2015 Annual ISEPP Conference — Newton, MA — October 9-11, 2015

5/28/2015        Featured 1 Comment


Understanding Trauma: Responding Beyond the Medical Model

October 9-11, 2015

Crowne Plaza (Boston/Newton) – Newton, MA


What would happen if the mental health system stopped asking, "What's wrong with you?" and instead asked, "What happened to you?"  This year's annual ISEPP conference will explore this question.  Our plenary speakers hail from the United States, Canada, and England and include psychiatric survivors, therapists, doctors, researchers, academics, activists, trainers, and advocates whose work is framed around trauma-informed understandings of and responses to the experiences that get called "mental illness”.  Workshops will also be offered.


Complete List of Plenary Speakers​

Meaghan Buisson 
Joanne Cacciatore, PhD
Cathy Cave
Chris Chapman, PhD
Barry Duncan​ , PsyD
Ann Jennings, PhD​
Brenda LeFrancois​, PhD​
Bruce Levine, PhD
Maria Liegghio, PhD
Bessel van der Kolk, MD​
Rachel Waddingham
David Walker, PhD


Plenary Bios

Bessel van der Kolk
Bessel van der Kolk, MD, is the medical director of The Trauma Center in Boston, MA for 30+ years. He’s a professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School and the co-director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Complex Trauma Network. He has published well over 150 peer reviewed scientific articles on various aspects of trauma and is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, "The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma".  London/New York Viking Penguin, 2014.


Bruce Levine

Bruce E. Levine, Ph.D., writes and speaks widely on how society, culture, politics and psychology intersect. His latest book is Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite (2011). Earlier books include Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic (2007) and Commonsense Rebellion (2001). A practicing clinical psychologist often at odds with the mainstream of his profession, he is a regular contributor to Salon, CounterPunch, AlterNet, Truthout, Z Magazine, and the Huffington Post, and his articles and interviews have been published in the New York Times,  Adbusters and numerous other magazines.  His Web site is


jcacciatoreJoanne Cacciatore Ph.D. researches all aspects of traumatic grief and death and mindfulness/meditation practices as an Associate Professor at Arizona State University, director of the Graduate Certificate in Trauma and Bereavement there, and the founder of the MISS Foundation, an international nonprofit organization with 75 chapters around the world aiding parents whose children have died or are dying.  In 1996, she also began a global movement of remembrance and compassion called the Kindness Project as a way to help many grieving parents honor their beloved children who have died.   She has published 50 studies in peer reviewed journals such as The Lancet, BJOG, Death Studies, Omega, Birth, Social Work, and Families in Society. She is also a medical consultant and trainer who has presented grand rounds and provided individual and agency consulting and training all around the world. She is the recipient of numerous volunteerism focused awards such as the Hon Kachina Award, the Sr Teresa Compassionate Care Award, the Empathic Therapist of the Year Award, Arizona Foothills Arizona Women Who Move the Valley Award, and the Parents of Murdered Children Father Ken Czillinger Award.   She is a Zen priest who has authored many book chapters and several books, such as The World of Bereavement and Selah: A guide toward fully inhabited grief, and she is writing another book for Wisdom Publication being released in 2016.



Meaghan Buisson BSc CPT is a 47-time Canadian National Champion, 11-time international medallist and current world record holder in the sport of inline speed skating. She graduated with distinction from Thompson Rivers University, majoring in Biological and Life Sciences with a directed studies specialization in evidence-based medicine. She was the founder and Executive Director of “BodyWhys Youth Canada”, an award-winning national charity focused on the prevention of eating disorders and self-harm in youth. Her professional expertise is coupled with lived experience. In January 2015, she was the first Canadian subject enrolled in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment-resistant PTSD. This study marked the first clinical psychedelic therapy trial in Canada in over 40 years.


Barry Duncan

Barry Duncan Psy.D. is a therapist, trainer, and researcher with over 17,000 hours of clinical experience, is Director of the Heart and Soul of Change Project (, CEO of Better Outcomes Now (, and the developer of the Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS;, a SAMHSA designated evidence based practice. Dr. Duncan has over one hundred publications, including 17 books addressing client feedback, consumer rights, and the power of relationship. His latest book, On Becoming a Better Therapist: Evidence Based Practice One Client at a Time (2nd ed., APA, 2014) describes PCOMS as a way to improve client outcomes, finally give clients the voice they deserve, and change the medical model discourse to a more relational perspective. Because of his self-help books (the latest is What’s Right With You), he has appeared on "Oprah," and other national TV programs. Barry travels nationally and internationally implementing PCOMS in small and large systems of behavioral health care.


Cathy CaveCathy Cave has 30 years working in human services invested in the movement to shift mental health, substance abuse, first responder, education and other systems’ services to become trauma-informed. In the mid 1990s She coordinated New York State’s Annual Mastering The Key Connections Conferences; presenting state-of-the-art clinical training for trauma treatment and collaborative models for engaging survivors in healing approaches and systems change. She has partnered with domestic violence, sexual assault, mental health and peer run advocacy organizations to incorporate trauma-informed approaches in service delivery, training and supervision. She served 7 years in the executive staff position as the Director for Cultural Competence at the New York State Office of Mental Health, addressing disparities elimination and inclusion of cultural considerations into services and supports. She is recognized for her work in the integration of cultural competence and trauma-informed approaches, has consulted with many national technical assistance centers and brings her experiences with survival, leadership and organizational development to all that she does.


Rachel Waddingham

Rachel (Rai) Waddingham hears voices, sees visions and has struggled with overwhelming realities and beliefs that - in her early twenties - led to her spending most of her time as an inpatient with diagnoses of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and BPD. Following years of feeling like a zombie, Rai found her sense of humanity within the community of a Hearing Voices Group. Alongside other voice-hearers, Rai began to make sense of her experiences and find creative ways of utilising them as breadcrumbs in her healing journey. No longer identifying with psychiatric labels, she now feels privileged to be working for human ways of supporting people in distress, both inside and out of the system.  Rai is a trustee of the English Hearing Voices Network and an executive committee member of the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis (ISPS). She is a proud member of Intervoice (the International Hearing Voices Network) and has launched initiatives supporting    children who hear voices, adults struggling with unusual beliefs and people in prison who hear voices. She is an international trainer, a Mad in America blogger and - essentially - a human being who feels lucky that she is alive and able to contribute to a thriving movement for change.


David Walker-1David Walker Ph.D. is a psychologist, musician, novelist, and freelance journalist. He seeks to expose the Western mental health movement’s complicity in American Indian cultural oppression and is currently preparing a multipart series on this topic for Indian Country Today Media. David has consulted with the Yakama Indian Nation since 2000 and traces his Missouri Cherokee heritage through his grandmothers Elizabeth Jane Albina Alexander and Elizabeth Gibson, who walked the Trail of Tears. His debut Native-themed novel, Tessa’s Dance, won an Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) in 2013, while its sequel, Signal Peak, won an IndieFab Book of the Year Award and was finalist in the 2014 Nancy Pearl Literary Awards.  He shared a 2006 Special Educational Needs Academic Book Award for his chapter in Critical New Perspectives on ADHD (Routledge) and has contributed to Ethical Human Psychology & Psychiatry, International Journal of Critical Psychology, and Journal of Clinical Psychology. He’s served on faculties at Washington School of Professional Psychology, Heritage University, Oakland University, and Wayne State University Medical School. A past board member of DreamCatchers, a volunteer music performance organization benefiting Native causes in the 1990s, he currently serves on the board of Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) in Seattle. David’s been a member of ISEPP since 2000 and is an advisory editor for Ethical Human Psychology & Psychiatry.


Ann 2011-2Ann Jennings Ph.D. has been involved for over 20 years in raising public awareness and influencing fundamental change in the way public health and mental health systems view and treat people with histories of unaddressed sexual and physical abuse trauma.  She initiated and for 8 years directed the first state system Office of Trauma Services in the country for Maine’s Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services.  Dr. Jennings consults nationally with SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) and NASMHPD (National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors), and with numerous state health and mental health systems across the country.  She is a keynote speaker and presenter at national and state conferences and has authored and co-authored several published articles and documents.  Dr. Jennings is also the founder and president of The Anna Institute, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to speaking truth about the effects of childhood trauma, promoting prevention and early intervention, and providing resources for professional, community, and survivor use.


Chris3-2 - Version 2Chris Chapman
is Assistant Professor of Social Work at York University, Canada. He worked in the helping professions for a decade. Chris is co-editor of Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the US and Canada (2014, Palgrave Macmillan) and co-author of the forthcoming Interlocking Oppression and The Birth of Social Work. His articles and chapters include Becoming Perpetrator: How I Came to Accept Restraining and Confining Disabled Aboriginal Children; Colonialism, Disability and Possible Lives: The Residential Treatment of Children whose Parents Survived Indian Residential Schools; Fostering a Personal-is-political Ethics: Reflexive Conversations in Social Work Education; and Cultivating a Troubled Consciousness: Compulsory Sound-mindedness and Complicity in Oppression.


Brenda - Version 2

Dr. Brenda LeFrançois is a full professor in the School of Social Work at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her areas of specialism include children’s agency and psychiatrization, the lived experience of sanism, and organizing alternatives to professional services. She has published many journal articles on these topics and is co-editor of three volumes, including (along with Canadian scholars and activists Robert Menzies and Geoffrey Reaume) the book Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies (2013, Canadian Scholars Press Inc).  Also, she was one of the founding editors of the journal Radical Psychology. Brenda has been an activist for over 20 years, and is currently working with community members to develop the Hearing Voices Network for Atlantic Canada.


Maria Liegghio

Maria Liegghio is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Her main areas of research are social work epistemology in child and youth mental health; the stigma of mental illness in child and youth mental health; critical social work education, theory, and practice; and collaborative, community-based and participatory action research.  She has extensive experience working as a child and family mental health therapist.   Her current work is focused on the experiences psychiatrized children and youth and their caregivers have of policing and police encounters.  



Special room rate $119 (until September 9th)
Reservations 1.617.969.3010  Group Code ISE

Register early and save - Mail in form here or register online here

A Teenager’s Thoughts of Tragedy

3/26/2015        ISEPP In Action 0 Comments

Thanks to Joanne Cacciatore for sending this story.  In March of 2013, a young, vibrant mother of three children (all under 18 years of age) was prescribed several psychiatric medications after she sought help for some personal difficulties around the failure of her business and several interpersonal relationships.  Within days of going on the medications, friends noticed she became akathesic. She was always agitated, began drinking during the day to cope with her agitation, and developed unusual bodily movements.  Within weeks after going on the medications, she shot and killed herself. She was a woman loved by her family, friends, and others.  This piece is written by a 17 year old girl who grew up with her and her children in a close neighborhood community.

Watching Over You, by your third daughter

Dedicated to a Beautiful Soul…C.A.

Personality change...a difference seen only by those who stand close to you.

The panic...anxiety...nightmares...only the beginning of a vast road winding in the direction of despair.

Withdrawal from us...from your family and friends...unlike you to walk away.

Why? It began. It continued. It came to an end. And through it all, nobody knew what you were seeing, what you were thinking, what you were planning.

We promise to fight for you. Our power as a whole will surpass the once invincible ring of governmental influence and will protect your reputation. They will not blame you and move on.

You will not go down as the being that chose to cease its own existence nor the unstable patient whom had it coming to you all along. You will be known for your strength, compassion, and unstoppable wanting for adventure.

The blame lies on the drugs. The blame lies on your psychiatrist--a deceitful man is drowning in your innocent blood and desperation has risen. You're gone and he is to blame. His drastic fault? The trusting of desperate patients whose hands hold few of the many murderous drugs made in Hell.

By your own hand, a single shot pierced your chest; another took your life. A note, prepared for reading after your departure, flutters to the floor and lies, waiting not for a seeker, but for an unlucky finder; and all because he chose not to watch over you. Your reaction was immense and now you are dead.

Yes--you take your own life, but only after you're already gone--the Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac, laid before you without worry, have already taken you. You don't eat. You don't sleep. You don't talk. You aren't you. You have become the drugs. With this, we will make it our goal to fight against this so-called medication--to fight against the careless people who assign this death-sentence. We will spread the warning. We have lost you; but we will lose no more. We will prevent existence from becoming nonexistent.

We love you C.A. I will always love you.

~Tatum M., 17 years of age, Arizona


March 26, 2015 by Monica Cassani.

Professional Denial is a Form of Retraumatization.

A psychologist recently felt scandalized by my post: “Psychiatry ignores trauma with Bessel van der Kolk” — she felt my comments in the text of that post were completely irresponsible. I essentially talked about the traumatizing nature of psychiatry and the mental health system. Go read the post to see. 


ISEPP Member Honored

2/12/2015        ISEPP In Action 0 Comments


Monica Cassani was selected for the Mary Karon Memorial Award for Humanitarian Concerns and Reaching Out to  Others. See Monica's site here for a great resource for those who have been harmed by psychiatric drugs.




Operation Speak Up

12/11/2014        ISEPP In Action 0 Comments

OSU Flyer 2

Operation Speak Up is an ISEPP effort to change our government’s policy regarding the treatment of service members and veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress. At present, the government’s first-line of treatment is the prescription of dangerous psychiatric drug cocktails that are ineffective at best and deadly at worst.  This harm includes the typical “side effects” that cause serious health problems, chemical insults to the brain and its functioning, and a dampening of important emotional signals that result in an “I don’t care” attitude among those taking these drugs.  This last problem can diminish concern for the consequences of one’s actions and increase the risk of impulsive and reckless behavior.  The government’s first-line treatment is driven by the idea that post-traumatic reactions are symptoms of the disease called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and therefore, must be medicated.  In reality though, there is nothing abnormal about such reactions to war.

Over the last few years we have witnessed a rash of news reports of unusually high suicide rates, sudden cardiac deaths, and acts of violence committed by those who have been prescribed these chemical cocktails.  ISEPP maintains that psychiatric drugs can significantly increase the risk of these terrible events.

ISEPP’s view of post-traumatic stress differs greatly from the prevailing view.  We assert that post-traumatic reactions are normal and expected responses to horrific and shocking experiences.  We urge the government to abandon their reliance on psychiatric drugs, and instead use various forms of exposure-based talk therapies, group therapy, and peer counseling, all of which show strong empirical evidence of effectiveness without the risks that drugs have.  These safer and more effective forms of treatment help integrate the traumatic memories, express the horrors, find meaning, and develop a sense of bonding with others who understand.  They also allow those so affected to address the broader moral questions about war and its use as a political tool.

The name “Operation Speak Up” was chosen to highlight not only our desire to speak up about this problem, but also to reflect our hope that PTSD survivors speak up about their experiences instead of being shut up by psychiatric drugs.



Mary Vieten, Ph.D., ABPP is the current Director of Operation Speak Up.



Melwood, a non-profit agency in the greater Washington, DC area, and dedicated to enriching the lives of people with disabilities, has asked Dr. Vieten to design a veterans retreat for the treatment of Operational Stress Injuries. The program will kick off this fall. This program features an unapologetic zero drug approach and “PTSD” education modules. These modules are designed to empower active duty members and veterans who have served in combat. The focus is on teaching them about the fallacies in mental health (e.g., our DSM labeling system and the problem of referring to traumatic reactions as “illnesses") and psychopharmacology claims, while front loading them with over 10 hours of education on various interventions that can actually effect change in their overall condition and time and opportunities to implement many of these interventions.


Dr. Vieten, Dr. Joe Tarantolo, and Dr. Toby Watson met with several congressional staffers in Washington, DC to discuss Operation Speak Up and the problems with the manner in which the Department of Defense and Veterans' Affairs are treating our military and veterans who have experienced war trauma.

They met with the Republican VA Subcommittee on Health, Democratic VA Staff Director, Democratic Staff Director for Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, the Legislative Counsel for Congressman Mike Coffman, the US Senate VA Committee, and lastly with Bill Chatfield, a well-connected Republican operative who is concerned about the over-medication of troops and veterans, and who has expressed a personal mission to rectify this problem.


 Drug Brochure
Informed Consent for Psychiatric Drugs Brochure:
This brochure was authored by Dr. Chuck Ruby, former Director of Operation Speak Up, when Dr. Mary Vieten, then deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, requested a hand out for troops who were questioning the recommendation that they take psychotropic medications or who were coming to mental health and requesting specific drugs because of the ads they had seen.  It was found to be useful and was very well received.  The brochure is not copyrighted, so please download it from the ISEPP webpage and use it in your own practice.

Dr. Mary Vieten, Ph.D., ABPP, Commander USN, has taken over from Dr. Ruby as the Director of Operation Speak Up. Dr. Vieten is a prolific speaker on Operational Stress Injuries and uses every invited address as a platform to discuss the issues with psychotropic drugs in general, and the medication of troops for responses that are within the realm of normal human experiences, specifically, PTSD.  The response to her unvarnished approach to this subject is overwhelmingly positive.  She is repeatedly thanked by audience members for being frank, honest, clear, and for “having the courage” to speak the truth.
Dr. Vieten believes in grass roots approaches to greater change.  To this end, she and her colleagues believe in educating and empowering one member or veteran at a time, providing them with the literature they need to defend their position and spread the word, providing them the DoD instructions that allow them to decline psychotropic medications or any unwanted medical intervention without negative consequences (DoD 6000.4), and obtaining fully informed consent they did not receive when the medications were prescribed and dispensed.  She is also frequently asked to speak on these topics to busy medical professionals, who are always grateful for the scientific information, alternatives, and instructions.

Dr. Ruby participated in the filming of a CNN story publicizing Operation Speak Up’s mission.  The story was scheduled to air for Veteran’s Day but was delayed.

ISEPP issued a statement commending President Obama’s 2012 executive order calling for improved treatment of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Dr. Ruby, Joe Tarantolo, M.D., and Dathan Paterno, Ph.D. visited congressional offices urging support of Senator Patty Murray’s (D-Washington) 2012 Mental Health ACCESS Act.  Senator Murray’s act focused on the scientific review of the literature to find safe and effective treatment for post-traumatic stress, and it emphasized talk therapy and peer counseling over psychiatric drug treatment.  Most of her provisions were eventually incorporated into the 2013 Defense Authorization Act.


A letter writing campaign was initiated to encourage Congress and the Departments of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs to implement the 2013 Defense Authorization Act’s provisions, and to include ISEPP as part of any team that reviews the scientific literature to identify safe and effective treatment of post-traumatic stress.



Chuck Ruby, Ph.D., Lieutenant Colonel (retired) has been named the Director of Operation Speak Up. Operation Speak Up is an outgrowth of earlier work by Al Galves, Ph.D. (former ISEPP Executive Director) to encouraged Defense Department and Veterans' Affairs officials to discourage the use of psychiatric drugs in treating PTSD. The name "Operation Speak Up" was suggested by Joe Tarantolo, M.D. (former ISEPP Chairman of the Board of Directors)

ISEPP Statement Concerning Recent Allegations Against the American Psychological Association Collusion with the U.S. Government

11/13/2014        Uncategorized 0 Comments

ISEPP Statement Concerning Recent Allegations Against the American Psychological Association Collusion with the U.S. Government

November 1, 2014

The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry joins with other national and international organizations in calling on the American Psychological Association (APA) to respond directly and transparently to the claims in James Risen’s new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. We also call for an independent investigation into these allegations. Using primary sources, Risen has documented that the APA colluded with the CIA and White House officials to craft policy that stacked the deck to allow psychologists’ participation in the torture of enemy combatants by the U.S. Government, euphemistically known as “enhanced interrogations”.


ISEPP is aware of APA’s response to Risen’s book; however, that response does not directly address his claims and instead misdirects attention away from these serious allegations. The APA states, “…the association has taken numerous steps in the last decade to reiterate our strict prohibition against torture, ensure that all psychologists and federal officials were aware of the policy, and address any misconceptions about our position.” Still, the APA has yet to hold accountable any psychologists who were involved in torture, the most recent example is their refusal to investigate Dr. John Leso for his clear participation in these unethical behaviors. It is also unknown whether anything of substance has changed regarding psychologists who are currently providing support to these torturous interrogations.


The APA is the only remaining professional association of its kind that has not yet prohibited its members from having any role in the intelligence-gathering interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and other black sites. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, have long since issued such a prohibition, while the APA continues to fight hard in retaining its long-standing historical ties with the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies.


We urge all who are similarly concerned about maintaining an ethical psychology profession to join us in calling on the APA to transparently respond to Risen’s book, and to demand an independent investigation. Continued obfuscation by the APA will erode the profession of psychology, and continue to damage APA’s standing as the premier national organization for psychologists.


ISEPP Board of Directors


Study on Depression is Flawed

9/18/2014        In the News 0 Comments


Chuck Ruby, Ph.D.

The WebMD study here is just as flawed as previous "breakthroughs" about biological markers for depression. It is misleading and weak because it is built upon a very flimsy assumption that depression is a disease rather than an understandable reaction to a life situation. The assumption is presented early in the article with a sleight of hand and repeated with the use of biological, medical, and illness words, giving the impression that depression is a disease. Yet, despite this assumption, no evidence is ever given to demonstrate the disease nature of depression. That's because there isn't any such evidence.

The absurdity of this also rests on the fact that depression is conventionally diagnosed by using a checklist of reported symptoms and behaviors. The checklist is contained the the psychiatric "bible", the DSM. Nowhere in that checklist is any mention of laboratory tests. That's because there is no bodily malfunctioning to test, as there is in diabetes, where a real disease process is happening.

The blood tests in this article do not identify disease or in any other way a malfunctioning of the body or brain. These tests merely demonstrate that human experiences (including depression) are accompanied by bodily "happenings". But this also happens with singing, crying. laughing, and playing golf. Those activities have their own "biological markers". The point here is that biological markers do not necessarily equal disease.

Imagine the absurdity of an article that says biomarkers have been found to diagnose "Athletic Deficit Disorder". Those biomarkers are identified as less muscle tone, smaller muscle mass, overweight, and shorter limb structures. Scans show decreased blood flow to the muscles, and probably differences in genetic markers. This would make sense only if we assume "ADD" (as above) is a disease to be diagnosed.

This article reports on research that adds to a long line of attempts to take basically existential human struggles and turn them into illnesses by showing biological correlates of the struggles. Damage will be done by using such biomarkers to screen people for depression, and then bear down on them with the coercive weight and authority of the psychiatric-industrial complex.



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7/24/2014        Uncategorized 0 Comments

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Statement on the Role of Mental Illness in Violent Behavior

7/2/2014        Uncategorized 0 Comments

Statement on the Role of Mental Illness in Violent Behavior

July 2, 2014

Given the widespread media accounts of horrific shooting sprees over the last few months, ISEPP wishes to clarify the factors that lead to violent behavior in our society. Focusing on mental illness as a risk factor is a distraction, a waste of valuable resources, and a threat to personal autonomy and freedom.

A diagnosis of mental illness does not increase one’s risk of being violent. Actually, some research suggests one of the most serious of mental illness diagnoses, schizophrenia, reduces the risk of being violent. This disconnect between a mental illness diagnosis and violence is because mental illness does not refer to a brain disease that causes violence. No such disease exists. Unlike a diagnosis of real illness like diabetes, mental illness diagnoses are merely broad descriptive labels given to clusters of very common human problems, not brain defects. People “qualify” for a diagnosis only if they exhibit a specified number of items from a menu-­‐like checklist. One item too few, and there is no diagnosis; they are not mentally ill.

While a diagnosis of mental illness does not increase the risk of violence, some specific emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems can. Still, no one thing causes violence. It is the end result of multiple, complex, and interwoven risk factors that increase the probability of violence. Years of research show the factors that increase one’s risk of being violent are: 1) being male; 2) being younger; 3) a history of antisocial patterns; 4) past violent behavior; 5) easy access to weapons, especially lethal ones like guns; 6) poor social support; 7) feelings of being persecuted and difficulty controlling thoughts; and 8) use of drugs/alcohol to cope with stress. Whereas some of these factors show up among items in the checklist menu approach to mental illness diagnosing, none by themselves necessarily qualify for a diagnosis, and so they can increase a person’s risk of being violent while the person would not be considered “mentally ill”. More importantly, these risk factors do not show up in the majority of people who are labeled with mental illness diagnoses. In short, most people who are diagnosed with mental illness are no more at risk of becoming violent than the general public. Even though these factors increase the risk of violence, they are not precise enough to use as a prediction tool. Doing so would result in a huge false alarm rate in which the great majority of the people identified as being prone to violence would never commit violent acts.

Conventional psychiatric treatment that views people as patients with illnesses, instead of fellow human beings with very common troubles, can actually increase the risk of violent behavior by ignoring the personal, moral, economic, political, spiritual, and existential elements of one’s struggles. Such traditional mental health interventions can easily lead to a sense of being misunderstood and oppressed (risk factor 7), as well as being socially ostracized due to the particularly damaging stigma that the illness model instills (risk factor 6). Further, the common use of psychiatric drugs can also lead to an increase in violence risk (risk factor 8). Regulatory agency and drug company black box warnings attest to the potential of these drugs’ chemical effects increasing the risk of violence and suicide. Research shows that of the top 31 prescription drugs associated with violent adverse outcomes, 26 are psychiatric drugs. Psychiatric drugs create very unpleasant and risky sensations to include emotional numbing, caring less about things, and feeling like a different person. Finally, all psychiatric drugs can have very harmful withdrawal effects, especially if they are stopped abruptly. These drug effects can clearly contribute to the development of risk factors 6 and 7 above, just like illicit drugs and alcohol can.

We call on public policy makers, mental health professionals, and the lay public to be aware of these factors in order to make more informed decisions with the hope of reducing the risk of violent incidents in the future.

Statement on APA Ethics Office Decision to Dismiss Charges Against Dr. John Leso

3/1/2014        Uncategorized 0 Comments

Statement on APA Ethics Office Decision to Dismiss Charges Against Dr. John Leso

March 1, 2014

The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry joins with Psychologists for Social Responsibility and the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology in denouncing the American Psychological Association’s recent refusal to take disciplinary action against military psychologist Dr. John Leso for his involvement in torturous interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This is yet another in a line of failures by the APA to enforce the most basic ethical standards as outlined in their Ethical Principals of Psychologists and Code of Conduct and the long-­‐standing APA-­‐ stated policy against torture, effectively hollowing out their public statements that any APA member so involved will be held accountable. APA’s actions in this case weaken psychology’s reputation as a humane endeavor independent of governmental influence, and place in question APA’s standing as a legitimate national organization for psychology.

The extant evidence cannot be clearer. Documentation confirms that Dr. Leso participated in the development, planning, and execution of coercive interrogation techniques on Mohammed al Qahtani during Dr. Leso’s tenure with the Behavioral Science Consultation Team in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, between June 2002 and January 2003. By all authoritative standards at the time of his actions, the interrogation techniques were considered torture and a violation of the APA Ethics Code. Even the U.S. convening authority on military commissions during the presidency of George W. Bush concluded Qahtani was tortured, which contaminated any evidence, and thus she declined to pursue prosecution for his alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

We urge the APA to reconsider their decision, to open a transparent and substantive investigation into this allegation, and to fulfill its promise to enforce the prohibition against psychologists engaging in torture. To do otherwise will set a very dangerous precedent.


Statement Supporting the British Psychological Society’s Statement on Functional Psychiatric Diagnoses

5/16/2013        Uncategorized 0 Comments

Statement Supporting the British Psychological Society’s Statement on Functional Psychiatric Diagnoses

May 16, 2013

The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP) strongly supports the Position Statement on the Classification of Behaviour and Experience in Relation to Functional Psychiatric Diagnoses that was recently issued by the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

We especially endorse the following elements of the Statement in which the DCP expresses:

A need for a paradigm shift in relation to the experiences (classified as diagnoses by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM] and the International Classification of Diseases: Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders [ICD]) towards a conceptual system not based on a disease model;

Concern over the limited reliability and questionable validity of the psychiatric diagnoses in the DSM and ICD;

Concern about the increasing medicalization of distress and behavior in both adults and children;

A call for an approach that fully acknowledges the growing amount of evidence for psychosocial causal factors, does not assign an unevidenced role for biology as a primary cause and that is transparent about the very limited support for the disease model in such conditions;

Recognition that psychiatric diagnosis obscures the link between people’s experiences, distress and behavior and social, cultural, familial and personal historical contexts;

Recognition that diagnosis can lead to an over-reliance on medication while underplaying the impact of (medication’s) physical and psychological effects;

A call for an approach that is multifactorial, contextualizes distress and behavior and acknowledges the complexity of the interaction involved in all human experience.

ISEPP applauds the British Psychological Society for sounding the alarm on the harm that is done by the classification system that is represented by the DSM and ICD and urges the American Psychological Association to take a stand, one way or the other, on that system