In this issue

My year as Div. 32 president: August 2014-August 2015

Our past president looks back over his presidency and sets a blueprint for the advancement of contemporary humanistic psychology.

By V. Krishna Kumar

At my installation as Div. 32 president last year in Washington, D.C., I quipped that if I survived my year of presidency, I would consider running for mayor in Washington, D.C.! I did survive, but I do not feel quite that confident to run in any mayoral election, even for a much smaller city on a relatively uninhabited planet. However, when I received the oil can from Brent Robbins in August 2014, I was confident that I would learn as I went along and become better in meeting my responsibilities. Well, my experiences kept me humble. Brent Robbins, our then past president, graciously provided assistance to me in various ways throughout the year.

During my tenure, I often reflected after events had occurred and thought “OK now I know what to do next time similar situations arise.” However, I quickly learned that although similar situations did arise again, they had added challenges requiring me to think and consult with others as to the best course of action.

The president's job is not a one-person's job. Board members, elected and appointed, and other Div. 32 members play crucial roles in its everyday functioning. Without their dedicated support and often behind the scenes efforts, the work of the society cannot move forward. I thank all those who provided me with such support and who made themselves available to me when things needed to be done or when I needed clarification on how to proceed on a difficult matter. Sometimes when I thought I had the right plan, wise members pointed to a better course of action.

Our society is highly active compared to many other societies within the APA. Each year, we organize programs for a conference, the APA convention and a hospitality suite at the convention. In addition, we have several active task forces, a journal, an online newsletter, a YouTube channel, a blog and an email list for members. We are also active on Facebook and Twitter.

In writing this column, I naturally considered what I wanted to achieve as president and what I have accomplished. As I reflected, it became clear that I had little agenda of my own when I assumed the office, but I knew some issues needed addressing and that new ones would be forthcoming. My main goal was to keep the division running. I am pleased to note that the society functioned exceptionally well in its usual offerings; I attribute this to the active collaboration among the elected members, appointed individuals and volunteers, especially students. These individuals set the tone for the society, guided me as needed and successfully accomplished what they undertook to serve the society.

Among the many highlights of such efforts are the recent decision by Div. 32 board to accept a proposal from the APA to publish our journal The Humanistic Psychologist, the superb annual conference (chair: Carol Humphrey; onsite coordinator Todd DuBose) held at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and the APA convention (chair: Frank Farley) and hospitality suite (chair: Shawn Rubin) programs in Toronto. Highly experienced individuals expertly crafted these programs with their respective committee members with minimal input from me—these were their accomplishments, not mine.

In recent years, divisional programming has been a challenge because we lost seven hours of non-substantive programming time to something that APA calls “collaborative programming.” I see no benefit to psychology from collaborative programming where we are forced to collaborate with other divisions and to fit our submissions into limited categories; I have seen a few aspiring presenters post request notes on various email lists desperately seeking collaborators from other divisions. I hope we get back our hours in the near future to better showcase our division's programming. We have many active researchers in the society, and we should be able to showcase their work. I am not against collaborative programming, but this should happen naturally rather than being imposed on us by a central committee.

Humanistic psychology has played an influential role in psychology, especially in psychotherapy, but its contributions are often taken for granted. No therapists of any orientation will deny the primacy of such factors as empathy, genuineness and unconditional regard in therapy. More importantly, these fundamental notions are effective everyday principles of psychology to relate with self and others. Yet it seems that humanistic psychology covered in basic psychology textbooks has remained stagnant since the days of Maslow, May and Rogers.

In an examination of 13 introduction to psychology textbooks (1985-1988), Churchill (1988) concluded: “The results of my survey are disappointing: I found without exception, humanistic psychology continues to be relegated to chapters on personality and psychotherapy. Furthermore, there were only two to three pages total devoted to humanistic, existential, and/or phenomenological viewpoints, which is quite alarming, considering that these texts ranged in sizes from 487 (Houston, Bee, & Rim) to 900 (Spear, Penrod, & Baker) pages” (p. 342).

Scott Churchill also noted that humanistic psychology is “associated with wizardry and a generally anti-scientific attitude of the human potential movement” (p. 342), and that Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow were cited “univocally as representatives of the humanistic-phenomenological approach, with only occasional references to James Bugental, Victor Frankl, Kurt Goldstein, George Kelly, R. D. Laing, and Rollo May” (p. 342).

Corey (1996) noted in his psychotherapy textbook that David Cain, who reviewed his chapter on person-centered therapy, observed that the person-centered therapy has been on the decline in the United States. He attributed this decline to “lack of evolution” of concepts and methods because of a commitment on the part of a “strong and conservative group” to preserve “the approach in its traditional form,” and remaining “insulated” from advances in related fields (pp. 215-216).

Moving forward in time, I surveyed a few popular abnormal psychology textbooks (1997-2015; Kumar, 2015). My conclusions are consistent with those of Churchill and Caine inasmuch as the coverage pertaining to humanistic psychology tends to be minimal, restricted to the works of Maslow and Rogers, and qualified with reservations about its scientific soundness. Thus, our challenge, among others, is to remedy this lack of visibility by publishing research in mainstream, not just specialty journals, offering more humanistically oriented clinical workshops to treat specific issues, and writing basic textbooks from a humanistic psychology perspective based on contemporary research.

This year a momentous event has set the stage for far reaching changes within the APA with the approval by the APA Council of a resolution introduced by our own Scott Churchill “Safeguard Against Acts of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in All Settings” (Bolded in original; Approved Resolution Handout, 23B, p. 1). This was truly a historic movement for the profession of psychology and speaks of the leadership we have in our society. Please join me in congratulating Scott Churchill for his heroic efforts in articulating and sponsoring the resolution. Nadine Kalsow (email division officers email lists) stated “Let me add that there were tears by many council members and virtually all of us on the dais. Personally, this was a very powerful and significant experience.”

At the 2015 APA's Toronto convention, I was delighted to have passed on the proverbial oil can to Kirk Schneider, a highly acclaimed scholar and clinician, and, above all, a wonderful relational human being. I invite you all to wish him the best and offer your unconditional support—he does have miles to go before he sleeps, à la Robert Frost.

References

Churchill, S. (1988). Humanistic psychology and introductory textbooks. The Humanistic Psychologist, 16, 341-357

Corey, G. (1996). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (5 th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole.

Kumar, V. K. (2015, August). Abnormal psychology textbooks: Anything beyond Maslow, May, and Rogers? Div. 32 presidential address presented at the Div. 32 business meeting at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada.