You Are Part of Federal Legislative Advocacy for Psychology


I am your new Federal Advocacy Coordinator (FAC). Being new to Washington, and being new as your FAC, I wanted to help you get to know me and further acquaint you with federal legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of Psychology.

During the past year I and my partner have moved to the Sammamish/Redmond area from Raleigh, North Carolina. I am an independent contractor working full time in a group practice. I have offices in Redmond and Issaquah. My training, experience and focus clinically has been to work from a very behavioral model (CBT, DBT, ACT) in helping teens and adults with anxiety disorders, affective disorders, ADHD, and learning concerns. My professional focus for some time has been with legislative advocacy efforts for Psychology. I have been involved with advocacy for Psychology for over 35 years. Most recently, for the past 15 years, I have been the FAC in North Carolina, and have been a Board member and Chair of the NCPA Legislative Committee (State legislative advocacy) for the past 25 years. I look forward to working with you and helping you and WSPA reach your advocacy goals.

One part of being part of a profession is advocating legislatively for that profession. Federal, state, and even local laws may have effects on what people in certain professions can do, can call themselves, and how others may interact with them. Medicare, a large healthcare system designed for handling the healthcare needs of our senior and disabled populations is controlled by legislative actions in Washington, D.C.; the licensing laws for professions are enacted by state legislators; and certain taxes and operational concerns may be directed by county and local elected officials. The American Psychological Association has had for some time a systematic approach to legislative advocacy for Psychology in the national arena.

In the mid-1980s the American Psychological Association’s Practice Organization (APAPO) then known as the APA Practice Directorate intensified legislative advocacy efforts by creating a grassroots legislative network designed to involve member psychologists across the country. The model and structure of advocacy which APAPO designed for the profession of Psychology is often referred to as the Three Legged Stool approach. This model utilizes three areas, or legs: a lobbyist team housed in APAPO’s Governmental Relations; a national political action committee (PAC) available to make targeted political campaign contributions; and the grassroots advocacy state-by-state network of psychologist members coordinated by a psychologist member known as the Federal Advocacy Coordinator (FAC). You, as a psychologist member then are a vital part of Psychology’s advocacy team.

Over the years, the effectiveness of the grassroots advocacy networks has led to FACs and networks being established for each State, Canadian Province, U.S. Territory, and APA Division. State FACs are selected by each state’s psychological association but function and must meet certain criteria established in an APAPO job description. There is some variability among state FACs, most notably that most state FACs only focus on federal legislative activity while some states have FACs involved in both state and federal legislative advocacy efforts. Washington State has always had its FAC focus on federal advocacy and be involved in state advocacy efforts.

Although established to focus on national legislation and the potential effects on the profession, the Three Legged Stool model advocates and depends of the coordination and interaction among the three legs. Information from psychologist members, thru the FAC, reaches APAPO lobbyists and PAC endeavors – and vice versa. For successful legislative endeavors; political contributions, lobbyist contact with Members of Congress, and grassroots email or personal contact should be coordinated and targeted.

You may be aware of specific messages and information coming to you from the APAPO Government Relations staff and/or FAC. Messages to you are constructed knowing the political and strategic underpinnings of legislation so that you become more informed of a legislative matter and often to ask you to contact your Members of Congress. Sample letters are often shared with you in hopes that you will personalize the message and sent it to your legislator. Information you may obtain from your contact with your Member of Congress is often important information shared with our advocacy team via the FAC.

The state FAC has a multifaceted role. This person is: (1) involved and participates in political fundraising activities, (2) responsible for training members in advocacy skills and encouraging members’ participation in advocacy activities, and (3) communicates and shares information between APAPO staff, PAC staff, and psychologist members.

Political Fundraising
The state FAC has a role in encouraging members to donate to APAPO’s PAC and local campaign fundraising activities. Local fundraisers occur with the psychologist members participating or occasionally the FAC, or another representative, attending an event with the financial support of psychologist members.

Training Advocacy Skills
You decide your level of involvement in the advocacy team. The state FAC works to support you with the information and skills you need to function. Some psychologist members want to be informed of legislative activities which may affect Psychology while others participate with emails to legislators or face-to-face visits with legislator. Often a goal is for at least one psychologist to develop a relationship with a legislator acting as a resource to that legislator. Your state FAC is available to help you develop your advocacy skills.

Coordinating Communications
Your state FAC is your person to provide you with information from the others players on the advocacy team, and the person to share your information with the team. Information about federal legislation is shared with you in group form via Information Alerts and Action Alerts and other training events or Legislative Day activities are available as well as individual communications.

Know that your legislative advocacy efforts have reaped rewards. During the past 20 years you have helped pass national parity legislation mandating behavioral health coverage being covered at parity with physical health; seen that behavioral health was included as an essential benefit in the Affordable Care Act; and successfully fought against Medicare reimbursement cuts.

Much has been accomplished – and there is much yet to do.

David C Wiesner, Ph.D.
Federal Advocacy Coordinator