20th Congress of the Mexican Psychological Society: MOU partners meet in Campeche
The 2012 annual meeting of the Mexican Psychological Society (Sociedad Mexicana de Psicología—SMP) was held in October in Campeche, Mexico, the oldest walled city in the Americas. Facing the Gulf of Mexico, the conference center welcomed 1,500 students, professionals, researchers and faculty who met for three days of lively exchange and discussion. APA staff in attendance were Stephen Behnke, Ethics Office (who gave a plenary talk on ethics and APA) and Merry Bullock, Office of International Affairs (who was named honorary president of the congress).
In addition to attending lively sessions, Behnke and Bullock met with multiple Mexican psychology organizations. They met with the board of directors and officers from SMP, with representatives of a newly formed accrediting organization called COMEPSI, and with a council of state-association representatives. Overall, the discussions focused on current issues and ways to support engagement stemming from APA’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SMP.
Some highlights of the organizational meetings included:
The Mexican Psychological Society supported formation of an organization that will support quality assurance for psychology. This body, COMEPSI, intends to provide accreditation to programs and a registry for psychologists. It is presently developing a national psychology qualifying exam and carrying out steps for legal recognition as an accreditor and registry. As noted by the current director, Laura Hernandez: This program will provide consistency to the definition of a psychologist and control over competence levels in psychological training. As in the United States, Mexico has a system of state-level regulatory systems and psychology associations; developing such a national body requires collaboration across local- and federal-level associations and ministries.
In meetings with the SMP board of directors and with the state-association council, discussion moved to areas in which APA and SMP can find opportunities to work together.
The congress began with an opening session that took place in a standing-room-only auditorium. The energy of the students, faculty and professionals spilled out from there to lively symposia, paper and poster sessions. The content of these sessions highlighted the issues that psychology addresses: family and community, violence, education, youth development, immigration, stigma, and the like.
Throughout the three days, the congress attendees and officers were gracious hosts, aided by student volunteers who were knowledgeable and ready to provide information, directions and their perspective on psychology and its future in Mexico. One issue faced by Mexican psychology programs is a difficulty in balancing the popularity of psychology as a major with the relatively small number of public sector jobs available to students once they graduate. Another issue is the compatibility of (mostly) U.S.-derived scales and instruments with Mexican culture and a perceived need to increase local research and models.
“My plenary address at the XXth Mexican Congress of Psychology, ‘The United States and Mexico: Partners in Ethical Practice,’ highlighted ways in which APA and the Mexican Psychological Society may wish to collaborate in the area of ethics. I was delighted to have an enthusiastic reception to these possibilities, and discussions with the leadership of the Mexican Psychological Society generated several ideas for joint programs. The psychologists with whom I spoke in Campeche expressed an eagerness to work more closely together, and wanted to discuss concrete plans for an ethics workshop, and even to have a plan in place, before I returned to the United States! The energy at the congress was palpable, especially among the students, many of whom had travelled across the country to attend. Attending the conference left me hoping that many psychologists from the United States would have the opportunity to interact with our Mexican colleagues.”
The energy noted by Behnke was palpable throughout the congress. A highlight was talking with presenters at the poster sessions. Students, many of whom were attending their first congress, answered questions about their methods, goals and challenges with enthusiasm, and expressed a desire for increased collaboration with their counterparts in the United States.
Attending each other’s annual meeting is one way in which APA has begun to interact with its MOU partners. Earlier in 2012, SMP leaders attended the APA convention — and in 2013, three SMP leaders will attend APA’s state leadership conference. APA’s intention to form mutual learning relationships with its MOU partners provides an opportunity for developing sustained collaborations and exchange with our neighbor to the south.