Resolution for the AGPA on Torture

“As members of the Mental Health Community, group psychotherapists are obliged to provide competent service with compassion and respect for human dignity and the worth of each individual with whom they come in contact in their professional roles. “Do no harm” is a prime value that is affirmed by the oath taken by many in the clinical services.

“It has long-since been recognized that state-sponsored torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading methods have been practiced by many nations around the world, and that psychological knowledge and techniques have been used to design and carry out torture. These practices are inhuman and flout the rule of international law as laid out by the Geneva Convention, of which the USA is a signatory. It has been well-documented that torture victims often suffer from multiple, long-term psychological and physical problems. Therefore, to participate in any form of torture violates the basic tenets of ethical clinical practice.

“The American Group Psychotherapy Association, not only condemns the use of physical and psychological torture, but also states that:

“1. Mental Health Professionals owe their primary obligation to the well-being of those under their clinical care, including advocating for them, even when they are held in custody by military or civilian investigative or law enforcement authorities, whether in the United States or elsewhere.

“2. Mental Health Professionals should not directly or indirectly participate in the interrogation of persons held in custody by military or civilian investigative or law enforcement authorities, whether in the United States or elsewhere. Direct and indirect participation includes being present in the interrogation room, asking or suggesting questions, or advising authorities on the use of specific techniques of interrogation with particular detainees. (“Interrogation,” in this document, refers to the deliberate attempt to elicit information from a detainee for the purposes of incriminating the detainee, identifying other persons who have committed or may be planning to commit acts of violence or other crimes, or otherwise obtaining information that is alleged to be of value for criminal justice or national security purposes.)

“3. Mental Health Professionals should not participate or assist in any way, whether directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in the interrogation of those under their clinical care or whom they have interviewed in their professional role on behalf of military or civilian agencies or law enforcement authorities.

“4. Mental Health Professionals should not disclose any part of the clinical records of anyone with whom they come in contact in their professional role, nor should they disclose information derived from a treatment relationship, to persons conducting interrogation of detainees.

“5. Whenever a Mental Health Professional becomes aware of acts of torture, abuse, or cruel or inhumane treatment of anyone who is or has been detained or imprisoned by any military or civilian investigative or law enforcement personnel, that Mental Health Professional has an ethical obligation to ensure that such activities are reported to the appropriate authorities.

“These principles are applicable regardless of any other conditions that may prevail. There are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether there be a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency that may be invoked as an alleged justification for abrogation of these tenets.

“This resolution is not meant to limit clinicians who become aware that a detainee may pose a significant threat of harm to him/herself or to others from ascertaining the nature and the seriousness of the threat or from notifying appropriate authorities of that threat, consistent with the obligations applicable to other treatment relationships. Nor is this resolution meant to preclude Mental Health Professionals from providing training to military or civilian investigative or law enforcement personnel on recognizing and responding to persons with mental illnesses, on the possible adverse psychological effects of particular techniques and conditions of interrogation, and on other areas within their professional expertise.”

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