Why Ken Pope Resigned From APA

Last month, Kenneth Pope, ethical maven, resigned from the American Psychological Association (APA). He resigned over concern regarding APAs torture policy. His Ethics in Therapy and Counseling (3rd edition) was published March 9.

The resignation is particularly notable as he has been a very active member of that organization, known as an expert on ethics, and is resigning over ethical concerns.

The excerpt includes an interesting comparison between the ethical rules regarding the treatment of animals and contrasts them to rules (or lack thereof) pertaining to detainees subject to interrogation:

I would like to note two examples of disagreement. First, the years since 9-11 brought concern over psychologists’ work that affects detainees. APA has stressed psychologists’ “vital role” regarding “the use of ethical interrogations to safeguard the welfare of detainees” and ways that psychologists “help advance the cause of detainee welfare and humane treatment.” Yet in its ethics code, APA chose not to recognize any humane treatment requirements governing psychologists’ work with detainees as enforceable standards.

Historically, when concerns arose about the impact of psychologists’ behavior on groups at risk, APA moved decisively to create specific requirements and limitations in the ethics code’s enforceable standards. These groups included persons “for whom testing is mandated by law or governmental regulations,” “persons with a questionable capacity to consent,” research participants, “subordinates,” clients, students, supervisees, and employees. Facing concerns about the impact of psychologists’ behavior on research animals, for example, APA created an enforceable standard supporting the “humane treatment” of laboratory animals. But for detainees, APA chose not to adopt any enforceable standards in the ethics code mandating humane treatment.

The code’s numbered ethical standards “set forth enforceable rules of conduct.” The code emphasizes that although other code sections should be given consideration, even the code’s “Preamble and General Principles are not themselves enforceable rules…” APA’s decision to adopt an enforceable standard regarding “humane treatment” of animals but not to adopt an enforceable standard regarding “humane treatment” of detainees turns APA away from its ethical foundation, historic traditions, and basic values that should endure even in the midst of post-9-11 risks and realities.

The entire letter can be read here.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.


Published by


Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

2 thoughts on “Why Ken Pope Resigned From APA”

  1. Hi Kalea–
    I just wanted to get back to you and thank you again for linking me to Ken Pope. He was very receptive to the issue about the student, and he responded right away. Although he was not able to get personally involved, he referred me to a psychologist named Martin Williams, who is an APA Fellow. Dr. Williams is now in touch with the student. Hopefully he will be able to assist her. I very much appreciate you helping us to get all that put together. You know what they saw, the journey of a thousand emails starts with a single blog reply–or something like that!! With gratitude, Harvey Canter Ph.D.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s