APA Practice Summit focuses on moving psychology forward

Psychologists and thought leaders from other fields met to begin shaping a view of psychology's future in light of widespread changes affecting the profession

by Communications Staff

June 30, 2009 — Collaborating for change. Guided by this theme, 100 psychologists and 50 thought leaders from other disciplines including insurance, politics and medicine joined forces in mid-May to begin shaping a vision for psychology's future in light of health care reform, demographic and economic shifts, and other changes affecting psychology practice.

The event was the landmark 2009 American Psychological Association (APA) Presidential Summit on the Future of Psychology Practice in San Antonio. The summit was organized by the Task Force on the Future of Psychology Practice, chaired by APA President James H. Bray, PhD, President-elect Carol D. Goodheart, EdD, and Margaret Heldring, PhD.

Dr. Bray described the summit as providing a "vehicle for considering new types of psychological practice and expanded thinking about practice trends" — for example, involving non-traditional settings and partnerships, and growing implementation of technology and evidence-based practice. Dr. Goodheart helped set a framework for dialogue by identifying four key "drivers of change": economics; advances in technology and science; increasing diversity of the U.S. and the psychology workforce; and strength in collaborative relationships with other professionals.

Other key presenters included:

  • Ian Morrison, PhD, author and futurist, whose opening day plenary address illuminated factors that cause shifts from established to new ways of doing business.

  • APA Chief Executive Officer Norman Anderson, PhD, who focused on racial and ethnic health disparities and their implications for practice, including opportunities for psychologists to help eliminate these disparities.

  • Richard Frank, PhD, a health economist at Harvard University, who discussed access to mental health services and other trends in health care, as well as the cost-effectiveness of expanding investments in psychosocial care.

Additional nonpsychologists who participated as presenters helped lend diversity of experience and perspective to the summit. Tillman Farley, MD, director of medical services at Salud Family Health Centers in Colorado, spoke to the preponderance of behavioral and psychosocial issues involved in visits to primary care physicians in their community health center and the important roles of behavioral health providers in delivering integrated care.

APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, spoke about the American Psychological Association Practice Organization's (APAPO) strategic planning process and related issues and activities including health care reform, reimbursement and scope of practice.

Throughout the summit, participants shared a wealth of ideas and suggestions in breakout sessions. They addressed priorities for practice, how psychologists can partner with other professionals on shared goals for health service delivery systems, the impact of demographic and other changes on the future of psychology practice, and pathways for pursuing opportunities for professional psychology. Dr. Heldring's wrap-up presentation showcased summit highlights reflecting the breakout group discussions and presentations.

The sentiment of Dr. Bray and other summit participants is reflected in the mantra, "What happened in San Antonio can not stay in San Antonio." To that end, the organizers are quickly pursuing next steps.

The Task Force on the Future of Psychology Practice is synthesizing ideas and recommendations and blending them with both the APA and APAPO strategic planning processes.

APA members may learn more about the summit and view presentations online. Additional coverage will appear in the July-August 2009 issue of APA's Monitor on Psychology.

Members who attend APA's 2009 convention in Toronto will have a chance to hear about the summit and future plans in the presidential program, "The Future of Psychology Practice," on Friday, August 8, from 10:00 a.m. to noon.