APA must do more to welcome psychologists of differing sexual orientations, religious backgrounds, races and ethnicities, ages, and disabilities, although it has been making some strides, said President Ronald F. Levant, EdD, at APA's 2005 Annual Convention. Indeed, Levant made boosting APA's diversity one of his presidential initiatives and appointed a task force to help (see page 64).

However, as previously excluded groups push for and gain inclusion in APA, conflicts will likely arise, cautioned task force members at the same convention session.

"Since we know that conflict is inevitable, we need to set up a process within the organization of conflict resolution at all levels," suggested psychologist and task force member Joseph White, PhD, of the University of California, Irvine.

White offered the suggestion in relation to the task force's recommendations for APA to enhance its diversity--included in a resolution adopted by APA's Council of Representatives during convention (see page 28).

The resolution, which now becomes APA policy, calls for APA to make welcoming diverse groups a top priority. As such, it allows APA to develop a diversity plan and directs it to consider the task force's recommendations, which include considering the adoption of an association-wide antidiscrimination policy and reaching out to international psychology organizations.

Resolving conflict

In taking into account such recommendations, APA members must realize diversification requires time and education about unconscious biases that may jeopardize the effort, said psychologist and task force member Patricia Arredondo, EdD, the president-elect of the American Counseling Association.

Illustrating one such past conflict in APA, Seattle practitioner Douglas Haldeman, PhD, newly elected to APA's Board of Directors, recalled how in 1991 Div. 44 (Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues) persuaded APA to ban military advertising in APA publications because of the Department of Defense's policy on prohibiting lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals from serving in the military. The move raised concerns for Div. 19 (Society for Military Psychology) and led to the formation of a Div. 44/Div. 19 task force to address the concerns. The task force worked out a compromise in which APA lifted the ad ban but added a disclaimer about discrimination that appeared with the ads. The two divisions also created an ongoing task force to continue to address such LGB military issues, provide education to one another and regularly attend one another's executive meetings.

"There is much greater strength if we are united, instead of in a fighting stance with each other," Haldeman said.

Adding to that, White suggested groups undergo the following six phases in resolving conflicts:

  • Identify your diverse multiple identities.

  • Realize that you view the world differently depending on who you are.

  • Acknowledge one side might believe the other is resistant to change, while the other side might believe the other is pushing too fast.

  • Look within yourself to gauge whether you've contributed to the conflict and what you are willing to contribute to a solution.

  • Understand the problem from others' point of view.

  • Embrace the differences.

Advantages to diversity

Overcoming such conflicts and increasing the diversity of the groups APA represents will strengthen the organization in the long run, especially in terms of attracting and maintaining more members and more accurately reflecting the changing demographics in American society, Levant said.

"As APA becomes more welcoming and brings more diverse members, the level of creativity and productivity will increase because our deliberations will be enriched by entertaining many diverse perspectives," he said. "Thus, APA will better serve groups representing diversity in clinical, research, education and training missions."

Added task force member Beverly Greene, PhD, of St. John's University: A diverse APA "enhances the authenticity of psychology as a discipline that purports to understand human behavior."

Diversity task force members

The members of APA President Ronald F. Levant's Task Force on Enhancing Diversity in APA are:

  • Norman Abeles, PhD

  • Patricia Arredondo, EdD

  • Beverly Greene, PhD

  • Douglas Haldeman, PhD

  • Zari Hedayat, PhD

  • J. Doug McDonald, PhD

  • Jill Olivera-Berry, PhD

  • Rhoda Olkin, PhD

  • Richard M. Suinn, PhD (chair)

  • Melba Vasquez, PhD

  • Joseph White, PhD