Introducing ORTHO: The American Orthopsychiatric Association

The American Orthopsychiatric Association (Ortho) provides a forum for collaborative study, research and exchange among individuals concerned with issues of social justice and mental health

By Natallia Sianko

About ORTHOAmerican Orthopsychiatric Association Seal

The American Orthopsychiatric Association (Ortho) is a multidisciplinary association of professionals interested in the intersection of mental health, social justice, and human rights. Since its inception more than 85 years ago, Ortho has provided a common ground for individuals from a variety of disciplines attempting to generate and advance the knowledge relevant to issues affecting children, adolescents, adults, families, schools, community mental health, and life span development. In developing policies and practices to promote mental wellbeing and advance social justice, Ortho has placed a particular emphasis on the protection of human rights — an internationally recognized strategy to prevent mental disorders. 

ORTHO members

Ortho is the second, third or fourth professional affiliation for the majority of its members. Professionals from psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing, epidemiology, public health, education, law, justice studies and other allied disciplines converge in Ortho. This diversity manifests itself not only through various academic affiliations, but also in geographical terms — members of Ortho live all over the world. Students and junior scholars are a growing part of Ortho’s membership. Ortho's members embody a breadth of viewpoints and perspectives that cannot be incorporated in any single discipline or orientation. 


Ortho got its name in 1924, when a small group of psychiatrists with a common cause — to unite the work force of those engaged in the study and treatment of human behavior — blended the prefix "Ortho" (from the Greek "to straighten") with "psychiatry". Since its founding, Ortho has been a leader in advocating for a .simple but revolutionary idea: The mental health of individuals depends on their social context.. Ortho’s goal has been prevention, particularly in community settings, based on the belief that fostering mental health in family, school and community contexts will reduce risk for mental disorders. 

Ortho has been at the forefront of new approaches to enduring problems: it has provided a scholarly platform for new theories and modalities. Family therapy, group therapy, the community mental health movement and a range of initiatives in services and treatment for children were born in Ortho.

Today, Ortho continues to affirm the importance — and complexity — of understanding how aspects of the social and cultural context affect mental health and well-being. 

ORTHO in action

American Journal of Orthopsychiatry

Ortho’s main publication, the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (AJO), provides a forum for an exchange of ideas related to theory, practice, research, and social action, from psychological, biological, social, and cultural perspectives. With a distinguished history of more than 85 years, the AJO reflects Ortho’s purpose: "to facilitate the generation and exchange of knowledge relevant to the development and implementation of policies and practices consistent with the promotion of mental health and social justice, including the protection of human rights." Consistent with that mission, AJO publishes articles that clarify, challenge, or re-shape the prevailing understanding of factors related to the prevention and correction of injustice and the sustainable development of a humane and just society. A unique feature of AJO is its magazine-in-a-journal section called The Community — a title that not only signifies the content of interest, but also suggests an intent to generate exchange of ideas, as in website "communities" for social networking. In addition, readers can take part in Ortho’s continuing education (CE) program and earn a CE credit by reading designated articles in the AJO. Ortho members receive the journal free as a membership benefit.  To learn more about journal submission and guidelines, visit  Wiley Journal Information.


Ortho organizes and supports professional meetings around themes related to mental health research, policy and practice. Such events provide members an opportunity to delve into issues of interest and to develop strategies for addressing relevant social issues, often at reduced costs. 


Ortho has a distinguished history of supporting outstanding contributions to mental health research and related professional service to the public interest. Ortho seeks to recognize exemplary work consistent with its values and, in particular, to give encouragement to students in the mental health disciplines who are engaged in creating humane social policy, promoting human rights, improving existing polices especially in relation to disadvantaged populations, and many more. Awards include: Blanche L. Ittleson, Max Hayman, Marion Langer, Vera Paster and Presidential Awards. For descriptions of these awards, visit AOA Today.

Jacob Massaquio accepts the 2008 Max Hayman Award—in honor of distinguished mental health scholarship contributing to the elimination of genocide—for his work with the African Refuge in Staten Island, New York.

Dr. Anne Smith, PhD (center) receives the 2008 Marion Langer Award—recognizing distinction in social advocacy and the pursuit of human rights—for her work in founding the Children?s Issue Center in New Zealand.
Task Forces

In the interest of informing professional practice and public policy, Ortho organizes periodic study groups and joins other task forces related to these goals. Consistent with Ortho’s values, Ortho encourages an interdisciplinary dialogue among members of task forces that include mental health professionals, child advocates, academicians, policymakers, service providers, and others interested in promoting a specific aspect of mental wellbeing or advocating for a social change. Recently, Ortho task forces have focused on issues related to addressing the mental health needs of children of homeless families, promoting a more humane approach to meeting the needs of immigrants, and developing a framework for understanding the right to benefit from scientific progress in the context of mental health research. 

Washington Policy NewsBlast

Ortho Washington NewsBlast is a monthly online bulletin from the Washington Policy Fellow that provides an overview of relevant policy developments in Washington, D.C., highlights research and other resources in the areas of interest to Ortho members, and reviews upcoming symposia and research and advocacy events consistent with Ortho’s values. The most recent NewsBlast can be found online.

And much more!

Ortho has many opportunities for everyone at every stage of their professional development. To explore more potential benefits and to learn more, please visit the website.