State Leadership Conference

The picture of a typical new practicing psychologist looks a bit different today than it did 20 years ago, when men dominated the field. Today, women make up more than 73 percent of new doctorates, and do not necessarily opt for independent practice early in their careers. Instead, this new generation of practitioners often move on to an increasing number of specialty and nontraditional careers in psychology-working for corporations or the government, for example-and they make up an important new demographic that psychological associations need to market to and represent, noted speakers at a 2007 State Leadership Conference session on engaging new psychologists in state, provincial and territorial psychological associations (SPTAs).

"Early-career psychologists are a different cohort now, in part because the dynamics of the profession have changed," said Christopher Loftis, PhD, session chair and a member of APA's Committee of Early Career Psychologists.

Emerging practitioners confront an increasing array of challenges as they enter the work force, said panelists. They often have trouble finding a postdoctoral position that meets their state's guidelines, and fits their area of interest. Add to that the many hours spent navigating the requirements of the licensure process, and the personal responsibilities of starting a new family during this time, as many new psychologists often do, and one can imagine the support that new psychologists could use. SPTAs can fill that gap if they clearly communicate their value, presenters said.

Panelists Allison Ponce, PhD, associate director of the Community Services Network of Greater New Haven at Yale University School of Medicine and an early-career delegate from the Connecticut Psychological Association, and Kristi Sands Van Sickle, PsyD, chair of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS), recommended a number of strategies for encouraging students and early-career psychologists to join their local psychological association, such as instituting a reduced or graduated dues structure to ease financial strain, and leveraging relationships with faculty members. Psychological associations should also keep technology such as listserv exchanges and event e-mails in mind when marketing to and attempting to involve a new generation of computer-savvy psychologists, said Van Sickle.

"Technology really defines this generation of psychologists," she said. "It's who we are and how we communicate."

Once an early-career psychologist decides to join a local association, said panelist Marla Craig, PhD, an early-career delegate from the Texas Psychological Association, SPTAs must demonstrate how membership meets their needs. Panelists suggested hosting seminars and workshops on such topics as incorporating research into one's career or handling business aspects of practice. Mentoring programs that link early-career psychologists with mid-level practitioners, scholarships, awards and reduced conference registration fees also topped the list of tried-and-true strategies for engaging this new generation.

Michael Oosterhoff, PhD, an early-career delegate from the Ontario Psychological Association, emphasized the developmentally evolving and diverse needs of early-career psychologists. He recommended the development of an early-career psychologists task force to help address these needs.

"I think we do the recruiting part really well in getting them to join the organization," he said. "It's the longer haul we need to work on."

Also important, said Ponce and Van Sickle, is including early-career psychologists in association leadership.

"Early-career psychologists don't want to sit at the kids' table," said Ponce. "We're interested in being involved in all levels of the organization."

Further Reading

Tools and other resources to assist practitioners with honing their business-of-practice skills are available at www.APApractice.org.