Early-Career Psychology

For psychologists within the first seven years of earning their doctorates, life can be full of challenges, from establishing their new careers to paying off school loans and attending to their families' needs. To find out whether APA is providing the services these early career psychologists need, the association hosted a town hall meeting during its Annual Convention.

"There's a keen interest in these issues and really good spirit here," APA President Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, said at the meeting. "We need you to make concrete suggestions and send them to us. This is a very receptive organization."

In addition to Kazdin, also fielding questions were President-elect James H. Bray, PhD; Membership Board Chair Sandra E. Tars, PhD; Committee on Early Career Psychology Chair Shamin C. Ladhani, PsyD; CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD; and Executive Director of Public and Member Communications Rhea K. Farberman.

Here's a summary of the questions and answers:

What is APA doing to get more ECPs involved in APA governance?

Ladhani: Part of the job of the Committee on Early Career Psychologists is exactly that - to promote ECP involvement in APA. We have a listserv and will, for example, write letters to support the appointment of ECPs on the association's task forces, committees and other groups.

Tars: In addition, many APA boards and committees are designating ECP members. It's also our belief that all states and divisions should involve ECPs: You are our future and we're just looking for ways to involve you.

Anderson: I want to add that the Committee [on Early Career Psychologists] has been an extraordinarily successful in raising the consciousness of others in our organization about early career issues. So get involved with it: It is your voice. The committee brings your issues to the fore and holds the rest of us accountable.

How is APA helping ECPs find out more about nontraditional fields?

Anderson: For one, each month, the APA Monitor features different types of career paths for psychologists. In particular, the April issue featured a cover story on emerging career paths. Also, the APA Science Directorate Web site has a place for careers in psychological science.

Bray: One of my initiatives is on the future of psychology practice, so maybe we could develop materials specifically for ECPs on emerging careers.

Tars: I also want to point out that most of what you think of as nontraditional careers are covered by one or more of APA's divisions. That's where you can find out about workshops and training opportunities, for example.

What if there is no division that represents my interests?

Anderson: Ask one of us. We know all the nooks and crannies of the association and we can connect you to the right person.

Tars: We have 54 divisions. If there's not a perfect fit for you, we can bring you to the closest home where you could start a section. And if you get enough like-minded people together, you can even start a division.

How can APA foster the development of mentor-mentee relationships?

Bray: At least on the clinical side of this, Div. 42 (Psychologists in Independent Practice) has developed a mentoring program. If you're a member of this division and want to establish such a relationship, the division will put your name out on a listserv and ask who would like to be your mentor. So far, it's gotten very good reviews. Other divisions and a number of state associations are doing this as well.

Tars: To follow up on that, if your division or state doesn't have a mentor program, maybe you can help them get one started.

Also, APA's Membership Board wants to establish more cross-generational mentoring programs. We're looking at the talents that different generations have and how they could help each other. In particular, some of us longstanding psychologists want to learn about how we could use some of the new technologies in our practices in research.

How can APA provide more advocacy in the change in the postdoctoral licensing requirement?

Farberman: APA's Council of Representatives acted to change APA's policy, which calls for states to grant psychologists licenses without them having to complete an extra postdoctoral year. Now, it's a state issue. So, through APA's Practice Directorate, we are providing information and assistance to help states change licensure laws. It is a very complicated issue, so we are going to need members to push this. I hope you'll work with your state association on this issue.

What is APA doing on the issue of mobility of licensure?

Farberman: This is another priority for APA being worked on by the Practice Directorate. We recognize this is a barrier for early career psychologists who have to move for their careers. It's again one of those things that must be approached from the national, state and local levels. Also, APA is addressing licensure mobility in its model licensure act, which is still being drafted and is expected to go to APA governance groups next spring.

Bray: There are two other groups that are addressing this outside of APA. The National Register - if you register with them, they have reciprocity with a number of states. In addition, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards also allows you to register, and they have reciprocity with a number of states.

Could APA have a database or some other way to recognize institutions that have family-friendly policies?

Kazdin: That's a wonderful idea. It would be good to get suggestions from early career psychologists on what good guidelines would look like and go from there.

With so many ECPs just starting out financially, can APA offer us reduced convention registration fees?

Farberman: APA's Board of Convention Affairs (BCA) has looked at this issue and is expected to revisit it sometime in the near future. It's one of a number of things that the board wants to look at in terms of making convention all that it can be for members.

What support can APA provide for ECPs who want to bring their families to convention?

Farberman: This is another topic that we will refer to BCA. We used to provide child care at convention, but few attendees used it so it was discontinued. The dilemma we face is providing quality care at an affordable price. But we will raise this with BCA.