Council Corner

Christopher J. Ferguson

Christopher J. Ferguson

Chris Ferguson, PhD

It was something of a whirlwind Council this past August. As expected, the big-ticket items revolved around continuing fallout from the Hoffman report.

The first item, often referred to by its number 35B would have changed some of the APA’s policy toward military psychologists working in detention sites such as Guantanamo Bay.  This was supported by the APA’s Board of Directors and Division 19 (military psychology).  It would have allowed military psychologists to resume treatment of detainees in these facilities (if I understood the wording, it was not intended to allow for interrogations).  Admittedly, during the committee meetings the ground kept shifting on this and the other item (below), due to horse-trading among interested parties so, with supplemental motions and such, the specifics kept changing.  Nonetheless, in the final vote it was voted down and APA policy on this matter remains unchanged from 2015 (technically a 2009 policy).

On a related item, Council voted to create a new page for the Hoffman report that includes a full timeline of the report, the reaction from Division 19, public information.  That timeline is available here:

Timeline of American Psychological Association Policies …

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) position on torture is clear and unequivocal: Any direct or indirect participation in any act of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by psychologists is strictly prohibited.

This was generally supported by Division 19.  The lawsuit itself regarding the Hoffman report grinds on.

Of interest to this division, Council voted in a *new* task force to consider the issue of violence and video games.  This is potentially good, given the controversies regarding the prior task force and resolution statement.  However, there’s also a bit of a “Lucy and the Football” kind of feeling too, given how poorly the APA structure has handled this in the past giving us two biased policy reports that misrepresent the field.  The question will be: Can the APA actually put together an unbiased task force on this issue that faithfully represents the science murky and inconsistent as it is?  It bears watching.

Related to this, from my observations on Council these past two years I’ve become increasingly concerned APA is not as effective as would be ideal in rigorously peer-reviewing its scientific policy statements more generally to make sure they are sound/unbiased/etc.  In fairness, policy statements and task force reports go through multiple committees and typically have an open review period.  However, my observation is that the resultant product is often quite flawed.  Certainly, getting “science” conversations going in Council has proven challenging.  Case in point, this meeting the Council passed a set of practice guidelines for boys and men that I considered problematic, both from a data perspective (important data that might have challenged the document’s conclusions was not cited) and clinically (the document portrayed “traditional” masculinity in a manner that might discourage many men from seeking counseling).   I actually provided a review of the guidelines (available here: but didn’t get traction.

In addition to the Hoffman report, I believe this will be a significant challenge for the APA moving forward … faithfully representing a science that is often messy and conflicting in its results.  We’ll see how it goes!

In other bits and bobs, Council votes will now be openly published for viewing by members.

The APA continues to restructure itself.  I’ll append the APA’s own narrative on this below:

Moving forward as a unified organization. Council took historic actions to move forward with transitioning APA to an integrated c3/c6 advocacy model. At its August meeting, Council received the report of the Presidential Workgroup on an Expanded APA Advocacy Model, which was convened after Council’s March meeting. Council approved the Workgroup’s recommendations, including the concept of a unified Finance Committee and a single board of directors to serve both the c3 and c6, the allocation of 2019 member dues 60% to the c6 and 40% to the c3, and c6 bylaw changes to expand the purpose of the c6 and create a new Advocacy Coordinating Committee.

This new model will establish a pathway to enhance APA and build a robust, unified advocacy agenda for all psychology. This transformation ensures the following:

  • A comprehensive process to gather broader input from all constituencies to help set advocacy priorities annually.
  • A larger role for Council in shaping APA’s advocacy agenda.
  • Increased resources for advocacy initiatives spanning science, education, public interest, practice and applied psychology.
  • All psychologists who join APA will be members of a combined c3/c6 organization, allowing membership dues to be allocated to both entities for advocacy initiatives.
  • A new approach to the development and delivery of professional member benefits.

 What’s on the radar in Council

 Just a few issues are being discussed on the Council listserv since the meeting.

First, there is still some back and forth regarding the decision to switch from the Trust to another endorsed insurance company.  Mainly the concern is how the decision was made (i.e., without input from Council) but that seems to be a done deal.  There were some calls to talk about it during the meeting, but the agenda was pretty full.  Not sure if it will come back up later.  This does play into broader concerns among some that Council has delegated too much authority to the Board.

There are ongoing concerns regarding CACREP and its efforts to nudge psychologists out of training in counseling programs (this, at least, is how I’m reading the concern).

The APA recently released a “racism in American” video that drew criticisms because it apparently excluded the experiences of Asian-Americans.

That is what is now circulating.  Of course, it’s always possible I have neglected something important. If you had specific questions about an issue either I did or did not address, please send them my way!


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