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The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States, with over 118,000 members, including scientists, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. It has 54 divisions—interest groups for different subspecialties of psychology or topical areas. The APA has an annual budget of around $115m.
The APA has task forces that issue policy statements on various matters of social importance, including abortion, human rights, the welfare of detainees, human trafficking, the rights of the mentally ill, IQ testing, sexual orientation change efforts, and gender equality.
APA is a corporation chartered in the District of Columbia. APA's bylaws describe structural components that serve as a system of checks and balances to ensure democratic process. The organizational entities include:
- APA President. The APA's president is elected by the membership. The president chairs the Council of Representatives and the Board of Directors. During his or her term of office, the president performs such duties as are prescribed in the bylaws.
- Board of Directors. The board is composed of six members-at-large, the president-elect, president, past-president, treasurer, recording secretary, CEO, and the chair of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). The Board oversees the association's administrative affairs and presents an annual budget for council approval.
- APA Council of Representatives. The council has sole authority to set policy and make decisions regarding APA's roughly $60 million annual income. It is composed of elected members from state/provincial/territorial psychological associations, APA divisions and the APA Board of Directors.
- APA Committee Structure: Boards and Committees. Members of boards and committees conduct much of APA's work on a volunteer basis. They carry out a wide variety of tasks suggested by their names. Some have responsibility for monitoring major programs, such as the directorates, the journals and international affairs.
Good Governance Project
The Good Governance Project (GGP) was initiated in January 2011 as part of the strategic plan to "[assure] APA's governance practices, processes and structures are optimized and aligned with what is needed to thrive in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex environment." The charge included soliciting feedback and input stakeholders, learning about governance best practices, recommending whether change was required, recommending needed changes based on data, and creating implementation plans. The June 2013 GGP update on the recommended changes can be found in the document "Good Governance Project Recommended Changes to Maximize Organizational Effectiveness of APA Governance". The suggested changes would change APA from a membership-based, representational structure to a corporate structure. These motions will be discussed and voted upon by Council on July 31, 2013 and August 2, 2013.
APA comprises an executive office, a publishing operation, offices that address administrative, business, information technology, and operational needs, and five substantive directorates:
- the Education Directorate accredits doctoral psychology programs and addresses issues related to psychology education in secondary through graduate education;
- the Practice Directorate engages on behalf of practicing psychologists and health care consumers;
- the Public Interest Directorate advances psychology as a means of addressing the fundamental problems of human welfare and promoting the equitable and just treatment of all segments of society;
- the Public and Member Communications Directorate is responsible for APA's outreach to its members and affiliates and to the general public;
- the Science Directorate provides support and voice for psychological scientists.
Membership and title of "psychologist"
APA policy on the use of the title psychologist is contained in the Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists: psychologists have earned a doctoral degree in psychology and may not use the title "psychologist" and/or deliver psychological services to the public, unless the psychologist is licensed or specifically exempted from licensure under the law. State licensing laws specify state specific requirements for the education and training of psychologists leading to licensure. Psychologists who are exempted from licensure could include researchers, educators, or general applied psychologists who provide services outside the health and mental health field.
Full membership with the APA in United States and Canada requires doctoral training whereas associate membership requires at least two years of postgraduate studies in psychology or approved related discipline. The minimal requirement of a doctoral dissertation related to psychology for full membership can be waived in certain circumstances where there is evidence that significant contribution or performance in the field of psychology has been made.
American Psychological Association Services, Inc. (APASI) was formed in 2018 and is a 501(c)(6) entity, which engages in advocacy on behalf of psychologists from all areas of psychology.
Each year, the APA recognizes top psychologists with the "Distinguished Contributions" Awards; these awards are the highest honors given by the APA.
- APA Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Psychology
- APA Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology
- Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest
- Award for Distinguished Contributions to Education and Training in Psychology
- APA Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Applied Research
- Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Independent Practice.
- Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Practice in the Public Sector
- APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology
- APA Award for Lifetime Contributions to Psychology (APA's highest award)
- APA International Humanitarian Award
The American Psychologist is the Association's official journal. APA also publishes over 70 other journals encompassing most specialty areas in the field; APA's Educational Publishing Foundation is an imprint for publishing on behalf of other organizations. Its journals include:
- Archives of Scientific Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Developmental Psychology
- Health Psychology
- Journal of Applied Psychology
- Journal of Comparative Psychology
- Journal of Experimental Psychology
- Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
- Journal of Family Psychology
- Journal of Occupational Health Psychology
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
- Psychological Bulletin
- Psychological Review
- Psychology and Aging
- Psychology of Addictive Behaviors
- Psychology of Violence
- School Psychology Quarterly
The APA has published hundreds of books. Among these books are: the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (and a concise version titled Concise Rules of APA Style), which is the official guide to APA style; the APA Dictionary of Psychology; an eight-volume Encyclopedia of Psychology; and many scholarly books on specific subjects such as Varieties of Anomalous Experience. The APA has also published children's books under the Magination Press imprint, software for data analysis, videos demonstrating therapeutic techniques, reports, and brochures.
The Psychologically Healthy Workplace program
The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program (PHWP) is a collaborative effort between the American Psychological Association and the APA Practice Organization designed to help employers optimize employee well-being and organizational performance. The PHWP includes APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, a variety of APA Practice Organization resources, including PHWP Web content, e-newsletter, podcast and blog, and support of local programs currently implemented by 52 state, provincial and territorial psychological associations as a mechanism for driving grassroots change in local business communities. The awards are designed to recognize organizations for their efforts to foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance. The award program highlights a variety of workplaces, large and small, profit and non-profit, in diverse geographical settings. Applicants are evaluated on their efforts in the following five areas: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition. Awards are given at the local and national level.
American Psychological Association (APA) style is a set of rules developed to assist reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences. Used to ensure clarity of communication, the layout is designed to "move the idea forward with a minimum of distraction and a maximum of precision." The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association contains the rules for every aspect of writing, especially in the social sciences from determining authorship to constructing a table to avoiding plagiarism and constructing accurate reference citations. "The General Format of APA is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. General guidelines for a paper in APA style includes: typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11") with 1" margins on all sides. The font should be clear and highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font."
APA maintains a number of databases, including PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PsycBOOKS, PsycEXTRA, PsycCRITIQUES, PsycTESTS, and PsycTHERAPY. APA also operates a comprehensive search platform, PsycNET, covering multiple databases.
PsycINFO is a bibliographic database maintained by APA. It contains citations and summaries dating from the 19th century, including journal articles, book chapters, books, technical reports, and dissertations within the field of psychology. As of January 2010[update], PsycINFO has collected information from 2,457 journals.
The APA was founded in July 1892 at Clark University by a small group of around 30 men; by 1916 there were over 300 members. The first president was G. Stanley Hall. During World War II, the APA merged with other psychological organizations, resulting in a new divisional structure. Nineteen divisions were approved in 1944; the divisions with the most members were the clinical and personnel (now counseling) divisions. From 1960 to 2007, the number of divisions expanded to 54. Today the APA is affiliated with 60 state, territorial, and Canadian provincial associations.
Dominance of clinical psychology
Due to the dominance of clinical psychology in APA, several research-focused groups have broken away from the organization. These include the Psychonomic Society in 1959 (with a primarily cognitive orientation), and the Association for Psychological Science (which changed its name from the American Psychological Society in early 2006) in 1988 (with a broad focus on the science and research of psychology). Theodore H. Blau was the first clinician in independent practice to be elected president of the American Psychological Association in 1977.
The APA has 56 numbered divisions, 54 of which are currently active:
- Society for General Psychology – the first division formed by the APA, in 1945, concerned with issues across the subdisciplines of psychology
- Society for the Teaching of Psychology – provides free teaching material for students and teachers of psychology and bestows many awards
- Society for Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science
- Currently vacant – initially the Psychometric Society, which decided against becoming an APA division
- Quantitative and Qualitative Methods – previously named Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics
- Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology
- Developmental Psychology
- Society for Personality and Social Psychology
- Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI)
- Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts
- Currently vacant – initially Abnormal Psychology and Psychotherapy, which joined division 12 in 1946
- Society of Clinical Psychology – established in 1948 with 482 members, in 1962 it created clinical child psychology as its first section
- Society of Consulting Psychology
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- Educational Psychology
- School Psychology – originally formed as the Division of School Psychologists in 1945, renamed in 1969
- Society of Counseling Psychology
- Psychologists in Public Service
- Society for Military Psychology
- Adult Development and Aging
- Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology
- Rehabilitation Psychology
- Society for Consumer Psychology
- Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
- Behavior Analysis
- Society for the History of Psychology
- Society for Community Research and Action: Division of Community Psychology
- Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse
- Society of Psychological Hypnosis
- State, Provincial and Territorial Psychological Association Affairs
- Society for Humanistic Psychology
- Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities / Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Society for Environmental, Population and Conservation Psychology
- Society for the Psychology of Women
- Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
- Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice
- Health Psychology
- Clinical Neuropsychology
- American Psychology-Law Society
- Psychologists in Independent Practice
- Society for Family Psychology
- Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues
- Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues
- Media Psychology
- Exercise and Sport Psychology
- Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology Division
- Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy
- Society of Addiction Psychology
- Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinities
- International Psychology
- Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology
- Society of Pediatric Psychology
- American Society for the Advancement of Pharmacotherapy
- Trauma Psychology – addresses issues of trauma with projects, working groups and via collaborations
Positions on homosexuality
Cause of homosexuality
The APA states the following:
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
In 1975, APA issued a supporting statement that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. There is a concern in the mental health community that the advancement of conversion therapy itself causes social harm by disseminating inaccurate views about sexual orientation and the ability of homosexual and bisexual people to lead happy, healthy lives. Most mainstream health organizations are critical of conversion therapy, and no mainstream medical organization endorses conversion therapy.[note 1]
The APA adopted a resolution in August 2009 stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. The approval, by APA's governing Council of Representatives, came at APA's annual convention, during which a task force presented a report that in part examined the efficacy of so-called "reparative therapy", or sexual orientation change efforts.
The "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts" also advises that parents, guardians, young people, and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services "that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth."
The APA adopted a resolution stating that it is unfair and discriminatory to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage and to all its attendant rights, benefits, and privileges. It also filed an amicus brief in the federal court case in which Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The APA later praised the decision and denied the existence of any "scientific justification" for a ban on same-sex marriage.
In August 2011, the APA clarified their support of same-sex marriage in light of continued research suggesting that the same community benefits accepted as result of heterosexual marriage apply to same-sex couples as well. Dr. Clinton Anderson, associate executive director of the APA and director of the Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns, said that, prior to this research, "We knew that marriage benefits heterosexual people in very significant ways, but we didn't know if that would be true for same-sex couples". Anderson also put forward the APA's view that merely allowing same-sex civil unions is an inadequate option: "Anything other than marriage is, in essence, a stigmatization of same-sex couples. Stigma does have negative impacts on people."
APA internship crisis for graduate students
The APA is the main accrediting body for U.S. clinical and counseling psychology doctoral training programs and internship sites. APA-accredited Clinical Psychology PhD and PsyD programs typically require students to complete a one-year clinical internship in order to graduate (or a two-year part-time internship). However, there is currently an "internship crisis" as defined by the American Psychological Association, in that approximately 25% of clinical psychology doctoral students do not match for internship each year. This crisis has led many students (approximately 1,000 each year) to re-apply for internship, thus delaying graduation, or to complete an unaccredited internship, and often has many emotional and financial consequences. Students who do not complete an APA accredited internships in the U.S. are barred from certain employment settings, including VA Hospitals, the military, and cannot get licensed in some states, such as Utah and Mississippi. Additionally, some post-doctoral fellowships and other employment settings require or prefer an APA Accredited internship. The APA has been criticized for not addressing this crisis adequately and many psychologists and graduate students have petitioned for the APA to take action by regulating graduate training programs.
Warfare and the use of torture
A year after the establishment of the Human Resources Research Organization by the U.S. military in 1951, the CIA began funding numerous psychologists (and other scientists) in the development of psychological warfare methods under the supervision of APA treasurer Meredith Crawford. Donald O. Hebb, the APA president in 1960 who was awarded the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1961, defended the torture of research subjects, arguing that what was being studied was other nations' methods of brainwashing. Former APA president Martin Seligman spoke upon the invitation of the CIA on his animal experimentation where he shocked a dog unpredictably and repeatedly into total, helpless passivity. Former APA president Joseph Matarazzo designed a new CIA interrogation regimen and supervised the torture of Abu Zubaydah at a secret CIA detention site in Thailand. Former APA president Ronald F. Levant, upon visiting Guantanamo Bay, affirmed that psychologists were present during the torture of prisoners, arguing that their presence was to "add value and safeguards" to interrogations. Former APA president Gerald Koocher argued, referring to allegations of continuing systemic abuse by psychologists, that such allegations were originating from "opportunistic commentators masquerading as scholars".
When it emerged that psychologists, as part of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, were advising interrogators in Guantánamo and other U.S. facilities on improving the effectiveness of the "enhanced interrogation techniques", the APA called on the U.S. government to prohibit the use of unethical interrogation techniques and labeled specific techniques as torture. Critics pointed out that the APA declined to advise its members not to participate in such interrogations. In September 2008, the APA's members passed a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where "persons are held outside, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the U.S. Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights." The resolution became official APA policy in February 2009. However, the APA has refused to sanction those members known to have participated in and, in some cases, designed abusive interrogation techniques used in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan interrogation centers.
The APA directive was in contrast to the American Psychiatric Association ban in May 2006 of all direct participation in interrogations by psychiatrists, and the American Medical Association ban in June 2006 of the direct participation in interrogations by physicians. An independent panel of medical, military, ethics, education, public health, and legal professionals issued a comprehensive report in November 2013 that "charged that U.S. military and intelligence agencies directed doctors and psychologists working in U.S. military detention centers to violate standard ethical principles and medical standards to avoid infliction of harm". One group of psychologists in particular, the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, has been very harsh in its criticism of the APA stance on its refusal to categorically prohibit members from participating in any phase of military interrogations. They recently stated their continuing disagreement with APA leadership in an open letter posted on their website on October 31, 2012, in which they reiterated their condemnation of torture and enhanced interrogation techniques, and called for the APA to require its members to refuse participation in military conducted interrogations of any kind.
Amending the Ethics Code
In February 2010, the APA's Council of Representatives voted to amend the association's Ethics Code to make clear that its standards can never be interpreted to justify or defend violating human rights. Following are the two relevant ethical standards from the Ethics Code, with the newly adopted language shown in bold:
1.02, Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority
If psychologists' ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.
1.03, Conflicts Between Ethics and Organizational Demands
If the demands of an organization with which psychologists are affiliated or for whom they are working are in conflict with this Ethics Code, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code, and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.
In its 2013 "Policy Related to Psychologists' Work in National Security Settings and Reaffirmation of the APA Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment the APA condemns the use of any of the following practices by military interrogators trying to elicit anti-terrorism information from detainees, on the ground that "there are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether induced by a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, that may be invoked as a justification."
In November 2014, the APA ordered an independent review into whether it cooperated with the government's use of torture of prisoners during the George W. Bush administration, naming Chicago attorney David H. Hoffman to conduct the review. On July 2, 2015, a 542-page report was issued to the special committee of the board of directors of the APA relating to ethics guidelines, national security interrogations, and torture. The report concluded that the APA secretly collaborated with the Bush administration to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners. Furthermore, the report stated that the association's ethics director Stephen Behnke and others had "colluded with important Department of Defense officials to have the APA issue loose, high-level ethical guidelines that did not constrain" the interrogation of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. The association's "principal motive in doing so was to align APA and curry favor with DOD." An APA official said that ethics director Stephen Behnke had been "removed from his position as a result of the report" and indicated that other firings or sanctions might follow.
On July 14, 2015, the APA announced the retirement of its CEO, Norman B. Anderson, effective the end of 2015, and of Deputy Chief Executive Officer Michael Honaker, effective August 15, 2015, and the resignation of Rhea K. Farberman, APA's executive director for public and member communication. Anderson had been CEO since 2003.
Ban on involvement
For at least a decade, dissident psychologists within and outside the APA, including the group WithholdAPAdues, had protested the involvement of psychologists "in interrogations at CIA black sites and Guantánamo". Prior to the release of the Hoffman report, which undermined the APA's repeated denials and showed that some APA leaders were complicit in torture, the dissidents were ignored or ridiculed.
On August 7, 2015, just weeks following the release of the Hoffman report, the APA council of representatives met at the association's 123rd annual convention in Toronto, Ontario. At that meeting, the APA council passed Resolution 23B, which implemented the 2008 membership vote to remove psychologists from settings that operate outside international law, and banning the participation of psychologists in unlawful interrogations. With 156 votes in favor and only one vote against, the resolution passed with the near unanimous approval of council members. The adoption of Resolution 23B aligned the APA's policy with that of the American Psychiatric Association and that of the American Medical Association by prohibiting psychologists from participating in interrogations deemed illegal by the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention against Torture.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2008 MEMBERSHIP VOTE TO REMOVE PSYCHOLOGISTS FROM ALL SETTINGS THAT OPERATE OUTSIDE OF INTERNATIONAL LAW (NBI #23B)
Council is asked to approve the substitute main motion below that includes a revised resolution with a new title, Resolution to Amend the 2006 and 2013 Council Resolutions to Clarify the Roles of Psychologists Related to Interrogation and Detainee Welfare in National Security Settings, to Further Implement the 2008 Petition Resolution, and to Safeguard Against Acts of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in All Settings. This resolution further aligns the APA policy definition for "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" (in the 2006 and 2013 Council resolutions) with the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Torture and ensures that the definition applies broadly to all individuals and settings; offers APA as a supportive resource for ethical practice for psychologists, including those in military and national security roles; prohibits psychologists from participating in national security interrogations; clarifies the intended application of the 2008 petition resolution... and calls for APA letters to be sent to federal officials to inform them of these policy changes and clarifications of existing APA policy.
The ban will not "prohibit psychologists from working with the police or prisons in criminal law enforcement interrogations".
Class action lawsuit by members claiming deceptive dues assessments
In 2013 a class action lawsuit was brought against APA on behalf of approximately 60,000 of its 122,000 members who were licensed clinicians. Those members paid an additional $140 practice assessment fee as part of their membership dues every year beginning in 2001 to fund the lobbying arm of APA, the APA Practice Organization (APAPO). The lawsuit accused APA of using deceptive means by representing that the assessment was mandatory for APA membership even though payment of the assessment was only required for membership in the APAPO. In 2015 APA settled the case by establishing a $9.02 million settlement fund to be used to pay claims made by members of APA who paid the practice assessment, as well as attorneys' fees and certain other costs. APA agreed to change its policies to make clear that the APAPO membership dues are not required for membership in APA.
- American Board of Professional Psychology
- American Psychoanalytic Association
- Association of Black Psychologists
- Association of Psychological and Social Studies
- Canadian Psychological Association
- European Federation of Psychologists' Associations
- Peace psychology
- Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology
- Mainstream health organizations critical of conversion therapy include the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the National Education Association.
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