Reflections on my life as a public interest psychologist: Dr. Douglas C. Haldeman

"I came to psychology as a career after having been harassed and hounded out of my job as a high school drama teacher"

Dr. Douglas C. HaldemanDr. Douglas C. Haldeman, Chair of the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest, has long served organized psychology, with APA's Board of Directors; the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns; APA's Ethics Committee; Divisions 17, 29, 31, 42, 43, 44, 45, 51, 56; APA's Council of Representatives; APA's Insurance Trust Board of Trustees; the Washington State Psychological Association, and in many, many other roles too numerous to list here. We invited Dr. Haldeman to reflect on what drew him to public interest psychology.

Strange as it may seem in today's cultural climate, I came to psychology as a career after having been harassed and hounded out of my job as a high school drama teacher in the 70s. The infamous "Briggs Initiative," which would have prohibited gay people from teaching in the California public schools, was on the ballot. I decided I needed two things out of my professional life: safety in my work environment and an opportunity to serve the mental health needs of the LGBT community. Psychology more than fit the bill on both counts.

When I discovered that independent practice by itself wasn't enough to accomplish my goal of serving the community, I got involved with APA. Here, I found a team of colleagues with whom to work on projects that bring psychology to our society as a curative force. My involvement with organized psychology, and particularly with Public Interest, has sharpened my vision, strengthened my resolve and provided me with so many relationships that are more than collegial: they are family. My energy around how psychology comes to heal all kinds of social problems in our society has been intensified because of work with everyone in Public Interest. What I once saw as a duty to serve my community has now become a duty to serve my society — because of PI.