Committee Report

Engaging in Transformational Change

What transitions taking place within APA mean for group.
By Sean Woodland

Report from the APA Spring Consolidated Meetings, March 29-31, 2019

I was grateful this year for the opportunity to represent the Society at the CAPP open meetings during APA's Spring Consolidated Meetings. Being a first-time attendee, I leaned that the spring consolidated meetings involve the major boards and committees that direct APA's work nationally. The main theme of the weekend was a continuation of APA CEO Arthur Evans' initiative to engage APA in "transformational change" into the future. He and others outlined four strategic priorities to which each board, committee, staff and member of governance ought to ally:

  • Utilize psychology to make a positive impact on critical societal issues.
  • Prepare the discipline and profession of psychology for the future.
  • Elevate the public’s understanding of, regard for, and use of psychology.
  • Strengthen APA’s standing as an authoritative voice for psychology.

Evans continues to assert that psychology and psychologists need to adapt to the changing social, political, economic and health care landscapes and that we should continue to re-imagine ourselves and the work we do, and the influence we have. He cited the current opioid crisis as an area where psychologists ought to be in the forefront of the conversation of policy and practice, and it was suggested that all health service psychologists receive opportunities for training in pain management. Another example of increasing psychologists' influence is in applying psychological knowledge to real-world problems, such as the ethical implications of the growing use of artificial intelligence.

It was also communicated over the course of the weekend that transformational change involves a willingness to let go of practices, perspectives, task forces or committees that do not ally with APA's new strategic priorities. Among these is CAPP, which after 33 years will be sunsetting June 30. Since 1986, CAPP has served to provide a voice for practitioner-members of APA through advocacy, training, consultation and dissemination of tools for clinicians. The CAPP has long been positioned closely to both the CEO and presidents of APA, and as such has been able to influence the Association in ways which benefit APA members. The CAPP has functioned under APA's Practice Organization (APAPO).

The APAPO has functioned mostly through membership dues but historically has been able to raise very few funds toward advocacy for practitioners. In recent years, membership dues in APAPO (a fee in addition to APA membership) saw a steep decline, jeopardizing the viability of the APAPO moving forward. Add to that increased interest in federal advocacy in an adversarial political climate, and APA has seen fit to create a new model for advancing the interests of practitioners; however, this model does not include CAPP as a body for advancing these interests. The main thrust of the weekend meeting was to understand and plan for the looming sunset; the main tenor of the weekend was a fierce determination to ensure that no work of the CAPP falls through the cracks and that the legacy of CAPP remain in perpetuity in the minds and hearts of APA governance and staff.

Currently, it is planned that work for advancing practice will largely be placed on the shoulders of the Board of Professional Affairs (BPA) and the new Advocacy Coordinating Committee (ACC). The BPA will take on many of the tasks that CAPP used to take on (e.g., responding to emerging practice issues), while the ACC plans to set advocacy priorities based on feedback from state and division leaders. While this framework is a good step, many in CAPP were concerned that BPA's agenda is too large for the work that CAPP performs, and that the ACC will not hear the voices of all states and divisions due to communications technology lacking in reach.

To this end, the BPA has decided to include three extra slates on its board for individuals from the practice community. Also, CAPP members actively engaged in an open meeting with BPA, and all who attended later reported that these conversations were quite productive and that many fears were allayed over the course of the weekend. By the end of the meetings, CAPP concluded that they are "not a subcommittee, but a state of mind." It remains to be seen whether this state of mind will carry over and integrate into BPA, ACC and continue to resonate with APA executive staff.

What this means for group

Amid a weekend of heavy conversations, perhaps CAPP's shining moment was in solidifying its strategic priorities for the ACC and in identifying how these apply to the four strategic priorities outlined by the APA executive board. CAPP's identified priorities are:

  • Value-based incentives.
  • Doctoral standard/ scope of practice.
  • RUC/CPT/reimbursement.
  • Physician definition in Medicare.
  • Applying principles of health economics to better understand the role of psychology in health care.
  • Parity.
  • Telepsychology.
  • Valuation of psych services in systems of care.

While group is nowhere listed here, perhaps reading through the lines we may see an opportunity to increase the visibility of group work nationally. As one group ends (CAPP) and others form (ACC, a larger BPA), we can speak up regarding the interests of group practitioners, integrating group into the “norm” amid organizational change. This could also include other groups such as the Center for Psychology and Health, which works intensively on access to services. And while APA is experiencing sea change, it is also perhaps fortuitous that group has recently specialized, with opportunity to communicate nationally what it means to be a group therapist. The future of group, in my opinion, is bright, but contingent upon our ability as a division and as its members to seize the current moment of transition in APA. 

About the Author

Sean Woodland, PhD is Div. 49 liaison to the committee for the advancement of professional practice (CAPP), Federal Advocacy Coordinator