In this issue

Report from the APA Council of Representatives

The Science Directorate engages in activities that support the science of psychology, including APA’s commitment to defending research with nonhuman animals.

By Michael Domjan, PhD

The APA Council of Representatives met just before and during the 2014 APA convention in Washington, D.C. A plenary session and caucus meetings were scheduled on Tuesday evening. The formal council sessions occurred all day on Wednesday and all morning on Friday.

What I always find impressive about APA is its budget and range of activities in support psychologists of all stripes. The total APA budget for 2013 was $104 million, with about 10 percent of that coming from membership dues. APA is organized into four directorates. The Science Directorate is engaged in numerous activities that support the science of psychology. Most important for members of Div. 6 is APA’s commitment to defending research with nonhuman animals. This defense of animal research includes various proactive initiatives to make sure that policy makers in the U.S. Congress and various government agencies get a balanced perspective that includes the benefits of animal research rather than just the negative publicity promoted by animal rights activists. Currently the Science Directorate has 24 full-time employees, which compares favorably with the staffing of the Practice Directorates, which has 25 employees.

One of the major activities of the Science Directorate is the development of treatment guidelines. The first three disorders that were targeted are obesity, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Although at first I was puzzled why the development of treatment guidelines was assigned to the Science Directorate, I have been dissuaded of those concerns. A key feature of the guidelines is that they will be based on the best available research, much of it provided by behavioral neuroscientists and members of Div. 6. Thus, the guidelines will showcase the relevance of basic research to the treatment of health problems of great societal concern.

The council discussed a number of long-range policy issues. Two that may have a substantial impact on Div. 6 are issues related to membership and issues related representation within APA governance. Although APA as a whole is the largest professional organization for psychologists, its membership is declining and getting older. In addition, only about half of APA members belong to any division. Since APA governance is built on the division structure, members who do not belong to a division miss out on representation in the governance structure. The APA staff and the Council of Representatives are concerned about both of these issues. During the next year or two, we may see significant progress on both.

APA is launching an effort to develop new procedures and processes to encourage membership. One of the goals of Barry Anton, the new APA president, is to reduce dues to encourage membership. In addition, many representatives on the Council urged consideration of a requirement that all APA members belong to at least one division. Implementation of such a requirement will probably come with a subsidy making a member’s first division affiliation close to cost free.

The council again spent a great deal of its time discussing ways to make APA governance more efficient and nimble. This process dates back to before I joined the council nearly three years ago and was called the Good Governance Project (GGP). During its last two meetings, the council adopted a number of proposals that emerged from the GGP process. I reported on those proposals in earlier reports. Those proposals were handed off to a working implementation group (WIG), whose task was to operationalize the proposed governance changes. During its August 2014 meeting, the council focused on reports from the WIG and motions to adopt (or reject) the WIG recommendations.

One of the major changes that the council had approved in prior meetings was to reduce the size of the council by having only one representative from each APA division or state, provincial, territorial psychological organization. The council also delegated a number of responsibilities (including responsibility for managing the APA budget) to a reconstituted board of directors. The intent of delegating fiscal responsibility was to free up the council to focus on long-range policy issues facing psychology rather than on issues related to day-to-day operations of APA. During the August 2014 meeting, there was considerably back-sliding on both of these changes.

Each year brings numerous new members to the council as the terms of other representatives expire. Many of the new members of council had serious reservations about previously adopted governance proposals and voted against implementing some of them. How all this will shake out in the coming years remains to be seen. Any permanent change in the structure and function of the APA Council will require changes in the APA bylaws, which will have to be approved in a vote of the entire APA membership. You are likely to hear about governance proposals in reports of the Div. 6 council representative for some time to come.

I have enjoyed serving as council representative for the past three years. Since the start of this year, Mark Krause, PhD, has taken over as our next representative. It has been an honor to serve. I am confident that representation of the division at council will be in good hands with Krause.