Running Commentary

A few weeks from now, I will complete my 12th year as APA's chief executive officer. There have been many changes during this time, but I have found that the hardest things to change are perceptions.

When I first became CEO in 1989, I was surprised to discover how many myths had grown up around APA and how persistent they were. Some APA members, I found, had come to believe things that simply weren't true. Some of these myths persist even today. In this column, I'd like to explore some of those myths and, if possible, dispel them.

Myth: Academic programs are turning out fewer scientific psychologists than ever before — too few to maintain the discipline.

Truth: The number of scientific psychologists graduating has actually increased over the last 25 to 30 years. This myth probably derives from the observation that the rate of growth in the applied areas, especially in health care, has been much faster. But these areas had long been behind in their development, and what we've seen in recent years is the applied areas "catching up." Our universities are still attracting good science-oriented students and turning out enough graduates to fill the academic research positions available. And more psychologists are employed in educational settings than any other except health-service settings.

Myth: Most of the scientist/ academic members have left APA.

Truth: The scientist/academic constituency in APA is as strong as ever. APA has the largest scientist/academic membership, by far, of any national organization. APA is no longer, as it was for its first 65 years, a purely scientific organization, but it is not a purely practitioner organization either. Currently, 42 percent of APA members are identified with research, education or administration outside the practice sector.

Myth: APA's governance is dominated by independent practitioners.

Truth: Health-care practitioners, who were almost nonexistent in APA's governance for our first six or seven decades, are now represented in all parts of APA's governance, as are academicians. The two largest employment settings for APA members are education and health care, and those proportions are reflected in the governance. Seventy-one percent of the members of APA's boards and committees and 46.6 percent of the members of the Council of Representatives are employed in aca- demic settings.

Myth: APA's Accreditation Program can and should control the supply of psychologists by restricting the number of students admitted to training programs.

Truth: Accrediting bodies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to assess the mission and quality of professional programs. Using accreditation procedures to control admissions would raise serious legal problems and violate the principles on which accreditation is based.

Myth: APA is supported primarily by membership dues.

Truth: Unlike most associations, APA is not dependent on dues as its principal source of operating funds. APA's dues represent only 16 percent of total revenues. Roughly half of our budget revenues come from our publishing operation, and most of the rest come from our investments and real estate. The income from our publications, incidentally, comes mostly from institutions, not from individual member subscriptions, which are kept near the break-even level.

Myth: APA spends much of its dues money on monumental buildings, thereby increasing the deficit.

Truth: No APA dues money has been spent to build or maintain either the headquarters building or the second building on G Street. The proceeds from the sale of our 17th Street building provided the down payment for our headquarters building, and rentals from tenants in the buildings make the payments. The cash flow from the buildings actually reduces the pressure on dues. The $1 million net generated annually by the buildings is equivalent to $30 in dues from every member. The building equity increases annually and adds to our net worth. Real estate is not an expense for APA; it is an investment that pays substantial dividends.

Myth: The (fill in the blank) Directorate receives a greater percentage of APA's budget than the other directorates.

Truth: The four directorates, Science, Practice, Education and Public Interest, receive about $16 million each year from APA's general dues. While there are variations from year to year, depending on special projects and activities, each directorate receives about $4 million on average.

Further Reading

If you have any questions, myths or rumors you'd like me to address, you can reach me by e-mail or by regular mail at the APA address.