The American Psychiatric Association is a professional organization representing medical specialists who are qualified as psychiatrists or are trainee psychiatrists. Recognized worldwide, the association holds over 38,000 U.S. and international member physicians. To be eligible as a member of the American Psychiatric Association, a candidate needs to complete a residency program in psychiatry. The residency program must be accredited by the Residency Review Committee for Psychiatry of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, or the American Osteopathic Association. A valid medical license is generally required for applicants. In addition, applicants must present one reference from an existing member of the association.
The American Psychiatric Association attempts to ensure that effective care and treatment are provided to all individuals suffering from mental disorders. The association also focuses on promoting psychiatric education and research to fulfill the needs of medical specialists. The organizational purpose of the association is to contribute to the development of a society in which people have easy access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and high-quality care.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, which describes psychiatric conditions for the purpose of diagnosis, is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Information on a patient that is derived from a DSM interview is the primary information used to make psychiatric diagnoses in the United States. The association also publishes various journals and pamphlets. Through an annual conference attended by a U.S. and international audience, the American Psychiatric Association plays the role of information disseminator.
The association was originally founded in 1844 in Philadelphia at a meeting of 13 superintendents and organizers of insane asylums and hospitals. Its initial name was Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane. The name was changed to the present American Psychiatric Association in 1921. APA has been involved in several controversies since its founding. For instance, for a number of years, the American Psychiatric Association identified homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder and later withdrew homosexuality from the list of disorders. As another example, since psychiatrists frequently prescribe medications as treatments for psychiatric disorders, the American Psychiatric Association has been criticized for promoting medication treatment when it is not always necessary, and members have been accused of prescribing medications for personal gain. In his popular-press book Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Medicated a Nation, Charles Barber (2009) presents such an argument.
See also Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
American Psychiatric Association Web site: http://www.psych.org/
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