In 2007, the APA Ethics Committee fulfilled its adjudicative function and continued to develop its educative and consultative programs. The Ethics Committee also responded to Association needs to support special projects.
The chair of the 2007 Ethics Committee was Robin M. Deutsch, PhD. Members included W. Brad Johnson, PhD, vice chair; Norman Abeles, PhD; Jeffrey E. Barnett, PsyD; Connie S. Chan, PhD; Sue C. Jacobs, PhD; Walter M. Robinson, MD (public member); and Diane S. Salter, PhD, JD. Associates were Cyndie M. Buckson, PsyD; Melanie M. Domenech Rodriguez, PhD; Lynda D. Field, PhD; and C. Gerald O’Brien, PhD. Field and O’Brien completed their terms as associates in March 2007. The liaison from the Board of Directors was Douglas C. Haldeman, PhD.
Educative Outreach at Convention
Convention provides an important forum for the Ethics Committee’s educational activities. The Ethics Committee’s activities at the 2007 convention included development and support of a special program, funded by discretionary funds from the Board of Directors, titled “Ethics and Interrogations: Confronting the Challenge.” The program was another step in APA’s continuing examination of this issue, and provided a context for the Council of Representatives to adopt a resolution reaffirming APA’s position against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The program consisted of nine, two-hour sessions and offered 44 speakers with a wide range of perspectives.
The Ethics Committee’s convention program included a two-hour continuing education workshop titled “Top Questions Posed to the Ethics Office” and a joint two-hour continuing education program with the Committee on Legal Issues titled “Ethical and Legal Considerations When Responding to Suicidal College Students.” In addition, together with the Ethics Office, the Ethics Committee held an invitation-only meeting that included executive directors of state licensing boards, ethics committee members, and Board of Directors standing hearing panel members. The invitation-only meeting focused on identifying resources available to psychologists and psychological associations when disasters strike.
Division 39 led a special session titled “Psychologists Working in a State of Moral Compromise–A Conversation with Steve Behnke.” Individuals from the Ethics Committee and/or the Ethics Office also participated in the following panel discussions and programs: “Psychology Regulation–Getting It Right With Ethics, Licensing, Laws”; “Ethical and Interdisciplinary Issues in Medical and Rehabilitation Populations”; “Continuing Education Workshop: Ethics and Law for the Practicing Psychologist”; “Katrina’s Aftermath–Mississippi and Louisiana Psychologists Share Personal and Professional Experiences”; “Strategies for Effective, Efficient, and Engaging Continuing Education in Ethics”; and “From Adjudication to Education–Emerging Roles for Psychological Association Ethics Committees.”
Convention is the occasion when the Ethics Committee, in collaboration with the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS), awards a $1000 prize for a student paper on ethics. The student, whose trip to convention and hotel expenses are part of the award, presents the winning paper for comment and discussion. This year’s winning paper, “MySpace or Yours? The Ethical Dilemma of Graduate Students’ Personal Lives on the Internet” was written by Keren Lehavot, a clinical psychology graduate student at the University of Washington. Gerald Koocher, PhD, has provided essential support for the award by publishing top student papers in the journal Ethics and Behavior.
Education and Consultation
The Ethics Committee provides support and ideas for “Ethics Rounds,” a column in the APA Monitor on Psychology written by the Ethics Office Director. The column focuses primarily, although not exclusively, on ethical issues of concern to practicing psychologists.
The Ethics Committee continues active outreach to psychology boards and to the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). In 2007, cumulative efforts led to the first meeting of a joint APA/ASPPB Task Force on Licensing Board and Ethics Committee Training. Called together by 2007 APA President Sharon Stephens Brehm, PhD, the members of the task force included (from APA) Linda F. Campbell, PhD; Lisa Grossman, JD, PhD; and Brian H. Stagner, PhD; (from ASPPB) Kenneth G. Roy, EdD [substituting at the initial meeting for Alex M. Siegel, JD, PhD]; Jack B. Schaffer, PhD; and Martha N. Storie. Stephen H. Behnke, JD, PhD, Ethics Office Director, and Stephen T. Demers, EdD, ASPPB Executive Officer, staffed the meeting. The group’s initial meeting focused on identifying issues of mutual interest and concern to licensing boards and ethics committees. In addition, the task force planned two additional meetings in 2008 to develop training materials for future members of licensing boards and ethics committees. Due to fortuitous timing, these meetings can be achieved within the projected 2008 Ethics Office budget.
With Division 31 (State, Provincial, and Territorial Psychological Association Affairs), the Ethics Committee is collaborating in a survey of psychological association ethics programs to explore how the APA Ethics Office can be a greater resource for the associations. Preliminary results of this survey were presented at the 115th annual convention in San Francisco by Division 31 leaders who are directing the survey project. Additionally, in 2007 the Ethics Office provided a grant in the sum of $12,500 to Division 31 in order to promote ethics education among the state, provincial and territorial psychological associations.
As part of the Ethics Committee’s expanded educative efforts, the Ethics Office has developed a vibrant program of ethics presentations. The Ethics Office gives priority to requests from state, provincial, and territorial psychological associations. Association-related programs offer continuing education credit in ethics or in ethics and law, and raise funds for the associations. In 2007, the Ethics Office collaborated with state associations or their divisions or affiliates to offer 20 continuing education programs to 19 state associations, out of a total of over 50 ethics talks and workshops given throughout the United States and including the Virgin Islands.
Throughout 2007, the Ethics Office continued to provide staff support for APA’s activities in follow up to the Report of the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) and subsequent actions by Council regarding interrogation and/or torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. The PENS Task Force Report and other documents related to APA’s positions in this area can be found on the Ethics Office page of the APA website at http://www.apa.org/ethics. Of special note are a series of letters written to government officials as follow-up to Council’s 2007 resolution in which APA communicates its absolute prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Ethics Committee, pursuant to Council’s direction, is currently engaged in writing a commentary/casebook on the PENS report. The Committee hopes to have a near final draft of the casebook and commentary prepared for Council’s review at the 2008 Convention in Boston.
Additionally, the Ethics Office participated in a day-long meeting organized by the JED Foundation and hosted by APA to explore clinical, legal, and ethical aspects of responding to student behavior that may involve impairment and/or present risk of harm in college and university contexts.
The Ethics Committee held two meetings in 2007, reviewed 7 cases, 3 membership-related actions, 8 case-related confidential agenda items, 8 non-case-related confidential agenda items, and 47 nonconfidential agenda items. No Independent Adjudications took place in 2007. Since the revision of the Rules and Procedures of the Ethics Committee (APA, 2002) and as of November 1, 2007, a total of 63 psychologists have resigned under ethics investigation, and a total of 11 psychologists have been automatically expelled. Statistics regarding all stages of complaint processing in 2007 will be available in the American Psychologist article "Report of the Ethics Committee, 2007," currently projected for publication in the July/August 2008 issue.
Ethics Office Staff
At the end of 2007, staff in the Ethics Office were Stephen H. Behnke, JD, PhD, director; Lindsay Childress-Beatty, JD, PhD, deputy director; Rhea Jacobson, office manager; Patricia Dixon, board and investigative officer; Stephanie Brasfield, JD, ethics investigative officer; Jennifer Royster, ethics coordinator; and Emily Laumeier, governance coordinator. Dr. Childress-Beatty joined the Ethics Office in June after working in APA’s Office of the General Counsel.
Report on Diversity Training and Representation
At its July 2004 meeting, the Council of Representatives approved a motion that governance groups should include within their annual reports a report on diversity training and representation within the group. The Ethics Committee’s member and associate demographics as of December, 2007: 2 Caucasian Females, 2 African-American females, 1 Asian-American female, 1 Latina female, and 4 Caucasian males. The age range for committee members is from early 40’s to late 70’s.
Robin M. Deutsch, Ph.D., Chair