One of my primary goals for my presidency is an initiative called "Making Psychology a Household Word." I came up with this concept when I first decided to run for the APA presidency because in talking to members, many voiced a desire to have the public better understand and be more appreciative of the value of psychology. I have even had a few members tell me that they voted for me because they so strongly agreed with the idea of making psychology a household word.
While I greatly appreciate members' support for my efforts to increase the public's support for our field, I've also come to understand that any effort to make psychology a household word is bigger than one person and bigger than one presidential term. In other words, making psychology a household word is something every member needs to participate in.
So, what are the next steps and how can individual members take part? I have created a Making Psychology a Household Word Task Force. Dr. Ruth Paige is the chair and is assisted by co-chairs, Dr. Jessica Henderson Daniel and Dr. Tom DeMaio. There is also an extended group of members who have expressed an interest in the project and shown their willingness to take a leadership role through a listserv.
The power of members
APA's Practice Directorate has a decade of experience in educating the public about psychology and doing so on a limited budget. The directorate's advice is two-fold. First, give the public psychology in ways it can understand and that is related to issues people care about. (You can see examples of this at the APA Help Center.) Equally important, however, is reaching out to people directly. APA expands the reach of its own message about psychology's value by enlisting the power of our membership to be public educators in their own communities.
The household word initiative's first step will be to train members of the task force to give public education presentations based on three tool kits available to APA members. The tool kits provide materials and "how-to" advice for both organizing and giving presentations to community groups on the warning signs of violence, on building resilience and--in the newest kit--on the mind-body connection.
Once the task force members are trained they will in turn offer training to others in their home states or through their APA divisions. Our goal is to have APA members give 1,000 presentations to community groups in 2005. With training and the tool kits from APA it will be easy to do. In coming issues of the Monitor, more information will be provided about where to find training opportunities and how to order public education tool kits.
The tool kit themes are all designed to help communicate psychology's value in helping people to live well across a spectrum of life dimensions, ranging from health, to employment, to community safety, to family relationships. The themes support our discipline's emphasis on building human strengths, and, more importantly, they speak to issues that our public opinion research tells us the public values.
The mental on par with the physical
Research done by the Practice Directorate over the past decade shows that the public believes there is a connection between physical and psychological health and that health-care consumers acknowledge that their emotional health deserves the same careful attention that is given to their physical health. In addition, new empirical research on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of psychological interventions in health, wellness and longevity is published nearly every day. In short, the stage is set for the public's (as well as policy-makers' and health-care payers') full embrace of our field and for the true integration of psychology into health care, if we make them aware of our scientific knowledge and professional skills.
I'm very excited about spending much of my energy and the influence through the APA presidency to communicate the value of psychology during the coming months. I cordially invite you to join me. Check this column in future Monitor issues for more information.