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PSYCHOANALYSTS CONDEMN USE OF TORTURE

For Immediate Release
April 28, 2009

For more information, contact:
Dottie Jeffries, 212-752-0450, ext. 29;

The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), as well as many other major mental health organizations, has gone on record opposing torture in any form. A position statement of APsaA, issued June 21, 2007 reads:

"The American Psychoanalytic Association joins with other mental health and medical professional organizations in strongly condemning the use of torture.As an organization of psychoanalysts who have devoted their lives to helping people undo the effects of trauma in their lives, APsaA strongly protests all torture, including any governmentally administered and governmentally approved torture of people who are detained. Torture degrades those tortured and those torturing. The effects of that physical and moral degradation, we know, are transmitted to the families and offspring of both victims and perpetrators.           APsaA also strongly condemns the participation or oversight by any mental health or medical personnel in any and all aspects of torture. Such actions are contrary to the basic ethical principles fundamental to the helping professions."

The American Psychoanalytic Association has viewed with concern recent articles reporting the participation of mental health professionals in extreme interrogations that many regard as including torture. “Psychologists Helped Guide Interrogations: Extent of Health Professionals’ Role at CIA Prisons Draws Fresh Outrage From Ethicists”, The Washington Post (April 18, 2009). APsaA members are further concerned that some of these interrogation techniques were used as many as 183 times on one individual and 83 times on another as reported in  “Planner of 9/11 Attacks Waterboarded 183 Times-NYT" (Reuters, April 19, 2009).

In light of these reports, the American Psychoanalytic Association wishes to reiterate its position on torture which is that “APsaA strongly protests all torture, including any governmentally administered and governmentally approved torture of people who are detained.”

Furthermore, “APsaA also strongly condemns the participation or oversight by any mental health or medical personnel in any and all aspects of torture. Such actions are contrary to the basic ethical principles fundamental to the helping professions.” Ethical psychoanalysts devote their lives to helping people undo the effects of trauma in their lives.  Participation in such interrogation activities is contrary to the mission of psychoanalysis. 

Prudence L. Gourguechon, M.D., President of the American Psychoanalytic Association, has commented:

"The arguments attributed to an "expert" psychologist in the recently released Department of Justice memoranda betray numerous distortions and inaccuracies and either deliberate or inadvertent misunderstandings of the human psyche.  Psychoanalysts and other mental health practitioners know that in fact exposure to experiences that threaten death, as well as isolation, disorientation, helplessness, prolonged fear and sensory deprivation do in fact lead to prolonged and long term mental harm. We also know, as does anyone possessing common sense, that the intention of a person inflicting a technique on someone does not determine the effect on the recipient. In states of duress and extreme stress human beings will say and do nearly anything--therefore the very product desired, critical intelligence, is likely to be destroyed by the methods used when torture is involved."