Perspective on Practice

APA has a rich history of “Advocacy Superheroes.” During the 1970s, the “Dirty Dozen” persuaded APA to establish a Committee on Health Insurance and, ultimately, an advocacy program within the association. These psychologists appreciate what I refer to as the “Power of One”: the ability of individual leaders to exert considerable positive influence on the process of advocacy.

These superheroes use powers that we all have to represent not only the interests of the profession, but, more important, the interests of our patients and other consumers of psychological services.

The power of persistence

In 1990, the California Supreme Court ruled that regulations requiring psychiatrists to supervise the diagnosis and treatment of mental health patients violated the state’s health and safety code. Bill Safarjan, PhD, was instrumental in bringing together a group of California psychologists who, with help from the California Psychological Association, formed Psychology Shield. Now, nearly two decades later, proposed regulations to end discrimination against psychological practice in hospitals have finally been approved.

Dr. Safarjan’s passion for advocacy was sustained because of his strong belief that patient care could be vastly improved if psychologists had more clinical authority in hospitals.

The power of partnerships

Sheila Schuster, PhD, is a former executive director of the Kentucky Psychological Association who continues to serve as KPA’s Federal Advocacy Coordinator.

Dr. Schuster, who had a long history as a lobbyist in her home state, played a pivotal role as executive director of a mental health coalition that won mental health parity for Kentucky in its first attempt.

Dr. Schuster credits the early success to the strong partnerships within the diverse and broad-based coalition, including consumer voices, built over the 18 months prior to the session and to the fact this legislation was good for the public.

The power of public education

In February, the Georgia Psychological Association hosted a mind/body health fair at the state capital and helped legislators and their staff members better understand how psychology contributes to health and quality of life in Georgia. The event was developed collaboratively by the Public Education Committee, chaired by Angela Londoño-McConnell, PhD, and the Legal and Legislative Committee, chaired by Daniel Rogers, PhD.

Dr. Londoño-McConnell is one of psychology’s biggest cheerleaders. She uses social media including blogs and gets psychology’s message out to a diverse community by appearing often on CNN en Español and other Spanish-language media.

The power of marketplace innovation

In 1999, the New Jersey Psychological Association, with Practice Directorate support, started the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award program. Since then, state, provincial and territorial psychological associations (SPTAs) have recognized more than 400 companies for their efforts to foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance.

We are indebted to Roz Dorlen, PsyD, of New Jersey for spearheading this initiative, which has engaged our SPTAs with the business community, encouraged the use of psychological and behavioral health services and reinforced the importance of mental health benefits in employee health plans.

Advocacy is crucial to the work we do. The future of psychology as a valued discipline and profession depends on each and every one of us each and every day. Our individual and collective “Power of One” voices will strengthen APA’s ability to make a real difference in the lives of those we serve and the communities where we live.