Address to the APA Council of Representatives

Today I had the honor of speaking to the American Psychological Association Council of Representatives about my vision for the future of the association. Below is a transcript of my remarks. 

As a candidate for President of the American Psychological Association, I’ve spent much of this past year listening to your concerns.

I’ve heard from graduate students who fear they won’t be able to secure an internship, fellowship, and job that will allow them to apply what they’ve learned.

I’ve heard from early career psychologists who are delaying marriage, purchasing a home, or investing in retirement because of their overwhelming student loan debt.

I’ve met adjunct professors who despite years of service to their institutions are not offered salaried positions or healthcare benefits. I’ve met clinicians who despite mental health parity continue to have their services denied by insurance and wonder how long they can maintain their practices in an ever changing healthcare system. Then there’re the scientists who are scaling back their labs because of how difficult it’s become to get psychological research funded.  

These are the reasons why year after year psychologists are leaving the American Psychological Association and why new psychologists are not joining – many don’t see the value in joining APA. They see APA as out of touch with the real issues impacting their lives. And they’re right – APA isn’t meeting the needs of its members.

I know APA. From boards and committees, to task forces, the Council of Representatives, and the Board of Directors, I’ve spent the last 10 years serving APA. APA is important and it does a lot of good for psychology. But APA stopped prioritizing members long ago. Why? It didn’t need to care about recruiting and retaining members because its publishing business brought in millions more than membership.

We need a new way forward. We need to build a new APA. This is what I promise to do as your next APA President – champion a new APA culture that puts members first.

We can build value in APA membership by connecting psychologists, helping us grow our careers, and increase psychology’s voice in our local communities. We can follow the example of other successful associations by building a membership concierge program that will personally contact members and ask, “What can APA do for you?” It’s also time to reduce APA membership dues to levels consistent with other non-profit organizations and invite psychology majors to join APA through a new non-voting public membership category.

The new APA will increase the voice of membership in APA governance. We will live broadcast all APA meetings, make votes public, and create online town halls between leadership and membership. We will develop an online petition system that allows any member to introduce items to APA’s Council of Representatives.

We will help psychologists prepare for changes in the marketplace. Clinicians will get help diversifying their practices beyond mental health and researchers will take advantage of new interdisciplinary partnerships.

We will continue to support APA’s effort to advocate for federal research funding and support the development of clinical practice guidelines that will improve access to care. At the same time, we need to adopt new methods that will grow support for psychology. This means partnering with YouTube science communicators to create a modern public education campaign and organizing APA membership to become psychology ambassadors by engaging elected representatives, schools, and local communities.

The governing body of the new APA will prioritize the creation of policy about the social crises facing our world, increasing our impact across federal and state governments. We will expand our focus by integrating members of the public into our deliberations. We will collaborate with our international partners to develop global standards that are responsive to culture, protect the public, and facilitate professional mobility.

These changes require new leadership. 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. New leadership is needed that will bring us together on shared goals, open us to new ideas, and integrate diverse perspectives throughout everything APA does.

If this vision of a new APA resonates with you, if you want to see a more inclusive, transparent, accountable association, I ask you to join this movement. I cannot do this alone. I don’t have all the answers or the resources to bring this type of change to APA. We have to work together.

Together, we can build a new APA every psychologist will be proud to join.