Senior Director's Column

Tickets, passport and learning

Merry Bullock, PhD, discusses the purpose of international outreach and how APA has been active in implementing a learning partner model for international engagement.
By Merry Bullock, senior director, APA Office of International Affairs

Merry Bullock, PhDThis summer and fall, APA will be represented at a number of international meetings, including the 5th International Congress on Licensure, Certification and Credentialing, the European Congress of Psychology, the 5th International Congress of Clinical Psychology, the Interamerican Congress of Psychology and at national meetings in Australia, Colombia, Cuba and Mexico. In addition, APA will welcome several hundreds of psychologists and psychology students from around the world at its annual convention in August. As noted in the focus article of this newsletter edition, APA’s 2013 president is active in these efforts.

What is the purpose of such international outreach? One obvious reason is that psychology is international in many of its focus areas, and psychologists welcome opportunities to explore common areas of concern. However, in addition to collegial reasons, APA — through its Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP), international office and other offices — has been developing specific programs to facilitate targets of opportunity for implementing a learning partner model for international engagement.

Some recent examples include:

APA International Learning Partner Program. Initiated as a model for international exchange, the goals of the AILPP are to encourage psychologists to visit colleagues in other countries with a spirit of mutual learning. For example, the first AILPP trip to Cuba provided an example of the integration of psychology into health systems and health education. Such engagement, with colleagues in countries where psychology has developed in historical or cultural contexts different from the U.S. model, help expand the toolbox for broad discussion of psychology’s scientific and applied contributions to health and human wellbeing.

Going International: Practical Guides. APA’s Committee on International Relations has inaugurated a series of brochures to prepare U.S. psychologists for international exchange. The first brochure, Academics Going Abroad, focuses on travelling internationally for short or longer term engagement in academic settings. The second focuses on an important aspect of international research — using translated and adapted measurement instruments internationally (in preparation). For each, the intent was to encourage readers to become aware of issues in international engagement by suggesting a range of questions to ask, rather than defining answers.

Engagement on common issues. International outreach is not unique to APA. Over the last five years, APA has joined with nine other national associations in bilateral Memorandum of Understanding relations to support mutual learning, exchange and collaboration. Activities under discussion include developing exchange databases, collaborative research or teaching workshops, university exchanges and sharing of best practices. The grounding intention underlying many of these ideas is that direct contact, whether between individuals or organizations, will lead to discovery and exploration of areas of common interest and mutual learning.

Engagement by APA offices and staff. The APA Ethics Office regularly consults with psychology associations in other countries on the development of codes of ethics (and strongly supports detailed attention to cultural appropriateness and diversity), and offers ethics workshops for their members. APAGS (the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students) supports student initiatives and activities. APA’s LGBT Concerns Office manages INET, an international network of psychology associations’ LGBT offices or interest groups that is developing an international, collaborative voice for LGBT-oriented research, information and policy development.

Beginning conversations. APA’s annual convention also serves an important convening function. This year, because of its location in Hawaii, there is strong participation in the program from countries around the Pacific Rim — resulting in an increase (from 2012) by 50% in number of authors (from 1001 to 1613 authors). This will offer an opportunity for interested U.S. psychologists to begin building bridges for conversations and exchanges, and to make plans for further outreach. There is a ASEAN regional conference in the Philippines this year, and the International Congress of Psychology will be held in Yokohama in 2016. Other opportunities for international outreach can be found on the APA Calendar of International Meetings calendar and in the funding and program listings on the Office of International Affairs website.