Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW

Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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DSM-5: A Call to Opposition for Social Workers

As the debate over the impending publication of the DSM-5 continues, it seems that Social Workers are finally stepping up to the platform to chime in about their opposition to this newest version of the DSM. In April 2012, Psychology Today  and Dr. Allen  Frances, Chair of the DSM-IV and of Duke’s Psychiatry Department, highlighted the opposition of two prominent social workers:Dr. Jack Carney, DSW and clinician and program director with over 40 years of experience in the mental health field, and Dr. Joanne Cacciatore grief researcher and founder of an international foundation addressing grief. In the article, both social workers kindly remind our profession of our Code of Ethics, and the standards which this code should uphold.

From Dr. Carney: “So what’s going on with social workers? It’s almost like asking ‘What’s the matter with Kansas … ?’ It seems like they and their professional organizations are voting against their own self-interest… Ultimately, however, most social workers, like most Kansas voters, are not motivated by self-interest but by core values and beliefs. Their acquiescence to the DSM-5 as currently composed signifies for me an abandonment of core principles—service to others; pursuit of social justice; respect for the worth of the persons being served; the importance of human relationships; and the salience of integrity and competence in social work practice (Code of Ethics @—and seriously undermines their fundamental mission of helping those who need it.”

From Dr. Cacciatore:    ”According to the ethical standards of our discipline, social workers have a duty to act on the behalf of those we serve. In particular, we have a responsibility to influence peripheral forces that would further harm vulnerable populations…. We must also speak up for the many other people—children and the bereaved, for example —who may be over-diagnosed with criteria in the DSM-5 and thus may receive harmful and unnecessary medications that can cause many other psychological or physiological woes. Social workers should protect people from being inappropriately pathologized, treated, and medicated when it is unnecessary and also from work to reduce the over-diagnoses and stigma of mental illnesses, both for those who accept and embrace their diagnoses and those who don’t.”

Dr. Carney and Dr. Cacciatore stress a very important reminder, that it is not only our responsibility to ‘follow the rules’ and simply provide services but to also address the larger macro system in which our clients and ourselves function. Not putting our voice into the debate about the new DMS is simply a misrepresentation of our profession as disinterested and disengaged, or perhaps it reflects our place as one of the most over burdened career paths in mental health and other fields.  Furthermore, the mere fact that the entities which represent us, specifically the NASW, has also not voiced their outrage or even their opinions on the DSM-, shows that we are in a poor state when it comes to realistically servicing our clients to the best of our abilities.

So, what can you do to voice your opposition? Dr. Carney and Dr. Cacciatore suggest several things. From Dr. Carney:

“1. Read the Open Letter (developed by the Society for Humanistic Psychology, Division 32 of the American Psychological Association) and sign the petition …

2. E-mail the Board of Directors of NASW and ask them to endorse the petition …;

3. Spread the word to your social work brothers and sisters. There’s still time to put a stop to the DSM. Don’t mourn, organize!!”

The Open Letter discusses, in length, the rational and reasons why many oppose the DSM-5, and has backing by many counsels, associations, societies, and organizations. The letter calls for 50,000 signatures, and currently has 14,835.  Please consider providing your input if you that concerns with, or oppose, the new DSM-5.

Written By Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer

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