From the CEO
Increasing the public's understanding of psychology has long been one of APA's goals. The association's strategic planning process has highlighted and reaffirmed the important place public education holds in APA's mission. In addition, member polls have told us that you value the association's public and media education activities, and want more of them.
APA's Council of Representatives initiated the association's first public education campaign in 1995. This original campaign, "Talk to Someone Who Can Help," focused on the value of psychological interventions and laid the groundwork for further public education initiatives. Our initial goal was to increase the public's awareness of the value of psychological services, of psychologists' unique training and credentials and of the mind-body connection. Over the years, the campaign evolved in response to world events, including teen violence, 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last year, again at the council's direction and in keeping with the strategic plan, APA's Office of Public and Member Communications worked with a Central Office steering committee to begin a new "campaign within the campaign." With a tagline of Psychology: Science in Action, this expanded campaign will educate the public about the breadth and depth of psychology and emphasize its science base and the variety of settings in which psychologists work, including research, clinical and within organizations. The Science in Action messages will use multimedia channels, including video, social media and the Web, to tell stories about the importance of psychological research and how research findings are applied.
The first round of our Science in Action messages will focus on psychologists working in health care and human factors research and application. We selected those themes after conducting extensive research to determine consumers' understanding of psychology and the themes and messages that would best educate and resonate with them. We learned that most consumers are well attuned to the importance of integrated or whole-person health care. Our goal is to increase the public's recognition of the ways psychologists contribute to such care through the research, development, translation and application of evidence-based solutions to problems.
In addition to reaching health consumers in general, we want this campaign to inform young people about psychology's scientific base and the field's important and rewarding careers. Hundreds of thousands of students take a psychology course at the high school or college level every year. By reaching out to high school guidance counselors, we learned that many of these students are interested in psychology careers but don't fully understand the discipline and its opportunities to contribute to society.
An important goal of the Science in Action campaign will be to provide high school teachers and guidance counselors the materials they need to help steer students who are interested in psychology. Some will eventually join the profession; others will simply become more well-informed about what psychologists do. Both are positive outcomes for the discipline. Two APA governance groups, TOPSS (Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools) and PT@CC (Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges), are advising staff about the best ways to communicate with students and will help us deliver campaign materials to their schools and campuses.
So far, one reason for our public education campaign's success is the work of APA members who are serving as campaign coordinators and outreach volunteers across the country. Many of you have carried psychology's message through presentations, health fairs, media interviews and social media. As the campaign continues to evolve, we hope that more members, including researchers and academicians, will get involved. More information about these and other new public education activities will be covered in future issues of the Monitor — stay tuned.