Feature

APA members have elected Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD, an independent practitioner in Austin, Texas, as the association’s 2011 president. Vasquez will be the association’s first Latina president.

Active in APA’s governance for nearly three decades, including serving on APA’s Board of Directors from 2007 to 2009, Vasquez is well known for promoting ethical and socially responsible work among psychologists. As a member of APA’s Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility for Psychologists (later renamed the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest), she spurred APA to cancel its investments in South Africa during apartheid and raised awareness within the association about HIV/AIDS.

Vasquez is also co-founder of two APA divisions: Div. 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues) and Div. 56 (Trauma). She has received several APA awards, including the 2004 James M. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award from APA’s Minority Fellowship Program. She has authored or co-authored three books and 65 journal articles and chapters in the areas of ethics in psychotherapy, multicultural competency and psychotherapy with women and men.

In her practice, Vasquez provides individual, group and relationship psychotherapy to adults, consults and trains for organizations and offers forensic evaluations. While pursuing her master’s degree in counseling psychology, Vasquez taught middle school English and political science for two years before a mentor encouraged her to apply to the counseling psychology doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin. She earned her degree from the school in 1978.

Vasquez is married to former school principal and licensed clinical social worker Jim Miller and has one grown step-daughter and three step-grandchildren. She’s the oldest of seven children and has 16 nieces and nephews. Her close, extended family embraced her run for APA president: Several of her nieces and nephews designed her Web site and developed e-mail lists for her campaign.

Vasquez spoke with Monitor about her plans for 2011.

Why did you run for APA president?

I love psychology and I have a lot of faith in its ability to truly help make the world better. Engagement and trying to make a difference were part of my socialization both in my family and profession. My parents were always very active, so getting involved was just something you did in my family. My mother, Ofelia Vasquez Philo, has particularly been an amazing role model in her pursuit of social justice through political activity. More recently, one of my motivations had to do with the fact that there are so many economic, demographic and technological changes happening in the world, and I think psychologists have unique skills to meet those challenges.

What are your priorities for APA?

I highly value the scientific foundation of our discipline, but I’m interested in promoting ways for the science of psychology to be more readily available to practitioners. Right now, we have information in our journals, but we have to find a more comprehensive way to facilitate that information exchange. I also want us to find ways to get psychological science communicated better to the public and to policymakers. We need to make them more aware of research that informs us about problems and challenges in society, whether it be maltreatment of marginalized groups, concerns and needs of returning veterans and their families or the educational needs of Latino children.

Any other priorities?

Advocacy is critical right now to help promote integrated health care and mental health parity and to make sure there are appropriate levels of compensation for services in the health-care system for psychologists. We have to advocate for increased funding for behavioral research, which has suffered in the past few years. I also want us to help students and early career professionals find ways to fund and reduce their debt, and to develop creative ways to help deal with the internship imbalance problem.

What’s your approach to leadership?

I see myself as a collaborative leader. I have a lot of energy and passion about things that I believe in, but I also think it’s important for me to hear and try to consider all voices on any particular issue or concern. APA represents a broad range of psychologists and interests, and we have to consider all those voices in any kind of major decision. But when it comes down to it, I can make hard decisions, and I think I do a good job of forging alliances among disparate groups.

Do you have a message for members?

I would encourage members to stay involved at whatever level of the profession they find meaningful, whether that’s through local, state, regional or national psychological activities, or whether it’s through their research and teaching. APA does a lot for members, but APA also needs members’ involvement, and their communication of interests and concerns is very important. I love APA because so much is happening on so many different fronts. There are few people who have a full picture of what APA does for psychologists and for society, and it’s important to support these activities through membership and contributions.


For more information on Vasquez, visit Melba Vasquez for APA President.

Amy Novotney is a writer in Chicago.

And the winner is...

APA sent the election ballots to all eligible APA voters on Oct. 15. Intelliscan Inc. counted the ballots, and the Election Committee certified the results Dec. 2. The candidates are listed in the order of finish:

  • Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD: 12,738 votes

  • Ronald H. Rozensky, PhD: 6,174 votes

  • Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD: 4,674 votes

  • Robert “Bob” H. Woody, PhD, ScD, JD: 1,972 votes

  • Robert E. McGrath, PhD: 1,343 votes