Elizabeth Carll, PhD
It should be noted that prior to the APA Council meeting, there was much discussion and exchange of emails among Council members as well as heated discussion among APA members on various listservs as a result of the Hoffman Report being obtained and published by the media. Council members were responsible for reading the 590 page Hoffman report in addition to a Council agenda of more than 1000 pages in preparation for the Council meeting. This was a challenging time for APA members.
Dr. Susan McDaniel, APA president-elect presided over the Council meeting on issues pertaining to the Hoffman Report, as Dr. Barry Anton, APA president, had recused himself. Dr. Anton presided over the other issues addressed at the Council meeting. Other members of the APA board and staff and Council Leadership Team (CLT) who were named in the Hoffman Report also recused themselves. It should be noted that recusals did not reflect guilt, but were undertaken to prevent any undue influence or perception of undue influence.
The most important action Council undertook was the approval of New Business Item #23B, to adopt as APA policy the 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.
The resolution outlined the following:
- Defined the term “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” in accordance with the UN Convention Against Torture.
- Psychologists shall not participate in national security interrogations for military and intelligence entities. As such “psychologists shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation. This prohibition does not apply to domestic law enforcement interrogations or domestic detention settings where detainees are afforded all of the protections of the United States Constitution, including the 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination (“Miranda” rights) and 6th Amendment rights to “effective assistance” of legal counsel.
- APA shall send official correspondence to the appropriate officers of the U.S. government, including the President, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, CIA Director, and Congress, to inform them that APA has adopted policy changes to expand its human rights protections to safeguard detainees in national security settings against torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
A copy of the above policy can be found on the www.apa.org website.
On the first morning of the APA Council meeting, Mr. David Hoffman met with Council in executive session to answer pre-submitted questions. He added that it was highly unusual for him to speak to his clients once a report was completed, but due to the request was making an exception in this case. He stated that it may be helpful for APA to revisit how ethics policies are determined and conflicts of interest are defined. He also indicated that it may be helpful to develop a process as to how human rights issues can be voiced.
Following afternoon discussions, Council voted to:
- Create a blue ribbon panel of experts, composed of psychologists and non psychologists, to review the APA Ethics Office and Policies in order to make recommendations to ensure the best possible practices for the Ethics Office and policies.
- Develop a statement of principles regarding conflict of interest for each board/committee/task force/Council member to sign on an annual basis. A subgroup of members of Council, boards, committees, and the membership will be formed by the Council Leadership Team to create virtually such a statement which will be finalized at the February 2016 Council meeting.
- Create virtual work groups for Council to follow up on the recommendations from the August 2015 meeting. These included the possible formation of an APA Office of Human Rights.
Other Actions of Council:
- Voted to receive the Task Force on Violent Media Report on the Review of the Violent Video Game Literature.
- Voted to adopt as APA policy the 2015 Resolution on Violent Video Games — The recommendations of the 2015 Resolution on Violent Video Games are reported below. However, in addition to updating the literature review findings, there was emphasis that the research did not indicate that violent video games created violence in players; rather the distinction between aggression and violence was clarified. This was an important distinction, as the news media and others often distorted the results of the initial 2005 Resolution as pertaining to games causing lethal violence and crime, whereas in actuality, the 2005 Resolution focused on the relationship of violent video games to aggression. There is no body of research relating to violent video games causing violence, as it would be inappropriate to design studies which harm participants. The updated 2015 Literature Review Report describes the relationship of violent video games to aggression.
Recommendations of the 2015 Resolution on Violent Video Games include:
- APA engage in public education and awareness activities disseminating these findings to children, parents, teachers, judges and other professionals working with children in schools and communities.
- APA support funding of basic and intervention research by the federal government and philanthropic organizations to address gaps in knowledge about the effects of violent video game use. Gaps in knowledge are detailed in the resolution.
- APA endorse the development and implementation of rigorously tested interventions that educate children, youth and families about the effects of violent video game use.
- APA strongly encourage the Entertainment Software Rating Board to refine the ESRB rating system specifically to reflect the levels and characteristics of violence in games in addition to the current global ratings.
- Voted to approve revising the language of pro and con statements included with a Bylaw amendment ballot.
- Voted to adopt as APA policy the Guidelines on Trauma Competencies for Education and Training and approve 2025 as the expiration date for the Guidelines.
- Voted to adopt as APA policy the Guidelines for Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People and approved August 2022 as the expiration date for the Guidelines.
- Voted to approve the revised Standards and Criteria for Approval of Sponsors of Continuing Education for Psychologists.
- Voted to approve the continued recognition of Psychoanalysis in Psychology as a specialty in professional psychology for a period of seven years.
- Voted to approve an extension of recognition of Forensic Psychology as a specialty in professional psychology for an additional period of one year to expire in August 2016.
- Voted to approve an extension of recognition of Treatment of Alcohol and Other Psychoactive Substance Use Disorders as a proficiency in professional psychology for an additional period of one year to expire in August 2016.
- Voted to approve the recognition of Rehabilitation Psychology as a new specialty in professional psychology for a period of seven years.
- Voted to adopt as APA policy the Resolution on Independence of Psychologists to affirm that doctoral-level health service psychologists practice independently and provide their full range of services, in accordance with scope of practice laws and regulations, as defined by state statute without the need for or expectation of supervision by any other profession.
- Voted to endorse, in principle, the document entitled “The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards’ Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT).”
- Voted to support the CEO’s technology implementation plan and request that the Office of Member Recruitment and Engagement develop additional methods for member engagement.