March 14, 2016

Response to Article on Whether Therapists Should Analyze Presidential Candidates

The New York Times published a letter on March 11, 2016, from APA President Susan H. McDaniel, PhD, in response to its March 7, 2016, article, "Should Therapists Analyze Presidential Candidates?"

Re "Should Therapists Analyze Presidential Candidates?" (Campaign Stops, Op-Ed, nytimes.com, March 7):

The American Psychological Association wholeheartedly agrees with Dr. Robert Klitzman that neither psychiatrists nor psychologists should offer diagnoses of candidates or any other living public figure they have never examined. Our association has declined requests from several reporters seeking referrals to psychologists who would make such speculations.

Similar to the psychiatrists' Goldwater Rule, our code of ethics exhorts psychologists to "take precautions" that any statements they make to the media "are based on their professional knowledge, training or experience in accord with appropriate psychological literature and practice" and "do not indicate that a professional relationship has been established" with people in the public eye, including political candidates.

When providing opinions of psychological characteristics, psychologists must conduct an examination "adequate to support statements or conclusions." In other words, our ethical code states that psychologists should not offer a diagnosis in the media of a living public figure they have not examined.

Susan H. McDaniel
President
American Psychological Association
Washington