Questions from Division 38 – Health Psychology

In my view, APA went astray because the organization became overly centralized, lost touch with its constituents, and ceded its authority and good name to a small group whose interests did not necessarily reflect the interests or values of either the membership or the Divisions. In the process, APA lost sight of its mission, which is to help psychologists use psychological knowledge for the public good, and to help the public recognize and make use of those contributions. I believe that now, having faced the truth of what was exposed in the IR, APA has a unique opportunity to rededicate itself to this mission, reclaim our time-honored reputation, and welcome a new generation of young and diverse psychologists into our community.

APA Council recently passed a new initiative: to prioritize ethics, social justice and human rights as central planks in our strategic plan. I believe that such a focus will go a long way in re-establishing psychologists’ reputation and leadership among health professionals and the public. Making this change requires that Divisions not only represent their particular areas of expertise, but also help to shape the values and standards of psychology as a profession.

The best way to move forward in this spirit would be to guarantee the new generation of psychologists a greater voice in APA governance and in the development of policy. ECPs and psychology graduate students are five times more likely to be from a marginalized community than the current APA membership. Since Division membership is the gateway to APA membership for early-career psychologists, we must create serious and long-term Divisional outreach to these psychologists; I believe we must lessen the cost for them, and guarantee them seats in Division governance. The IR taught us that it is time to restore the voice of the membership at APA; our most important step toward accomplishing this would be to give a real and legitimate voice to young psychologists.

I believe that data collected by the Center for Workforce Studies is vital to understanding our memberships demographics and needs and therefore in shaping APA policy. Currently, however, the data we’re getting from the CWS should serve as a warning sign, as it reveals the direction APA membership is moving in. APA membership has fallen sharply recently, by 15% in the past three years, and the drop-off in student affiliate membership has been even sharper at 25% (this is before the effects of the IR were calculated). The result? APA is becoming an older, less diverse organization, one which is seen as increasingly irrelevant to the needs and concerns of diverse and early-career psychologists.

I believe that the CWS can do more. The CWS has done a good job of informing us as to who our members are; as president, I would encourage it to ask a slightly different question: what do they want? How, in particular, can the APA become more relevant and more helpful, for example, to the young and diverse psychologists who will shape our profession’s future in coming years? That means asking not just about salaries and demographic data but also about aspirations and concerns: how satisfied are APA members with their work lives? How is student debt affecting the options open to early-career psychologists? How well do they feel they are serving the public good, and how might the APA help? If the APA is to remain a relevant and responsive organization in the 21st century it needs to answer these questions, and as president I will encourage the CWS to play its part in that process.