APA President Responds to LoCicero Blog on Psychology Today

APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD, addresses false premises in blog post regarding APA and the Independent Review.

The post by Alice LoCicero, PhD, (“What Keeps APA from Healing?”) begins with several false premises and, therefore, leads to false conclusions.

The first error is in asserting that the article “A Teachable Ethics Scandal,” by Mitchell M. Handelsman, PhD, is being retracted as part of an organized effort to suppress the American Psychological Association’s history regarding interrogation. This is not true. Sage Publishing, which publishes the journal Teaching of Psychology, informs us it has no plans to retract the article. And APA has not asked for such a retraction.

The second false premise is the central thesis, that APA is not healing after the release of the Hoffman report two years ago. Since the release of the independent review in July 2015, APA has acknowledged organizational failures and undertaken — at the behest of our Board of Directors and Council of Representatives — a series of 19 actions aimed at rebuilding members’ and the public’s trust in our association. 

These include:

  • Appointing a Commission on Ethics Processes to evaluate and make recommendations regarding the association’s ethics policies and practices. The commission delivered its final report to the Council of Representatives earlier this month.
  • Adopting a Council resolution in 2015 to amend the 2006 and 2013 Council resolutions by redefining “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” to be consistent with the U.N. Convention Against Torture — as is the association’s longstanding definition of torture — and to prohibit psychologist participation in national security interrogations, among other key provisions. 
  • Amending the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct to underscore explicitly that psychologists are prohibited from being involved directly or indirectly in torture or in other cruel, inhuman or degrading behavior.
  • Appointing a Conflict of Interest Work Group to propose processes to ensure that all members of APA governance, including boards and committees, understand what constitutes a conflict of interest (both financial and non-financial) and when and how to reveal any such conflicts and recuse themselves from APA activities.
  • Appointing an Advisory Committee on Human Rights to provide strategic advice to the association in its promotion and protection of human rights.
  • Establishing a work group to review APA’s organizational policies and procedures and make recommendations aimed at implementing best practices. The work group’s report was presented to the Council in August.

As the association marks its 125th anniversary this year with many achievements to celebrate, the independent review documents a painful time in our association’s history but one from which we continue to learn. However, given that its findings continue to be the subject of debate by various individuals, it is critical that they be presented fully and accurately, and that the steps we have taken are presented in the same light. APA is committed to continuing to address the underlying issues and concerns raised by the independent review to ensure that this history will not be repeated.

By Antonio E. Puente, PhD
President, American Psychological Association