I write this column the day after Thanksgiving, as I anticipate with some apprehension the awesome responsibilities of becoming the 113th APA president. This feeling stems from remembering the visages of APA's former presidents lining the walls of APA's board room. The photos of these intellectual giants flash through my mind as I contemplate the upcoming year as president, setting the bar ever higher. But, I remind myself, the voters had faith in me, so I gather my confidence and push forward.
What kind of year will this be?
Thankfully, APA has successfully weathered a difficult financial period, due to the excellent leadership of CEO Norman B. Anderson, as well as APA's excellent senior staff and governance. I take distinct pleasure at the prospect of serving as APA president alongside these esteemed colleagues.
I want to be an inclusive president, a leader for all of the diverse constituencies of APA. I also want to help focus APA on policy and broader societal issues, and engage in long-range strategic thinking. I have four main initiatives. "Making psychology a household word," comprises the larger theme for all of my initiatives, as well as forming an initiative in its own right. The other parts of my program include: promoting health care for the whole person, enhancing diversity within the association and developing an APA policy on evidence-based psychological practice. More details appear in the companion article on page 50, and you will read more about these initiatives in future columns.
Making psychology a household word
Commendably, over the past few decades, psychology has gained a higher profile in our society. But I envision a future in which psychology will become a household word, and psychologists will enjoy the status of leaders among the learned professions in our society.
Certain qualities of our dynamic discipline/profession have progressively moved us toward greater relevance to our society. A tremendous creativity exists within psychology, enabling us to respond to an expanding set of human needs, while developing innovations in biological and behavioral science, application and service. Moreover, psychologists tend to question authority and put things to the empirical test, which further advances the field and society. Many psychologists have an activist nature, and choose not to wait for the public to clamor over their discoveries, but instead use sophisticated political skills to ensure the public's access to psychological services and public support for psychological science. Psychologists also show tremendous responsiveness to people in need, whether victims of disasters, the seriously mentally ill, underserved vulnerable community members, or marginalized minorities.
When lay people think of psychologists, they often think of us as helping people suffering from emotional illness (e.g., anxiety or depression), marital and family problems (e.g., domestic violence or unmanageable children), or substance abuse. While psychology certainly deals with these problems, few recognize the broad applicability psychology truly has for everyday life.
Psychology, 113 years old, has grown and diversified well beyond the dreams of its early pioneers: It has produced research-based applications for nearly every aspect of human endeavor. From health care to education, family life to corrections, religion to the arts, business and industry to law, and from sports to the military and on to engineering, one can hardly find an area where psychology does not have relevance.
Furthermore, the scope of psychological practice is expanding and diversifying into new areas, including areas where the role of the applied scientist begins to merge with that of the professional practitioner, such as applying psychophysics to develop navigation aids for the visually impaired. The future evolution of professional psychology will entail the development of roles that do not now exist, or have only just begun to emerge, on the scale that psychologists developed the role of outpatient psychotherapist in the 1970s and 1980s. These new roles will be in arenas such as general health care and rehabilitation, the public sector, care of those diagnosed with serious mental illnesses, public policy, the courts, the correctional system, the military, schools, business and industry, sports, communities of faith, and the media.
Fewer than 5 percent of the population have doctoral degrees. Our education and training uniquely position us to advance society at this critical time. Our chosen field, psychology, applies to every aspect of human life. As former APA President Patrick H. DeLeon has said, if we take care of society's most pressing needs, society will take care of us. The future of psychology shines only as brightly as we dare to imagine. Please join me this year in imagining our bright future.