Shamin Ladhani, PsyD, first got involved with APA governance because she wanted to give something back to the field. As it turns out, the work has given her even more in return.
Her service on Div. 45’s (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues) student committee enabled her to meet psychologists across the country, many of whom guided her in her clinical work and even referred patients to her.
“If you join a committee and do good work, people will begin to recognize your name,” Ladhani says. “Then it’s just a matter of time before someone comes to you with a new opportunity.”
But networking isn’t the only payoff, says Josephine Minardo, PsyD, a private practitioner and new executive director of the New Jersey Psychological Association. As a New York psychology leader, Minardo recalls the thrill of witnessing her advocacy efforts come to fruition when bills she lobbied for became law and affected policy changes. As chair of APA’s Committee on Early Career Psychologists, Minardo continued to hone her leadership and advocacy skills. “My work at both the state and APA levels gave me a unique experience and a unique set of skills that I would not have gotten in any kind of clinical training or graduate program,” she says.
Deborah Loftis, PhD, who is chief of research for a federal government agency, says her work with the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students, Committee on Early Career Psychologists and Div. 40 (Clinical Neuropsychology) taught her how to work with psychologists who have different interests and talents.
“It really opens your eyes to all the possibilities in psychology at the governance level when you get to see all the amazing things different people are doing in the field,” she says.
Michael Edwards, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University, says his work with Div. 5 (Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics) and on the Committee on Early Career Psychologists exposed him to “a melting pot” of ideas. “A clinician who sees patients every day has a very different life than I do as an academic,” says Edwards. “But a lot of issues impact all of us, and the best way to see the big picture and what it means for psychologists as a group is to get involved in governance.”
Minardo acknowledges that it can be difficult for early career psychologists — who often feel overburdened with debts and family commitments — to find time for association work. “But I think that the return on investment is really tremendous, and you can’t put a price tag on that,” she says.
How to get involved
With the right approach, any new psychologist can venture down a path that will benefit them and APA for the long run, says Nancy Gordon Moore, PhD, MBA, APA’s executive director for governance affairs. Here’s how:
Send a friendly e-mail to a committee, division or state association leader. Ask if they need help planning convention activities or conducting committee or task force work. Tell them what your interests are and how much time you can spare, says Loftis. Early career psychologists can also contact the Committee on Early Career Psychologists for recommendations on open positions. You can also look into joining task forces by contacting the APA directorate that covers your area of interest, says Randy Phelps, PhD, APA’s deputy executive director of the Practice Directorate. “The bottom line is just volunteer,” he says.
Go online. Visit the APA Governance Affairs Directorate Web page to access the “Making APA Work for You” and “Play a Part: Get Elected” sections. Also, browse the annual calls for nominations that appear in the February issue of the Monitor.
Go to APA’s convention. Stick around after sessions to talk to speakers, advises Edwards. Ask about ways you might be able to get involved in governance causes.
Don’t be shy. As an early career psychologist, you may think most established psychologists don’t find your input important, but that’s far from the case, says Moore. So mingle at meetings, contribute to division listservs or contact a governance veteran about opportunities.
“Early career psychologists are the next generation in psychology and see the world differently,” says Moore. “We need those perspectives.”