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the guideline’s range of application. It is expected that guidelines approved as policy by APA will have relevance to a significant segment of APA’s membership.

Developers of guidelines are expected to describe each source of evidence used in guideline formulation so that a reader can evaluate the guidelines’ evidentiary base. Documentation of empirical and broad-based professional consensus in developing guidelines will protect against the appearance of unwarranted advocacy for particular policy positions or theoretical perspectives, or restrictive attempts to regulate professional behavior and judgment.

The basis for establishing and documenting need will depend on the impetus for the particular set of guidelines. For example, guidelines developed for legal or regulatory reasons will have different types of evidentiary support than guidelines developed for professional reasons. In all instances, guideline developers should make a thorough effort to be comprehensive and representative in their se- lection of theoretical and empirical sources and should consider the positions of other relevant stakeholders as applicable. Developers should examine relevant evidence, including that which may contradict their point of view. Direct empirical support for recommending specific pro- fessional behavior is always a strong form of evidence, though it is not always available.

In some areas, expert professional consensus is the strongest form of evidence. A variety of forms of informa- tion may be important to determine professional consensus, depending on the nature of the guidelines being developed. These include, but are not limited to, agreement among recognized subject-matter experts, practitioner surveys, in- cidence of inquiries to APA or other professional or regu- latory bodies, reviews of professional literature, and gen- eral agreement among psychologists regarding responsible professional conduct.

It is essential that practice guidelines provide a clear rationale for focusing on a singular topic under consider- ation separately from the rest of psychological practice. Guidelines that focus on a particular client population or characteristic must explain why and how psychological practice with this population is sufficiently different from sound practice with all clients to justify separate guidelines. Guidelines could potentially be written for any number of client characteristics (e.g., age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity). Good psychological practice requires that practitioners be sensitive to all these client character- istics and their interactions, and it is generally not clinically useful to conceptualize clients’ problems according to a singular personal attribute. Although evidence of past and present injustice in the broader sociocultural context is likely to be relevant, it is not sufficient as a justification for practice guidelines. Guidelines’ statements should have adequate documentation and provide clear examples of recommended professional practice.


The developers of guidelines must consider the broader implications and the range of applications of guide- lines, which are likely to extend beyond the unit or group by which they are developed. In some instances, guidelines may affect groups outside the profession of psychology (e.g., other health professionals, test developers, public stakeholders), and developers should consider this in de- veloping guidelines. In these cases, a broader development and review process that solicits comment from individuals and groups outside APA is appropriate.

Guidelines that make reference to a single theoretical perspective or a narrow body of literature are potentially less useful than guidelines that integrate multiple perspec- tives. The wider the intended application of guidelines, the more incumbent it is on their developers to integrate per- spectives from across (and outside) the profession. For example, the scope of the “Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organiza- tional Change for Psychologists” (APA, 2003) required the integration of a broad base of evidence and perspectives, whereas the “Guidelines for Psychological Evaluations in Child Protection Matters” (APA COPPS, 1999) were ap- propriately based on a narrower range of evidence and expertise. APA is a large organization representing psy- chologists from myriad theoretical perspectives function- ing in a broad array of professional settings. The process for development, revision, and dissemination of guidelines allows for input from those holding this range of views to be considered by guideline developers. To be adopted by the APA Council of Representatives, guidelines must have strong support across constituencies.


American Psychological Association. (2002a). Criteria for evaluating treatment guidelines. American Psychologist, 57, 1052–1059. American Psychological Association. (2002b). Criteria for practice guide- line development and evaluation. American Psychologist, 57, 1048– 1051. American Psychological Association. (2003). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. American Psychologist, 58, 377–402. American Psychological Association. (2004). Guidelines for psychologi- cal practice with older adults. American Psychologist, 59, 236–260. American Psychological Association Committee on Professional Practice and Standards. (1993). Record keeping guidelines. American Psychol- ogist, 48, 984–986. American Psychological Association Committee on Professional Practice and Standards. (1994). Guidelines for child custody evaluations in divorce proceedings. American Psychologist, 49, 677–680. American Psychological Association Committee on Professional Practice and Standards. (1999). Guidelines for psychological evaluations in child protection matters. American Psychologist, 54, 586–593. American Psychological Association Division 44/Committee on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns Task Force on Guidelines for Psychother- apy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients. (2000). Guidelines for psychotherapy with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients. American Psy- chologist, 55, 1440–1451. Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

December 2005

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    American Psychologist

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