President's column

In his final column, the division president recalls Division 32's key achievements of the year, including the formation of the Open Letter Committee and a successful annual conference

By David N. Elkins
David N. ElkinsI have been involved with the Society for Humanistic Psychology (SHP) for many years. This Division 32 board is one of the most active I have seen. In this column, I want to describe some Division 32 projects and honor some of those who give so freely of their time.

The Division 32 Open Letter Committee

This committee, which spearheads Division 32's concerns about the proposed DSM-5, is composed of Frank Farley, Jon Raskin, Brent Robbins, Donna Rockwell and myself as chair. Sarah Kamens, an original member of the committee, now serves as the committee's consultant. This committee's Open Letter/Petition website on the DSM-5 has gathered more than 13,000 signatures plus endorsements from more than 45 mental health organizations, including 13 other divisions of APA and the prestigious British Psychological Society, which has almost 50,000 members. The DSM-5 Reform effort has been covered by more than 100 news media including ABC News, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Nature, the Scientific American, Medscape, Psychology Today, Forbes, the Huffington Post, Fox News and other media outlets in Canada, Europe, South America, Australia and other places. Due to the international coverage, Division 32 and humanistic psychology have received positive publicity around the world, contributing to the renewal in humanism that already was taking place. When we raised concerns about the proposed DSM-5 in the early fall of 2011, we had no idea that this would take off like wildfire around the world and become one of the major projects of Division 32.

The 2012 Annual Conference of the Society for Humanistic Psychology

This conference, held in Pittsburgh on March 29-April 1, 2012, was both successful and inspirational. Brent Dean Robbins and Robert McInernary, co-chairs of the conference, donated countless hours to this project. According to Monica Walker, the 2012 conference treasurer, the conference had 163 paid registrants, 48 of whom were graduate students. In addition, there were eight student volunteers who assisted in various ways with the conference and about 30 undergraduate students from Point Park University who also attended. Thus, total attendance was about 200 and of that 200, about 85 were students. T

he number of students, and their enthusiasm for the conference, speaks well for the future of humanistic psychology. The yearly conference has become a major "gathering place" for students and early career professionals (as well as others) who come together to give presentations, listen to keynote speakers, attend symposia and associate with a community of people who are committed to humanistic values. If you have not attended the conference, I hope you will consider doing so. You will experience firsthand the renewal in humanistic psychology which, after 50 years, seems to be taking place.

Next year's conference (2013) will be at Pacifica Graduate Institute (PGI) near Santa Barbara, California, Feb. 28-March 3, 2013. Brent Potter is Chair of the 2013 Conference and Brent Dean Robbins is Conference Coordinator. David Cain, Bob McInernary, Louis Hoffman, Trent Claypool, Constance Kellogg and Katie Darling are members of the 2013 Conference Committee. (Katie is the most recently appointed member; she will represent the many students who attend the conference.) Dr. Irvin Yalom, arguably the world's leading existential psychotherapist, will be one of our keynote speakers.

The conference has made progress over the past years in ensuring that women and minority individuals are major presenters at the conference. For 2013, the committee is, once again, committed to this goal. For example, at the time of this writing, the conference committee has just named five keynote speakers for the conference. Three are women and two are men. Three are ethnic minority individuals and one of the two white speakers is a specialist in diversity issues.

I mention these facts because we want attendees to know that we value community based on "difference" and we want to host multiple perspectives on wide-ranging topics and issues. We believe the 2013 conference will be an amazing experience and we are already excited about it, even though it is still months away.

PGI, the site of the 2013 conference, is an old Mexican ranch house located in a tranquil, rural area a few miles from Santa Barbara, Calif. The elegant adobe buildings provide a perfect ambience for a humanistic conference. There are reasonably-priced hotels nearby as well as elegant hotels. I predict this will be one of our best conferences. They get better every year! Please write the dates down now (Feb. 28-March 3, 2013) and be sure to attend. Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful cities on the California coast so you might want to make the conference part of a more extended vacation. The California weather should be beautiful at that time of year. Shortly, we will launch a website on the 2013 conference with all the information you need.

The 2012 Division 32 APA and hospitality suite program

The APA Convention will be held in Orlando, Fla., Aug. 2-5, 2012. The 2012 Division 32 Program Committee, which is responsible for planning the Division 32 programs for Orlando, is co-chaired by Ed Mendelowitz and Jason Peng. Scott Churchill (past chair) is also a committee member and has been especially helpful. The Hospitality Suite (HS) committee, chaired by Kevin Keenan, consists of Trisha Nash, Shawn Rubin and Rich Bargdill. Susan Gordon, Division 32 board member who chairs our Awards Committee, helped lay the groundwork for the HS program in Orlando by gathering information on hotels. The "cornerstone" of the Division 32 APA Program will be the DSM-5 Reform effort. There will be a 2-hour symposium and a 1-hour interdivisional event devoted to the updating and discussing the DSM-5 controversy. Another APA division graciously contributed another hour of program time so that we can have a "conversation hour" focused on questions and answers about DSM-5. Two former APA presidents, along with influential people in the DSM-5 reform effort, will be part of the Division 32 programs on the DSM-5. I encourage all Division 32 members to come to Orlando, Fla., Aug. 2-5 and attend these Division 32 programs. You will see that humanistic psychology is on a roll!

Our Division 32 APA Council representatives

Scott Churchill not only serves as the editor of The Humanistic Psychologist, Division 32's journal, but he also serves as our APA Council representative. Frank Farley, a former president of APA as well as former president of Division 32, serves as our second Council representative. Frank and Scott know APA inside and out and are valuable assets to Division 32 when we interact with our mother organization. For example, thanks to Frank, the Division 32 board held its midwinter meeting in the board room of APA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where we were able to invite members of APA governance, including the CEO and heads of directorates, to our meeting. Such direct access was both informative and valuable.

The Division 32 website and newsletter

Communication is key to a thriving division. Donna Rockwell and Kevin Keenan took over as editors of our newsletter and keepers of the Division 32 website last fall. Shawn Rubin had done a wonderful job as newsletter editor for several years but due to a new job and pressing responsibilities, he decided to step down in the fall of 2011. Kevin and Donna had big shoes to fill but as the quality of our newsletter and website attest, they arose to the occasion. Donna and Kevin are also active board members, always willing to do whatever they can to help the division.

If I had the space, I could go on describing other Division 32 people and projects. I could tell you about Therese Laferriere who serves as our treasurer and does such a competent job; Mark Stern who chairs the Division 32 Exploratory Committee for a Humanistic Institute; Susan Gordon who gives many hours as our awards chair; Rich Bargdill who spends many hours recruiting students and others to the division in his role as chair of the Membership Committee; Mavis Ring, a doctoral student, wife and mother who nevertheless found time to attend board meetings and help in various ways; Sarah Kamens, also a doctoral student who was the primary author of the "Open Letter" that was "heard around the world"; Louise Sundararajan, our immediate past president, who chaired the Nominations Committee and remained actively involved with Division 32, although she probably needed a well-deserved rest; David Lukoff who offered to chair a Spirituality Interest Group and will be developing this; Krishna Kumar, who actively supports Division 32 and is one of kindest, most collaborative people know. And last but not least, Louis Hoffman, who will serve as your president in 2012-2013. Louis is one of the gentlest, most loving people I know. He embodies humanistic values and I look forward to his presidency.

This will be my last newsletter column as your present. My term will end in August 2012 at the Annual APA Convention in Orlando, Fla. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your president. I have received incredible support from the Division 32 Board and it has been a pleasure to serve.