February 14, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The response in Quillette by 12 practicing and academic psychologists to the APA’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men breaks down into four primary areas of criticism. Briefly, the Guidelines are (a) not based in science, (b) based in ideology, (c) not therapeutic and (d) a violation of professional ethics and best practices.
So Stetson University psychology professor, Chris Ferguson was actually able to review the proposed Guidelines prior to their final draft. He pointed out that they lacked a basis in biology, but, for the most part, his objections went unheeded.
Specifically, the guidelines lack a broad scientific base, particularly an understanding of biological contributors to gender identity, tend to use terms such as “traditional masculinity” in ways that lack conceptual integrity and are often stereotyped…
Unfortunately, from my view the APA has a poor track record of biased and scientifically misleading policy statements including practice guidelines. Usually such statements exaggerate the consistency, quality, and policy applications of a field of study. The APA’s statement on violent video games, my own field, does not resemble the actual science, which has not provided good evidence for links with aggression.
“Does not resemble the actual science…” That’s about as damning a statement as it’s possible to make in this context, but others are equally so. B. Christopher Frueh offers this on the deviation of the Guidelines from science:
The APA’s latest manifesto is an embarrassment to the discipline of psychology. It is an abdication of scientific responsibility, denying biological and evolutionary realities in favor of a progressive fantasy pushed by “social justice” and “feminist” ideologies.
Not content with being anti-science, the 12 experts condemn the Guidelines as ideologically-driven. Psychologist Pamela Paresky says,
The guidelines’ basic premises are rooted in a set of ideological biases that are likely to impair psychologists’ objectivity, ability to respect the dignity and worth of certain clients, and make it difficult if not impossible to establish a therapeutic relationship based on trust.
Natalie Ritchie is still more outspoken on the matter.
For years, feminism has fought a passive war of attrition on masculinity, starving it of honor. With its 2018 guidelines, the inherently feminist APA has gone on the offensive. This assault is not as simple as misandrist pay-back by feminism for a history’s-load of oppression. It has its roots in the feminist need to be man-identical. When your idea of gender equality is a 50/50 breakdown of men and women in any given situation—that is, when you think that 100 percent of women should do what 100 percent of men do—masculinity poses a threat. Making men less like men (and more like women) becomes a backdoor route to making women more like men. Such gender denial is the new Aryanism; unscientific, unprofessional, immoral. Insisting that each gender is “wrong” and must be more like the other to be “right” cripples both, and shrivels the human footprint to only what the genders have in common.
Psychiatrist Sally Satel emphasizes the role the Guidelines would play in defeating the therapeutic goal, i.e. the emotional help for and self-actualization of individuals. By considering men and boys to be a group with certain common traits that form the basis of an individual patient’s emotional turmoil, the Guidelines tend to thwart any effort by a therapist to see a patient as unique.
The APA guidelines risk subverting the therapeutic enterprise altogether because they emphasize group identity over the individuality of the patient.
Psychotherapy is the ultimate personalized medicine. The meanings patients assign to events are a thoroughly unique product of their histories, anxieties, desires, frustrations, losses, and traumatic experiences.
“Gender-sensitive” psychological practice, as the APA calls it, is questionable because it encourages clinicians to assume, before a patient even walks in the door, that gender is a cause or a major determinant of the patient’s troubles…
So when the APA encourages practitioners to engage in vaguely defined activities—“address issues of privilege and power related to sexism” or “help boys and men, and those who have contact with them become aware of how masculinity is defined in the context of their life circumstances”—it seems more focused on a political agenda than on the patient.
How could it not?
Finally, Paresky points out that the Guidelines violate several ethical precepts promulgated by the APA itself.
The APA’s code of professional ethics requires that psychologists respect clients’ “dignity and worth” and their “rights to self-determination.” It urges them to “take precautions” about “potential biases,” to refrain from taking on a clinical role when “other interests” could impair their objectivity, and reminds psychologists that they must “establish relationships of trust” with clients. The new guidelines violate these ethical standards. The guidelines’ basic premises are rooted in a set of ideological biases that are likely to impair psychologists’ objectivity, ability to respect the dignity and worth of certain clients, and make it difficult if not impossible to establish a therapeutic relationship based on trust.
Yes, the APA has now embraced a set of Guidelines for treating men and boys that violates the ethical principles of the APA. That’s quite a feat. As Paresky points out, any therapist applying the Guidelines would see his/her patient, not as a person, but as a member of a group.
Changing men starts with the premise that there is something wrong with men. If these guidelines are followed, how will men who see themselves as “traditionally masculine” trust that their sessions will be used for their own goals of psychotherapy rather than to address their masculinity?
There is of course much more to the Quillette piece. Everyone who cares about the well-being of men and boys should read it and avoid like the plague, any psychotherapist who follows them. The Guidelines are not about helping men and boys, but about altering masculinity to fit the frankly loony notions of radical feminism that has never made a secret of its fear and loathing of men. These are the people who are now going to help us? Please.
Thanks to Quillette for a fine, informative and necessary forum on the Guidelines.