“I treat survivors of severe trauma and torture in my practice. So when I heard that clinical psychologists were behind the Bush administration’s torture program, I had to speak up, not only as a psychologist but as a psychologist-practitioner.”

— Steven J Reisner, Candidate for APA President

Dear Fellow Practitioner,

I am known in APA primarily for my public advocacy for human rights and social justice, and in particular for my efforts to change APA’s policies on interrogations, aligning them with international standards of medical ethics. But less well known is that, in my day job, I am a full-time private practitioner.

Did you know that fewer than 15% of practitioners vote in APA elections?  That’s why I am asking you to please vote in this election, so we can make APA an organization that we are proud to be a part of, as psychologists and as practitioners. 

Over my 25-year career as a psychologist, I have served in nearly every role that is open to practitioners. I began my clinical training on psychiatric and substance abuse units in urban hospitals (in New York) and community mental health centers (in New Haven). I worked my way up the ranks to Chief Psychologist at Regent Hospital, one of New York’s pre-eminent centers for the treatment of addiction, eating disorders, and self-harm.  I was responsible not only for budget, policies and procedures, and hiring, but for general supervision of clinical staff and program development on the adult units. Regent was the first psychiatric hospital in the country to create a dedicated unit for LGBTQ patients. And, as this was at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, we were on the front lines of public advocacy with the gay community for fair treatment of HIV patients.

I was known at the time for my work with the most severely impacted patients and became adept at negotiating with insurance companies and managed care organizations to ensure individualized transition from in-patient to out-patient treatment. My expertise was in fostering community and family therapeutic support systems to help these patients stay out of hospitals.

Naturally, since my experience was with addiction, eating disorders and self-harm, I began to focus my clinical work, teaching and research on issues of trauma. My interest in these issues was also personal: as a child of Holocaust survivors, I had first-hand knowledge of the impact of war and exile on individuals, families and communities. Because of this developing expertise, I was invited, in 2000, to co-direct the academic and clinical modules of the International Trauma Studies Program at New York University, where we trained clinicians from over 50 countries in trauma treatment, international interventions, and program development.

Our location in downtown New York City, provided us with a unique vantage point for developing new approaches to assessing and treating issues related to trauma. During the week after September 11, 2001, for example, we were the first to organize training and support for New York City therapists who, in the immediate aftermath of the attack, were called upon to treat survivors of the attack, families who had lost loved ones, and first responders, even while they themselves were personally coping with the attack’s effects.

In 2002, we helped organize and supervise a consortium of pro bono practitioners to work with New York’s large community of survivors of torture. It was through this effort that I began to learn about the clinical and political aspects of torture and the treatment of its victims.

As psychologists, we have unique expertise in treating and advocating for the most vulnerable populations. Having trained and supervised clinical and counseling psychology students at Columbia University, psychiatric residents at NYU, United Nations clinical staff in trauma treatment, and clinicians working with war trauma and natural disasters in Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, and elsewhere, I have seen first-hand the value that psychologist-practitioners add to any practice or setting – whether it is integrated care or emergency care, private practice, community practice, practice in the public interest or international interventions.

For me, the roles of practitioner and advocate for human welfare have always been linked. I strongly believe that APA must to do more to recognize how much psychologists, every day, in the privacy of our offices and clinics, contribute to human welfare, social justice and the public good.

As a full-time practitioner myself, I understand the challenges that practitioners experience and how vital it is for APA, and especially the APA Practice Organization, to support practitioners.  As APA President and member of the Board of APAPO, I will advocate for parity, just compensation, and increased opportunity for psychologists.

I am asking you to help me speak up for practitioners and for all psychologists by giving Steven J. Reisner your #1 vote in the current election.

Here’s how to cast your ballot: Look in your inbox for an email from “apaelection.” If you have not received that email, contact gcoad@apa.org and ask for a ballot. And please vote!

Thank you for your time and for your support.

Steven J. Reisner, PhD

Candidate for APA President

APAPO relies largely on dues for its budget, yet membership has fallen 40% since 2008.  Clearly APAPO’s authority and effectiveness have been limited by the membership crisis. If we are to reverse this trend, we must understand its causes. There are at least three: First, our members, particularly ECPs, have faced economic pressures over the past decade. Second, many members experienced a breach of trust – with APA, due to the interrogations scandal, and APAPO, due to the dues controversy and subsequent lawsuit. Finally, many practitioners associate APAPO primarily with the fight for prescription privileges, a costly effort that many believe has been of benefit to only a few practitioners.

Our task is to turn each of these crises into an opportunity. We must demonstrate to our members that APAPO remains our greatest resource for advocating for psychologists’ economic future; that APAPO has learned the lessons of the lawsuit and now will ensure that transparency, integrity and respect guide our relationship with our members; and that we have listened to the needs of all practitioners and have developed broad-based national and local advocacy strategies based on expressed member and State organization needs and values. As a practitioner for 25 years, I have long argued that psychology, as a profession, should be a guiding light for human welfare, social justice and the public good. With APAPO, I will fight just as strongly in advocating for practicing psychologists, so that we can continue to be that guiding light.

The practice of American psychology is changing in challenging ways. In this new climate, APAPO must advocate for expanded roles for psychologists and prepare us to take them on by providing training and education opportunities. Simultaneously, we must preserve what is best in the present system of practice. Our advocacy must stem from the aspirations and values that young and old alike bring to the field:  the desire to use our best talents, education and research for the good of others, and to be able to make a living doing it.

Practitioners at differing levels of experience have different needs and APAPO must advocate for each—from early-career to established practitioners, in private practice and in public roles. ECPs need us to advocate for fair student loan practices and the expansion of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for ECPs working for the public good. Mid-career psychologists need support to adapt to and thrive in a changing world of integrated care, so psychologists’ skills can be expanded into new roles. Practitioners in established private practices need APAPO to advocate for out-of-network benefits under the Affordable Care Act, and ensure that parity is operational and effective in all states. We should ensure that “evidence-based practice” doesn’t mean cherry-picking evidence, but supporting all validated methodologies. The extraordinary diversity of approaches and forms of treatment offered by American psychologists is one of the great strengths of our profession; we should seek to preserve it, even as we transition into new forms of care.