The practice special assessment paid by licensed psychologists provides APA's Practice Directorate with resources to be used solely for the purpose of advocating for practicing psychologists. The creation of the Practice Organization in January 2001, a 501 c(6) companion organization to APA, removed certain Internal Revenue Service-related restrictions on the types and amounts of advocacy that can be done with the practice assessment funds.
As a result, there is currently a wide range of activities being supported by assessment monies. Unfortunately, we hear all too frequently that members are unsure of what the special assessment is used for. In order to better communicate about the use of the special assessment, the Practice Directorate has just initiated an effort intended to better inform practitioners of how their assessment dollars are being used.
We recently conducted a survey of practitioner members both to learn what activities are most important to you and to determine how we can better meet your needs. Through that survey, you told us that you want the Practice Organization to provide a variety of services: federal legislative advocacy; tools that are useful for day-to-day professional activities, including marketing materials and information about treatments that work; litigation against managed care companies; and ammunition to defend the profession against challenges to the doctoral-level standard. You also want more communication and more centralized information, and many of you wish to be linked more closely with the larger community of professional psychologists.
The same survey indicated that too many of you are unaware of the Practice Organization's efforts and the resources we offer that are intended to be helpful to you as practitioners. For example, nearly one half of survey respondents indicated that they feel only "somewhat informed" about the Practice Organization's advocacy activities on behalf of practitioners. When we surveyed early-career practitioners this past summer to learn more about how we might help meet their professional needs, 28 percent told us they are "not informed" about the activities undertaken by the Practice Organization on behalf of practitioners.
We heard similar feedback from members during focus groups held at APA's 2003 Annual Convention in Toronto. In particular, APA member participants were largely unaware of how the Practice Organization differs from APA or other organizations that support professional psychology, including the Association for the Advancement of Psychology. And too many didn't know of specific products and services they receive as a result of paying the special assessment.
Without question, there is always more to be done to promote the practice of psychology, and the Practice Organization is constantly working to find or create additional activities and initiatives to help practitioners. Yet it is also critical that our members know what tools, information and services have already been developed with special assessment funds. This is the impetus for the Practice Organization's campaign to alert practitioners to the special assessment-supported activities that are currently underway. As part of this campaign, practitioners are beginning to see a "PracticePlus" logo on many existing and new Practice Organization products. The logo means that a product has been developed with the use of assessment money specifically to meet practitioners' interests.
Our goal with this campaign is for members to become more aware of the value they receive from the special assessment. To aid this process, we invite practitioners to visit the practitioner portal on the Web at www.APApractice.org, a service of the APA Practice Organization developed with special assessment funds. We are working continuously to include on the portal the things that practitioner members of APA have said are important to them, including health and psychology news, legislative and regulatory updates, HIPAA compliance and other practice management resources, and opportunities to connect with other psychologists through online discussion groups. APApractice.org is intended to offer the kind of centralized information "hub" that you have told us you want.
The health-care system is more challenging and difficult to negotiate than ever, and advocacy on behalf of practitioners has never been so important. Given the complexity of the current practice environment, we believe it is vital to increase the availability of information, products and services that practitioners can use. And you can expect to see more marketing materials and tools to help practitioners better negotiate this complex environment.
The recent surveys and discussion groups mentioned in this column are part of our commitment to listening to what our practitioner constituents want and need. We want the dialogue to continue. Please let us know how the products and services provided by the APA Practice Organization are helping you and what else we might do to make practicing psychology easier.