Candidates for APA President

I am living proof that history is not destiny. I was the product of an Irish-American family that valued a civil service job above education, but when I was 16, I read Irving Stone’s “Passions of the Mind” about Sigmund Freud and never looked back. My goal was to become a teacher and researcher in clinical psychology, roles I continue to cherish. As I matured, though, I came to believe that I, and all of us, have a duty to think about the future of our discipline and our place in society. That belief took me down a path I never would have predicted, a path that now leads me to seek the APA presidency.

Academic background: I received my PhD in 1984 from Auburn University. I’m a professor of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, where I fill multiple positions:

  • Director of the APA-accredited PhD program in clinical psychology.
  • Director of the APA-designated MS program in clinical psychopharmacology.
  • Director of the certificate program in integrated primary care.
  • Director of the APA-approved continuing-education program.

I teach courses focusing on foundations of clinical psychology, quantitative methods and clinical assessment.

Professional background: I am a licensed psychologist in New Jersey and New York. I have been a methodologist for projects as varied as a social welfare program for abandoned infants and scale development for Oprah Winfrey’s website. I have been a teacher and an administrator, a health-care provider and a researcher, a journal editor and a book author, a psychotherapist and a statistics geek, a political advocate and a community activist for environmental issues. These experiences help me appreciate the wide variety of constituencies that compose APA.

APA participation: I am a member of APA Divs. 5 (Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics), 8 (Society for Personality and Social Psychology), 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology), 38 (Health) and 55 (American Society for the Advancement of Pharmacotherapy). I am also a member of the Society for Personality Assessment, Association for Research in Personality, the Association for Professional Psychology and the Association for Psychological Science. I have been particularly involved in activities associated with the integrated primary care and prescriptive authority movements, and have served on numerous APA committees and task forces.

My leadership style: At a meeting of an environmental group in my community, another member once said, “I’m going to ask the Bob McGrath question: What’s the next step?” I was proud that others see me as someone committed to action and moving ahead. I work hard and accomplish a good deal, but I also value deeply my personal relationships with others. I try to bring humor, passion and perspective to everything I do. I believe I would be a good leader for all of APA.

Video statement

Dr. McGrath had a scheduling conflict at the 2011 APA Annual Convention and was unable to record a video statement.

Candidate statement

APA can seem confusing and disengaged. It’s a complicated organization, with numerous constituencies vying to shape its identity and allocation of resources. Some think APA should focus on the financial viability of psychology, others on research and training, and still others passionately believe APA should focus more on enhancing public welfare. Complicating matters are changes in health care and government funding creating uncertainty about the future. With so many factors in play, it can be difficult to feel the association is meeting your needs. Many psychologists are even unsure about the value of membership.

How is one to lead in this polyglot society? I believe a presidency that focuses on workshops or white papers can no longer meet the needs of the membership. The time has come for leadership focusing on action and accountability.

I cannot possibly know what the most important issues are for each of the constituencies within APA. You are the experts on that topic, not me. You must be the driver that makes change happen. And I will help.

Here is my challenge to you, the membership. I will ask each constituency within APA to identify its own goals for change. I will work with you to prioritize those goals that are achievable and are likely to have direct benefit to members of the discipline or society in general. I will help you establish working groups, identify consultants with experience in the type of action called for by your goal (legislative action, fund-raising, website development, etc.), and facilitate interactions with other professional organizations within and outside psychology that are likely to share those goals. I will work with you to make change happen. We can be agents of change rather than victims of circumstance.

Want to learn more? Please visit my website.