Psychologists Not Immune From Prohibition On Diagnosing Famous Figures

As consumers of the media, it is not uncommon to “diagnose” public figures with various mental dCRSIP logoisorders, depending on their representation in the press. But for psychologists and psychiatrists, is doing so unethical?

In an op-ed in The New York Times, Columbia University’s Dr. Robert Klitzman explained that for psychiatrists like himself, there is a prohibition from the American Psychiatric Association on providing professional opinions on individuals they have never met or evaluated before.

Troublingly, though, Klitzman mentions that “Psychologists (with Ph.D.s, as opposed to psychiatrists, with medical degrees) argue that this principle does not fully apply to them, and that offering diagnoses of public figures can be in the national interest.”

According to Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director, and chair of the 2002 American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code Task Force Dr. Celia B. Fisher, that is not accurate.

“In his article Robert Klitzman elegantly describes the ethical reasons why psychiatrists are prohibited from providing media diagnoses of famous figures, such as Donald Trump, who they have never evaluated,” Fisher explains.  “He mentions several psychologists stating that American Psychological Association (APA) does not have a similar prohibition. These psychologists are poorly mistaken.”


In addition to chairing the 2002 revision of the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code, Fisher is also author of Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologist, now in its fourth edition from Sage Publications.

Written By Fordham University Center for Ethics Education

Psychologists not immune from prohibition on diagnosing famous figures was originally published @ Ethics and Society and has been syndicated with permission.

Photo by Gage Skidmore


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