Many psychologists do not believe the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is scientifically valid, reliable or even helpful, according to a study in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. So when those same psychologists admit that they nevertheless continue to use the DSM for financial reasons, asked the researchers, is that not a violation of their most basic ethics?
Two State University of New York psychologists surveyed 104 psychologists about their use of and attitudes about the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. They found that the psychologists’ perspectives were “significantly more negative than neutral.”
The psychologists identified some of the DSM’s problems: “obscures individual differences” (60.58%), “places more emphasis on diagnosis than treatment” (51.92%), “places too much emphasis on pathology” (50.96%), “labels distort one’s perception of a client” (43.27%), “applies medical labels to psychosocial problems” (43.27%), “has little bearing on treatment” (31.73%), “not reliable” (29.81%), “other” (22.12%), “not valid” (19.23%), and “diagnostic classification often leads to inappropriate treatment” (18.27%).
Yet 90% admitted that they still use the DSM regularly, primarily because it is accepted as a framework for billing.
“Finally, ethical concerns remain, with the question being whether it is appropriate for psychologists who have concerns about the scientific status of the DSM to continue using it,” wrote the researchers. “Professional ethics forbids the use of instruments one does not believe to be valid, yet the results of the current survey suggest that most psychologists are using the DSM as a means to collect insurance payments.”
Raskin, Jonathan D., and Michael C. Gayle. “DSM-5 Do Psychologists Really Want an Alternative?” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, March 22, 2015, 0022167815577897. doi:10.1177/0022167815577897. (Abstract)