Steven J. Reisner, PhD
What is it about you that would make practitioners want to vote for you?
I have been a psychologist-practitioner for twenty years. I was trained during a time when we had no difficulty communicating to the public what we offered: state of the art therapeutic skills and knowledge, compassion, and wisdom that could change lives for the better.
But psychologist-practitioners have come on hard times. There has been a troubling and oppressive transformation in mental health treatment, focusing on symptom remission rather than improving psychological well-being. Today, most clinics and hospitals aim simply to restore previous levels of functioning, primarily relying on short-term behavioral techniques and medication. The skills psychologists bring to the mental health arena -- including assessment, systems analysis, and individual and family therapy -- are increasingly seen as time-consuming luxuries. Psychologists are now often viewed as one among many that can do the same job. We are losing our identity and many of us are losing our livelihoods.
I have worked in nearly every mental health environment. I do international intervention work and training in trauma and disaster, as well as individual treatment in my private office. As APA president, I can speak with authority about the fact that the US has fallen behind other developed countries in mental health care, primarily because our system has been hijacked by pharmaceutical and insurance corporations more interested in profit than in care. As APA president, I will advocate for the unique contribution of psychologists within the context of a health care system in dire need of humanistic change. (For more information, visit the Reisner for APA President webpage)
The APAPO is the advocacy arm for professional practice. What will you do to insure its success?
The APAPO is reeling from a scandal and a legacy that left practitioners feeling betrayed and uncared for. Voluntary fees were charged as if they were mandatory. Lobbying efforts were not transparent and APAPO efforts privileged certain pet projects over the wider needs of practitioners, especially those in private practice.
The solutions to the crises in funding and confidence are one and the same. Rather than extol the same achievements each year (rolled back Medicare cuts, co-sponsored VA conferences), APAPO must transparently and creatively address the most exigent needs of practitioners: the crisis in private practice and the diminishing position of psychologists in the new health care system. This is best done by expanding work already underway in supporting state, provincial and territorial associations’ efforts. These associations have identified where practitioners are struggling, offering strategies for advocacy on a local level. APAPO must support these struggles, as well as use its clout to bring common issues to national attention. We should include the four minority associations in this effort, placing us on the cutting edge of responding to the needs of our minority practitioners and enhancing our ability to respond to the mental health needs of our increasingly diverse population.
Our nation is suffering from an epidemic of mental illness diagnoses, a result of medicine’s co-option by pharmaceutical and insurance company priorities and their biased research promoting over-blown medication claims and spurious ‘evidence-based’ treatments. APAPO must be a voice advocating for unbiased outcome research, parity, and universal, not-for-profit health care.