Letters

How psychologists change

Last month's article on how clinicians change was interesting and inspiring. Hopefully, my "transitional tale" will be helpful and inspiring to my colleagues. Several years ago, with the growth of managed care and the onset of middle age, I realized that I needed to make some shifts in my life. I did a fair amount of soul searching, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy so that I could discover what I needed to add to my life.

I had been in private practice for some time, but I wanted to integrate some of my other passions into my career. Once I accepted the idea that I didn't have to be just a therapist, I made the following changes in my life:

  • I have always loved sports, and I have developed an expertise in counseling athletes and added this specialty to my practice.

  • I have always loved writing, and I now write a weekly column for three newspapers. I write about psychology, sports, family, people and coping.

  • I bought my first stock at age seven and have always been fascinated with the equity markets. I passed three licensure exams, and I now trade stocks for a financial services firm.

I would encourage my colleagues to follow their passions, to be open to change, to reach out for help and to experiment so that they might enjoy an adventurous work life.

 

Jay P. Granat, PhD
Fort Lee, N.J. 

The PENS Task Force

I wish to affirm the APA PENS Task Force report regarding human rights and fully and unconditionally support APA policy in that regard, particularly as it relates to any psychologist who is a member of APA who shall not participate in any activity regarding the assessment of any prisoner of war or suspected person alleged to be a terrorist or any prisoner of any prison in Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere under our care or auspices, awaiting trial or incarcerated without cause. Nor shall any psychologist in particular affiliated with Div. 19 (Society for Military Psychologists) be allowed to provide any professional services to gain information from alleged prisoners or captives unless such persons have first been informed of their captivity or imprisonment and charged with a crime.

 

William A. Fraenkel, PhD
Flemington, N.J.

 In the President's column of the February Monitor, Gerald Koocher praises the report of the APA Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) and dismisses critics. As a task force member, I approved the PENS report as a preliminary guide to psychologists involved with interrogation of terrorist suspects, anticipating fulfillment of the appended recommendations. For practical guidance and for accountability to the APA membership though, I believe more is needed.

The PENS report largely addresses the psychologist as an independent decision-maker, slighting the power of situation. Practical guidelines require articulation of psychologists' roles in interrogation in national security settings. The guidelines should cover such situational factors as career pressure, command structure, deception of psychologists, plausible deniability, impunity under field conditions and substitutability of paraprofessionals for psychologists.

Regarding accountability, the task force mandate from APA's Council of Representatives excluded investigation of psychologists' participation in coercive interrogation, in spite of demands for investigation by APA divisions. The confidentiality rule on our proceedings rightly protected confidences of military members, I think, but wrongly obstructed APA debate. During our three-day meeting, the continuous presence of APA functionaries as important informational resources nevertheless implicitly supported APA authorities. Gerald Koocher, appointed by then-President Levant as a second liaison from the APA council to the PENS Task Force, has spoken as forcefully against task force dissidents as against critics of the PENS report. The report therefore should not be construed as the independent product of the task force members.

 

Jean Maria Arrigo, PhD
Irvine, Calif.

 In "Speaking against torture," Gerald Koocher continues a pattern of APA overreliance on the PENS Task Force report as a means of responding to and speaking against torture. Although the work of the task force made a positive contribution, it fell short of the mark in numerous respects. Most notably, it did not take a strong stand affirming the primacy of international human rights standards as the appropriate basis for a code of professional ethics. This failure is tantamount to complicity in the U.S. government's open defiance and idiosyncratic interpretations of international rights standards.

Equally important, the PENS Task Force report should have been one element in a comprehensive response in which APA made a strong, concerted, comprehensive, proactive public and internal response of the kind warranted by the severe human rights violations. No such response has been forthcoming from APA, which has failed at the highest levels to sound a ringing condemnation of psychologists' participation not only in torture but in all forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees, including psychological tactics such as sleep deprivation. The quiet, timid approach APA has taken on these issues is inappropriate to the situation, inconsistent with the association's mission and damaging to our profession.

In this respect, President Koocher's article continues APA's denial of its professional responsibility to speak out loudly not only against torture but a wide range of abusive psychological methods that trample international human rights standards.

 

 Michael Wessells, PhD
Randolph-Macon College

Editors' note: Drs. Arrigo and Wessells were members of the PENS Task Force.

RELATED ARTICLES