Disrupting psychology’s status quo

Four psychologists assess the gaps between market realities and the current state of the profession

by Marketing and Business Development Staff

April 28, 2011—Educated. Risk averse. Slow.

In the weeks leading up to the State Leadership Conference (SLC) workshop “Productive Disruption: Key Issues and the Changes Necessary to Ensure a Valuable Future for the Next Generation of Practitioners,” the four panel presenters—a graduate student, an early career psychologist, a psychologist active in the business community, and one with professional association experience in both governance and staff roles—were asked to submit 10 words or phrases describing the profession.

Workshop chair David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, assistant executive director, marketing and business development, then generated a word cloud, which enlarges or shrinks words depending on how often they appear in text.


In addition to discussing the word cloud, projected on a screen for the audience to contemplate, panelists identified key issues that will shape the future of professional psychology and offered their assessments of gaps that exist between market realities and the current state of the profession. Below are some of their thoughts on:

The Three Most Important Issues Facing Psychology Today

Ali Mattu, MA, Chair–Elect of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students says training models are out of date, we lack a “leadership pipeline,” and we’re not technology savvy. “I’m an anxiety therapist,” Mattu told the audience, “and I’m here to say we need to start facing our fears of technology.” He suggested more established practitioners team with early career psychologists (ECPs) and grad students for mutual benefit.  

Sara M. Honaker, PhD, of APA’s Committee on Early Career Psychologists, cited the disconnect between psychologists’ graduate training and the focus on integrated health care. “I didn’t learn about integrated care in grad school,” Honaker commented, “I’m mostly self-taught.” She also noted there are both challenges and opportunities with the movement toward accountability. “We’re being asked to show that we’re good at what we do for the first time as a profession and as individuals, and that’s exciting,” she said. Honaker’s third issue was reimbursement. “My training is commensurate to my medical colleagues, but my pay is not commensurate,” she noted.

J. Paul Burney, PhD, a member of the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP), described the single most important issue facing psychology today: the economy. “Changes mean we need to be quick and reactive and proactive,” he said. “We need to watch what our business colleagues are doing. If businesses are doing the same things they did six months ago, they are out of business. We’re doing the same things we were doing 15 years ago.”

Nancy Gordon Moore, PhD, MBA, APA’s executive director for governance affairs, noted a few more. Telehealth “will affect how we look at licensing,” she said. “The model will have to change.” With social media, peer-generated content supersedes content provided by authorities, and face-to-face interaction is no longer primary. So “where does psychology fit?” she asked. Finally, she also chose technology. “The integration of nanotechnology and bio-medical advances will alter how we think about ourselves.”

Trends in professional psychology include marketplace changes, policy issues, competition, demands for outcomes, emerging practice models and communicating our value to consumers, who have many choices. What are the challenges and opportunities that accompany these trends?

The challenges to successful practice haven’t changed, said Dr. Burney. But there are myriad opportunities for those who can apply sales, marketing and business expertise to their professional activities. He suggested psychologists “rethink reimbursement,” as contract labor will increase, bringing with it the need for psychologists to negotiate payment rates and structures directly with the employer or client, rather than with a third party intermediary.

Dr. Honaker believes accountability has both challenges and opportunities. “The challenge is [deciding] what does it mean to be good at what we do,” she said. The benefits come from the evaluative process, through which we can enhance the quality of our services and improve treatment outcomes.

“A majority of practitioners are not trained to perform in settings outside traditional mental health,” said Dr. Moore. “This is where demand is growing –there are lots of opportunities to shape what happens and to do things differently.”

Ali Mattu said opportunities will come when we focus on training. “We need training programs for the new marketplace,” he said. “We have to get out of our silos. We do a poor job of working across fields, creating alliances with other health providers, documenting what we do, translating what we do.”

What 10 words or phrases do you think describe the current state of professional psychology? Submit yours to Practice Management by email and look for a word cloud generated from the responses received in a future issue of PracticeUpdate.