The American Psychoanalytic Association has released a memorandum to its members arguing they should no longer feel bound by a long-standing ethical rule that prohibited experts in the field from commenting on an individual’s mental health unless they had conducted a direct examination of that person.
“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 APA expects psychoanalysts to exercise extreme caution when making statements to the media about public figures,” said the statement released to the APA’s nearly 3,500 members by the organization’s executive committee.
The basis for the new guidelines was a “belief in the value of psychoanalytic knowledge in explaining human behavior,” according to psychoanalytic association past president Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, a psychiatrist in Chicago. “We don’t want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly.”
That responsibility is, according to Gourguechon, more important than ever “since Trump’s behavior is so different from anything we’ve seen before.”
As many “have been stumbling around trying to explain Trump’s unusual behavior,” the Goldwater rule robs the public “of our professional judgment and prevents us from communicating our understanding” of the president’s mental state, according to Dr. Leonard Glass, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School.
The new guidelines enacted by the America Psychoanalytic Association directly violate the Goldwater rule, which states that it is unethical for a mental health practitioner to offer a professional opinion about an individual’s mental health, including the presence or absence of a disorder, without that person’s consent and without performing a direct examination.
The Goldwater rule was enacted by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 in response to an article published by Fact magazine during the 1964 presidential election in which a panel of over 1000 psychiatrists declared the Republican candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, “warped,” “impulsive,” and a “paranoid schizophrenic.”
Goldwater later successfully sued the magazine editor for libel.
So adamant in his desire to publicly comment on President Trump’s mental health without having ever performed an examination of the president, Glass resigned from the American Psychiatric Association after having been a member for 41 years.
The Goldwater rule has been disregarded repeatedly in regards to President Trump.
Nearly 58,000 mental health practitioners signed an online petition claiming they “believe in our professional judgment that Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States,” demanding he be “removed from office, according to article 4 of the 25th amendment to the Constitution.”
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