APA Presidential Candidates Comment on Adult Development and Aging

Hear from the APA presidential candidates on their involvement in Division 20, their professional interests, and platform for the presidential year.

By Barry S. Anton, PhD, ABPP, Rodney L. Lowman, PhD, and Jeffrey J. Magnavita, PhD

Division 20 President Bill Haley posed the following questions to all APA presidential candidates. Candidate responses received from Anton, Lowman and Magnavita are reprinted below; Geisinger and Reisner are also running for the office but did not respond to our request.

  1. Do you have any interests and/or any previous involvement in Division 20? Our members would be interested in knowing if you are a member or fellow of the division and if you have been active in any way in Division 20.
  2. Do you have any professional or scholarly interest in issues related to the psychology of adult development and aging. Naturally, we are interested in a wide range of professional activities, including practice, consulting, supervising, research, teaching and involvement with any other organizations devoted to adult development and aging and/or the psychology of aging.
  3. Could you briefly explain any way in which adult development and aging is part of your platform or agenda for your presidential year?

Barry S. Aton, PhD, ABPP

Response to Question #1

I am a member of Division 20. As a Baby Boomer, professor and provider of mental health services to patients across the lifespan, the activities of Division 20 are invaluable to psychology and psychologists. During my 15 years in APA governance including service on the Board of Educational Affairs and the Board of Directors, I worked closely with Division 20 Council representatives moving Division 20 legislation through the board of directors and to the council of representatives. I supported initiatives of divisional interest, including former APA President Carol Goodheart's Caregiver Initiative, the Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Older Adults, End-of-life issues, as well as the creation of the ABPP specialty board for geropsychology through my involvement as an officer on another ABPP board.

Response to Question #2

As a professor at a liberal arts university, the growth and development of college students was a major professional responsibility. At the University of Puget Sound, we offered courses in life span development and adulthood and aging. Now, as managing partner of a large mental health practice which serves patients across the lifespan, we treat adults and older adults on issues such as serious mental illness, health care access, insurance challenges with Medicare, coordination of care for dementia patients and nursing home consultation. As a board member of a community mental health center, we developed partial hospitalization programs for adults with severe mental illness, sought funding for Meals on Wheels for the elderly and disabled, developed outreach programs and day treatment programs, and coordinated care with nursing homes. With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) imminent and the creation of Patient Centered Medical Homes, millions of people will benefit from health care insurance. In Washington state alone, over 1,000,000 uninsured adults will receive coverage by 2015.

Response to Question #3

My presidential initiative, "An International Summit on Psychology and Integrated Care," will include tracks on adulthood and aging as we discuss the Affordable Care Act and integrating mental health into primary care and Patient Centered Medical Homes. This track will include care for increasing numbers of elderly and dementia patients. As our population ages, we must pursue research funding for normal developmental processes as well as dementia and its devastating affects on families and communities. Funding research for the effects of caregiver stress is also necessary as our population ages. As baby boomers enter retirement, quality of life and life's meaningfulness include the interaction of psychological processes, physical health and wellness, and cultural attitudes toward older adults. These variables interact and affect successful aging. The summit will also address education and training as they pertain to older adults and will explore competency based, developmentally anchored education and training approaches. The summit will include issues around specialty training, such as the newly approved ABPP in geropsychology. In fact, the ACA requires specialization of practitioners. The summit will also explore how academic programs can incorporate these mandates into their curricula at all levels of education: undergraduate, graduate, internship and postdoctoral years. As a member of the planning committee and conference participant in the National Conference on Undergraduate Education in Psychology (2009), we included adulthood and aging as an important topic for undergraduate education.

Rodney L. Lowman, PhD

Response to Question #1

I am not currently a member of Division 20.

Response to Question #2

Some of my publications specifically in the areas of aging include:

  • Hayslip, B., Jr., & Lowman, R.L. (1986). The clinical use of projective assessment techniques: A critical appraisal. Clinical Gerontologist, 5 (1-2), 63-94.
  • Richardson, L.M. & Lowman, R.L. (1985). Home health care of the elderly with mental health problems and needs. In: M.O. Hogstel (Ed.), Home nursing care of the elderly (pp. 215-239). New York: Brady.

Additionally, most of my career has been involved with issues of adult development in that one of my primary areas of research, practice and scholarship has been career assessment and counseling, related to one of the most important areas of adult development and to some degree of aging: one's work. In my books The Clinical Practice of Career Assessment: Interests, Abilities, and Personality and Counseling and Psychotherapy of Work Dysfunctions, e.g., I developed models to assess and identify career and work issues. All the populations with whom I have worked in research and practice in these areas are adults. Most career issues are one way or the other developmental issues in that work plays an important role in their identities and sense of psychological well-being. However, as my research has illustrated, we tend to under assess in the case of persons who are experiencing work issues or dysfunctions and we do not do enough to work with work issues in the context of the whole person. Additionally, aging plays a role in assessing how abilities and personality variables may change over the course of one's career and life and the implications of that for work. For example, as people age certain abilities decline while others increase. It is important to base considerations of fitness for work on the rich and growing literature in this area.

Response to Question #3

My platforms are outlined in detail on the APA web site (including a number of statements in the APA Monitor) and on my own web site. There's also a video link a the May 2013 Monitor article

Two of the areas I would emphasize in an APA presidency are:

  1. Internationalizing psychology.
  2. Increasing federal funding in the US for research support.

I believe the APA needs to be far more aggressively engaged with the internationalizing virtually all aspects of our profession to address the realities of rapid globalization. Adult development and aging are not exceptions.

Second, the cut back in federal support of research in the US is a major problem that, if not reversed, will affect the country for years to come. APA needs to be focused in our research advancement efforts on behalf of funding for both basic and applied research. I would add that there are few areas in research that are more important than aging in the context of our current rapidly aging populations. The population as a whole will suffer if our support of this type of research declines. An APA President can be an effective spokesperson in voicing the need for such support and the consequences of ignoring it.

Jeffrey J. Magnavita, PhD

Although I am not a member of Division 20: Adult Development and Aging, I believe that the work of the division is of utmost importance and relevance. I have served in various leadership roles in the division of psychotherapy, as well as in a number of other capacities in APA. I was president of the division of psychotherapy in 2010. At present, I serve as the vice-chair of the Practice Guidelines Advisory Steering Committee. In this capacity, I have supported the decision to include the development of practice guidelines for older adults, which are of critical importance as our older adult population grows. The development of practice guidelines that are inclusive of older adults will be one step toward assuring that appropriate care is delivered to this group. I am committed to making sure that our senior experts in psychotherapy have an opportunity to share their wisdom with the next generation. I created and produced the video series Psychotherapists Face-to-Face, which features some of the eminent psychotherapists of our times.

My professional interests in adult development and aging have a strong foundation in my clinical practice activities over the last three decades, and in my scholarly work. In my theoretical work, I have consistently emphasized a developmental perspective. In my full-time clinical practice, I work closely with patients at all developmental stages and am intimately aware of the struggles that must be faced in later development. Many of the issues encountered as we age have direct bearing on physical, social, emotional and psychological health and functions. The relational world and identity of patients and clinicians must adapt to the challenges presented by retirement, the loss of health and the death of those with whom we share important connections.

If I have the opportunity to serve as APA president, my platform will revolve around advancing the provision of quality mental and behavioral health care to our society. I will develop the details of my agenda more specifically in consultation with our members, divisions, state associations, and APA leadership. I am interested in developing forums that feature the most creative solutions to the problems of the 21 st century. I plan to create psych-incubators, which will provide opportunities for APA members to present their creative solutions to the problems of our times. Having lost both of my parents, and more recently experiencing the issues of illness and aging as both of my in-laws passed away this year, I have increased sensitivity to the challenges and rewards of aging. I am concerned about the stigma of aging in our society as well as the lack of value that is often placed on our seniors. More education and training in aging is necessary for mental and behavioral clinicians of all disciplines, as well as quality research. Thank you for considering me for APA president.