Refuting Psychological “Junk Science”

DMEC Staff@Work

An Effective Tool in Court: Refuting Psychological “Junk Science”

Refuting Psychological Junk ScienceBy Pamela Warren, PhD

Co-Head of Mental Health Treatment Guidelines Panel
American College of Occupational & Environmental Medicine

The federal and state workers’ compensation (WC) systems contain a great deal of imprecision that makes psychological claims difficult and unpredictable. Employers can eliminate some of these challenges by applying current psychological standards of care for treatment and when claims are litigated.

WC systems have many pitfalls to avoid. First, each has its unique rules, regulations, and laws pertaining to workplace injuries. This creates considerable variation in what is an allowable workplace psychological injury; not all states allow WC psychological injury claims (more on this below).

Second, WC systems don’t require accurate and current psychological diagnoses relating to a workplace psychological injury. For example, states that allow WC psychological claims frequently refer to “depression,” a nonmedical term that lacks specific diagnostic criteria. Instead, “major depressive disorder” is a recognized diagnosis with specific criteria that can be applied to a person.

Third, WC systems do not require the submission of supporting documentation that meets the current psychological and psychiatric standards of care. Thus, WC systems frequently are at odds with these professional standards.

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