When the Ohio Psychological Association needed ammunition to fight for state legislation that would force insurance companies to reimburse psychologists in a more timely way, they looked for national support. Through a grant from APA's Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP), the state association was able to conduct an in-depth study of whether insurance companies paid for services on time.

The results--41 percent of insurers paid claims late--were critical to the passage of a new, tougher bill requiring prompt payment in Ohio.

This story is just one example of the synergy states and APA enjoy by working together.

"The state associations address very important state issues that affect all psychologists who are either practicing, teaching or doing research in that state," says Jeffrey Barnett, PsyD. Barnett represents Div. 31 (State Psychological Association Affairs) on the Working Group to Promote Joint Membership in APA/State and Provincial Psychological Associations (SPPAs). The group also includes representatives from the Caucus of State and Provincial Representatives to APA's Council, the Committee of State Leaders, the Council of Executives of State and Provincial Psychological Associations, the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students, CAPP and APA's Practice Directorate.

"APA and the state associations work very collaboratively," adds Lorryn Wahler, PhD, a CAPP member and executive officer of the New Jersey Psychological Association.

But being a member of one association does not in itself support the other. Indeed, less than half of APA members belong to their SPPA, and about 70 percent of SPPA members belong to APA.

"It's in everybody's best interest to have both a strong APA and state association because there are a lot of battles to fight not only in Washington, but in states around the nation," explains Mike Sullivan, PhD, assistant executive director of state advocacy in APA's Practice Directorate.

Here are just a few examples of how APA and state and provincial psychological associations work together:

  • APA worked with MTV and state psychological associations to develop the "Warning Signs" anti-violence campaign, and SPPAs were key in getting psychologists involved.

  • Projects coordinated by APA and implemented on the state level, such as the APA Disaster Response Network, make a lasting impact on the public. Joint membership benefits the field, as well as the general public, says Sullivan.

  • The early success of state associations in advocating for mental health parity legislation helped fuel the passage of a national parity law in 1996. APA's national efforts in turn set off parity legislation in other states.

  • To address the shortage of postdoctoral residencies, the Arizona Psychological Association (AzPA) is developing a training consortium that will create new internships and postdocs in Arizona--something that wouldn't have been possible without the help of APA, says AzPA president Andy Hogg, PhD (see related article).

"If we want to support the profession, we as psychologists need to be involved in addressing laws at both the state and federal level," explains Daniel J. Abrahamson, PhD, a member of the working group and former chair of the Committee of State Leaders. "There's clearly no better way to do that than by belonging to your state psychological association and APA."

In addition to advocacy for the profession, state and national associations help students and psychologists sift through the deluge of information about their profession by highlighting the latest research, important state laws and regulations, funding opportunities and education trends. They also supply scholarships, mentoring opportunities and the chance to confer with other psychologists.

"I'm a better psychologist because of my involvement in both the Maryland Psychological Association and APA," explains Barnett. He says the newsletters, journals and listservs enhance his professional competence.

"We can help with half, but what if all psychologists were members of their state association? How much more could we do?" asks Barnett. "You can't afford not to join. It's an investment in yourself, your career and in the profession's future."