Ken Pope

Biography and Citation for American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Service

[Note: Most of the following passages--including those describing incidents in which his colleagues forced him to rethink his assumptions and in which his invited visit to a church taught him not to assume that he understood what certain terms meant--come from a biography published in American Psychologist and from the Citation for the APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Service, which was also published in American Psychologist.]

Ken Pope, a licensed psychologist, received graduate degrees from Harvard and Yale. A diplomate in clinical psychology, he has authored or co-authored over 100 articles and chapters in peer-reviewed scientific and professional journals and books. He is a charter fellow of the American Psychological Society (APS) and was a fellow of American Psychological Association Divisions 1, 2, 12, 29, 35, 41, 42, 44, and 51 prior to leaving APA. Ken has worked at using the tools of scientific psychology to help those in need. As a psychotherapist in independent practice, he identified underserved and neglected populations; conducted research to better understand their needs; developed empirically grounded interventions to improve their welfare; and advanced their care by sharing research-based clinical guidance in articles, lectures, and books.

In 2008, he resigned from the American Psychological Association. Here is his letter to the APA president explaining why he resigned as a matter of conscience.

For 3 decades, he has worked primarily with people who face great hardships, discrimination, or oppression but are under-served by public and private resources. His practice, research, writings, and presentations specifically address the needs of people who experienced political or governmental torture, contracted AIDS, endured racial, sexual, and other forms of discrimination or harassment, experienced physical or sexual assault, were exploited by therapists, or lacked access to traditional services. He has developed and implemented models for providing preventive, clinical, and other services in these areas. In addition, he has investigated relatively neglected topics such as psychologists' own feelings of anger, hate, fear, and suicidal impulses, their experience of harassment and abuse, their processes of ethical decision-making, and how such issues affect their work and lives.

Based on his research in the 1970s on therapist-patient sex, he co-founded the UCLA Post-Therapy Support Program, the first center offering services, conducting research, and providing university-based training for graduate students and therapists seeking to work with people who had been sexually exploited by therapists. In the early 1980s, he was the director of clinical programs for a consortium of community mental health centers and hospitals.

Drawing on his years of experience in the late 60s and early 70s as a full-time community organizer living in an inner city area of severe poverty and his training in community psychology, he worked with the community, the hospitals, and the centers to find ways to meet community needs in accordance with its own cultures and ecology. By the end of his work in those areas, their programs included home-bound services (in which therapists and others go to the homes of people whose chronic or terminal illnesses or disabilities prevent them from traveling), legal services for people who are poor or homeless, Manos de Esperanza serving people whose primary language is Spanish, a 24-hour crisis service, peer-support services, and group homes that allow people who are mentally disabled to live independently.

In the mid-1980s, he began full-time independent practice, developing models for reaching those who had difficulty obtaining appropriate services from traditional public and private resources.

His clients have been people people with critical needs (e.g., victims of hate crimes, people with AIDS, torture victims, the homeless, abuse survivors) who lack financial resources. Ken taught courses in psychological and neuropsychological assessment, abnormal psychology, and professional standards of care at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he served as a psychotherapy supervisor. He chaired the Ethics Committees of the American Psychological Association and the American Board of Professional Psychology. His publications include 10 articles in American Psychologist and 10 books (such as Ethics in Psychotherapy and Counseling, 3rd Edition, with Melba Vasquez; What Therapists Don't Talk About and Why: Understanding Taboos That Hurt Us and Our Clients, with Jan Sonne & Beverly Greene; The MMPI, MMPI-2 and MMPI-A in Court: A Practical Guide for Expert Witnesses and Attorneys, 3rd Edition, with Jim Butcher & Joyce Seelen; How To Survive & Thrive As a Therapist: Ideas, Information, and Resources for Psychologists, with Melba Vasquez;Sexual Involvement with Patients: Patient Assessment, Subsequent Therapy, Forensics; and The Stream of Consciousness: Scientific Investigations into the Flow of Human Experience, with Jerome Singer).

An important part of his personal life is the family of special-needs cats and dogs who live in his home, such as Snow, Huckleberry, June, Ember, and Leon.

In addition to the site for the family of special needs cats and dogs, Ken maintains 3 other web sites: Articles, Research, & Resources in Psychology at; Accessibility & Disability Information & Resources in Psychology Training & Practice at; and Resources for Companion Animals, Assistance Animals, & Special-Needs Animals at

Ken received the Belle Mayer Bromberg Award for Literature; the Frances Mosseker Award for Fiction; the APA Division 42 Presidential Citation "In Recognition of his Voluntary Contributions, his Generosity of Time, the Sharing of his Caring Spirit [and] his Personal Resources"; the APA Division 44 Citation of Appreciation; the 2007 Award for Mentoring from the APA Division of Independent Practice; and the APA Division 12 Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Clinical Psychology. He also received the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Service, which included the following citation (American Psychologist, vol. 50, issue #4, pages 241-243):

For rigorous empirical research, landmark articles and books, courageous leadership, fostering the careers of others, and making services available to those with no means to pay. His works include nine books and over 100 other publications on topics ranging from treating victims of torture to psychometrics to memory to ethics. His pioneering research has increased our understanding of therapist-patient sex, especially in the areas of effects on patients, tendencies to deny or discount risks, factors enabling known perpetrators to continue or resume not only practicing but also abusing patients, and approaches to prevention.

As the title--What Therapists Don't Talk About and Why--of his acceptance talk for the Division 12 Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Clinical Psychology suggests, Pope's research frequently addresses concerns that are relatively neglected because they tend to cause anxiety, such as therapists' feelings of anger, hate, fear, or sexual attraction toward patients, or therapists' own histories of sexual or physical abuse.

He frequently declines compensation for his work to advance psychology in the public interest. This is evident in his recent book, Sexual Involvement with Therapists: Patient Assessment, Subsequent Therapy, Forensics, published by the American Psychological Association. Pope waived all royalties for the volume in order that it might be sold at reduced price and be more readily available and useful. His integrity, good will, humor, and tireless work in the public interest represent the finest ideals of our profession.

NOTE: The following brief biography was published in American Psychologist, vol. 50, issue #4, pages 241-243:

Kenneth S. Pope grew up in Breckenridge (a small West Texas town), Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

In college, he heard community organizer Saul Alinsky speak. Alinsky, and the work of those whom he trained such as Cesar Chavez, prompted Ken to learn as much as he could about community organizing. After he received his B.A. in English from Southern Methodist University, Pope went to Chicago to learn firsthand from the Alinsky organization and other community groups.

Following Alinsky's principle that an organizer moves into a neighborhood only after being invited by the residents, Ken worked in an inner-city area of severe poverty in west Florida during the late 1960s and early 1970s. For the first time in his life, he lived and worked where there were no neighbors of his own race.

The people who became his friends, teachers, and mentors in that neighborhood permanently influenced his work in psychology. Those years began teaching him how poverty, racism, sexism, and indifference can assault individual lives. He was forced to confront social, institutional, and psychological patterns that support denial and oppose change. He also witnessed the unsurpassed courage, love, and perseverance that those at society's margins show when working together in the struggle for social justice.

A crucial lesson began one day in a cafe where the community gathered. A deacon in a church whose roots reached back to the days before the Civil War invited him to visit the church that Sunday.

When Ken arrived, the congregants were seated and the gospel choir was filling the air with music. He found a seat unobtrusively near the back that still allowed him to see the pulpit, where the minister would deliver the sermon. Immediately someone came over and sat down by him to make him feel welcome. The prayers, responsive readings, and hymns were deeply moving. When the time came for the sermon, the minister began, "We are most pleased that our neighbor, Mr. Ken Pope, has agreed to visit us today, and we look forward to his sermon." This experience taught Ken not to assume that his understandings were necessarily shared by others; he learned that "to visit" did not necessarily mean simply to show up.

Another event during his college years shaped his professional life. A student told him about pressure to cooperate sexually with her advisor if she was to continue receiving a fellowship. Powerful in the department, the advisor's secretive communications left no witnesses or paper trail to confirm her story. She knew that without supportive evidence beyond her own word, she could not prevail. Lacking financial resources and with major family responsibilities, she discontinued her studies and found a full-time job. This event confronted Ken with the realities of sexual exploitation in professional fields such as teaching and psychotherapy, of the terrible consequences that can change the course of a person's life, and of the ways in which institutions and professions too often collude with offenders. Studying these processes within the framework of scientific research became a major focus of his work over the next decades.

After his years organizing in Florida, Ken began graduate studies at Harvard, first obtaining an M.A. in English literature and then spending a year as a Special Student in psychology. He became a teaching fellow in general education at Harvard College, leading a weekly seminar. Harvard lacked a program in clinical psychology, so he transferred to Yale for his doctorate, completing his predoctoral internship at the University of California Medical School's Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute.

After graduation, Ken served as psychology director in a hospital and community health center. He established pre- and postdoctoral clinical internship training programs and developed services for those without other resources. Later he served as clinical director of a facility that, when he concluded his work helping them expand their services, included two community mental health centers, a hospital, a family center, a residential youth program, a service that built houses for the homeless, and a program that provided psychotherapy and other services to homebound clients. From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, he taught courses at UCLA, where he also supervised therapy in the psychology department clinic. Since the mid-1980s, he has conducted a full-time independent practice.

Perhaps the most consistently powerful influences on Ken's professional life have been people who forced him to rethink his approach. For example, a fellow student refused to carry out a treatment plan that she believed was unjustified and potentially harmful. Facing intense pressure, she quietly explained why she could not in good conscience do what she had been told to do. This refusal led some senior staff to describe her as a troublemaker, perhaps unfit for clinical work. She paid professionally for her act of conscience. The way she lived her life made her fellow students, including Ken, more aware of how they made clinical choices, how they balanced conflicts between self-interest and responsibilities to patients. A decade later, the field reached consensus that the intervention she refused to implement is dangerous and contraindicated.

As another example, a fellow intern changed the way that her colleagues worked and talked about their work. Faculty/intern staff meetings usually followed a predictable pattern: The intern would present a case, making clear how daunting the challenge and how brilliant the intervention. Midyear, an intern began her presentation saying, "I feel awful this week. I made some bad mistakes, and it turned into a crisis, and I ended up having to hospitalize the patient. I want to tell you what happened and ask for help figuring out why I did what I did, and how I can do things differently." Her honesty, courage, and clear concern for the person she had sought to help shook Ken and her fellow interns awake from drowsy, dull, familiar ways of thinking and feeling. They began to confront how they approached learning and how they treated each other. They began to discuss how fear, competition, and jealously affected who they were and what they did.

The remarkable generosity, goodheartedness, and responsiveness of colleagues have guided and challenged Ken, sending him in new directions, constantly encouraging him to rethink ways that resources can be most available to the individual who is hurting and in need. So many clinicians have conducted free psychological assessments or provided other services for clients in crisis with no means to pay. So many attorneys have refused to charge for services, especially for those in most pain or danger, such as victims of torture and other forms of violence. In an instance in which a woman required daily sessions during a critical time in her life, colleagues accepted Ken's request that they serve pro bono as an interdisciplinary team, offering detailed daily consultation to him and providing periodic psychological assessment and clinical interviews for the woman. Her meetings with diverse professionals let her know that many people cared about her. These colleagues mobilized to help a battered woman, a victim of multiple sexual assault, now penniless and homeless, living in her car and hiding from a stalker. She and Ken began meeting daily (gradually reduced to weekly) for crisis intervention. They agreed that the first priority was her safety. Ken gave her the number of an old college friend in another state. The friend immediately wired her $500 for food and housing and an airline ticket with an open date for use any time she felt in danger from the stalker. The friend asked her not to repay this loan directly to him but rather to give the money to someone else for whom it would make a difference as it did now for her. Within a year, the woman had taken legal action against the stalker and recovered enough to support herself. This act of kindness from a stranger in another state changed her life forever. Like so many similar acts by friends and colleagues, it continues to affect Ken and the way he thinks about what psychology is and what psychologists do.

Bobby AAA
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