Council Report for the 2016 APA Annual Convention
By Mark A. Krause, PhD
First, kudos to Allyson Bennett and Jennifer Vonk for assembling a great Div. 6 program for the Denver APA convention. I know we all carried heavy hearts as we continue to mourn the passing of Stan Kuczaj. He was sorely missed at the meeting. I was impressed by the work that the executive committee members did to honor him, and also to make the adjustments needed to keep our division on track.
The APA Council of Representatives met for a day-and-a-half during the convention. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper addressed Council to start things off. He spoke about depression, his own experiences with it, and how preventing and treating mental illness must be a priority in Colorado and our country. Gov. Hickenlooper's warm greeting and message aside, I should mention that issues pertaining to mental health were back burner at the Denver Council meetings. As with Toronto and the winter council meeting in Washington D.C., the Hoffman report and its aftermath dominated our time and deliberation. On the table was a measure that would grant military psychologists the right to provide mental health care to detainees held at unauthorized sites such as Guantanamo Bay (e.g., sites that withhold protections of the U.S. Constitution). This would alter the major motion in Toronto last year, which banned psychologists from having any involvement at these sites (NBI #23B). Discussion of the revised motion will continue in the winter 2017 meeting. Ultimately the wording of the proposal did not have the clarity that Council would like to have seen, especially for something as consequential as this. The sponsors of the motion were amenable to postponing a vote. To be continued…ad infinitum, it would seem.
There was significant concern among Council members that the public would perceive the motion to allow military psychologists access to assist detainees as undermining NBI #23B. Within hours of adjourning the Council meeting on Aug. 3, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued a statement claiming that the APA was seeking to roll back its anti-torture stance. PHR also repeated the common falsehood that APA sought to collude with the CIA in policies that allow torture of detainees. A similar, and terribly written article by the Colorado Independent soon followed. APA CEO Cynthia Belar promptly issued a letter to both parties correcting their mistakes and requesting prior consultation with APA to ensure factual accuracy. What further troubles me is that someone in the Council meeting room took it upon themselves to funnel information to PHR and others with, possibly, their own incorrect interpretation of events.
Based on conversations I have had with fellow Council members, voiced on the floor and via the council listserv, it is clear that many of us believe that the best way forward is to tackle new initiatives and show APA members and the broader public that we have responded to Hoffman report issues and are ready to move forward. Those who have grievances about the Hoffman report (Google “Hoffman report tolling agreement,” for example) certainly have a right to be heard, and those who want to be activists - rather than scientists, practitioners and educators - have that right as well. However, these activities do not need to take the entire Council of Representatives along for the rides of their choosing. For example, Council members have offered little more than critiques of the APA and its current officers (who were not named in the Hoffman report).
Day 2 of Council opened with Rep. Timothy Murphy, R-Pa., addressing Council and discussing legislation entitled “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016, ” which passed through the House with a 422-2 vote. This law would provide significant resources to people suffering from mental health problems, as well as support to family members. The bill has yet to go through the Senate. Rep. Murphy urges all of us to contact our senators to voice support for this legislation (and he asks that this be done unconditionally, without tacking on gun legislation, for example).
Interestingly, the governor of Colorado and a U.S. representative spoke more about mental health and doing things to promote it than did any psychologist attending Council.
Following is a summary of some issues discussed and motions that were voted on in Denver:
- The search for the next CEO for APA is underway. Cynthia Belar continues as interim CEO.
- Those who are following know that APA is undergoing major changes in how it educates and adjudicates ethical issues. A final report by the ethics commission tasked with this is due in February 2017.
- A motion on the floor to remove GRE cutoff scores from admission to psychology doctoral programs is under continued discussion. The rationale for the motion is that cutoff scores disadvantage minority applicants to a disproportionate degree.
- The clinical practice guidelines for PTSD will be up for Council vote in February 2017. Guidelines for depression and obesity will follow.
- Council voted in favor of creating a new membership category “Friends of Psychology,” which carries the benefit of discounted journal subscriptions. Ultimately, APA membership will vote on whether this category is created. Council just voted on the motion language and the idea in principle.
- Nathalie Gilfoyle, former lead counsel to APA, has retired and has been replaced by Deanne Ottaviano.
Finally, I include here some information from the Coalition for Academic, Scientific and Applied Research Psychology (CASAP) caucus meeting:
- Howard Kurtzman, PhD, acting director of the APA Science Directorate, introduced Amber Storey. PhD, the new associate executive director of Scientific Affairs.
- Joshua Gordon, MD, PhD, of Columbia University, has been hired as new director of NIMH.
- APA invited nine scientists to present their research to Congress (three were psychologists). This was done to address the ongoing critiques that members of Congress have directed at scientific research (often based on poorly written popular press articles, rather than reading peer-reviewed journal articles). Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a major critic of funding basic science, attended. Kurtzman reported that the event seemed to be a success.
- Funding for research on nonhuman primates is continuing to decline. APA officials met with NIH Director Francis Collins, who said there will NOT be a ban on monkey research. Kurtzman pointed out the advantage of having him on record for saying this and hopes that there will be follow through. APA is also concerned about the ban on funding chimpanzee research and the effects this has had on chimpanzees being relocated into sanctuaries (some chimpanzee deaths have occurred shortly after relocation).
- The Science Directorate is trying to ensure that psychology is well-represented in cancer research and the Cancer Moonshot that the Obama administration has announced. Three psychologists attended a summit with members of U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden's staff about the Cancer Moonshot. Numerous areas of research as they relate to cancer treatment outcomes were discussed. Data sharing is also a topic of discussion within cancer research.
- APA has held training institutes on emerging research and methodologies (78 participants). Single-case intervention research is a new one added to existing programs. Also, 38 undergraduate students (with solid minority representation) were awarded research opportunity grants.
- APA President Susan McDaniel created a prize for interdisciplinary research and there were 18 applications submitted. The Board of Scientific Affairs is currently reviewing them for notification in the fall of 2016.
- Psychology was represented at this USA Science Expo. An exhibit featuring cognitive development research and sample tasks was on display for adults and children to participate in. The exhibit imparts important information about psychological science and psychology can use representation at events such as this.
Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have questions about Council (or CASAP) or have any issues or concerns you think our division should raise. Also, for additional detail on items in this report, and for anything I may have omitted, you can also consult the August issue of "American Psychologist."
Mark Krause, PhD
Professor, Department of Psychology
Southern Oregon University