COLPSIC 2013: Repairing the social fabric in Colombia

APA President Donald Bersoff participated in a psychology conference in Bogotá cohosted by the Colombian College of Psychologists, one of APA’s MOU partners.

APA President Donald Bersoff giving a plenary talk during the conference.How can psychology assist in a return to civil society and civic engagement? How can it help a population repair the wounds of 50 years of civil war? These were some of the questions that set the stage for the national psychology conference in Bogotá Colombia in September. Hosted by COLPSIC (the Colombian College of Psychologists) and by ASCOFAPSI (the Colombian Council of Educational Programs), the conference provided a forum for about 1,500 Colombian colleagues and a group of international invited guests to learn, share and plan the future.

The conference opening session, which followed a full day of workshops, began with greetings from local sponsors and a keynote talk from Saths Cooper, president of the International Union of Psychological Science, on "Forgiveness and Peace: Lessons from South Africa." This was immediately followed by a “conversatory” with a panel of international invited guests focused on issues of local and global psychology, finding culturally appropriate interactions, and the roles of psychology in policy, law and application.

APA was represented by its 2013 President Donald Bersoff, and the Director of the Office of International Affairs, Merry Bullock, who each gave plenary talks (titled "Violence Prevention: Policies and Activities of the American Psychological Association" and "Can Psychology Really be Internationalized?") and participated in a number of smaller group conversations. APA also met with the leaders of COLPSIC and ASCOFAPSI to discuss next steps in developing collaborative activities as part of the memorandum of understanding signed between APA and COLPSIC.

Psychology in Colombia is growing rapidly in both scientific and applied areas — as the many engaged students and faculty at the conference demonstrated. From cutting edge animal research to therapeutic work with the children of villages involved in guerilla activities, to larger scale studies of people’s attitudes toward Colombia’s history or their willingness to forgive perpetrators of violence, it was clear that this is a vibrant psychology community. Conference presentations also addressed the implications of a new law in Colombia recognizing psychologists in some specialties as health providers.