In February, I had the great privilege and pleasure of presiding over APA's Council of Representatives. If you've never attended a session of council, just think of any large legislative body. With its 173 members, the size of council falls between the 100 members of the U.S. Senate and the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The 2007 council is composed of 13 members of the Board of Directors, the parliamentarian, 99 division representatives and 60 state, provincial and territorial psychological association representatives. Typically, the presiding officer and the parliamentarian do not vote. Four nonvoting observers representing the four ethnic-minority psychological associations (the Asian American Psychological Association, the Association of Black Psychologists, the Society of Indian Psychologists, and the National Latina/o Psychological Association) also attend council's meeting.
When I was preparing my introductory remarks for the opening session of council, I decided to list some of the issues that I regard as major challenges for the association. With the caveat that I was only listing a few of the many important challenges we face, I noted the following urgent organizational needs:
Increasing our membership.
Developing a world-class Web site for our members and for the general public.
Maintaining our publications enterprise despite the difficulties posed by some types of open-access initiatives.
Establishing prescriptive authority for psychologists in every state and province.
Increasing federal funding for psychological science.
Increasing our effectiveness in advocating on behalf of psychological education, practice, science and issues of public interest.
However, I didn't want to stop with my very short list of items. So I asked each council member to list (anonymously) his or her own set of challenges and give them to me to read. After council was over and I was back in Bloomington, Ind., I was delighted to find that 124 members of council (72 percent) had participated in this exercise. Interestingly, even though council members had written down their challenges before they heard mine, all of the five that I emphasized were also mentioned by at least some members of council.
But many other challenges were mentioned by council members, and here's a brief sampling of those they included in their lists.
Establishing appropriate rates of reimbursement for psychological services.
Emphasizing that psychology is a health-care profession.
Healing the divide between science and practice.
Streamlining APA governance to make it more transparent.
Addressing the continuing concerns among the membership about APA's policy on interrogations.
Responding to an aging membership by attracting and keeping early-career psychologists as members and engaging them in association activities.
In addition to highlighting these specific challenges, some of those who responded raised some complicated issues regarding diversity in the association. Some council members emphasized how important it was for APA to be more inclusive and welcoming to members of marginalized groups (e.g., bisexual, gay, lesbian and transsexual individuals; ethnic minorities; individuals with disabilities; and women). It was noted that despite some progress, the representation of these individuals on the Council of Representatives, boards and committees needs to be increased.
Concerns about "political correctness" were also voiced. Some council members question whether all diversities are welcomed in APA. For example, is there acceptance of diverse religious beliefs? Others wonder whether an open conversation is really possible. These are difficult and complex questions that cannot be answered easily or quickly, but we need to know that they exist and to think clearly about them.
The challenge of psychology's public image was of considerable interest to council members. I've taken the liberty to try to combine their varied responses into one whole. And here it is: Our challenge, as individuals as well as an association, is to present a positive, integrated picture of the importance, relevance and value of psychology to the public, policy-makers and the larger world community.
Of course, stipulating the goal is a great deal easier than actually creating the words, images and actions that are needed to help meet the challenges we face. Nevertheless, voicing our hopes, concerns and ambitions about psychology and APA is an essential element in developing effective strategies, internally as well as externally. I invite all of you who are reading this column to jot down the issues you view as major challenges for the association. And, if you wish, give me a copy via e-mail, regular mail or in person at an APA meeting. I'd very much appreciate your informing me about your view of the challenges we face.