From the Executive Director

APA’s Strategic Plan

APA’s Council of Representatives has approved the first strategic plan in the Association’s history, organized around three strategic objectives: Maximize organizational effectiveness, expand psychology’s role in advancing health, and increase recognition of psychology as a science.

By Steven Breckler, PhD

This past August, APA’s Council of Representatives approved the first strategic plan in the Association’s 117-year history. The plan is organized around three strategic objectives:

  1. Maximize organizational effectiveness
  2. Expand psychology’s role in advancing health
  3. Increase recognition of psychology as a science

All three goals support the science of psychology, but it is the third goal in particular that relates most strongly. What is the rationale for adopting this third goal, and what does it mean for how we organize our efforts and resources at APA?

To understand this strategic goal, it is helpful to look at five focused objectives that Council included as part of the goal. These include:

a.   Enhance psychology’s prominence as a core STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) discipline
b.   Improve public understanding of the scientific basis for psychology
c.   Expand the translation of psychological science to evidence-based practice
d.   Promote the applications of psychological science to daily living
e.   Expand educational resources and opportunities in psychological science

It is clear that these objectives, which are intended to be achieved over a period of 3-5 years, all support the goal of increasing the recognition of psychology as a science. What is most important to understand, however, is that these objectives can only be achieved through the collective actions and resources of a very large association of psychologists. We can all do smaller things, as individuals. The bigger things require the coordinated efforts of all of us working together.

Consider the first objective (enhancing psychology’s prominence as a core STEM discipline). The future of psychology as a science depends critically on our achieving this objective. We can work on it at the local level, by changing the location of psychology in our colleges and universities and by inserting greater scientific rigor in our curricula. But we also need to work on it at the national and international level, by changing how NSF defines psychology and by influencing the attitudes of lawmakers who do not understand the centrality of psychology to the STEM disciplines.

Or consider the second objective (improving public understanding of the scientific basis for psychology). We can also work on this objective at the local level, by each of us devoting some time and energy toward educating the public and participating in some outreach to the local community. But we also need to educate the public on a grand scale, through national media campaigns and development of materials for use in K-12 education. That’s an ambitious objective, requiring substantial resources and a sustained effort. It is the kind of effort that we can only achieve by focusing the resources of a very large organization of psychologists.

We develop a strategic plan to help guide and focus our efforts. We achieve the goals by defining specific objectives, and then we go to work by designing concrete initiatives in support of those objectives. APA is now at the point of designing the concrete initiatives. This is where the rubber meets the road. The initiatives represent decisions about how to spend money, allocate staff time, and direct the efforts of those who choose to become involved.

APA’s governance bodies (Boards and Committees) will be focusing their attention this spring on strategic initiatives. The effort will work best if it is fed by a diversity of ideas and perspectives. We welcome all thoughts and suggestions. Talk with members of APA governance, or contact me. Working together, we can do this.