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Council representative report

Topics discussed at the council meeting include STEM, new forensic guidelines, psychology in schools, ICD-11, APA convention changes, and the APA Good Governance Project
Representing Psychoanalytic Psychology on the the APA Council

Seven of us represent Division 39/Psychoanalysis on the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association. Of the "delegations" that represent the diverse APA Divisions and state provincial and territorial psychological associations, we are the second largest. 

Council meets twice a year, once at the summer APA convention and once mid-winter. APA is a large membership organization with interest groups with diverse values and agendas and a large staff, who bring their own voices and perspectives to the association's affairs. Council is APA's legislative arm. We vote on and monitor APA policies and initiatives, similar to what the Congress does for the country.  

How Does APA Council Work?

Much of the work of Council is behind the scenes. Proposals make their way through numerous boards and committees and staff processes. It often takes a proposal years (with the help of politically astute advocates) to work its way through consultative processes before coming to Council, for debate or, very often, consensus adoption. At its worst, this makes for bureaucratic inertia; at its best, it generates coalitions and consensus.

Representing Psychoanalytic Psychology on the APA Council

By Richard Ruth

Seven of us represent Division 39/Psychoanalysis on the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association – of the “delegations” that represent the diverse APA Divisions and state, provincial, and territorial psychological associations, we are the second largest. Council meets twice a year, once at the summer APA convention and once mid-winter.

APA is a large membership organization, with interest groups with diverse values and agendas and a large staff, who bring their own voices and perspectives to the association’s affairs. Council is APA’s legislative arm. We vote on and monitor APA policies and initiatives, similar to what the Congress does for the country.

How does Council work? Much of the work of Council is behind the scenes. Proposals make their way through the numerous APA boards and committees and staff processes. It often takes a proposal years (and politically astute advocates) to work its way through consultative processes before coming before Council, for debate or, very often, consensus adoption. At its worst, this makes for bureaucratic inertia; at its best, it generates coalitions and consensus.

Caucuses of Council members with shared concerns meet before and during Council meetings, and communicate between meetings, to articulate shared concerns and propose, weigh in on, and advance shared initiatives – or, sometimes, oppose initiatives coming from other interest groups within Council and APA. As Division 39 representatives, we are active in caucuses concerned about practice, women’s, LGBT, social justice/public interest, ethnic minority, and education and training issues.

Manifest and latent processes. As in therapy, much at Council happens at the level of latent process. Several of our representatives have long years of experience in APA governance, through which they have developed relationships with the APA’s top staff and elected leadership and nimble routes of access to air matters of Division concern coming before Council. As a new representative, I made connections to representatives from 14 Divisions – several of whom had never met a living psychoanalyst, and were surprised to find I am a “real” psychologist – and Council representatives from several states – many of them, psychodynamic in orientation. We have friends and allies. And, other forces not so warmly disposed to our perspectives and concerns.

What did Council do? For a full report on the long agenda that came before Council’s August meeting, see below. Some of the highlights:

  • STEM. We voted to get behind an initiative for the government to recognize psychology as a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) discipline. Doesn’t sound too psychoanalytic? Don’t be fooled – it gets us at the table as debates about what constitutes science unfold; and it makes psychology, and psychology students, eligible for funding streams – crucial to, among other efforts, possibilities for funding ethnic minority psychology graduate students and psychoanalytic psychology researchers.

  • New forensic guidelines. We passed the first-ever APA forensic psychology guidelines. Previous forensic guidelines were developed by an APA division, not developed or approved by APA as a whole. Nine years in the works, the newly adopted forensic guidelines explicitly make space for all kinds of psychologists to do forensic work – including psychoanalytic psychologists, not necessarily certified as forensic psychologists, who have the training and expertise to make contributions in forensic settings.

  • Psychology in high schools. We passed guidelines for the teaching of psychology in high schools that make explicit provision for teaching about diverse psychological contributions and perspectives. One of our members commented on and helped shape these new guidelines. As with many things legislative, much of what happens now will depend on how the guidelines are implemented. Through our connections with those who led this initiative, we hope to be involved in drafting model lesson plans and other steps to get psychoanalytic contributions represented assertively and fairly in high school students’ first exposure to psychology.

  • ICD-11. In the US and a few other places (23 percent of clinicians around the world), psychologists use the DSM-IV; most of the rest of the world – 70 percent of clinicians globally – uses the ICD-10, which has many features much more amenable to psychoanalytically influenced practice. ICD-11 is in development, and – for the first time – APA has a psychologist, Dr. Geoffrey Reed, actively involved in the core working group; APA is funding his work, in Geneva at the WHO. ICD-11 will correspond to clinicians’ conceptual map of mental disorders better than the DSV-IV, will be cross-culturally portable – and will be available for free. This is big stuff, and has potential to change the hegemony of US psychiatry and of narrowly descriptive, anti-psychoanalytic diagnostic schemes. Once ICD-11 rolls out, APA will put on trainings so psychologists can become comfortable and conversant with this new diagnostic manual.

  • Changes to the APA convention. The APA convention has grown too large and has become unmanageable. Too many sessions compete, and are under-attended. APA has engaged consultants to study the issue, and Council decided that, beginning in 2014 there will be fewer programming hours allotted to Divisions and more to collaborative efforts; poster sessions will be enhanced and made more attractive. Our Division will need to work more creatively in coalition with other Divisions to present our work in thematically organized vehicles and other innovative formats. The advantages envisioned will be several – among them, APA will become able to meet in cities where it cannot currently meet; the convention will better be able to serve a variety of training needs; invited speakers will be better assured of good-sized audiences. Council will review and evaluate these changes, and can withdraw or amend them if experience and members’ preferences dictate.

  • Changes in life member rules. To reflect changing practice realities, APA will be increasing the age of eligibility for life member status to 69 and will begin charging life members who do not choose to receive APA publications a modest administrative fee.

  • Changes to governance. APA is moving forward with its Good Governance Project, an effort to reconfigure organizational governance to make its processes more responsive and efficient.

There is more. APA seems to be in robust financial shape; it is making efforts to align its activities with its strategic initiatives; we passed a balanced budget; we recognized several people who have made important contributions to disaster relief, ethnic minority psychology, wok with returning veterans, and other important area with awards; we will continue efforts to train Council members in diversity issues. We unanimously voted to support same-sex marriage rights.

Want to talk more? All of the Division 39 Council representatives welcome hearing from you at any time. Our email contact information is available through the Division 39 Website.

Council Meeting Summary August 2011

APA's Council of Representatives approved $2.1 million to fund seven initiatives designed to support and advance APA’s three strategic goals: maximizing organizational effectiveness, expanding psychology’s role in advancing health and increasing the recognition of psychology as a science.

APA's strategic plan goes live

By Rhea K. Farberman, Monitor Executive Editor

At its meeting during APA's Annual Convention, the Council of Representatives approves funds for APA's top priorities, including an analysis of psychology's work force and a an expansion of the association's public education campaign.

At its August meeting during APA's 2011 Annual Convention, the Council of Representatives set in motion the implementation of APA’s new strategic plan by funding seven initiatives. In addition, the council approved plans to streamline programming during the annual meeting and ensure that APA reports and policy statements are grounded in the best available science.

The strategic initiatives plan sets aside $2.1 million for 2012 to fund seven initiatives designed to support and advance APA’s three strategic goals: maximizing organizational effectiveness, expanding psychology’s role in advancing health, and increasing the recognition of psychology as a science. The seven projects are:

  • Improve APA business models, member communications and the convention to increase member engagement.

  • Analyze the psychology work force to meet national needs.

  • Continue to develop and promulgate treatment guidelines to promote the translation of psychological science into health interventions.

  • Continue to expand the APA public education campaign to include the entire discipline of psychology.

  • Expand opportunities for graduate education and continued professional development for psychologists and psychology students in order to advance the discipline’s participation in interdisciplinary health delivery and interdisciplinary science.

  • Increase support for research, training, public education and interventions that address and reduce health disparities among underserved populations.

  • Forge alliances with health-care organizations to increase the number of psychologists working in integrated health-care settings.

Each of the strategic plan initiatives is designed to be multiyear projects. Their progress will be evaluated and further funding provided on a year-by-year basis.

In other action that is expected to have a long-term impact on the public’s understanding of psychology, the council adopted a process to ensure the “scientific merit” of all APA motions, resolutions and reports and approved new national standards for the teaching of high school psychology. The new National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula replace the previous standards produced in 2005. The 2011 standards include seven learning domains: scientific inquiry, biopsychology, development and learning, sociocultural context, cognition, individual variations and applications of psychological science. In addition, the number of standards areas within the document was increased from 15 to 20 and student performance indicators are no longer included in the curricula standards. Newly developed student performance indicators will be provided on-line to allow for a continually evolving assessment resource. The national standards and the performance indicators are available at the revision will be posted online soon.

A work group comprised of board and committee chairs and a member of the Board of Directors developed recommendations for procedural safeguards to ensure scientific merit of APA motions, resolutions and reports. Council approved amending the Association Rules and the Council New Business Item Form to more clearly specify review standards for APA reports and/or policy statements. Reports themselves never constitute APA policy but any policy recommendation emanating from a report, and the reports themselves, must demonstrate a scientific foundation when being considered by the council. When indicated, all motions and/or reports coming before the council should reflect the most appropriate and relevant scientific data and literature available.

In other action, the council:

  • Approved Guidelines for Forensic Psychology. These guidelines advise psychologists, those specializing in forensic work and others, on their roles and responsibilities when testifying in court or sharing psychological expertise before judicial, legislative and administrative bodies. The guidelines be posted online soon.

  • Adopted a resolution directing the APA central office to increase and measure its advocacy of psychology as a science.

  • Approved changes in the way programming hours at the annual convention are allotted to create a meeting with more thematic and collaborative programming and fewer competing sessions.

  • Voted to change the eligibility requirements for the life status category of membership. Such a change will require amendments to the Association Bylaws and will therefore be put to a vote of the membership this fall.

  • Approved the 2011 class of 124 new APA fellows.

  • Reviewed the 2011 budget and a forecast for 2012. APA staff estimate that 2011 will end with an operating margin of approximately $ 2.8 million on an overall budget of approximately $112 million. For 2012, staff are anticipating no revenue growth and therefore budget controls to ensure a balanced or better-than-balanced budget.