One hundred twenty-five psychology educators visited their U.S. senators and representatives on Capitol Hill Jan. 22 to explain the need for federal funding for research and training in psychology--and their efforts appeared to pay off when several legislators promised to boost funding for the federal Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program next year.
Those making the visits were attending the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology (NCSPP) mid-winter meeting in Washington, D.C. Argosy University's Cynthia Baum, PhD, NCSPP president, focused the meeting on advocacy--a choice in line with her longtime vision of giving psychology educators the tools and opportunity to make an impact on Capitol Hill and in their local communities.
Indeed, Baum says she worked for nearly a decade to make this kind of advocacy happen, enlisting the sponsorship of APA's Education Directorate and the support of APA's Public Interest and Science Directorates to give meeting attendees a day of advocacy training before sending them to appointments in House of Representatives and Senate offices. Baum hopes giving psychology educators experience with advocacy will help them make it a regular practice--one they pass on to the next generation of psychologists.
"The idea was both to educate the educators on the process of advocacy and spread the word," she says. "My hope is that in helping the leaders of our organization to understand the process of advocacy, they will be excited about it, and they will encourage their students to be advocates as well."
At their Hill appointments, conference attendees urged support of legislative initiatives including GPE, APA's Minority Fellowship Program and the National Children's Study, and made important strides, says psychologist and meeting chair Michael Horowitz, PhD, president of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
"Legislators will be more willing to fight for our appropriations if they have a complete understanding of those initiatives' importance," Horowitz notes.
Several members, including psychologist Lawrence Siegel, PhD, of Yeshiva University in New York, had the chance to meet face-to-face with their representatives. Siegel told Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and her staff how much the GPE geropsychology funding stream has, and could continue to, help his program. "I wasn't sure what my role was at first, but now I see that psychologists have an important role in advocacy," he says of the experience. "And even though we spent this day working on federal issues, there's no doubt in my mind that I would now be comfortable pushing for state and local programs."
During the conference, NCSPP officially endorsed advocacy and public policy as a professional value and attitude, setting the stage for future advocacy efforts, Baum adds.
"It is crucial for us to promote the interests of our clients and the health-care system we work in," she says.
The day represented the largest ever group of psychologists gathered on Capitol Hill to advocate for education funding, notes Nina Levitt, APA's director of education policy. "The role of APA members in advocacy is critical, and what a difference it made--125 participants made an average of four Hill visits with concrete results," she says. "We now have a couple of hundred legislators agreeing to support increased funding for next year for the Graduate Psychology Education Program."