Is the APA Blocking the Most Effective Treatments for PTSD?

by David Feinstein, PhD.
In the wake of enormous controversy about its role in the participation of psychologists in the use of torture to extract information from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in other parts of the world, a new round of criticism has been directed toward the American Psychological Association (APA). Growing numbers of highly regarded mental health professionals are expressing concern that the APA is actively blocking therapists from learning techniques that have been shown to be highly effective in helping people who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions. The APA’s 11-year policy, which bans psychologists from receiving continuing education credit for studying the approach, known as “Energy Psychology,” was recently re-affirmed after being challenged by the international Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP). ACEP is comprised of 850 practitioners and researchers who are adapting techniques from time-tested healing disciplines such as acupuncture and yoga to assist with a wide range of psychological issues.

According to Pennsylvania psychologist, Carole Stern, ACEP’s President-elect, “As disheartening as it has been for us as psychologists to realize that our professional organization did not take immediate and decisive ethical steps with members who participated in the government’s use of torture, the harm being done by the APA’s position here is actually much more far-reaching. Some 5 million people in the United States suffer with PTSD, including more than 300,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. PTSD is a debilitating and agonizing affliction, and the early evidence is showing Energy Psychology to be much quicker and more effective than existing treatments. To block therapists from learning it is unconscionable. ”

ACEP has been actively attempting to get the APA to lift its ban for more than a decade. Because emerging research on Energy Psychology supports ACEP’s position, the controversy has been gaining increasing attention. Studies using the method with individuals suffering from PTSD have shown striking outcomes. As a result, the method is finding its way into conventional health care settings and receiving growing popular attention. More than a million people have obtained a guide book for using Energy Psychology on a self-help basis, and clinical trials are being conducted by Kaiser Permanente, Walter Reed, and Britain’s National Health Service.

ACEP’s current President, Gregory J. Nicosia, a psychologist and an APA member since 1977, notes: “The APA’s criteria for appropriate CE content are clear and straightforward. By any reasonable reading of our applications or of our 80-page appeal brief, we have met these criteria many times over. In blocking the dissemination of this approach, the APA is following a different agenda than its own rules. I have no idea what that agenda might be, but the bottom line is that it is hampering one of the most important clinical interventions for treating trauma that has appeared in recent years from reaching those who are in desperate need and could benefit from it most.”

Clinical psychologists are increasingly speaking out about being actively blocked by their own professional organization from learning or promoting the approach. In a recent interview, California psychologist and ethics expert David Gruder stated: “The [APA] should be shouting from the rooftops about this new clinical development. Instead it has persisted for over a decade in putting up roadblocks.” Read the entire interview with Dr. Gruder athttp://www.energyme d.org/pr1. htm

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