Candidates for APA President

For over 45 years, I have had a gratifying career as practitioner, researcher and educator. I am on the faculties of Drexel University’s psychology department and Law School, where I direct the JD/PhD Program in Law and Psychology. I also consult with attorneys and psychologists on ethico-legal issues, have represented colleagues regarding ethical issues and have served as an expert witness in such cases.

I was born and bred in New York and attended NYU, where I was awarded a BS, MA and PhD (in 1965). After receiving my PhD, I: 1.) served as an Air Force clinical psychologist (1965–68), including two years in Southeast Asia; 2.) taught psychology at Ohio State and University of Georgia; 3.) maintained private practices in Pennsylvania and Ohio; and 4.) directed a college counseling center. In 1976, I received my JD from Yale Law School and joined the faculties of the University of Maryland Law School and the Johns Hopkins psychology department, where I developed the nation’s second law and psychology program.

In 1979, I became APA’s first general counsel. In 10 years in that position, I authored 50 briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal and state courts, informing these courts of social science evidence relevant to such issues as sex stereotyping, women’s and adolescents’ reproductive rights, hospital privileges for psychologists, admissibility of psychological expertise, jury decision-making, privacy rights of the LGBT community, children’s testimony, and rights of the severely mentally disabled, among others.

I have authored over 100 chapters, articles (eight in AP; others in JCCP, JEP, PP:R&P, PPP&L) and papers on ethics and the interaction of law, psychology and public policy. My book, “Ethical Conflicts in Psychology” (APA, 2008), now in its fourth edition and a perennial best seller, is used as the basic text in graduate professional psychology courses. (I may be the only candidate who has added to APA’s financial security.) I am an APA fellow and an ABPP diplomate. I know APA from the inside and as a lifetime member. I have been elected to three terms on the Council of Representatives, to the Board of Directors (1994–97) and as chair of the Policy and Planning Committee. I served as president of the American Psychology-Law Society (now Div. 41) and as the Div. 1 (Society for General Psychology) program chair. I have worked to promote psychology with organizations outside of APA, including Oxford, the American Bar Association, NAS, AAAS, SRCD and the U.S. Department of Education, as a social science consultant/commission member studying gender and racial discrimination in the federal court, and as consultant to the National Commission on the Protection of Human Subjects.

I received an APA Presidential Citation for Distinguished Service to APA (2000), Distinguished Contributions to Psychology as a Science and Profession (Pennsylvania Psychological Association), Ethics Educator of the Year Award from PPA, the Arthur Furst Ethics Award from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology and the Lifetime Contribution Award from Div. 41.

For further information, please see my Web site.

Bersoff’s candidate statement

These are tough times, not only for our country and the world, but for APA as well. There are a number of fundamental realities our organization must face. Among them are:

  1. The rapidly changing nature of professional practice.

  2. Restrictions in funding for research and professional training.

  3. Globalization of psychology.

  4. Increasing diversity of our clients, research participants and students — Caucasians will be a minority by 2050.

  5. Growing reliance on technology.

  6. The need to create new venues for employment and nontraditional interprofessional connections.

  7. Budgetary and membership pressures within APA. I hope during my presidency to begin to address these realities by developing, in concert with others, practical solutions to promote the interests of all our members — scientists and practitioners.

As important, it is imperative that APA be seen as furthering the public interest. The U.S. Supreme Court has said, “The mental health of our citizenry, no less than its physical health, is a public good of transcendent importance.” To ensure that this belief remains true, our next president must be able to muster support from our scientists, educators and practitioners so that we can apply the knowledge gleaned from their work and experience to the solution of real-world problems and disseminate that knowledge to governmental policymakers in an effective way.

Like all of the presidential candidates, I want to advance the interests of all APA members and protect and promote professional practice. But one unique attribute I can bring to the presidency is the knowledge and experience to promote psychology in all its forms to the world at large. My main goal during the next three years is to do all I can to see that public policy and the public interest is informed by what psychologists have learned.