APA and You: A Passion for Psychology
Hello, I’m Dr. Norman Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association.
Whether you are a student or a member of the public with an interest in psychology, or thinking of pursuing a psychology career, APA has important information and materials for you.
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience.
Psychologists conduct both basic and applied research, serve as consultants to communities and organizations, diagnose and treat people, and teach future psychologists and other types of students. They test intelligence and personality. Many psychologists work as health care providers. They assess behavioral and mental function and well-being. They study how human beings relate to each other and to machines, and they work to improve these relationships. With America undergoing changes in its population makeup, psychologists bring important knowledge and skills to understanding diverse cultures.
Some psychologists work independently. They also team up with other professionals — for example, other scientists, physicians, lawyers, school personnel, computer experts, engineers, policymakers and managers — to contribute to every area of society. Thus we find them in laboratories, hospitals, courtrooms, schools and universities, community health centers, prisons and corporate offices.
Most psychologists say they love their work. They cite the variety of daily tasks and the flexibility of their schedules. They are thrilled by the exciting changes taking place in the field, from adapting technology to humans to working as part of primary health care teams. They are working hard to provide answers to research questions in diverse areas such as prevention, perception and learning.
The APA is here to support the scholarship behind these professional endeavors.
I’d like to introduce you to a few colleagues who share my passion for psychology.
On Becoming a Psychologist
Taryn Myers, PhD, APA Member Since 2010: I think a lot of people initially think psychology is just the clinical side and obviously, having been through a clinical program myself, having done the clinical work myself, that’s a very important part of psychology.
But it's so much more than that. It's also the research, and it’s also the teaching piece and it’s the applied piece, and it’s now advocacy as well.
Francisco Sanchez, PhD, APA Fellow; Member Since 2005: The reason I got into psychology originally really stemmed from, to some degree, the positive experiences I had with my college professors in psychology. Whether it would be kind of their dynamic teaching or the interesting topics they were teaching on — which then led me to seek out research opportunities as an undergraduate on psychology experiments and also doing a crisis helpline.
Josephine Johnson, PhD, APA Fellow; Member Since 1989: When I was in elementary school, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. By the time I was in junior high, I wanted to be a lawyer. But by the time I got into high school, I was really, really curious about psychology. And so I majored in psychology at Northwestern University and got a bachelor’s degree, and then I continued into school psychology, got a master’s degree and then a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. So I have always been passionate about psychology at least since high school.
Christine Agaibi, APA Student Affiliate Member Since 2004: Just learning about my own resilience throughout my life and what has made me kind of thrive when I have had difficult situations made me want to kind of study that a little bit more. And so I wanted to go to graduate school to kind of learn more about just human behavior and what makes people do what they do and specifically study resilience.
A Passion for Psychology
Edouard Carignan, PsyD, APA Member Since 2001: I don’t think there is anything I don’t like about my job. I get most excited when a kid comes in who just absolutely will not talk for whatever reason and then by the second or the third session, is talking so much that I have to control my time, I have to say, "You know, we only have three minutes, four minutes left. You have to go soon."
Debra Park, APA High School Teacher Affiliate Member Since 1982: I love teaching psychology. When I started teaching psychology 33 years ago at the high school level, there was one introductory course, and I was the person that was hired to teach it along with some other classes. And then over the years, the course became very popular because the students loved learning about psychology. So we added more courses, and then I started teaching advanced placement psychology, and that became my passion.
Sanchez: I am a Senior Research Assistant at the UCLA School of Medicine in the Department of Human Genetics, where I help the interdisciplinary team like administering all the psychological questionnaires, doing intelligence testing, personality assessment, mental health assessment, which we can then take back to the lab and correlate it with different types of biological traits whether it would be neuroanatomy or genetic variation.
Myers: I love when students light up like that, whether it’s in the classroom, and you are having a discussion, and you could see they really get a psychological concept or something really resonates with them, or you hear them get mad about something when we are talking about social justice issues, women’s issues, ethnic issues, and you can hear them start to connect things in their lives, things that they have seen or things that they didn’t realize were happening.
Johnson: I have people who come back and say, "You saved my life," and I think I am somewhat surprised to hear that but I am certainly thrilled to hear that because I do think therapy can make a powerful difference in people’s lives.
The Value of APA Membership
Park: Well, as a teacher of psychology, at first, it was difficult to get resources besides the textbook because there really wasn’t a lot out there. But over the years, the American Psychological Association has really developed resources that are so helpful to high school teachers as well as college professors. Besides, of course, the APA website, which you can go to and you can find a number of different resources.
Carignan: I have just been introduced to PsycOUTCOMES, something that I have been looking for for a long time. And likewise, PsycLINK, the Wiki, for and by psychologists. I feel less isolated by using these things.
Johnson: APA is the broad umbrella organization that really represents all areas of practice, and I don’t mean practice specifically but all disciplines from education to research to public interest to practice. And it is the key resource for advocacy for the discipline. And I don’t know that enough of the members appreciate how much advocacy APA does on the behalf of members regardless of area of specialization.
Myers: And again, the support is just fabulous. The fact that there are these activities for early career psychologists, and there is a whole division devoted to psychology of women, which is where my interest and everything lies. And then Division 2, it's all about the teaching of psychology. So their events are really helpful as well as terms of getting ideas for new things you can bring into the classroom, new techniques, how can you open up discussions in different ways.
Sanchez: If someone were asking me whether or not they should join the American Psychological Association, I guess my advice to them would be that I think there are a lot of valuable resources available to psychologists regardless of what area of psychology they are working in.