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A Brief History of the Division 32 Effort to Reform DSM-5

In the spring of 2011, the British Psychological Society (BPS) provided a critique of the proposed DSM-5, raising serious concerns about numerous proposals by the DSM-5 Task Force. When David Elkins became president of Division 32, Society for Humanistic Psychology, American Psychological Association (APA), in August, 2011, he asked the Division 32 Executive Committee to support his recommendation that Division 32 follow BPS’s example and raise concerns of its own. The recommendation was unanimously approved by the 14-member Executive Committee.

Elkins appointed Brent Dean Robbins, Secretary of Division 32, and Sarah R. Kamens, Student Representative to Division 32 and Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology at Fordham University, to join him as members of a three-person ad hoc committee to prepare an “Open Letter to the DSM-5 Task Force and the American Psychiatric Association.” Kamens, who had studied the DSM-5 development process for two years, drafted the letter. The draft was edited by Elkins and Robbins, along with Kevin Keenan (a member of the Division 32 Executive Committee). The Open Letter was then submitted to the Division 32 Executive Committee for approval. The Open Letter, which can be seen at URL http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/dsm5/ provided a scholarly critique of several problematic portions of the proposed DSM-5.*

In early October, 2011, Elkins sent the Open Letter by e-mail attachment to APA Divisions, inviting them to sign.  Two Divisions — Division 27 ( Society for Community Research and Action:  Division of Community Psychology) and Division 49 (Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy) were the first Divisions to sign.  Presidents of those two early signers contacted Elkins by e-mail to say they wished to endorse the Open Letter.

On October 22, 2011, the Open Letter was quietly posted at a petition website without publicity or fanfare, inviting professionals to read the letter and, if they agreed with it, to sign the petition. The results were unexpected and overwhelming. In only one week more than 2,000 psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals had signed the letter, along with several psychology organizations. Three weeks after the Open Letter had been posted, the numbers had grown to almost 6,000 individual signatures and endorsements by 23 mental health organizations including a total of twelve Divisions of APA. The numbers continue to grow as signatures pour in. For up-to-date totals, please go to the petition website: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/dsm5/

If you have not signed the Open Letter, please go the petition website, read the letter, and sign the petition if you agree with it. Then, alert all your colleagues to the letter and invite them to sign also. The effectiveness of the letter will depend on the number of signatures that are accumulated. Again, the site is here:
Open Letter Sign Petition

Current Committee: David Elkins (Chair), Frank Farley, Jonathan Raskin, Brent Robbins, and Donna Rockwell (Sarah Kamens is now acting as consultant to the committee).

Contact: David N. Elkins (Chair): davidnelkins@hotmail.com

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* As detailed in the Open Letter, the following were at the heart of the committee’s concerns: (a) the lack of scientific basis for some of the new DSM-5 diagnoses; (b) the lowering of diagnostic thresholds in several categories, raising the spectre that thousands of individuals experiencing normative distress might be labeled with a mental disorder and treated with psychiatric drugs that have dangerous side effects; and (c) the introduction of new disorder categories that might result in harm, especially to vulnerable populations — potentially exacerbating the current national problem of overzealous prescribing of psychiatric drugs to young children, adolescents, and the elderly.

Please go to the petition website and sign the petition! Spread the word! Thank you!