A dramatic, far-reaching revolution has taken place in the field of clinical psychology. Leaders of that revolution describe how they did it in their book, titled The Practice of Psychology: The Battle for Professionalism. The revolutionary group consisted of only fourteen men, who affectionately call themselves “The Dirty Dozen.” They describe their pivotal role in Chapter One:

The decades between 1955 and 1995 saw the emergence and empowerment of an entire professional cadre among mental health service providers, “the professional psychologist.” As in other social institutions, a relatively small number of individual psychologists not only were at the forefront of those responsible for defining the professional psychologists, but took leading roles in the restructuring of the American Psychological Association (APA) to accommodate this new entity. In the vanguard of those relatively few individuals was a small, informal group of psychologists known as the Dirty Dozen, signifying the group’s willingness to engage in all sorts of “psychologically unseemly acts,” such as political action both within and outside of the formal structure of American psychology (pp. 1-2).

The book begins with the fact that “The independent provision of psychological services was virtually nonexistent prior to and during World War II” (p. 2). It reveals that “most psychology departments tended to look down on applied practitioners, feeling that the ‘true psychologist’ was the one functioning in an academic setting” (p. 3).

At the time, clinical psychology programs emphasized scientific research and had little interest in preparing students for careers in psychotherapy. There were two distinct groups—the scientist and the practitioner. The book provides a frank, unvarnished account of how the Dirty Dozen acquired control of the APA for the practitioners over a thirty-year period of time. Throughout the book we see a rejection of the scientist and practitioner model of training and the promotion of programs training practitioners in counseling methodologies, unburdened by the restraints of science. With the practitioners in control of the APA, “This ‘new’ group did not identify predominately with science and academia. Rather, its members began to go into full and part-time independent practice” (p. 6). The Dirty Dozen explain that this happened

… because the ‘devil’s deal’ that academic psychology had struck to procure clinical psychology training funds (funds that supported many psychology departments) was producing a younger, more aggressive body of psychologists for whom the progression from academic training to independent psychological service delivery seemed the penultimate step in professionalism (p. 4).

As both the independent clinicians and the burgeoning psychology departments training these psychological counselors began to reap the financial profits from the business of counseling, the clinicians became more powerful. As long as they could convince the public of the need for their professional expertise and keep the facade of science, they were able to divorce themselves from the results of research and sell their talk therapy to as many people as possible. Those who favored a scientific approach and scientific justification for the practice of psychological counseling were all but silenced by the expansion of their academic departments and the ample funding that followed.

A citation honoring these men highlights their achievement:

Once scorned, and confronted by seemingly insurmountable odds, the following fourteen professional psychologists, affectionately called The Dirty Dozen, changed for all time the face of the American Psychological Association (p. 270).

One must understand that there are two camps in psychology. One is the scientist-academic camp and the other is the practitioner. Between the two there seems to be a vast gulf when it comes to the results of scientific research and the practices of clinical psychologists. Without the efforts of The Dirty Dozen, it is doubtful that the fees, licensing, and the professional practices of psychotherapists (psychological counselors and marriage-family counselors) would exist as they do today. And, it is doubtful that the myriad of organizations and churches that claim the name of Christ would have swallowed the professional counseling bait, hook, line, and sinker.

PAL V12N5 (Sept-Oct 2004)