2012 APA Presidential Candidate Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD

by Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD

What are your short-, mid-, and long-term plans to insure the financial stability of the APAPO?

In the decade since the Council of Representatives launched the APAPO it has had an extraordinary history of accomplishments on behalf of professional psychology. Funding for these activities is derived from the special assessment that licensed practitioners are obligated to pay beyond their regular APA dues. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the special assessment is considered mandatory, it is clear (see APAPO May 6, 2010 memorandum) only a “majority” of licensed APA members actually pay the special assessment.

This situation creates a serious “free rider” problem as practitioners who fail to pay the special assessment benefit from the advocacy activities of APAPO in the same way that those who pay it do. Nevertheless, even if all licensed practitioners paid the special assessment, this would not totally insure the financial stability of the APAPO.

Thus, any strategy to insure APAPO’s financial stability must be three-pronged. First is the obvious remedy of increasing membership in APA and attracting back those who have resigned, particularly special assessment payors.

Second, we must tackle the free rider issue, a knotty problem that must be solved through collaboration between APA and APAPO. If, indeed, the special assessment is mandatory, mechanisms must be created to effectuate that obligation.

The final prong would require us to develop ideas to contribute to APAPO’s bottom line. For example, in addition to the direct benefits it already provides, APAPO should consider offering workshops for continuing education credit, particularly on business, reimbursement and managed care issues.

What initiatives will you undertake to educate the public about the services of psychologists?

As the question recognizes, APAPO must not only advocate for its members’ interests, but it is equally imperative that we be seen as furthering the public interest. In one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most important pronouncements, it stated that “The mental health of our citizenry, no less than its physical health, is a public good of transcendent importance.”  We must identify key issues about which to inform the public and explain why psychologists are the best educated and best trained mental health practitioners.

In addition, just as APA sends out press releases highlighting new and significant scientific findings published in our journals, APAPO should present accessible information to the public as to the benefits of psychological counseling, assessment and well-being, and our participation in promoting physical health, e.g., smoking cessation, obesity, heart attack prevention and treatment. 

We should be promoting our members’ participation in speaking engagements to such public groups as PTAs and join entities that advocate for diversion of those with mental illness, veterans and substance abusers from the criminal justice system to problem-solving courts where the emphasis is on psychological treatment, not punishment.

But beyond the public at large, we must gain the support of the business community by facilitating synergy between psychology and business that promotes productivity and the well-being of employees. In sum, we must reach out beyond ourselves and even the general public to civic organizations, consumer groups, labor and other professional associations, general practice physicians and the business community. 

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