APA CoR Report

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APA Council of Representatives Report Summary

(CoR) Meeting February 19-21, 2016
 by Marta Miranda, Psy.D., WSPA Council Representative

Iattended the summer APA Council of Representatives (CoR) meeting, which took place during the APA Convention in Denver, Colorado. This was the second of two annual governance meetings, the first of which was held in Washington, DC in February 2016.

Overall, this meeting was characterized by a more collegial and collaborative atmosphere compared to the February meeting. This was, in part, facilitated by an experiment spearheaded by President-Elect Antonio Puente to change the format by which Council considered and debated a controversial business item related to the Independent Review, allowing for more discussion among council members before the item came to the floor for consideration. Council members were also given an opportunity to provide feedback on the overall atmosphere of Council after each day in a “culture check” survey, the results of which were provided to Council the following morning.

Notwithstanding the generally respectful atmosphere of Council, controversy around the Independent Review remains, some of which was discussed when Council met in Executive Session.

Specific Business Items

Considerable attention and debate was devoted to two new business items: 1) New Business Item 23A: ““Resolution in Favor of Providing Support and Assistance to Military and National Security Psychologists Striving to Abide by the APA Ethics Code and APA Policy”; and a revision to Standard 3.04 of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct to address concerns raised by the Independent Review.

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New Business Item 23A sought to reaffirm APA’s support of military and national security psychologists by recognizing them as providers of psychological care to military personnel, as well as detainees held in military facilities. Supporters of the motion argued that all individuals, including detainees, have a right to receive medical and psychological attention, and that not providing such care would run counter to the Geneva Convention, which requires prisoners to be given adequate medical attention while detained. Those opposed argued that this item is in conflict with Resolution 23B, passed by Council in August 2015, which states that psychologists cannot provide services at so-called “black list” sites, or any military site operating outside of the U.S. Constitution.

At the core of this debate was a perception by some that Resolution 23B had placed military psychologists and the psychological health of detainees in jeopardy by withdrawing psychological care to those most in need of it. Movers of Resolution 23B countered that psychological care could still be provided by military psychologists to detainees in facilities under the jurisdiction of the U.S. judicial system, and that those detainees located in facilities outside the purview of U.S. courts should be provided psychological and medical care of their choosing (i.e., by independent medical and psychological providers). Members of the military countered that independent medical providers are not allowed access to these sites and that this would effectively render such detainees without care.

Council debated this issue in small groups and on the floor, with the resulting decision to refer the item to a smaller work group consisting of both the movers of 23A and 23B and others with an interest in the topic. A newly revised item will be presented at the February 2017 meeting.

Also related to the Independent Review, Council considered and voted to approve (73.8%) the following revision to Standard 3.04 of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (underlined material to be added):

Standard 3.04 Avoiding Harm

(a) Psychologists take reasonable steps to avoid harming their clients/patients, students, supervisees, research participants, organizational clients and others with whom they work, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and unavoidable.

(b) Psychologists do not participate in, facilitate, assist, or otherwise engage in torture, defined as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person, or in any other cruel, inhuman, or degrading behavior that violates 3.04(a).

The language included in this revision reflects comments received by APA members, who had been provided with two alternatives: one that stopped at “torture,” and the other that included the definition clause (“defined as…”). Some Council representatives opposing this revision were concerned that the definitional clause could potentially be used to characterize any non-desired intervention (e.g., interventions conducted in a forensic setting) as unethical. Others felt that the definition and its rationale could have been strengthened by tying it directly to the language used in the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.[1]

Additional business items considered by Council included:

  • Council considered and referred to a work group a new business item to discourage the use of GRE scores in the admissions process in psychology graduate programs (NBI 24A);
  • Council approved a new membership category called “Friends of Psychology” for individuals who support APA’s mission but do not currently qualify for another membership category (e.g., as graduate students, full members, or affiliates). This category, which would provide limited access to APA publications, would be available to students who graduate with bachelor’s degrees in Psychology, or who may be interested in applying psychological principles to their work and personal lives. This addition requires a change in the bylaws, which will be sent to membership for a vote in November.
  • Council approved the continued recognition of Forensic Psychology and Family Psychology as specialties within professional psychology;
  • Council voted to approve as APA policy Guidelines for Integrating the Role of Work and Career into Professional Psychology Practice, and the Resolution on Psychologists in Integrated Primary Care and Specialty Health Settings;
  • Council approved amendments to the Resolution on Data About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to update the resolution with current research and practice regarding gender and gender identity.

Budget Considerations

 Council received information from the Finance Committee regarding APA’s budget and the organization’s Audited Financial Statements. APA’s financial picture indicates a need for continued fiscal restraint, as APA seeks to keep its budget within projected operating expenses. In particular, efforts are underway to limit the expenses of in-person meetings by conducting more committee business meetings remotely via currently available technology. In addition, most APA programs have experienced significant cuts, and a hiring freeze for all new positions has been continued.

Upcoming Issues

I attended several Caucus meetings related to the practice of professional psychology including the Ethnic Minority Issues in Psychology Caucus, the Public Interest Caucus, the General Applied Psychology/ Psychologists Caucus, the Caucus of State, Territorial & Provincial Representatives, and the Women’s Caucus. Several emerging trends and issues were discussed, including:

  1. Changes to licensure requirements: The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) has been working on development of a new standardized examination to assess practice skills needed to practice as an independent psychologist. Called EPPP Step 2, this proposed examination would constitute an additional step for licensure candidates who have passed the EPPP. ASPPB argues that this step is needed to bring psychology in line with other medical professions, which require both knowledge and skills-based exams for board certification. Critics argue that this additional step would add to the financial burden of psychology graduate students, and that skills-based competence is already assessed by practicum and internship supervisors. The EPPP Step 2 examination is under development and is slated for release in 2019. Further information can be obtained on the ASPPB’s website: http://www.asppb.net/page/EPPPStep2
  1. A move in some states to weaken requirements to practice as a psychologist: ASPPB representatives reported on a trend in some state legisltures to weaken or abolish regulations that determine who can practice as a psychologist (e.g., Texas). In some cases, state legislatures have been considering populating psychology licensing boards with members of the public and/or non-psychologists. ASPPB has been providing support to licensing boards in states where this has been an issue.

I continue to serve on the Council Diversity Work Group sub-committee for Diversity Training. The aim of this sub-committee is to improve engagement of those whose voices have been typically marginalized in Council by providing empirically supported, experientially-based diversity training for all Council members. Since the February 2016 Council meeting, the Diversity Training sub-committee collated and organized comments from Council’s February roundtable discussion on diversity/race/civility issues; summarized the research pertaining to the effectiveness of diversity training; developed a proposal for the February 2017 Council Diversity Training; and solicited proposals from external consultants to help provide a more robust and empirically-supported diversity training for future Council meetings.   Two additional sub-committees of the Council Diversity Work Group (i.e., Policies and Procedures, and Improving Diverse Representation) also provided updates to Council on their activities to date.

Council heard from Interim CEO Cynthia Belar on APA’s various initiatives and activities. Dr. Belar noted that clinical practice guidelines are underway for PTSD (February 2017), Depression (August 2017), and Obesity (August 2017). Dr. Belar also described APA and APAPO’s support for legislation on Capitol Hill aimed at helping families in mental health crisis. On Friday morning (August 5) Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania addressed Council on the recent passage in the House of Representatives of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016, a bill he co-sponsored to address the need for psychiatric services for individuals serious mental illness and their families.

 [1] Article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel or Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment (1987), defines torture as: “ any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

Upcoming Issues

I attended several Caucus meetings related to the practice of professional psychology including the Ethnic Minority Issues in Psychology Caucus, the Public Interest Caucus, the General Applied Psychology/ Psychologists Caucus, the Caucus of State, Territorial & Provincial Representatives, and the Women’s Caucus. Several emerging trends and issues were discussed, including:

  1. Changes to licensure requirements: The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) has been working on development of a new standardized examination to assess practice skills needed to practice as an independent psychologist. Called EPPP Step 2, this proposed examination would constitute an additional step for licensure candidates who have passed the EPPP. ASPPB argues that this step is needed to bring psychology in line with other medical professions, which require both knowledge and skills-based exams for board certification. Critics argue that this additional step would add to the financial burden of psychology graduate students, and that skills-based competence is already assessed by practicum and internship supervisors. The EPPP Step 2 examination is under development and is slated for release in 2019. Further information can be obtained on the ASPPB’s website: http://www.asppb.net/page/EPPPStep2
  1. A move in some states to weaken requirements to practice as a psychologist: ASPPB representatives reported on a trend in some state legisltures to weaken or abolish regulations that determine who can practice as a psychologist (e.g., Texas). In some cases, state legislatures have been considering populating psychology licensing boards with members of the public and/or non-psychologists. ASPPB has been providing support to licensing boards in states where this has been an issue.

I continue to serve on the Council Diversity Work Group sub-committee for Diversity Training. The aim of this sub-committee is to improve engagement of those whose voices have been typically marginalized in Council by providing empirically supported, experientially-based diversity training for all Council members. Since the February 2016 Council meeting, the Diversity Training sub-committee collated and organized comments from Council’s February roundtable discussion on diversity/race/civility issues; summarized the research pertaining to the effectiveness of diversity training; developed a proposal for the February 2017 Council Diversity Training; and solicited proposals from external consultants to help provide a more robust and empirically-supported diversity training for future Council meetings.   Two additional sub-committees of the Council Diversity Work Group (i.e., Policies and Procedures, and Improving Diverse Representation) also provided updates to Council on their activities to date.

Council heard from Interim CEO Cynthia Belar on APA’s various initiatives and activities. Dr. Belar noted that clinical practice guidelines are underway for PTSD (February 2017), Depression (August 2017), and Obesity (August 2017). Dr. Belar also described APA and APAPO’s support for legislation on Capitol Hill aimed at helping families in mental health crisis. On Friday morning (August 5) Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania addressed Council on the recent passage in the House of Representatives of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016, a bill he co-sponsored to address the need for psychiatric services for individuals serious mental illness and their families.

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