Annual Reports

Report of the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (SPRS) Early Career Psychologist (ECP) Task Force

Updates from the ECP Executive Board on ECP initiatives and functions within the division.
By Kevin A. Harris, PhD

Greetings. The SPRS Early Career Psychologist Task Force strives to represent the interests of ECPs in SPRS. Based on the most recent data available (from 2017; see Tables 1-5), SPRS had 744 members, and there were 105 Early Career Psychologists (ECPs) in the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (SPRS), comprising 14.1 percent of the Society. We continue to note the following trends about ECPs in SPRS:

  • SPRS has about the same proportion of ECPs as APA has (14.1 percent compared to 12.5 percent).
  • SPRS ranks 29th among the 54 divisions in terms of its percentage of ECP membership.
  • Only 13.6 percent of SPRS members are less than 45 years old (compared to 39.7 percent of APA members). Fully half of SPRS members (50.1 percent) are over age 65.
  • We have roughly half the proportion of female members as the rest of APA; only 34.9 percent of SPRS members are female (compared to 61.7 percent of APA members).
  • We have roughly a third the proportion of racial and ethnic minority members as the rest of APA; only 4.2 percent of SPRS members are members of racial or ethnic minorities. In 2017, we have 11 Black or African American members, six Asian members, 12 Hispanic or Latino(a) members and two multi-racial members.

We need to reach out to underrepresented groups in order to grow the membership of SPRS. In our case, underrepresented groups involve women, ethnic minorities and non-Christians. We propose doing so by means of three initiatives: offering support and resources for victims of faith-based terrorist attacks, a survey of SPRS and a series of networking initiatives.

SPRS Response to Faith-Based Terrorist Attacks

Unfortunately, the number of faith-based terrorist attacks worldwide has been growing. Anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic and anti-Christian hate speech has given way to vandalism and harassment and recently to attacks at churches, temples and synagogues alike, such as the Tree of Life synagogue in Philadelphia; the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, in Charleston, S. C.; the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn.; and most recently two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. We must not stay silent about these attacks, as this may give the mistaken impression that we do not care about non-Christians. We propose to draft statements of solidarity and support for public release following future terrorist attacks to be tailored to specific events, and we propose to assemble a collection of resources we can offer to survivors, family members and therapists. Not only is this the right thing to do from a moral perspective, it is also a good way to let people know about the role psychologists of religion and spirituality can play in responding to such heinous events.

SPRS Survey

We would like to survey the membership of SPRS on several issues. First and foremost, we want more detailed demographic information on our members than APA currently gathers. Secondly, we want to survey our membership to find out what issues are most important to SPRS members and opinions of both SPRS membership and SPRS ECPs on future priorities SPRS should focus on. We also plan to survey SPRS membership on any issues that are priorities for the SPRS Executive Committee. Below are some of the questions we plan to ask after consulting with the SPRS Executive Committee and examining the 2012 survey of SPRS membership.

ECP Networking Initiatives

At the 2019 APA convention, we plan to once again host a Social Hour for ECPs on the day prior to the SPRS Social Hour, and we plan to host a student/ECP poster session in conjunction with Div. 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology) (SCP) to highlight work by students and ECPs and to network with ECPs in other APA divisions. We would also like to take a more active role in promoting SPRS on social media, particularly on the SPRS Facebook page.

I am the current Early Career Psychologist representative to the Executive Committee and the chair of the Early Career Psychologist Task Force, two positions that I think are always filled by the same person. I’ve never been told how long the term for this appointed position is, but I’ve been treating it as a one-year appointment. I’ve been appointed three times, by Doug Oman, then Annette Mahoney and then Tim Sisemore. I recommend we continue this practice.


Kevin A. Harris, PhD, LP, HSP
SPRS ECP Task Force Chair and ECP Representative to the SPRS Executive Committee, 2016-19