Concerns Regarding "Deprogramming" Therapy

Leadership Counsil

1. Being Confined and Isolated from Family and Friends in an unfamiliar Setting May be a Traumatic Experience for Children Leading Them to Feel Trapped, Helpless, and Powerless.

Isolating a child from everyone they are familiar with and attempting to force a new view of their parents, especially by strangers who know little about the child's experiences with their parents can be traumatic. This is of particular concern as many children being exposed to these techniques have reported a history of abuse from the very individuals they are being forced to reunify with.

Coercive and punitive “therapies” are especially inappropriate when used on children who have already been traumatized. These children may find this kind of setting a “trigger” for further post-traumatic reactions. Forced reunification against a child's will and without taking into consideration the child's point of view and emotional well-being, can be expected to reinforce a sense of helplessness and powerlessness in an already vulnerable child. Such “treatment” can be expected to do more harm than good, and could potentially cause lasting emotional harm.

2. According to APA Ethical Standards, Psychologists Respect and Protect Civil and Human Rights (Preamble to the APA Ethical Guidelines)

The right to one's belief system is considered the most basic of human rights. The confinement of a child who has committed no wrong doing away from parents and friends in unfamiliar surroundings in order to force them to adopt a new belief system may violate a child's basic civil rights.

3. According to APA Ethical Principles, Individuals have a Basic Right to Self-Determination (Principle E: Respect for People's Rights and Dignity)

Being forced to change one's belief system may violate the principle of self-determination.

4. According to APA Ethical Principles, Psychologists Avoid Multiple Relationships to Avoid Conflicts of Interest (APA Ethics code: 3.05)

According to ethical standards set forth by the APA, "a psychologist refrains from entering into a multiple relationship if the multiple relationship could reasonably be expected to impair the psychologist's objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing his or her functions as a psychologist, or otherwise risks exploitation or harm to the person with whom the professional relationship exists."

A psychologist who has contracted with a parent to force a child against his will into a relationship is engaged in a dual relationship. One with the contracting parent and one with the client-child. The child's goals and interests may be in direct conflict to those of the parent that has engaged the therapist. This dual role presents an unavoidable conflict that would keep the child's feelings, beliefs, and desires from being central during treatment.

5. According to APA Ethical Principles, Psychologists Must Engage in Therapeutic Services Only After Obtaining Informed Consent – Even when a Client is Not Legally Capable of Giving Informed Consent, The Psycologist Still Must Explain the Procedures, Consider the Individual's Preferences and Gain Their Assent Prior to Treatment. (APA Ethics code: 3.10).

According to ethical standards set forth by the APA, "For persons who are legally incapable of giving informed consent, psychologists nevertheless (1) provide an appropriate explanation, (2) seek the individual's assent, (3) consider such persons' preferences and best interests.."

It is not possible to obtain meaningful informed consent from children who are isolated from family and friends, confined in a facility and subjected to coercive treatment.

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