American Psychoanalytic Association: Psychoanalysts should offer insight on public affairs; exercise caution on public figures

The American Psychoanalytic Association issued a statement Tuesday clarifying its position on the so-called "Goldwater Rule," which prohibits mental health professionals from commenting on the psychiatric condition of prominent figures, after STAT reported the association was lifting the rule.

APsaA sought to clarify it "did not encourage members to defy the 'Goldwater Rule,' which is an ethics code of a different mental health organization, the American Psychiatric Association," it wrote in a statement. In a supplementary position paper, APsaA wrote, "The American Psychoanalytic Association takes the position that psychoanalysts should offer relevant psychoanalytic insights to aid the public in understanding a wide range of phenomena in politics, the arts, popular culture, history, economics, and other aspects of human affairs … However, the American Psychoanalytic Association expects psychoanalysts to exercise extreme caution when making statements to the media about public figures. Respect for the limits of psychoanalytic inference about individuals one does not know and has not interviewed in-depth."

APsaA cautioned its members against "wild analysis," libel, thinly veiled interpretations and definitive diagnoses of public figures, but noted it is committed to free speech.

By contrast, the American Psychiatric Association adopted the Goldwater Rule in 1973 following public comments by some psychiatrists regarding the mental condition of Sen. Barry Goldwater while he was running for president in 1964. The American Psychiatric Association stood by this rule throughout the 2016 election and reaffirmed this position in March, according to the STAT report.

However, it has never penalized its members for violating the rule, according to STAT. The rule has garnered increased criticism during the Trump administration as professionals seek to explain the behavior of President Donald Trump, according to the report.

Read the full STAT story here.


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