Member Submission Column

If It Wasn’t for the Lighthouse

With substantive change comes exciting opportunities and admittedly challenges. 
By Patrick H. DeLeon, PhD

With substantive change comes exciting opportunities and admittedly challenges. Tony Puente has just completed his term on the Board of Directors, having served as APA’s 125th President in 2017:

“The beginning of a new era for APA started this year with the development of a new focus on advocacy. APA has over the last 126 years been devoted to psychology. More recently, the focus on psychologists emerged from the increasing and critical need to make advocacy core to APA.  The practice community, with the advent of the APA Practice Organization under the direction of Bryant Welch, had started the focus in the late 1980s. Issues such as scope of practice, physician definition and reimbursement were attended by a devoted and outstanding staff and the effort was guided by the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice of Psychology (CAPP). The APA Psychological Services, Inc., took over this function but, in addition, integrated all four silos at APA – Education, Practice, Public Interest and Science, as well as developed a sustainable revenue stream (60% of membership dues). This new entity is being directed by the newly hired Katherine McGuire, who has an extensive and respected advocacy history in working both in Congress and the private sector.

“The APA leadership group guiding this effort is made up of 14 highly qualified members of APA representing all of the association and being led by Co-chairs Jennifer Kelly, long time APA Secretary, and myself. This group, known as the Advocacy Coordinating Committee, is the outgrowth of two prior working groups one each in 2017 and 2018. At the present time, the group is establishing its working infrastructure as well as starting to gather data about advocacy needs. A very brief survey to all members and a sample of non-members of APA will be going out early in February. The goal is to gather significant amounts of information in order to develop strategic advocacy plans for the association. This exciting new venture will also increase and consolidate a wide variety of member benefits. Again, the focus of APA Services, Inc., is to better serve the needs of all psychologists and for APA to have one voice representing all of our members in the world of advocacy.” 

Jennifer: “It has been a rewarding and enriching experience to be part of this inaugural group.  All the members of the committee have had extensive experience in advocacy, but it has usually been within each respective area. To be able to approach advocacy from an integrated approach and eliminating the silos will serve to make the association and the profession stronger.”

Making A Difference

Many of us decided upon a career in psychology because we felt that we could make a real difference in the lives of our fellow citizens on the individual or systems/societal level. Accordingly, we were particularly pleased with the APA Citizen Psychologist initiative of last year’s President Jessica Henderson Daniel, highlighting the many contributions of the often unheralded “best of psychology.” APA Citizen Psychologists are defined as individuals who serve as leaders in their various communities. Through prolonged engagement in significant activities, they contribute to improving the lives of all.  This can include public service, volunteerism, board membership and other strategic roles often not directly associated with the day-to-day work of psychologists in our careers. APA Citizen Psychologists come from all branches of the field of psychology. They bring psychological science and expertise to bear on existing challenges to improve community well-being locally, nationally or globally.

Over the years, we have been similarly impressed by the dedication and vision of Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour, and the impact of her organization. Barbara has been formally recognized by APA Presidents Don Bersoff and Melba Vasquez:

“In response to the November Borderline mass shooting in Thousand Oaks California, Give an Hour California is proud to be partnering with the Ventura County Community Foundation to support the administration of Conejo Valley Victim’s Fund. In addition to assisting those who were present, injured or lost a loved one in the attack, Give an Hour is also offering pro bono mental health support through our provider network and case management services. We are working with community leaders to build and implement a comprehensive long-term plan to support not only those affected by the Borderline mass shooting but the entire community as they move from recovery to resilience after the shooting and fires that consumed the area immediately following the shooting.

“We have also opened our network of volunteer mental health professionals to support the more than 12,000 immigrant and refugee children – and their families – who are being affected by the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border. We are honored to offer critical expertise and support to address the acute and long-term mental health consequences for children and families separated from each other upon entry to the United States. Many of these families were fleeing violence in their countries of origin. Many have already experienced considerable trauma.

“Working to assist government agencies and nonprofit organizations responding to this critical need, Give an Hour is collaborating with major mental health associations in this unprecedented effort including the APA, the California Psychological Association and California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT). We are honored to be working with these fine organizations and are inviting all licensed mental health professionals to join us to support families affected by this trauma and others that affect our citizens.”

Prescriptive Authority

For a number of us involved in the prescription privilege (RxP) agenda, the underlying issue has always been access to the highest possible quality of care. Ever since U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye addressed their membership in November 1984, Hawaii Psychological Association (HPA) has been actively pursuing this legislative agenda, once having gotten as far as the governor, who ultimately vetoed their bill. The essence of their legislative approach has been to actively engage those in the community who would directly benefit. Once again this year, Mental Health America of Hawaii made access to prescriptive authority for advanced trained clinical psychologists a high priority.

Judi Steinman: “Hawai’i legislators introduced three separate bills proposing prescriptive authority for specially trained psychologists. Legislators from every island across the state served as co-introducers of these bills, a first for us in our efforts to address the tsunami of suffering in our underserved communities. Another first is that House and Senate leadership are amongst those who introduced these bills, with the House Vice Speaker, Majority Leader, Majority Floor Leader and Majority Whips. A new Senator and Majority Caucus Leader and Majority Floor Leader – both from Hawai’i Island – introduced legislation, while the Senate Vice President is warmly supportive. Our champions in both the House and Senate include the chairs of the respective Health Committees.” 

Meaningful change always takes time and persistence.  

“Where would this ship be?” (The Oak Ridge Boys). 


Pat DeLeon
former APA President
Div. 1