#294 – The Dark Side of Seligman’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness with Stephen Soldz PhD


Stephen Soldz, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst, clinical psychologist, professor, and anti-war activist. In this interview we discuss an article he co-authored which is critical of Martin Seligman’s initiative with the U.S. Army. He has received media attention as a vocal critic regarding allegations of the use of psychological torture by the U.S. government in its conduct of the War in Iraq and the War on Terror. In August 2007, Soldz publicly challenged the American Psychological Association to ban the involvement by professional psychologists in the interrogation of ‘enemy combatant’ prisoners held by the CIA and Defense Department.

Soldz, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, publicly accused psychologists attached to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay of developing and applying torture techniques on detainees while advising interrogators on the levels of abuse that detainees could withstand. The American Psychological Association did not pass the ban advocated by Soldz, but instead issued a resolution stating its opposition to torture and restricting its members from participating in interrogations that involved practices that could be defined as torture. Additionally, Soldz, in his role as the publisher of the Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report web site, has used media forums to question the accuracy in reporting the number of Iraqi civilian deaths since the March 2003 invasion and challenged claims that the al-Jazeera television network was supportive of Saddam Hussein. He has also written opinion columns on the Iraq war for the Daily Kos web site. Outside of politics, Soldz and Leigh McCullough co-edited the 1999 book “Reconciling Empirical Knowledge and Clinical Experience: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy,” published by the American Psychological Association. Also in 1999, Soldz and George E. Vaillant published their article “The Big Five Personality Traits and the Life Course: A 45-Year Longitudinal Study” in the Journal of Research in Personality. The journal’s editors later named the Soldz-Vaillant article as the publication’s most important paper for that year.

Check out the following Psychology CE Courses based on listening to Shrink Rap Radio interviews:
Jungian Psychotherapy Part 1 (6 CEUs)
Jungian Psychotherapy Part 2 (7 CEUs)
Jungian Psychotherapy Part 3 (7 CEUs)
Jungian Psychotherapy discounted Package of the Three Above (20 CEUs)
Wisdom of The Dream (4 CEUs)
Positive Psychology (6 CEUs)

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Matthew Van Nuys
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Great interview! Having also attended Dr. Seligman’s opening presentation at IPPA’s Second World Congress last summer (as part of the SRR team), I was intrigued (and a little astonished) to learn of the U.S. Army’s deep interest in Seligman’s research. Dr. Soldz raises very valid questions–I look forward to seeing how/if they’re addressed.

    Much thanks to interviewer and interviewee for the riveting listen. Keep up the good work!

  2. Jon Nordlan
    Posted February 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I thought Soldz came of as a disgruntled man attacking the APA and psychologist in the good old fashion straw-man way. For instance, he attacks Seligmans article in the APA journal (or the “supposed peer review journal of APA as he calls it in his best attorney like voice) research article which should be critiqued and peer-review in the same way as a full fledged research article. The problem is that that was not what the article was, it was more of a “report”, op-ed or whatever you call it. Secondly, Soldz shows his bias when he say that the best way to avoid war is to not send people to war – which is true, but irrelevant. That is like a doctor saying that we shouldn’t focus on diabetes because the best way to avoid it is to eat less food.Thirdly I never got the impression that Seligman don’t think you can get PTSD from you own action. This seems like Soldz attacking a straw man again.

    There are many more points that I think was just off the mark. But as a whole I would summarize this interview as being biased, logically flawed and border lining hateful towards psychologist and the APA.

  3. Posted March 1, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Thank goodness and at last!

    Someone raising social context and its being ignored by the positive psychology lot. (Re-labeled humanistic psychology without acknowledging the source.)

    And raising virtues too. Which positive psychology wants to claim – and then embraces training soldiers with little reflection!

  4. John Knight
    Posted March 4, 2012 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    Scary episode, but darn glad I heard it!

    “But as good Jungians, we know the shadow is never far away” – never heard a sentence like that from you, Dr. Dave! 😉

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