In July I had the opportunity to participate in the International Congress of Applied Psychology in Athens, Greece, and I want to share some of my observations with you. Approximately 60 members of our association participated in the meeting of about 3,000 psychologists. APA members presented a number of invited papers and, aside from the scientific sessions, a substantial international audience showed particular interest in APA's work on accreditation, licensing and ethics.
APA also sponsored a reception attended by approximately 400 colleagues from around the globe, under the able coordination of Dr. Merry Bullock, our international affairs officer. APA CEO Dr. Norman Anderson and I offered greetings to the attendees.
A strong sense of positive collegial relationships permeated the event. For example, a substantial number of Iranian colleagues attended and seemed eager for friendly intellectual exchanges despite the tensions between our national governments. One clinical psychologist from Tehran noted wistfully that few of his colleagues have the ability to attend our meetings in the United States because of problems obtaining visas.
In one exchange of ideas with leaders of the European Federation of Psychologists' Associations, Dr. Steven Behnke, our ethics director, and I responded to concerns about psychologists' involvement in national security activities. A particularly poignant moment occurred when the thoughtful leader of one of the Scandinavian psychological associations noted, "America stood high in good will after September 11, 2001, only to have squandered those good feelings with recent government actions."
In another exciting conversation a young female psychologist from an Arab nation talked with pride about how women at her university have begun using her newly established counseling service in significant numbers. With assurance of confidentiality guaranteed by the university administration, she found strong demand for psychological services. This fact takes on considerable importance because many of the women sought her advice in sensitive matters not traditionally discussed outside the family, if at all.
At another meeting I had the honor of meeting with Indian diplomat, author, and U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor, recently nominated for the position of U.N. secretary-general. Mr. Tharoor had specifically sought out input regarding ways psychology might contribute to the mission of the United Nations.
I had the opportunity to present a workshop on my work in promoting coping during family bereavement, while simultaneously learning a great deal from the participants about both commonalities and differences in coping among traditional African, Muslim and Greek Orthodox families from the participants. In addition, I learned that the Turkish Psychological Association has established its first code of ethics, using the APA Ethics Code as inspiration, but proudly developing a version well suited to its own national values and practices.
Travel, listen and learn
By the end of the trip I felt sad that too few of our members participate in professional activities extending beyond our own national borders. Many psychologists around the world have become members or affiliates of APA and publish regularly in our journals, but too many American psychologists suffer a kind of intellectual myopia with respect to clinical and research advances abroad. Colleagues around the world hold our association in high esteem, yet too many of us remain unaware of the fascinating advances taking place around the globe. One colleague recently explained, "The Americans always seem to tell us how it's done, but not to listen." Participating in such meetings helps us to both learn and to reduce the unfortunate international perspectives on America that have become sadly prevalent in recent years.
A visit to the international conference page of the International Union of Psychological Science Web site (www.am.org/iupsys/mtg.html) may give you some ideas about upcoming conferences in wonderful places you might want to visit, while learning and interacting with colleagues abroad. In particular, I would call your attention to the 31st Interamerican Congress of Psychology: "For the Integration of Americas" scheduled for Mexico City next July; the X European Congress of Psychology planned for Prague, Czech Republic, also next July; the XXIX International Congress of Psychology to take place in Berlin in July 2008; the International Congress of Applied Psychology slated for Melbourne, Australia, in the summer of 2010; and the International Congress of Psychology, booked for Cape Town, South Africa, in 2012.