APA's Council Takes Historic Action

The council adopts measures to promote quality in psychology education and to make APA governance more effective.

By Rhea K. Farberman

At its meeting during APA's Annual Convention July 31-Aug. 4, the Council of Representatives took historic action in two areas: adopting measures to promote quality in multiple levels of psychology education and revising certain elements of APA governance to make it more effective.

Good Governance Project

Following a three year period of assessment, research and engagement with members, the council voted to approve most of the changes recommended by the association's Good Governance Project. The project was formed to increase the alignment of the association's governance with APA's strategic plan, to enhance nimbleness of governance and to increase member engagement.

The changes endorsed by council will focus its time and expertise on the mission-focused issues that confront the discipline, according to GGP project leaders.

“What's exciting about these changes is the way in which they will allow council to devote more, if not all of its time, to issues that members are most concerned about, such as research funding, psychology's role in integrated health care and the future of psychology education,” said APA President Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD. “In essence, these changes will allow council to be more proactive about the issues and opportunities emerging within the discipline and what APA should do to address those issues,” Bersoff said.

The changes endorsed by the council call for:

  • Enhancing the use of technology to expand communication among governance members and between governance and the general membership.
  • Developing a program that would create a new pipeline for leadership in APA governance.
  • Creating a triage system that would enable governance to work efficiently and nimbly on new issues, without duplicative efforts.
  • Expanding the council's scope to focus on directing and informing major policy issues and ensuring policy is aligned with APA's mission and strategic plan.
  • Delegating responsibility for budget and internal policy matters to APA's Board of Directors for a three-year trial period.
  • Changing the composition of APA's Board of Directors to be more representative of APA's membership. The board would include six members-at-large elected by and drawn from the membership, with the candidates selected based on a needs assessment following an open nominations process.

Council also voted that a substantive change in its structure is needed to improve the body's effectiveness and asked that an implementation work group be appointed to further develop two proposed change models in addition to other implementation issues. One model calls for modifying the current constituent-based model by providing one unit/one vote for each division and state, provincial, territorial psychological association (SPTAs) and adding seats for other perspective groups/affiliated organizations; the other model would include some elements from the first model, including one unit/one vote for divisions and SPTAs, and may add disciplinary/mission based seats (e.g., education, science, public interest practice and health) and diversity representatives (such as ethnic-minority psychological associations, early career psychologists, members of the American Association of Graduate Students). Both models would result in a smaller Council. Currently, the council has 162 members from divisions and SPTAs, plus members of the Board of Directors. It is anticipated that the new structure would include 134 to 140 members, not including the Board of Directors. The working group, which will be appointed by the APA president, is charged with developing an implementation plan for each of the motions approved by the council, in addition to further developing the two proposals to change the council's structure. The working group will begin to share its recommendations with council at its February meeting.

Any changes to the Board of Directors or Council's structure must be approved by the membership through a bylaws amendment. The bylaw ballot is expected to be sent to members for a vote next year, once the council has given any approval for structural changes. The other changes approved by the council do not require a bylaws change.

Quality in Psychology Education

In the realm of education, the council adopted three measures to strengthen psychology teaching and training across the continuum of psychology education. At the undergraduate level, council adopted revised guidelines for the psychology major, updating those APA adopted in 2006. The new guidelines build on the success of the original set, but now include new teaching tools as well as student learning and benchmarking measures.

At the graduate level, the council adopted a resolution on accreditation for programs that prepare psychologists to provide health services. The APA policy now states that to practice as an independent health service psychologist, candidates must graduate from an APA/ Canadian Psychological Association accredited doctoral program and internship or programs accredited by an accrediting body that is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education for the accreditation of education and training programs that prepare students for entry into professional practice. The resolution gives unaccredited graduate programs five years to become accredited and seven years for internship programs to gain accreditation. (This policy will not impact students currently in the pipeline and allows for grandparenting of those graduates from unaccredited programs who are now licensed providers.)

“Accreditation is the process by which health professions ensure quality in education and training for students and the public,” said Cynthia Belar, PhD, APA executive director of education. “This requirement puts psychology on the same plane as other health provider professions and adds to psychology's credibility within the health-care marketplace.”

At the professional development and continuing education level, the council adopted a resolution that details and codifies quality standards, including a call for evidence based continuing-education methods and program content.

Psychologists' Work In National Security Settings

Also during the meeting, the council adopted a resolution that reconciles APA's policies against torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and those related to psychologists' work in national security settings.

The new APA resolution does not create new policy but makes existing policy in the area more internally consistent and comprehensive. This reconciled policy rescinds of report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) and retains the Association's 2006 policy concerning torture and the 2008 member petition on psychologists' work in national security settings.

“APA's policies in this area and the reconciled policy document are all grounded in the principle that torture is always a violation of human rights and a violation of the APA Ethics Code,” said Kathleen Dockett, EdD, one of five members of the member-initiated task force that created the consolidated document.

Other Actions

In other action, the council:

  • Recognized sleep psychology and police and public safety psychology as specialties in professional psychology.
  • Approved continuing recognition of counseling psychology and school psychology as specialties in professional psychology.
  • Recognition of biofeedback: applied psychophysiology as a proficiency in professional psychology was extended for a period of one year.
  • Recognition of clinical psychology as a specialty in professional psychology was extended for a one-year period.
  • Adopted guidelines for the practice of telepsychology.
  • Adopted revised standards for educational and psychological testing.
  • Adopted guidelines for psychological practice with older adults.
  • Adopted a resolution on Counseling in HIV testing programs.
  • Approved a 2014 budget plan including a spring revenue estimate of $111 million as outlined to serve as the revenue framework for the development of the 2014 Budget.
  • Elected 146 APA members to fellow status.

Also during the meeting, the Raymond D. Fowler Award for Outstanding Contributions to APA was awarded to Diane Halpern, PhD. Halpern, a former APA president, has served on numerous APA governance groups. She is nationally recognized educator and scientist conducting research in such areas as sex differences in cognitive ability, gender issues in the workplace, and critical thinking. The Fowler award is given annually to recognize a member who has had a significant and enduring impact on APA and its mission.