Government Relations Update

It's raining cats and dogs outside but "Jenny," a psychology graduate student at a small Midwestern university, isn't worried because her next class doesn't require her to go outside. That's because Jenny is participating in a webinar session that will give her an overview of the U.S. federal legislative process. The session will explain the difference between authorizing and appropriations bills and show her how easy it is to communicate effectively with members of Congress about issues of concern to her and psychology.

That's the goal of APA's Education Government Relations Office webinar, and members can participate by following two steps: Log on to the webinar Web site, then dial into the accompanying conference call. In a matter of seconds, students, faculty members and psychologists across the country are able to participate in a session from the comfort of their dorm rooms, classrooms or offices.

The one-hour sessions also include interactive exercises, which make it a fun and dynamic experience.

"The webinars are enabling APA to raise greater awareness about the importance of advocacy and the critical need for psychologists and graduate students to get involved," says Nina Levitt, EdD, associate executive director of APA's Education Government Relations Office.

APA's Education Government Relations Office launched its first online advocacy training webinar in June. The session, "Advocating for a Piece of the Federal Pie: Gaining Support for Psychology Education and Training," provides an introduction to advocacy and incorporates interactive exercises that help participants discover how easy it is to get involved in advocacy. The webinars are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis, with a limit of 25 participants because of the interactive activities.

Early feedback about the first three advocacy training webinars has been very positive. Many have noted that the format and online participation are ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about advocacy but isn't able to travel to conferences to attend in-person training workshops.

Even seasoned advocates find the webinar training helpful. "Even though I have had a lot of advocacy experience, I found the webinar to be very reinforcing," says Pat Cole, PhD, a counseling psychologist at the Central Washington University Student Health and Counseling Center, and a Regional Coordinator for the Federal Education Advocacy Grassroots Network. "Hearing and seeing everything online is very powerful."

APA's Education Government Relations Office is also developing two more hour long webinars. One will focus on advocacy at all three levels of government (local, state and federal). The other will explain the important role that political activities play in advocacy.

For further information on the webinars, contact Jess Goshow.

Advocacy curriculum project

In addition to the webinar training sessions, APA's Education Government Relations Office is working with APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office to create advocacy curriculum modules. In response to members' requests, APA is putting its advocacy training modules online as distance-education tools for psychologists and students at all levels.

The two offices will work with psychology faculty members who have developed their own advocacy training curricula for possible inclusion on APA's Web site. This collaborative effort grew out of a series of conference calls with Education and Public Interest staff and Div. 37 (Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice) members Carol Falender, PhD, and Mindy Feinberg Gutow, PhD, in hopes of capitalizing on their shared interest in developing, gathering and sharing advocacy curriculum.

Diane Elmore, PhD, MPH, APA's senior legislative and federal affairs officer for public interest, is leading the project, working closely with Levitt and other staff including Annie Toro, JD, MPH, associate executive director for public interest government relations, and Jess Goshow, legislative assistant for education.

The advocacy curriculum modules will be offered on demand through the APA Continuing Education (CE) Office and will vary in length and topic. Unlike the webinars, which are interactive and live, the CE curriculum modules combine Power Point slides with voice-over presentations to provide instruction. Each module can be used as a stand-alone session or organized into a series of modules to create a full advocacy course. Suggested readings and resources are available through an online library, and APA is developing interactive exercises, as well.

The first series of these CE advocacy modules will be available this spring. The next stage of the advocacy curriculum project includes plans for the development of a "train-the-trainer" series, a process for accepting additional advocacy training modules from psychologists in the field for posting on the APA Web site, as well as possible books or other publications focused on these issues.

Sheila Lane Forsyth, MEd, is a consultant for APA's Education Government Relations Office.