Dignity, Poise, and Restraint: One Response to Hoffman

By Terence M. Keane, Ph.D.

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Terry

Choosing to be a clinical psychologist was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve enjoyed immensely the opportunities for patient care, program development, teaching, supervising, and science. What a great profession clinical psychology is.

The revelations of the past week do nothing to change my feelings about the career path I chose as a twenty year old. Yet, I am disappointed, discouraged, even distraught by the allegations in the Hoffman report. We all are. I’ve experienced sleeplessness and shame; I’m not comfortable with this.

There are many ways that we can respond as individuals and as groups. Everyone must choose the optimal way for themselves. The institutional betrayal we are feeling is real and the depths of it profound. We do need to move forward and apply our collective creativity and talents to remediate the problems and change the APA in ways that work for us all. We need to lead our way out of this morass with dignity, poise, and restraint. To regain our footing we need to listen; listen to our membership, to our students, to the public, and to our patients, clients, and other stakeholders. Psychology is a great profession, even if we are reeling from the revelations contained in Hoffman. We now need to decide what to do next. While some discuss leaving the APA, I am committed to redoubling efforts to restore confidence in our people, our work, our profession, and our organization. Please join me in this effort.

For some, the governance of APA is understandably confusing. The Society of Clinical Psychology (SCP) functions in many ways autonomously. Decisions regarding policy and procedures are made by the full SCP Board and implemented by the Executive Committee of the Board. We have our own leadership (a Presidential Triad), independent of APA, our own budget, our own terrific new administrator (Tara Craighead, if you haven’t met her yet!), a separate Board of Directors that includes representatives from all of our sections, our own journal (Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice), our own newsletter (The Clinical Psychologist), and an amazing, recently updated website. We also have four representatives to the Council of Representatives of APA who advise the SCP Board and who take advice from the SCP Board. We possess our own Committee structure with groups that are doing remarkably good things. We held a Graduate Student Summit at Boston University last October with over 125 students from virtually every clinical psychology graduate school in New England. Plans are underway for another professional meeting focusing on early career psychologists with training in leadership skills. Our educational webinars are ongoing for more than a year and attracting ever greater numbers of psychologists to participate. Moreover, our conference committee did a spectacular job recruiting premier clinical psychologists to lecture on cutting edge findings in the Toronto meetings in August. David Tolin and Evan Forman are working apace to update our Empirically Supported Treatments list and to make them accessible for practitioners.

I must say, I’m very pleased to be a member of the SCP and its President this year. It’s not a good, it’s a great group. There are so many terrific things going on.

At yesterday’s Board meeting, called expressly to discuss the Hoffman Report, virtually all of our members participated. The group generated many ideas but wanted first and foremost to hear from the SCP membership. As a result, we are establishing a place on our website (www.div12.org/hoffman-response) for our members to present new directions, thoughts, ideas, or ways to address the faults in structure or function of the larger APA. We see this as a vehicle for all SCP members to respond thoughtfully and constructively to the crisis we are facing. Please take the opportunity to do so. Our goal is to solicit input from all members and to have this information to advise our Council Representatives who will be meeting at the Convention. Please do respond by August 1 so that the Representatives and the Board can integrate your ideas and recommendations.

Other actions we are considering in response to the Hoffman report are: a meeting for members at the annual conference in Toronto, a special section in CP:SP, a panel style webinar for members, and opportunities for us all to reaffirm our values as psychologists, and to strategize for ways to remediate the damage done.

When confronted with complex problems and issues in the past, I’ve found reflecting and then taking action among the best remedies for enhancing a sense of control and reducing helplessness. The Board encourages you to participate by giving us your feedback. We do welcome it.

You may ask why I included restraint in the title of my communication to you. As clinicians, we all wish that stress would bring us together to formulate effective strategies for change. We all know that stress can yield divisiveness and derision. I do ask our members to read all the Hoffman documents and draw your own conclusions about what did and didn’t happen, what allegations were confirmed and which ones refuted, and who was involved with what aspects of things. I’ve spent the past five days consuming the report in detail, speaking with key people across the country, communicating with APA staff and elected officials all in an effort to understand what happened. The one thing I can conclude for certain is that this represents a crisis for all psychologists and for the public. Exercising restraint in our dialogue about this, remaining humble about our own personal roles in this, and becoming centered on corrective action seems like the best course.

To reflect, I went back to our bylaws to review and reconsider our mission statement and I’ve included it here:

The mission of the Society of Clinical Psychology is to encourage and support the integration of psychological science and practice in education, research, application, advocacy and public policy, attending to the importance of diversity.

Today, I encourage SCP membership to reread our mission statement, reflect on its timelessness, and to take action to address the problems we are now facing. This mission statement is as appropriate today as it was when written. I do wish to encourage all of us to take time to discuss the issues that led to the crisis, approach problem solving with dignity for the entire community of clinical psychologists, and consider restraint in assigning blame. We do need to move forward with poise and confidence; we need everyone’s involvement, ideas, and support to succeed. The goal is to once again regain the trust of the patients and clients we serve, the public who rely upon us, and the psychologists who are a part of our greater community. Stay with us, contribute your thoughts, ideas, and actions to the betterment of our profession. The time is now to reinvigorate our organization. Remember, our Division the motto is: “SCP—You Belong”. In our professional lives, there’s never been a more important time to act. Please be a part of the solution!