Thanks to a new section of Div. 18 (Psychologists in Public Service) called Psychologists in Indian Country, mental health professionals who work with American Indian and Canadian Native populations have a voice and a way to connect and collaborate with each other.
The section--which became an official section of Div. 18 in 2002--is a home for psychologists who work with the Indian Health Service, tribally run programs or urban American Indian programs. Before the section was formed, these professionals had few opportunities to network or tap colleagues for assistance or advice, says Indian Health Service psychologist John Spaulding, PhD, a co-founder of the section and its current chair.
"Our psychologists operate in very isolated areas--professionally and geographically," Spaulding explains. "Frequently, they are the only mental health professionals there or within 100 miles, and they used to have no means of communicating with each other to discuss problems or issues, or to advocate for themselves or our profession."
The section has swelled to 80 members in little over a year, notes Spaulding. Its most popular benefit is its listserv, he adds, which formerly isolated members now use to connect with colleagues daily. Members and section officers also use the listserv to gain momentum for the section's advocacy initiatives, which include efforts to increase loan-repayment options for psychologists who work with American Indian populations and supporting prescription privileges for psychologists.
"It is very difficult to get psychiatrists to work in Indian country, and very expensive," says Spaulding. "If psychologists who are already there had prescriptive authority, they could provide an answer to a real need in Indian country."
Two additional priorities for the section are boosting membership and expanding awareness among psychologists about the work Indian country psychologists do, adds Spaulding. To accomplish this, the section is sponsoring a talk by the director of the Indian Health Service, Charles Grim, DDS, at APA's Annual Convention in Honolulu, July 28-Aug. 1, and is planning an awards program to recognize its members' exceptional work.
"We invite anyone who works with American Indian populations--or who supports our work--to join us," says Spaulding.