Running Commentary

It's convention time again! Thousands of APA members will gather in our hometown, Washington, D.C., Aug. 4-8, to make contact with friends and colleagues and choose from a dazzling array of papers, symposia, workshops and invited addresses. The first convention of the millennium could be the largest ever. To celebrate the new century, APA and the APA Insurance Trust are co-hosting a gala at Union Station on Saturday, Aug. 5 from 8 to 11 p.m.

Great promise for scientists and practitioners alike

What can we expect for psychology in the 21st century? We are beginning the new century in a strong position. Psychology is by far the largest and most influential of the behavioral sciences, and in most colleges and universities it is the most popular elective course and one of the most popular majors. In the last century, psychology established itself as a strong science and a vigorous profession. I believe that the 21st century holds great promise for scientists and practitioners alike if we can work together to anticipate future trends and develop expanding roles for psychologists in new arenas.

The economic future of America and the world depends on training, management, leadership, knowledge exchange and the effective applications of technology and telecommunications. All of these are the natural province of psychology. Many problems with strong psychological implications cry out for research. Why do people engage in risk-taking behavior that leads to violence, disease, head injuries and addiction? What can be done about stress in the workplace? The list is infinite. There is little doubt that society would welcome our help in preventing these kinds of problems. Raising awareness of psychology's contributions to these areas is precisely the goal of the Decade of Behavior initiative.

Many psychologists in practice are facing difficult times as a result of the excesses of managed care. As Past-president Ron Fox has often said, we face serious problems in the short range but the long-range prospects are good. Dealing with the behavioral aspects of health problems will be a large frontier for psychologists in the 21st century. Most of the major causes of death today are the result of self-destructive behavior or unwise lifestyles. Asthma, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, sleep disorders, pain, headaches, stress, AIDS, high blood pressure, smoking, alcoholism, injury and violence are all related to behavior. Sixty percent of all medical visits are made by people with no physical illness, and more than 50 studies demonstrate that counseling intervention can reduce overutilization by up to 70 percent, saving hundreds of millions of dollars per year. The application of behavioral principles to health issues has the potential for being a far larger market for services of mental health professionals than the entire field of mental health.

The prospects of psychological practice are closely intertwined with the prospects for psychological science. If we can collaborate on these types of problems so important to society, how could we not have a bright future? Psychology will continue to be an exciting, growing endeavor for which the best years are still ahead.

A personal note

On a personal note, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the hundreds of APA members who have sent cards, letters or e-mails with good wishes for my health during my recent leave of absence. After ten years as CEO, being off-duty for a while was good for my health and also gave me time for reflection. I returned refreshed, renewed and ready for the new century - or at least that part I'll be around for. I'm deeply grateful to President Pat DeLeon and the Board of Directors for making my leave of absence possible, and to the Council of Representatives and others in the APA leadership for their concern and warm support. The APA staff came through with flying colors during my absence, as I knew they would. Deputy CEO Mike Honaker and the executive directors performed admirably, and they had the full support of the whole APA staff.

The past months have been a significant learning experience for me. Most importantly, I've learned that I'm vulnerable to stress just as everyone else is (why didn't I know that?) and I've learned a lot about how to deal with it. I'll be putting these into practice for many years to come. It is good to be back. I'll look forward to seeing you at the convention.

Tickets for the Union Station gala may be purchased on-site for $25 each at the APA convention registration area at the DC Convention Center during the Annual Convention registration hours.