WSPA Council Representative Report – Marta Miranda

Dr Marta Miranda COR Grahpic
Spring 2018: Volume 74, Number 1
2018 Winter Meeting
By Marta Miranda, Psy.D.

APA’s Council of Representatives met on March 9-10, 2018 in Washington, D.C.  The agenda was packed with major policy items, and members vigorously debated important topics facing our field.  This was one of the most productive meetings I have attended as a Council Representative. Below is a summary of the main decisions made by Council.

Joint Membership Agreement

Council was asked to approve the establishment of a task force to develop a plan for restructuring APA into a joint 501(c)(3)/501(c)(6) organization.  The proposed re-organization would allow APA to provide its membership with a much broader array of services than is currently possible under the current organizational structure.

APA currently encompasses two organizations that are legally separated for tax purposes.  APA is a 501(c)(3) organization, which means that it is a charitable non-profit organization and is exempt from paying income taxes. However, this designation carries with it restrictions on the organization’s ability to engage in political action, as charitable organizations are prohibited from spending more than $1 million on lobbying and any related political activities.  Specifically, IRS rules prohibit APA from developing partisan voter guides, educating the public about legislators who hold psychology-friendly positions, or establishing a psychology political action committee (PAC).  The IRS also prohibits APA from delivering other member benefits, such as tools that would help members build their careers, create a business or otherwise derive personal benefit from their membership.

The APA Practice Organization (APAPO) is designated as a 501(c)(6) guild (business or professional trade) organization, which allows it to engage in lobbying and other political activities. However, APAPO was designed to represent the organization’s guild concerns and does not have the resources or the mandate to engage in lobbying efforts on behalf of psychology more generally.  That is, APAPO engages lawmakers on issues related to practicing psychologists, but does not lobby on other issues (i.e., the needs of scientists or the public). Any advocacy on these non-guild issues has been done by APA, but always subject to the $1 million annual cap.  All professional trade associations, including all state psychology associations like WSPA are designated as 501(c)(6) organizations.

This new arrangement was proposed for several reasons:  1) we are in a critical moment in our nation’s history—one in which APA could be directly influencing policy on many public health and public interest issues related to psychology; 2) due to declining revenue, APAPO’s ability to support the needs of practicing psychologists has been limited, especially in recent years.  While the initial impetus for the proposal was APAPO’s financial situation, in recent months, this work took on greater urgency, as federal legislation was proposed to end the Affordable Care Act, eliminate Public Student Loan Forgiveness, and impose deep cuts to research funding for science.  APA was limited in the scope of its response, and APAPO could only respond to the concerns of practicing psychologists.

After much debate on this topic, Council voted to allow the APA President to establish a task force that will develop an implementation plan for the new joint 501(c)(3)/501(c)(6) organization. The plan will include integration of priorities across the organizations, identify governance models, and propose an allocation of 2019 dues.

How will this affect you personally?

Currently, APA members have the option of paying dues to APAPO. Under the joint membership agreement, all APA members will be automatically be members of the new 501(c)(6) organization, which is tentatively named the APA Institute for Psychology (APAIP). APA dues will remain the same for at least the next three years, and dues for APAPO will be eliminated. Therefore, if you were a member of both APA and APAPO, your dues will decrease next year; if you were only a member of APA, your dues will remain the same.

Another difference in this new membership structure is that a portion of APA dues will no longer be a charitable tax deduction, because the new APAIP will become a 501(c)(6) organization and dues paid to this entity are considered a business deduction. At the moment, we do not yet know how dues will be divided between the two organizations. For those who were paying dues to APA and APAPO, this will not be a substantial change from the status quo, as APAPO is also a 501 (c)(6) organization and, thus, dues paid to this organization are not a charitable contribution.

Although the details of this new structure have yet to be determined, APA members will likely see greater benefits and more political action from APA on a range of issues, including funding for research and science, and advocacy for public health and public interest issues related to psychology. You will also likely see more involvement from APA on issues that affect you as a member, including greater assistance with career-specific concerns.

The “Master’s Issue”

I reported in a previous WSPA newsletter on the “Master’s Issue,” that is, whether APA should recognize and potentially credential individuals with master’s degrees in psychology. You can find a summary of the topic here. At this meeting, Council was asked to consider whether to accredit master’s level programs in health service psychology.  Because APA does not currently accredit master’s degree programs, this change would allow APA to begin the process of standardizing and credentialing educational programs that offer a master’s degree as their terminal degree.

APA staff presented the results of surveys conducted of APA members, which indicated that membership has concerns about issues of scope (i.e., what should a master’s level clinician in psychology be allowed to do) and title (i.e., what should these clinicians be called). According to the surveys, members were most comfortable with APA moving to accredit educational programs.

During the meeting, Council participated in small and large group discussions to discuss their concerns, especially with regard to scope of practice and title. Council members broadly agreed: 1) that there is a benefit to uniformity of title, but that the title must clearly delineate the difference between master’s and doctoral level practitioners; and 2) there should be standards for the scope of practice for master’s level practitioners.  Council also voted to direct the staff and governance bodies of APA to take steps to develop an accreditation system for master’s degree programs. This is a multi-year process that will require Council approving the plan prior to its implementation.

It is important to note that while APA can provide guidance and policy positions on scope of practice and title of master’s level clinicians, this is largely a state legislative issue.  That is, APA may consider various actions, such as whether to support accreditation and licensure of master’s degree clinicians and the development of a “Model Licensure Act” for master’s level practitioners, but the decision to license master’s level healthcare practitioners—including scope of practice and title– is up to state legislatures.

Clinical Practice Guidelines

Council approved the Clinical Practice Guidelines for Multicomponent Behavioral Treatment of Obesity and Overweight in Children and Adolescents.  As was the case with the PTSD Clinical Practice Guidelines, much debate ensured regarding APA’s approach to Clinical Practice Guidelines.  Concerns were raised about the limited scope of acceptable research; poor consideration of race, ethnicity, SES, and other contextual factors; and poor consideration for the therapeutic relationship (i.e. “Common Factors”).

Of particular concern to those who were unhappy with the PTSD Guidelines, APA has not yet developed the companion Professional Practice Guideline to accompany the Clinical Practice Guideline for PTSD, as was requested during the last meeting.  In part, this seems to have been due to a misunderstanding in the last Council minutes, which the Board of Professional Affairs interpreted to refer to a broader Professional Practice Guideline than Council intended. This error has been corrected, and APA staff and governance bodies are working on a PTSD-specific Professional Practice Guideline, which is intended to address concerns raised by Council members about the PTSD Clinical Practice Guideline.

Separately, some Council members have crafted a motion to establish a task force that would review the concerns raised by members and chart a way forward for future Clinical Practice Guidelines that are more inclusive of the needs and issues of both clinicians and researchers.  This motion will likely be discussed and voted on at the August 2018 meeting.

Improving Council’s Culture and Diversity

As reported in previous WSPA newsletters, the Council Diversity Work Group continues to work to improve the culture of Council and APA.  Council received the report of the Council Diversity Work Group, which provided recommendations to Council and APA on diversity and inclusion.   CEO Dr. Arthur Evans, Jr. announced that APA has committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, which was a key recommendation in the CDWG report. Members of the CDWG will work with APA staff to craft a job description for this position. This is a major milestone and an important step forward in shifting APA’s culture.

Members of the CDWG also began work to institute a “Culture Shift Process” on Council, beginning with the Council New Member Orientation, which took place the day before Council. New members were led through this process by University of Washington social psychologist, Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, a member of the Tulalip Tribes.  Dr. Fryberg used her experience as a tribal leader responding to the 2014 Marysville-Pilchuk school shooting to highlight for participants the need for culturally appropriate frames and interventions. Her presentation encouraged new members to use their interpretative power to speak for those not represented, especially marginalized and oppressed groups whose voices are not heard.  The Council Leadership Team, which sponsors and leads new member orientation, hopes that Dr. Fryberg’s approach and process will be introduced to all of Council in future meetings.