2019 Practice Leadership Conference from Your DPA’s Perspective

Spring 2019: Volume 75, Number 1
By: Samantha Slaughter, Psy.D. Director of Professional Affairs 

I attended the Practice Leadership Conference (PLC) in the past as your Federal Advocacy Coordinator (FAC). This year, though, I attended as your Director of Professional Affairs (DPA). The DPA’s role at PLC is quite unlike that of the FAC’s which allowed me to experience PLC in a different way. Instead of attending sessions looking through the lens of federal advocacy and prepping our team for the visits to Capitol Hill, which David Wiesner, Ph.D., did phenomenally as your new FAC, I noticed themes in the struggles across states and watched for ideas that we might implement in Washington State.

First, several themes emerged as I attended the DPA workgroup meetings and conference sessions. The overarching theme of the conference was “Advocacy and Leadership,” and the programming did a good job showing how advocacy and leadership are connected. I attended a session called “Getting Your Members Hooked on Advocacy” that explained how leadership can take the form of helping members connect with organizations focused on issues with which they are passionate, offering ways that the public can take a role in advocacy versus only focusing on legislators, and using our Ethics Code and research to help decrease partisanship when discussing social justice issues. Another workshop, titled “Putting Advocacy to Work: Extending Psychology’s Reach to Business and Industry,” covered leadership ideas such as psychologists being in charge of our branding so that the public better understands what we can do and assisting corporations to manage their social responsibility programs. Ideas such as these are just some of the ways in which we can promote advocacy through leadership.

Other themes emerged as well. The theme throughout the DPA meetings was one of strength through unity. Turns out, I am one of only 14 DPAs nationwide. Being a part of such a small group created connections I did not typically experience as FAC (of which there is at least one for each state and then one each for some of the divisions). I discovered my fellow DPAs are challenged by many of the same issues we are in Washington from dual credentialing for substance use disorder treatment to clarifying duty to warn laws to scope of practice related to Applied Behavior Analysts. And let’s not forget the new testing CPT codes for which all the DPAs are trying to help their members understand. Another overarching theme I noticed was that of change. We met with Jared Skillings, Ph.D., ABPP, the new Chief of Professional Practice, who outlined the organizational changes as the APA Practice Organization becomes APA Services, Inc. He also answered questions about future changes and what role the DPAs may take.

I also came away with an idea that feels a bit vulnerable to share and yet important to begin considering. I hope you receive the following feedback with the love in which it is intended. The idea is that we may need to hit the reset button when it comes to the relationship between WSPA members and DPA. Lucy Homans, Ed.D., was the DPA for Washington for so long that I think some of us developed a bit of complacency when it comes to advocating for our profession. We trusted Lucy completely as she showed us year after year that she was willing to work hard and long hours to fight for us. By the end of her tenure, she was basically working solo and carrying the full weight of our advocacy. While she reached out for help depending on the issue, she only worked with a few other psychologists each year. There is nothing wrong with how our relationship with the DPA changed over the years; in fact, I think it makes a lot of sense developmentally. Now, though, with a new DPA comes the challenge of creating a new relationship. Expectations need clarification. Goals need to be established. There is more to say about this idea, but I will do that in a separate article.

Overall, I left the conference with the sense that I have a solid support team in my fellow DPAs, a better understanding of the link between advocacy and leadership, and feeling re-energized to be your DPA. I am excited to see what WSPA implements as a result of PLC attendance this year.