Chair's Corner

Diversity issues have become increasingly prominent within psychological research, education and practice. While psychologists still have much to learn, our field has professed its commitment to understanding and appreciating individual and cultural differences, as well as to promoting diversity in a broader sense. Unfortunately, we often fail to extend this appreciation to psychology's diversity of interests and training, and this failure results in intradisciplinary conflicts.

According to former APA President Robert Sternberg, PhD, division within psychology can have multiple deleterious effects, including the deterioration of morale, the consumption of valuable resources and the reduction of psychology's credibility. Further, these conflicts are particularly harmful to graduate students because they can undermine the development of a strong and healthy professional identity. Two examples of such rifts are the divisions between science and practice, and the disagreement regarding the value of the PhD and PsyD degrees.


In his recent book "Unity in Psychology," Sternberg identifies "the science-practice split" as one division within the field that "make[s] little sense" given that each needs the other. He argues that science needs practice-oriented students to teach, practice-related issues to drive grant funding and vehicles for application, while practice needs science to provide theories, validate assessment instruments and test therapies. Therefore, both science and practice are best served when they capitalize on their interdependence by working together.

With respect to graduate students, approximately 70 percent of APAGS members are practice-identified and about 25 percent are science-identified. However, many of these students wish to pursue both research and practice and therefore prefer not to dichotomize their professional identities. The science-practice split hurts students by asking them to choose one identity to the exclusion of the other. Part of APAGS' stated mission is to "represent all graduate study specialties of psychology, and to facilitate the exchange of information between these groups." Consequently, we continue to seek the input and active involvement of both science and practice students. In this way, we hope to enrich the experience of all graduate students through the sharing of diverse perspectives.


Another source of discord within psychology exists surrounding degree type. Despite 33 years, thousands of PsyD graduates and one APA president with a PsyD degree, the disagreement surrounding the PsyD degree continues. As a PsyD myself, I have repeatedly heard others denigrate professional programs while erroneously assuring me that I am the exception to the generally inferior quality of their students. As another example, several PsyD interns reported being told "PsyDs don't do research" when they inquired about available research opportunities. Most egregiously, a PsyD colleague of mine who is a gifted clinician was advised by a PhD supervisor to say she "made a mistake" if asked by prospective employers why she chose a PsyD over a PhD program!

There are genuine differences among programs, and communicating these differences to students can provide them with valuable data they can use to make informed decisions about their educations and careers. However, defining any program by a single variable such as degree type cannot sufficiently capture the quality of its training. Doing so may result in the perpetuation of negative stereotypes and biases that are harmful, disrespectful and simply wrong.

Like many conflicts, the tension among the various areas of psychology appears largely based in misunderstanding and competition for scarce resources. Graduate students bring fresh perspectives and enthusiasm that they can use to seek out opportunities for respectful dialogue, information exchange and collaboration across all areas of expertise, degree types and program types. By embracing and celebrating psychology's diversity, we can use our collective voice to continue to expand the field. We can work together to ensure that psychology has a strong future in which there is more than enough room for us all.