Senior director's column

Senior Director's Column: Pole Sitting and Aspirations for 2008

In this issue, the leaders of two of APA’s international governance groups – CIRP (the Committee on International Relations in Psychology) and Division 52 (the Division of International Psychology) recap some of the successful initiatives in which they and their members have been involved.

By Merry Bullock, PhD

by Merry Bullock, PhD, Senior Director
APA Office of International Affairs

The end of the year is a time for taking stock and making resolutions.  In this issue, the leaders of two of APA’s international governance groups – CIRP (the Committee on International Relations in Psychology) and Division 52 (the Division of International Psychology) recap some of the successful initiatives in which they and their members have been involved.

These activities range from developing programs for mentoring, promoting and celebrating individual psychologists to helping foster the contributions of the association and of psychology in the international arena in humanitarian, capacity building and policy activities. In addition to CIRP’s and Division 52’s activities, many offices and individuals within APA headquarters have been involved in international programs, policies or initiatives. Here is a recap of just some of them.

Education. International issues in undergraduate and graduate education, continuing education, outreach and quality assurance are on the table. Some examples of recent and ongoing activities are:

  • As follow-up to APA’s participation in a project by the American Council on Education to develop guiding principles for internationalizing the undergraduate curriculum, the Board of Education Affairs and CIRP will meet in 2008 to brainstorm how to begin implementing recommendations for developing an internationalized psychology curriculum and how to collaborate with other APA groups working on international curriculum development.

  • After a first foray into offering Continuing Education (CE) credit for workshops at international conferences last spring at the MENA Regional Conference of Psychology in Jordan in April 2007, the CE office has begun discussion about mechanisms for APA CE credit for workshops and presentations at international conferences.

  • The Spring/Summer edition of Education’s newsletter The Educator was devoted to “the globalization of psychology” with a focus on international issues in education– see

Science. The Science Directorate is leading APA’s participation in a technical advisory group to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which is the US representative to the International Standards Organization (ISO). The group is concerned with the development of international standards for testing in employment settings that is being proposed as services (such as psychological services) are increasingly coming under the purview of international trade agreements.

Public Interest. Offices in the Public Interest Directorate have been collaborating with APA’s UN representatives on issues of HIV/AIDS, disability, families, family violence, women’s issues and human rights issues. The Government relations staff has provided the UN team with commentary and input on proposed statements to UN commissions. Some specific international initiatives include:

  • The Association of Greek Psychologists signed a memorandum of understanding with APA to receive training in the ACT program (Adults and Children Together Against Violence) and came to APA during the summer for workshops so that the ACT program may be offered in Greece.

  • The Office on AIDS submitted a concept paper to USAID on a joint project with the Society for Women Against AIDS in Africa and the Kenya Psychological Association on empirically supported HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

  • The Offices on Disability Issues and Public Interest Policy worked on international disability issues in the UN system and with international governments.

  • APA has been collaborating in a human rights coalition organized by the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) to ask how science can serve human rights goals.

Practice. Staff in the Practice Directorate are working with the World Health Organization on the revisions of the International Classification of Functioning and the International Classification of Disease.

APAGS. APAGS developed an edited handbook for international students intending to study in the US that promises to be a pragmatic guide for making the most of the graduate experience.

Publications. APA publications continue to report high rates of international authorship and readers. APA participates in the Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI), a program run by the World Health Organization that provides free or very low cost online access to the major journals from 70 publishers in biomedical and related social sciences to local, not-for-profit institutions in developing countries.

Ethics. APA’s ethics office has consults with colleagues from around the world on the form, structure and process of developing an ethics code and implementing its principles.

In addition to specific programs and activities, APA central office supports the international outreach of its Presidents (who are encouraged to and do attend international congresses and national psychology association annual conferences) and APA’s representation at the United Nations. During 2007 APA President Sharon Brehm attended conferences and visited in Jordan, Mexico and China, and hosted 22 presidents of national and regional associations of psychology at APA’s convention in San Francisco – reinforcing APA’s commitment to learning and collaborating with its fellow associations. One of the results of her efforts is an international listserv for presidents of all national psychology associations to allow an informal discussion of some of the important issues facing the discipline around the world. APA participates with other organizations in celebrating World Mental Health Day (sponsored by the World Federation for Mental Health), the International Day of Older Persons, the International Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and other international events to focus on important behavioral issues. APA also joins with fellow scholarly organizations in sponsoring an international conference on workplace health (see, in fostering science for human rights (see  and in sharing ideas and experiences in international outreach, capacity building and membership promotion.

In each of these activities our goal is aspirational – to create the conditions for psychology to become a truly global profession – respecting the importance and unique contributions of local and diverse psychologies while celebrating a common belief that understanding the science and practice of human behavior is crucial for fostering education, productivity, social justice, and health. Ψ