APA and The Hoffman

APA and The Hoffman Report
John Caccavale, Ph.D.

The Hoffman Report that was commissioned by APA has been released. While APA's involvement in aiding the torture of prisoners held by the military is not new, the report is striking in so many ways. What is most striking is that the overwhelming reason that these rogue psychologists and APA bureaucrats engaged in such dishonest and unethical conduct had nothing to do with politics. Clearly, one can take the position that psychologists helping the country fight against terrorism was a necessary endeavor irrespective of its appropriateness to our profession and overall legality. APA, however, took and held no such position. Patriotic motivation never was mentioned or was a consideration. Their motives for subverting our ethical code along with domestic and international laws was solely based upon selfish and narcissistic reasons. They simply wanted to ensure the continued cozy relationship between APA and the military. Nothing else really mattered. APA administrators either condoned this unethical and illegal conduct or looked the other way. Moreover, all participants were aware that what they were doing was wrong. The discussions were centered around how to do it without being caught.

For many years NAPPP and others have asked why and how does APA manage to maintain a monopoly among government agencies. Now we know. APA insiders have historically manipulated association processes so that they could claim they were representing the interests of its membership and advancing the profession of psychology. This is the same credo that every criminal organization uses to advance its interests. The ease and manner that the Council of Representatives was manipulated demands real justification to keep this level of useless bureaucracy. As psychologists we have a responsibility to act above such petty motives. What people think of psychologists and psychology, as a whole, affects the way consumers and patients think about us as individuals. We have all now been tarnished by a group of self-serving rogue psychologists and staff bureaucrats and there is no real nice way of saying this.

Hoffman makes the point that APA directed him not to make any recommendations in his formal report. Their rationale is understandable. They still need to have control over a very losing and damaging situation. Moreover, along with the past attempts to cover up their illicit involvement, they would like to avoid having to replace their entire administration. CEO Norm Anderson, legal counsel Natalie Gilfoyle and some others need to resign or be fired. The next APA leadership must remove all the offending parties from the membership roles. Complaints to the appropriate state licensing boards should be made directly by APA officials. Many of these psychologists have received awards and these should be rescinded. Past Practice Director, Russ Newman received a sizeable pay package when he resigned from APA a few years ago. The new leadership should take steps to recover those funds. Those who were APA presidents, notably Ron Levant and Gerry Koocher should have statements attached to their names detailing their involvement in this fiasco and notifying readers that they have been expelled from the APA due to their unethical and illegal conduct. I think that these small acts represent only the beginning. I believe that it is appropriate to inquire about potential criminal activity by these individuals. NAPPP, from our very beginnings established a short but direct policy regarding do no harm. We do not and have never believed that developing and advocating a do no harm policy is difficult. For a reminder, our policy is printed below.

"Professional Psychology and its practice is a healthcare endeavor. As healthcare providers, the services that we offer are measured against this standard. As professional psychologists we provide services that help people and do not engage in activities that are harmful and not for the good of our patients, their health, or our profession."

Over the years we have frequently commented on this issue and APA's selective enforcement and application of its ethics code. We have also frequently noted that APA has a long history of deception. We all remember the so-called "mandatory" fee that was slapped on practitioners that really was voluntary. We have seen APA take membership money from practitioners who were duly licensed but not graduated from an "APA Approved Program" while APA ensured that they could not be employed in a governmental agency such as the VA. How can one be deemed competent to be a member of an organization but incompetent to be employed when the same educational, training and licensing requirements must be met for membership in APA? What is clear is that APA needs to radically change its direction and focus. Nothing less than radical change will do to reestablish trust among psychologists and the public. As individual psychologists we can force this issue by not joining or rejoining APA until they clean house and refocus their attention on professional psychology. Supporting APA with your membership will only reinforce the next episode in the further decline of our profession. 

The complete Hoffman report is available for reading and downloading The Hoffman Report.