APA Council of Representatives: A Report

Christopher J. Ferguson

Christopher J. Ferguson

Christopher J. Ferguson, PhD

I attended my first Council of Representatives meeting in February 2017 with the honor of representing Division 46. What follows are some highlights from the February Council meeting.  I’ll focus on some of the “big ticket items” I suspect are of most interest to members.

For those that may not know, the Council meets twice a year, but interacts via email/listservs during the interim. The Council is like the “lower house” of parliament with the Board of Directors serving as the “upper house.”  Our job is to set the policy agenda of the organization and to make decisions that are best for the organization.  An issue that has come up is that meeting only twice a year makes it difficult for the Council to handle the day-to-day decisions of the organization.  As a result, there have been movements to delegate more responsibility to the Board of Directors who meet more often and include more of the staff who work permanently at the APA (such as the CEO.)  At the recent meeting, the Council voted to continue what has been called “trial delegation” of authority to the Board of Directors for another three years.  With trial delegation, the Council is delegating more authority to the Board to make decisions on a day-to-day basis, particularly financial decisions.

Unfortunately, the Board didn’t have much information on how things went during the first three years as they had gotten wrapped up in Independent Report matters.  That meant we didn’t have much data on how successful “trial delegation” has been which raised a few eyebrows.  Nonetheless, the trial period was extended a further three years after which there will hopefully be some data on how successful it is to “trial delegate.”  This means that the Board rather than Council makes the majority of financial decisions for the APA at the present time.

The big news was the impending lawsuit by several individuals named in the Independent Report (Hoffman, but I’ll refer to it as IR henceforth).  News of the lawsuit is, by now, widespread.  The APA provides a link with information for those interested in more information: http://www.apa.org/secure/james-complaint.aspx

This year there was a big movement for more civility at the Council. From what I gathered, hostility at the Council meetings had become increasingly worse in years past, so there is some hope to turn some of that around.  The Council Leadership Team gave us new folks some civility training (apparently the previous Council voted it for new members, but not old members, which many of us found to be amusing!).  Anyway, the training seems to have worked as the members were very civil at this year’s Council meeting!

APA membership has been declining somewhat from year to year. This seems to be a fairly long-term trend—the year of the IR (2015) saw a bit of a blip, but this doesn’t explain the longer trend.  Member participation in such activities as ballot voting is very low, so there is some concern about the engagement of the membership in APA.  However, financially the APA remains healthy, in large part because most of its revenues come from journals and the PsycINFO database.  The APA owns two rather nice buildings in DC (sadly, I became ill during the meetings and didn’t have the energy to visit them.)

The Council voted to accept new practice guidelines for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The guidelines were controversial as they pitted CBT against other therapeutic approaches (the guidelines basically focus on CBT).  I asked a couple of statistical questions of the person reporting on the guidelines at the meeting and was a bit dismayed she couldn’t answer them, but alas!  Nonetheless, this is likely the first of many such guidelines.

One thing that seems to be on the horizon is that the practice of psychology continues to struggle with other practitioners, such as from counseling. There are some concerns that laws in some states are being changed in ways that disadvantage psychological practitioners vis-à-vis practitioners with other degrees or membership in other organizations.  For instance, Texas appears to be collapsing its oversight Board for psychologists with other disciplines and there are similar issues pending in other states.  The APA’s Practice Organization is keeping a close eye on all of this.

The Council also voted for a resolution expressing concern about human trafficking, particularly of girls and women.

These were some of the highlights. If you were curious about a particular issue and didn’t see it here, feel free to email me!  I am also curious to know what sorts of things would you like to know about Council?  I’m learning a lot about it now, and there were many things I didn’t necessarily know going in.  So I’m curious what information would be helpful that I could include in a future Council Corner.  Maybe what are caucuses and how do they function?  Or how do the Council and Board of Directors interact with each other?  Or maybe, how do division and states memberships balance each other?  Let me know your questions and I’ll try to answer them!


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