has had to endure a unique vulnerability in the years since 9/11, as anti-Muslim sentiments have often been directed against members of a community who have often been mistaken for Muslim.  As an association dedicated to the psychological well-being of Asian Americans, we take a special interest in how such sentiments affect Sikh Americans as we care about the enormous psychological burden that all groups, both non-Muslims and Muslims, must bear when prejudice is directed at them.

Statement by President Obama on the Shooting in Wisconsin:

Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family”

The  Asian American Psychological Association is the primary, national organization dedicated to the advancement of the psychological well-being of Asian Americans

For PDF version click here.