A group of divisions from the American Psychological Association (APA) have started a petition against the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, contending that some of the alterations will be seriously detrimental both to the mental health professions and to clients/patients.

The Society for Humanistic Psychology (Division 32 of the APA), the Society for Community Research and Action: Division of Community Psychology (Division 27) and the Society for Group Psychology and Psychotherapy (Division 49) sponsored the petition, saying in an open letter to the DSM-5 Task force and the American Psychiatric Association, which produces the DSM, that they have strong reservations about some of the proposed changes to the latest edition:

“We are concerned about the lowering of diagnostic thresholds for multiple disorder categories, about the introduction of disorders that may lead to inappropriate medical treatment of vulnerable populations, and about specific proposals that appear to lack empirical grounding. In addition, we question proposed changes to the definition(s) of mental disorder that deemphasize sociocultural variation while placing more emphasis on biological theory. In light of the growing empirical evidence that neurobiology does not fully account for the emergence of mental distress, as well as new longitudinal studies revealing long-term hazards of standard neurobiological (psychotropic) treatment, we believe that these changes pose substantial risks to patients/clients, practitioners, and the mental health professions in general.”

Although the psychologists give credit to the task force for its efforts to resolve the widening gap between the current manual and the growing body of scientific knowledge on psychological distress and to address the limitations of the DSM‘s current categorical system, “we believe that it is time for psychiatry and psychology collaboratively to explore the possibility of developing an alternative approach to the conceptualization of emotional distress. We believe that the risks posed by DSM-5, as outlined below, only highlight the need for a descriptive and empirical approach that is unencumbered by previous deductive and theoretical models.”

Read the rest of the petition

American Counseling Association members can stay abreast of many of the issues surrounding development of the DSM-5 by reading Counseling Today’s monthly “Inside the DSM-5” column.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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