Candidates for APA President
I recently found my grammar school autograph book from 1966. In it is a page called “My Favorites.” For “hero,” I put Mickey Mantle. For “college”: Brooklyn College. For “profession”: psychologist. I was 12. My heroes have changed since then and I went to Princeton. But I have never changed my mind about my chosen profession. I am proud to be a psychologist.
I come from a family of Jewish refugees. My mother was the only member of her immediate family who survived Auschwitz. She told me a story about the first roundup of Jews in her small town when she was 14. The Nazis pushed all the Jews into a small circle and beat those on the outside with clubs. My mother observed that some of the Jews tried to protect the weak, the elderly and the young, while others pushed the weaker ones to the outside. She said, “I knew from that moment that to be human would not always come naturally. I knew I would have to make an effort to be a human being.”
One reason I decided so early to be a psychologist was to make sense out of my family history. How could people do such things? What are the consequences to victim and perpetrator? How do we help people who suffer from prejudice and violence? How do we better promote human rights? I turned to psychology to understand and support the effort to “be a human being” under extreme adversity.
I have played many roles as a psychologist. I ran a psychology department at a major urban psychiatric hospital. I have been faculty member and supervisor for a graduate program in clinical psychology. I’ve taught psychiatric residents at New York University and feminist clinicians at the Women’s Therapy Center Institute. I developed an expertise in trauma, violence and disaster; I trained clinicians in Kosovo and Iraq. I went to Haiti, at the request of the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General, to train U.N. leadership in working with traumatized staff. On Sept. 11, I walked through the doors of St. Vincent’s and helped organize the center to help families of the missing. I recently presented on this experience to the French Ministry of Health in Paris.
But my greatest challenge came when I learned that American psychologists were involved in torture. I became an activist psychologist dedicated to fighting such abuses. For this work I received the Beacon Award from the New York State Psychological Association — “presented to a psychologist whose leadership or advocacy has established a guiding light for the profession of psychology.”
In recent years, I have worked to uphold psychologists’ values and ethics. I am asking for your vote and your support so we can present a renewed American psychology to the world — so that people can feel confident that when they turn to a psychologist, they will find a wise, responsible, well-trained and ethical human being. For more details, email me or visit my website.
I have always loved being a psychologist; I love being part of the wide community of clinicians, teachers, researchers and thinkers who use psychological knowledge to change the world for the better.
But lately, psychologists have come upon hard times. I am running for APA president because I am confident that, together, we can turn this around.
My primary aim as president will be to move psychology forward by returning to our core values. I want to restore respect and excitement for psychology as a calling, as a source of empowerment for Americans, as an inspiration to international psychologies, and as a field we’d welcome seeing our children enter.
I think we know what psychologists and our association should aspire to; we know, too, where we do not belong. We should be creating good internships and jobs for psychology students and recent graduates, not adding them to the ranks of the indebted and unemployed. We should be empowering working women and men, not medicating them to “manage” their stress. We should be challenging government policies that undermine the middle class, not befriending corporate America and managed care. We should be helping our nation prevent war and minimize trauma, not facilitating and justifying abusive interrogations.
To accomplish this, I offer a vision for the APA of transparency, democracy and courage; a vision in which council reclaims the power to shape this organization’s policies and its future, and leadership strives to fulfill the needs and mandate of the membership.
I believe our president should be a spokesperson for psychology, effectively communicating our values, our compassion and our capabilities, not just to other psychologists, but to the public and to the international community.
I am asking for your support, so that together we may proudly represent psychology to Americans and to the world.
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Hi. I’m Steven Reisner. Some people consider me to be the underdog candidate for APA president because I stand for greater democracy, transparency and accountibility within our association and that isn’t really welcome by the small group by the small group of APA insiders who actually run the organization.
But the truth is, their votes are already spoken for. The familiar names, as usual, have endorsed one of their own. So I want to talk to you about an alternative. I speak with psychologists every day, who believe that our profession is in a serious crisis and our APA has not been part of the solution. Maybe that’s why 80% of the membership doesn’t even vote in these elections.
I believe the crisis facing psychologists represents a struggle for the very soul of the profession. What are our core values? Like many of you, I became a psychologist because I wanted to use psychological knowledge and wisdom to change the world for the better. But frankly, government support of corporate health care has taken precedence over the commitment to human welfare.
The APA has responded by trying to convince us of the impossible. That psychologists can somehow flourish in this fundamentally flawed system. I believe on the other hand, that at its heart, good health care comes from shared human values: integrity, ethics, compassion and wisdom. And good health care sometimes requires challenging a system that would overthrow these values for profit.
I am running for APA president because I believe that if we speak the truth, and are true to our core values, we can change the world for the better. So I ask you to cast your vote for this underdog candidate, and more, to join me in re-claiming the values that brought us into this field in the first place.
Visit my website, www.reisnerforpresident.com, to learn more.