By: Julia Mackaronis, Ph.D. President Elect
I am honored to serve as WSPA’s president-elect this year, and president in 2020. I will be stepping in to some large shoes, as Dr. Sonia Venkatraman provided steady and visionary leadership during her presidency, and Dr. Dominika Breedlove is off to a running start with a variety of important initiatives this year. The primary thing that has captured my interest as I enter my third year as a board member is member engagement.
I have made wonderful and growth-promoting professional connections as a WSPA member, and hope for the same for all members. Both this year and next, I’m excited to join others on a number of efforts that I think will improve the experiences WSPA offers our members: revitalizing our WSPA offerings and involvement pathways for graduate students and early career psychologists; working with our fantastic Education Committee to streamline our process for offering high-quality CE events to members and ensuring CE programming throughout the state; continuous improvement to our fall convention so that it grows in its reputation as a valuable opportunity for education and connection with like-minded professional psychologists; ensuring that members know that I and other board members are always eager to hear feedback about your experiences; and creating space for fellowship.
Some of you all may know that I live in Spokane, and my introduction to WSPA was through the lively Chapter 1 meetings that take place there for 1-hour CE events and networking four times per year. I felt welcomed and supported immediately. WSPA members from other areas of the state routinely tell me they would love a similar group near them, and I am hopeful we can do that in the future.
This is my second year as WSPA’s treasurer. As any board member will tell you, I start every financial update during our board meetings by acknowledging the real financial work is done with tremendous facility by our amazing Executive Director, Marvo Reguindin, with invaluable assistance from our multi-talented Office Manager, Sierra VanderHoogt. WSPA has had several lean years as we examined where we have been and where we would like to go, which I learned from my recent trip to APA’s Practice Leadership Conference is a common experience among state psychological associations.
I have confidence in our budgetary processes, however. Everything is mapped out according to our vision for the year, adjusted frequently we see how the year progresses, and we are increasingly turning our attention to long-term financial sustainability. Our “biggest ticket” items are also the ones that help make WSPA what it is: I have been hearing from members that they are very pleased with how quickly and capably Dr. Samantha Slaughter has been stepping into her new role as our Director of Professional Affairs, working tirelessly to advance our professional interests, and the longer I am a WSPA member, the more I realize that we are uniquely positioned to use expertise from our lobbyist, Leslie Emerick, to make a positive impact on statewide legislation addressing everything from practice issues to social justice issues (e.g., the ban on conversion therapy). I think it is money very well spent.
This was my first year attending PLC, and it was immediately obvious that the conference is bursting with chances to connect with other psychologists about how to approach leadership within our states and on the national stage. The primary task I have assigned myself since attending has been to maintain connections with and learn from the other ECPs. A well-functioning professional organization should appeal to both seasoned practitioners and those embarking on their professional journeys, and I was impressed at different approaches other state associations have taken to engaging their members throughout their professional lives.
I hope to bring some of these strategies back to WSPA. I also attended several presentations on the important role psychologists need to be playing in the larger health care arena; I think the reality is that for our profession to not only survive but thrive, we need to do a better job strategizing how to bring our doctoral-level expertise not only to the art of psychotherapy and assessment, but also to programmatic and policy arenas.
Some legislation we are supporting during this year’s state legislative session speaks to this issue: addressing the opioid crisis cannot be done through chemical dependency alone, and psychologists need to be at the table as we craft strategies for not only intervention but preventative care. Finally, the visits to Capitol Hill were a great reminder of how receptive quite a few of our national representatives are to mental health issues. Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-1) was one of the co-sponsors of one of the Medicare expansion bills for which we were advocating, and I was very impressed with the breadth and depth of Sen. Patty Murray’s Health Policy Fellow’s knowledge. We Washington psychologists have exciting opportunities for advocacy at both the state and national levels, and I hope we continue to take good advantage of that.