At a town hall meeting during their 2005 Annual Convention, APA members pulled out their wish lists and shared their hopes for psychology's future.

They suggested that the field:

  • Be more inclusive by reaching out to psychologists of all political and professional stripes.

  • Be more assertive in setting its agendas in research, policy and practice.

"A proactive psychology--by which I mean research and practice together--can help to mitigate or ameliorate problems," said participant Mark Koltko-Rivera, PhD. "A reactive psychology will do nothing but bear witness to them."

The meeting--held in a packed room where members took turns at the mike to deliver their opinions--was part of a broad effort by APA's Policy & Planning Board (P&P) to build a positive future for APA and the field, said P&P Chair Sandra E. Tars, PhD. "Our desire is to find many different ways to involve APA members and to determine what you want for the future of psychology," she said.

Tars hosted the event with APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD, APA President Ronald F. Levant, EdD, and APA President-elect Gerald Koocher, PhD. The APA leaders commented on the concerns raised, often noting actions APA is already taking to address them.

Members can still air their thoughts by e-mailing, said Tars. The board will include that feedback and input from the town hall meeting in a future American Psychologist article as a follow-up to the board's five-year report on psychology's future, which appeared in the journal's July/August issue and can also be accessed at www.apa.org/governance.

Ensuring a strong profession

Practice issues were a big theme at the meeting, with practitioners urging APA to take more concrete steps to help the profession survive in the 21st century.

Carol Goldberg, PhD, a psychologist in Syosset, N.Y., said psychology needs to get involved in every segment of American life, just as police and fire personnel are.

"We should work in every area that involves people," she said, "including in every local program related to homeland security and terrorism prevention, community health and safety."

One newly minted psychologist said he is concerned that the profession is being edged out by competitors with less education. "What is APA doing to change this situation?" he asked.

In response, Levant delivered some "breaking news" that drew loud applause: Three days before the town hall meeting, APA's Council of Representatives approved for comment a proposed change in licensure policy that would give students licensure eligibility when they complete their doctorates, rather than postdoc. Council will likely vote on the item at its next meeting, Feb. 17-19.

"Hopefully, the state legislatures that control licensing laws will follow APA's advice," Levant said.

More inclusive inclusion?

Other participants expressed their views that the association's encouragement of diversity errs on the side of being too "politically correct"--that while they appreciate APA's commitment to diversity, they think the association should cast a wider net to include diverse political opinions, for example.

Michael Keeney, PhD, a member of Div. 14 (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology), said he was disturbed by what he perceived as a "blue state" bias during convention--everything from speakers making disparaging references to "red state" officials to a showing of "Outfoxed," a film criticizing alleged right-wing bias in Fox News media. To mitigate these tendencies, Keeney suggested, APA should adopt a policy of having members eschew politics when giving APA presentations.

"I've been an APA member since I've been associated with psychology, and I believe in what APA does," Keeney said. "But I think we need to consider expanding our idea of diversity."

Anderson responded that while the association is deeply committed to diversity of all kinds, it also respects freedom of speech.

"We want to make sure that all perspectives are respected and not silenced," he said.

Again, APA is taking actions to address these concerns, Levant noted. For one, he recently hosted an APA Task Force on Enhancing Diversity, whose purpose is to promote a welcoming climate for all psychologists.

For another, APA has trained its leaders to have "difficult dialogues" with people of divergent views, said Tars. "The leadership hopes to extend that throughout APA," she said.

APA veteran George Albee, PhD, president of Div. 1 (Society for General Psychology), offered another view on APA's need for diversity.

"We're becoming a guild organization," said Albee, who noted that 76 percent of voting council members are practitioners, 20 percent are nonpractitioners and "only a handful are scientists.

"We need to recruit more young people into science and human justice and to make council more diverse."

Tori DeAngelis is a writer in Syracuse, N.Y.