Letter from Florence Kaslow and Chris Stout: Outgoing 2011 CIRP Co-Chairs

A recap of CIRP's 2011 activities.

Drs. Chris Stout and Florence Kaslow, 2011 CIRP Co-Chairs, at the Fall consolidated meeting.The mission of APA’s Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP) is to foster interactions between psychologists in the US and their colleagues abroad, while promoting an international perspective of psychology within programs, policies, and educational settings. As we reflect on the past year with CIRP, we see a number of notable events in which CIRP has striven to accomplish this mission in 2011.

The APA Convention provides an important opportunity to meet colleagues, discuss research, teaching, and practice issues, and establish networks for future collaboration. At this year’s Convention, as a strategy to bring more awareness of international issues to Divisions, CIRP sponsored a poster session where the various Divisions of APA were asked to prepare presentations highlighting their international activities and members. The 26 Divisions that participated had a chance to mingle and exchange ideas and had lively discussions with each other and convention-goers about Divisions activities. This was one of the many items that led to lively discourse at the breakfast for Division liaisons held during the Convention. CIRP also led roundtable discussions on “Internationalizing Your Psychology Life,” focusing separately on student experiences, career paths, and service opportunities. This event was very popular and will be a continuing effort in upcoming conventions.

APA’s consultative status at the United Nations provides many exciting opportunities for the involvement of psychologists in activities related to the UN agenda. The work with our NGO team of representatives continued to be effective, illustrated by the full-day Psychology Day at the UN in April of 2011. This was the largest Psychology Day since the event began in 2007, and focused on the role of psychology in achieving universal access to education. CIRP co-chair Florence Kaslow gave a keynote address for the afternoon sessions. Having the chairperson of the UN team, Dr. Deanna Chitayat, a member of CIRP helped facilitate this linkage. Having the former chair of the UN team, Dr. Florence Denmark, still very responsive to CIRP was another positive.

CIRP published its first brochure of a series that aims to guide psychology professionals in their international ventures. The series is called Going International: A Practical Guide for Psychologists. CIRP was enthusiastic about moving forward with the next sets in the series and will generate brochures that focus on research, consultation, and service.

CIRP members, Office of International Affairs Staff, and APA’s International Liaisons and guests during the 2011 Fall Consolidated Meeting. Seated: Susan Opotow, Florence Kaslow, Chris Stout, Tina Richardson. Standing: Jennifer Kelly, Sally Leverty, Chandra Mehrotra, Deanna Chitayat, Robert Roe, Maureen Black, Barbara Byrne, Puncky Heppner, Rukhsana M. Chaudhry, Dana Townsend, Merry Bullock.While keeping with the need to disseminate an international perspective to colleagues and future psychologists, CIRP also worked in 2011 to facilitate APA’s diversity training for governance members, and to educate itself about the development of psychology internationally. In the Spring, Jan Pieter van Oudenhoven of the Netherlands presented at the Council meetings and the March consolidated meetings for all attending boards and committees, and attended the CIRP meeting and dinner as well. His presentation focused on intercultural competencies. In the Fall, CIRP invited Robert Roe, president of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA), to attend the September CIRP meeting. He met with CIRP and spoke with CIRP, the Board of Directors, and senior APA staff about the history and context of Europe, the growth of psychology within a European context, development of EFPA, psychology in the current European sphere, and recent developments such as the EuroPsy certificate. The invitation extended to Dr. Roe was an excellent idea and his presence certainly enhanced both our meeting and the special session attended by APA’s Board of Directors. Our interchanges with these VIPs from other countries continue to help broaden our knowledge and perspectives and hopefully will be continued in 2012.

In terms of collaborative activities, CIRP is looking to join forces with APA’s Ethics Committee to identify sections of the ethics code that need to be considered in an international context and give guidance on cultural competence. Steve Behnke, Director of the APA Ethics Office, joined CIRP’s discussion about developing instance-based guidance and promoting ethical decision making in international contexts, including logistical and strategic guidance for countries that lack mental health services infrastructure. A goal of this initiative should be to provide to US psychologists a way to think about these issues in international work and a framework for ethical decision making in these sometimes ambiguous contexts.

CIRP also discussed the value of APA collaboration in psychosocial recovery efforts in Japan following the 2011 earthquake and endorsed an APA response. CIRP suggested that APA reach out to associations of psychology in Japan, in collaboration with the APA ad hoc Expert group, to offer collaboration in problem solving activities to develop longer-term recovery programs.

One of our ongoing challenges is making US psychologists aware of international issues and extending APA’s ongoing work to international perspectives. One of the disappointments this year was when we were unable to work out an arrangement to do a special issue focused on immigration issues in various countries for an APA journal. We had wanted to do this as an extension of the work that APA’s 2011 President Melba Vasquez had done with her immigration task force and their focus on immigration issues in the United States. We hope that in the future CIRP will be able to facilitate this type of collaboration and bring international perspectives in psychology more to APA’s mainstream.

These are but a few highlights of CIRP’s activities in 2011. The Committee’s work is an ongoing effort and involves networking with national and international psychology organizations worldwide, as well as APA divisions, state associations, and other governance units. We anticipate that 2012 will show development of the initiatives begun this past year, as well as new ones, with greater input into APA’s Council of Representatives. As our term as CIRP’s co-chairs ends with the end of 2011, we’re thrilled to turn over the leadership of the committee to Drs. Tina Richardson and Puncky Heppner as 2012’s co-chairs. We also welcome three new faces as Drs. Jean Lau Chin, Virginia Kwan, and Bonnie Nastasi join our committee in the new year.