Council Corner: Council Representative Report

Christopher J. Ferguson

Christopher J. Ferguson

Chris Ferguson

On March 9 & 10, the APA Council of Representatives met to consider APA policy issues. I discuss some of the highlights from the meeting that stood out for me, but it’s possible I may have missed items of interest to Division 46 members.  Members can contact me individually for an update on matters that I failed to mention here.

First, the lawsuit over the Hoffman Report lumbers on. There was not much to report other than it still exists.

In some of the biggest news, the APA Council voted that the APA should start accrediting masters’ programs in areas that the APA already accredits at the doctorate level. At the moment this is just a “let’s do this” vote and the details on how accreditation will be implemented are wide open.

In another major vote, the Council voted to approve a combined membership agreement. Members may have noticed that, each year, as we renew our membership, there is an option to pay dues for the practice organization APAPO.  According to the Board of Directors, that option wasn’t working very well with the APAPO tending to be underfunded.  Thus, beginning in the 2019 membership cycle the APAPO will cease to exist and members will pay dues that go into both the APA and its lobbying/guild organization which is tentatively being called the APA Institute of Psychology.  Dues will not increase for at least the first three years.  The rationale for this is that it would allow the APA to engage in lobbying efforts across a wider range of issues, including research related issues rather than just clinical practice issues.  There was some debate in Council about this.  Admittedly, the old approach wasn’t working, but under the new approach the APA will take a small financial hit (though only a fraction of its overall budget).  It is not clear what will happen to dues after those first three years; there were also concerns that any increases in dues after that point could deter member recruitment.

The APA will be hiring for a number of top positions, including the Science, Public Policy and new Diversity directorate/areas. So, if you’re interested, get your CV together!

The discussion about whether to standardize the use of “patient” in psychology documents has been postponed for the moment. It seems to have gotten many pushbacks, especially from journal editors.

Council voted to accept a report from the Council Diversity Work Group and Council voted to accept a resolution on the treatment of pregnant and postpartum women and girls with substance abuse disorders. The gist of this resolution is that such issues should be approached from a treatment rather than criminalization perspective.

A motion from the Board of Directors to allow them to withdraw large sums of money from APA accounts without Council approval met with a lot of debate. Ultimately, we voted to table this issue until August.  The concern is that Council is being increasingly edged out of financial decisions.

A clinical guideline on treatment for obese/overweight children and teens passed, despite some debate (most of which focuses on either the scientific basis for these guidelines that may not be as solid as advertised, as well as competition between treatment paradigms and those who feel excluded). This, however, has renewed yet another round of debate on the already-passed PTSD guidelines, in part because a new meta-analysis suggested that CBT for PTSD may not have a huge effect.  It has actually been an interesting discussion on the listserv, but I’m not sure if it leads anywhere in terms of reexamining the issue in Council.

Issues related to the divisions didn’t come up much during this meeting, but as a reminder that some movement on how much control the APA can have over divisions may return for the August meeting.

There was some talk, particularly led by our own Peter Sheras and Frank Farley about the possibility of a “How do we define mental illness” summit. This was sparked in part by the concern that we’re beginning to overpathologize normal behaviors. I’m hoping something will come of this and it would be great to see our division members taking a lead!

Also, this is just percolating, but there have been a few folks expressing interest on the Council listserv considering some kind of stance (ethical guideline or position statement, who knows) on what to do about psychologists who work for tech companies (think Facebook, Twitter), and who manipulate consumer data in ways that would be considered unethical for human participation research. That’s obviously pertinent to Division 46, and I’ll keep you posted as I learn more!

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