Since this is my first presidential column, I want to express my thanks to a large number of people. First, I am deeply grateful to all those who supported my candidacy during the two years in which I was on the ballot. Running for the APA presidency can have its challenges, but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people who are so deeply committed to psychology. Now that I've completed my presidential-elect year, I also want to thank all of those who have helped me learn how to navigate the complex waters of this organization. Many people helped bail me out many times on many issues. But in particular I want to thank Judy Strassburger, executive director of governance affairs, without whose kind and expert tutelage I could not possibly have found my way through the many issues, meetings, and responsibilities of the past 12 months.
I'd like the readers of this column to think of it as a ship captain's log. I will inform you about and keep you up to date on important issues in the association, my presidential initiatives, and my activities that might be of general interest. I will also share with you my perspective on what lies ahead for psychology. It is crucially important for any organization to focus at least as much on its future as on its current situation. We need to peer into the fog and try to see around the bend.
All good sailors, of course, have a good map. And here are three destinations that I believe we need to thoroughly explore. The first is membership. APA's membership growth parallels the replacement fertility in most developed countries: We obtain enough new members to make up for the members we lose. This is not good news. Since the total population of psychologists has increased, APA's membership should be expanding. Younger psychologists are particularly underrepresented in APA. When I was in graduate school, I assumed that myself and all of my colleagues would join APA. That assumption was valid then, but not any more, and membership rates have fallen accordingly.
In terms of general principles, it's easy to develop a strategy to increase membership. We all want more "bang" for our "buck." The challenge is to identify and implement ways in which to increase benefits and/or decrease costs. I will be working with our CEO, Norman Anderson, and the other members of the Board of Directors on this issue. We all know how important it is to move beyond replacement fertility.
Another significant issue that lies ahead is advocacy. All of our members are affected by advocacy outcomes in some way or another. Educators need funding for educational programs; practitioners are concerned about licensing, insurance parity, and prescriptive authority; and scientists seek funding for their research. APA has considerable advocacy resources and excellent advocacy staff. But we must communicate more clearly to the membership about APA's advocacy efforts and the results that are obtained.
We must also draw closer to our third destination, prestige. The good news is that the public appears to have a positive regard for psychology. In most colleges and universities, for example, psychology attracts a large number of majors and many non-majors enroll in specific psychology courses. However, psychology has sometimes suffered from invidious comparisons. For instance, some individuals view psychological science as less prestigious than other sciences, such as biology and chemistry, while practicing psychologists may experience a "prestige gap" vis-á-vis psychiatrists, particularly in medical settings. Fortunately, psychology is making headway on both fronts. Psychological science is more highly regarded now than ever before, and psychologists increasingly play leading roles in many cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research endeavors. Similarly, psychological practice has strengthened its position through its strong commitment to evidence-based practice and its ongoing progress in securing prescription privileges.
However, despite the progress that has been made, APA must be ever vigilant and proactive in ensuring that psychology is a highly respected discipline and profession.
As your president, I pledge to work hard to ensure that the association's advocacy efforts and public education campaigns focus vigorously on enhancing psychology's prestige as well as on more specific issues of interest. I very much look forward to making significant progress during this year's journey.
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