Past President Gerry Koocher Speaks at International Conferences

Past President Gerry Koocher spoke at International Conferences about ethical challenges and the roles of invisible psychologists, those who work out of sight of people affected by their efforts.

By Gerald P. Koocher, PhD

Psychology International (November-December 2007)

Past President Gerry Koocher Speaks at International Conferences
by Gerald Koocher, PhD, Dean of the School for Health Studies at Simmons College and 2006 APA President

Last year, I accepted an invitation to keynote the annual conference of the Australian Psychological Society (APS), scheduled for September, 2007.  In planning the trip I booked tickets on Thai Airways and arranged a stop-over to visit Bangkok, Thailand as a tourist.  I wondered whether I could make contact with any colleagues in Bangkok to learn a bit about psychology practice as I passed through.  After searching the online APA directory I made contact with Christine Noriko Bierdrager, PhD, a 1996 graduate of the California School of Professional Psychology (Fresno), who teaches in the Graduate School of Psychology at Assumption University in Bangkok ( and volunteered to give a talk for their students and faculty as I passed through.

Dr. Bierdrager put me in touch with Vorapot (“Tom”) Ruckthum, PhD, Dean of the graduate program at Assumption, and I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon and evening with their students and faculty.  The students represented a significant number of nationalities and were quite impressive in their skills and range of interests.  Although the use of psychological services has gained only an early foothold in the country, there is a growing interest and great potential for Thai psychology.  Our Thai colleagues where very interested in contacts with American scholars and practitioners and would certainly welcome other visitors.

At the Australian Psychological Society meeting in Brisbane I spoke on ethical challenges and the roles of invisible psychologists, those who work out of sight of people affected by their efforts (e.g., in advertising, jury selection, security, and other fields).  I also participated in a panel discussion addressing issues related to work in detention centers.  In addition to concerns shared by the APA in opposing any participation in torture, cruel, degrading, and inhumane practices, our Australian colleagues have additional concerns regarding immigration detention centers in their own country.  Both APA and the APS have similar positions opposing the use of psychologists in inappropriate interrogation and detention circumstances.

One particularly interesting aspect of attending the APS convention included observing their election of officers which took place at the convention using live and mailed written ballots.  I learned a new English vocabulary word: “scrutineer.”  During the ballot counting the scrutineers observe, and when necessary challenge, the counting of the ballots. The experience made me feel glad that APA uses an outside firm to do this work for us independently.

Both my Thai and Australian colleagues proved amazingly warm and hospitable.  I strongly urge my colleagues to consider timing trips abroad to coincide with local or national professional meetings (see the international meetings calendar page) and to include contacts with local psychologists.  American psychology is highly respected abroad, and contacts with psychologists from the United States is generally welcomed.