My Vision for the New APA

The field of psychology would not function without APA and the APA Practice Organization. 

APA advocates for our science and interventions, upholds quality training, and uses psychology to improve people’s lives. The APAPO makes sure we have the opportunity to continue practicing psychology. But psychologists are leaving both organizations and early career psychologists aren’t joining.  

What happened?

We stopped prioritizing members.

The primary benefits of joining APA are discounts to journals, books, and videos. Psychologists do not join organizations for publication discounts anymore. We join organizations because we believe in their vision, want to advance our field, and meet colleagues who share our passion for psychology. Psychologists are reluctant to join the APAPO because the organization did not communicate honestly in the past, leading to a class action lawsuit and settlement.

APA and APAPO are seen as out of touch. Many criticize APA as straying away from its mission, and the Hoffman Report exacerbated these concerns.

We need a new way forward.

As APA President, I will champion a new APA culture. We will prioritize members by advocating for a dramatic reduction in membership dues. We will reflect the diversity of our field by increasing opportunities for psychologists to make their voice heard in APA. We will connect psychologists through partnerships with Divisions and SPTAs. We will develop leaders by creating a Leadership Institute. We will rebuild trust by implementing clear checks and balances.

I haven’t served APA as long as past APA Presidents, but I’ve served it long enough to know that this association isn’t meeting the needs of psychologists. If you give me a chance, I promise the new APA will be an association every psychologist is proud to join.

Our Greatest Challenge

Reluctance to change is our greatest challenge.

We have spent decades recycling a small group of leaders who perpetuate an outdated governance system that does more to divide us than unite us. As a result, APA is growing less relevant to psychologists and the public we serve.

To build #TheNewAPA, we need:

  1. Complete accountability and transparency to our most important stakeholders – the membership of the association. 
  2. New leadership that will unite us on goals shared by all psychologists. 
  3. Openness to new ideas through an integration of diverse perspectives in APA. 

Membership

A robust, diverse membership keeps APA relevant and gives us legitimacy on Capitol Hill.

However, APA’s membership continues to decline and APAPO has lost 40% of its members over the last ten years.

I propose the following:

  1. Build value in APA membership by connecting psychologists, helping us grow our careers, and increase psychology’s voice in our local communities. 
  2. Create a membership concierge program that will personally contact members and ask, “What can APA do for you?” 
  3. Reduce APA membership dues to levels consistent with other non-profit organizations. 
  4. Invite psychology majors to join APA through a new non-voting public membership category. 

Ethics

It took APA a decade to acknowledge the problems highlighted in the Hoffman Report. That is unacceptable.

We deserve an association that is above reproach. To build #TheNewAPA we must bring transparency to the opaque system that allowed these failures to occur.

I will advocate for:

  1. Using technology to increase the voice of membership in governance. 
  2. Increasing accountability of leadership through live broadcasting of meetings and by making all votes public. 
  3. Creating online town hall meetings between the CEO, President, and members. 
  4. Developing an online petition system that allows members to introduce items into APA governance.

Science

Science is the beating heart of our field. To support the growth, understanding, and application of our research, I will:

  1. Advocate that the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation fund research and that is inclusive of psychological science.
  2. Integrate psychology into national discussions through the development of timely APA policy.
  3. Prioritize the creation of APA clinical practice guidelines, improving access to effective care.
  4. Partner with YouTube science communicators to create a modern public education campaign.
  5. Organize APA membership to become science ambassadors by engaging elected representatives, schools, and local communities. 

Practice

This is an exciting time for professional psychology. Our field has become a critical component of healthcare. Medical schools now require all incoming students to have a foundational knowledge of psychology. Medical research continues to reinforce the need for psychological interventions when treating obesity, preventing HIV, and promoting immunization. Consequently, medical practice is moving towards the integration of mental health with physical health.

Our greatest challenge to capitalize on these opportunities remains our reluctance to change. We have spent decades practicing psychology in silos – private practices, clinics, or departments. We often work independently, focus exclusively on mental health, and maintain a 50-minute structure for our interventions.

Being overly focused on tradition has made us slow to prepare our workforce for emerging healthcare marketplaces. While current models will remain sustainable for the near future, early and mid-career psychologists need to expand their practices to thrive in future marketplaces. If we do not prepare for these changes, our profession will be fighting over the crumbs of healthcare while other disciplines will be eating cake.

As President-Elect of APA/APAPO, I will focus on the following:

  • Advocate for the inclusion of psychologists in all aspects of healthcare reform implementation.
  • Encourage graduate training that helps students apply psychological interventions towards population-based problems such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
  • Help psychologists to diversify their practices beyond mental health.
  • Provide resources that will help psychologists take advantage of new reimbursement systems (e.g. bundled payments) by easily demonstrating the value of their existing treatments.

Social Justice

To support APA’s vision of using psychological science to promote human rights and social justice, I will:

  1. Focus #TheNewAPA on issuing scientific policy statements about the social crises facing our world, increasing our impact across federal and state governments.
  2. Encourage our CEO to revisit the hiring of APA’s first Chief Diversity Officer, a position “paused” since 2009.
  3. Expand our focus by integrating members of the public into our deliberations.
  4. Consider new membership models to increase the voice of the 60% of members who do not belong to a Division, many of whom represent marginalized groups.

International

The major issues facing our society are global in nature. APA can become a leader in the international community through the following actions: 

  1. Collaborate with our international partners to develop global standards of research, practice, and training that are responsive to culture, protect the public, and facilitate professional mobility.
  2. Discuss the role of psychological science in creating solutions for the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. Cultivate international collaboration by expanding funding for APA’s cultural exchange program.
  4. Improve linguistic access to our website by translating popular resources into multiple languages.

Graduate Students

Since 2009 the financial burden of attending graduate school in psychology has increased 33% for PsyDs, 77% for health service PhDs, and 90% for research PhDs. Psychologists enter the field with an average of $130,000 of debt and earn stagnant salaries that keep us in debt for years to come. Early career psychologists cope by delaying marriage, starting a family, purchasing a home, or saving for retirement.

To alleviate the financial burden of becoming a psychologist, I recommend:

  1. Complete transparency regarding the cost of an APA accredited graduate program, availability of financial support, and expected salaries during first 5 years post-doctorate.
  2. Creation of a student loan assistance program within APA’s Graduate Student and Early Career Psychologist Offices to disseminate information on repayment options and forgiveness programs.
  3. Full adoption of APA’s model licensing act, allowing psychologists to become license eligible upon receipt of doctorate.
  4. Advocacy for National Health Service Corps loan repayment and scholarship programs.  

APA Practice Organization

The APAPO is too important to fail. It ensures we have the opportunity to continue practicing psychology by championing our causes on Capitol Hill, in the courts, and healthcare marketplace. The APAPO provides critical professional tools, helps state psychological associations defend our scope of practice, and supports political candidates who understand the value of psychology.

But we are facing a membership crisis. The APAPO has lost 40% of its members over the last decade. Its revenue has declined from $5.6 million in 2007 to $3.2 million today. Consequently, the APAPO is being forced to scale back its efforts.

What happened? I believe psychologists are reluctant to join the APAPO because the organization did not communicate honestly in the past, leading to a class action lawsuit. To survive, we must rebuild trust, provide tangible value, and cultivate a culture of advocacy.

This begins by focusing on the 21st century’s most powerful advocacy tool – online video. An ongoing APAPO YouTube series could tell the story of the organization – why it exists, how it works, and the issues we care about. Next, I suggest the organization develop resources aimed at early and mid career psychologists. These could potentially include toolkits that help psychologists launch and grow modern practices. Finally, the APAPO could partner with Divisions and State, Provincial, and Territorial Psychological Associations to create a “National Psychologists Week” with the goal of increasing awareness of our work, train a new generation to advocate for our profession, and foster connections with community leaders.