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The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States and Canada. It is the world's largest association of psychologists with around 137,000 members including scientists, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. The APA has an annual budget of around $115m. There are 54 divisions of the APA—interest groups covering different subspecialties of psychology or topical areas.
- 1 Profile
- 2 History
- 3 Past presidents
- 4 Positions on homosexuality
- 5 Controversies
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The mission of the APA is to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.
The American Psychological Association aspires to excel as a valuable, effective and influential organization advancing psychology as a science, serving as:
- A uniting force for the discipline
- The major catalyst for the stimulation, growth and dissemination of psychological science and practice
- The primary resource for all psychologists
- The premier innovator in the education, development, and training of psychological scientists, practitioners and educators
- The leading advocate for psychological knowledge and practice informing policy makers and the public to improve public policy and daily living
- A principal leader and global partner promoting psychological knowledge and methods to facilitate the resolution of personal, societal and global challenges in diverse, multicultural and international contexts
- An effective champion of the application of psychology to promote human rights, health, well being and dignity
The APA core values statement
The American Psychological Association commits to its vision through a mission based upon the following values:
- Continual Pursuit of Excellence
- Knowledge and its Application Based Upon Methods of Science
- Outstanding Service to its Members and to Society
- Social Justice, Diversity and Inclusion
- Ethical Action in All that We Do
The APA has task forces which issue policy statements on various issues of social import such as the APA position on psychology of abortion; APA position on human rights such as detainee welfare, human trafficking, and rights for the mentally ill; APA position on IQ; APA position on treating homosexuality (sexual orientation change efforts); and APA position on men and women (gender differences).
APA is a corporation chartered in the District of Columbia. APA’s bylaws describe structural components that serve as a system of checks and balances that ensure democratic process. The organizational entities include:
- APA President. APA’s president is elected by the membership. The president chairs the Council of Representatives and the Board of Directors. During his or her term of office, the president performs such duties as are prescribed in the Bylaws.
- Board of Directors. The board is composed of six members-at-large, the president-elect, president, past-president, treasurer, recording secretary, CEO, and the chair of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). The Board oversees the association’s administrative affairs and presents an annual budget for council approval.
- APA Council of Representatives. The council has sole authority to set policy and make decisions regarding APA’s roughly $60 million annual income. It is composed of elected members from state/provincial/territorial psychological associations, APA divisions and the APA Board of Directors.
- APA Committee Structure: Boards and Committees. Members of boards and committees conduct much of APA’s work on a volunteer basis. They carry out a wide variety of tasks suggested by their names. Some have responsibility for monitoring major programs, such as the directorates, the journals and international affairs.
Good Governance Project
The Good Governance Project (GGP) was initiated in January 2011 as part of the strategic plan to “[assure] APA’s governance practices, processes and structures are optimized and aligned with what is needed to thrive in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex environment.” The charge included soliciting feedback and input stakeholders, learning about governance best practices, recommending whether change was required, recommending needed changes based on data, and creating implementation plans. The July 2013 GGP update on the recommended changes can be found in the document "Good Governance Project Recommended Changes to Maximize Organizational Effectiveness of APA Governance, July 2013." The suggested changes would change APA from a membership based, representational structure to a corporate structure. These motions will be discussed and voted upon by Council on July 31, 2013 and August 2, 2013.
APA comprises an executive office, a publishing operation, offices that address administrative, business, information technology, and operational needs, and five substantive directorates:
- the Education Directorate accredits doctoral psychology programs and addresses issues related to psychology education in secondary through graduate education;
- the Practice Directorate engages on behalf of practicing psychologists and health care consumers;
- the Public Interest Directorate advances psychology as a means of addressing the fundamental problems of human welfare and promoting the equitable and just treatment of all segments of society;
- the Public and Member Communications Directorate is responsible for APA's outreach to its members and affiliates and to the general public;
- the Science Directorate provides support and voice for psychological scientists.
Membership and title of "psychologist"
APA policy on the use of the title psychologist is contained in the Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists: Psychologists have earned a doctoral degree in psychology and may not use the title “psychologist” and/or deliver psychological services to the public, unless the psychologist is licensed or specifically exempted from licensure under the law. State licensing laws specify state specific requirements for the education and training of psychologists leading to licensure. Psychologists who are exempted from licensure could include researchers, educators, or general applied psychologists who furnish services outside of the health and mental health field.
Full membership with the APA in United States and Canada requires doctoral training whereas associate membership requires at least two years of postgraduate studies in psychology or approved related discipline. The minimal requirement of a doctoral dissertation related to psychology for full membership can be waived in certain circumstances where there is evidence that significant contribution or performance in the field of psychology has been made.
The American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) and the Education Advocacy Trust, which operates autonomously as a part of APAPO, are 501(c)(6) entities, separate from APA. They engage in advocacy on behalf of psychological practitioners and health care consumers and psychology education, respectively.
Upcoming Annual Conventions
- 122nd Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (7–10 August 2014)
- 123rd Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (6–9 August 2015)
Each year, the APA recognizes top psychologists with the "Distinguished Contributions" Awards; these awards are the highest honors given by the APA, and among the highest honors that a psychologist or psychology researcher can receive.
- APA Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Psychology
- APA Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology
- Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest
- Award for Distinguished Contributions to Education and Training in Psychology
- APA Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Applied Research
- Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Independent Practice.
- Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Practice in the Public Sector
- APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Developmental Psychology
- Health Psychology
- Journal of Applied Psychology
- Journal of Comparative Psychology
- Journal of Experimental Psychology
- Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
- Journal of Family Psychology
- Journal of Occupational Health Psychology
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
- Psychological Bulletin
- Psychological Review
- Psychology and Aging
- Psychology of Addictive Behaviors
- Psychology of Violence
- School Psychology Quarterly
Varieties of Anomalous Experience is a book edited by Etzel Cardeña, Steven Jay Lynn and Stanley Krippner, published by the American Psychological Association in 2000 and a second edition in 2013. The book is dedicated to the research of William James.
The APA has also published several books including children's books, software for data analysis, videos demonstrating therapeutic techniques, reports and brochures, and an eight-volume Encyclopedia of Psychology.
The Psychologically Healthy Workplace program
The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program (PHWP) is a collaborative effort between the American Psychological Association and the APA Practice Organization designed to help employers optimize employee well-being and organizational performance. The PHWP includes APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, a variety of APA Practice Organization resources, including PHWP Web content, e-newsletter, podcast and blog, and support of local programs currently implemented by 52 state, provincial and territorial psychological associations as a mechanism for driving grassroots change in local business communities. The awards are designed to recognize organizations for their efforts to foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance. The award program highlights a variety of workplaces, large and small, profit and non-profit, in diverse geographical settings. Applicants are evaluated on their efforts in the following five areas: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition. Awards are given at the local and national level.
2010 award winners: American Cast Iron Pipe Company, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, Advanced Solutions (an HP company), Toronto Police Service and Leaders Bank.
American Psychological Association (APA) Style is a set of rules developed to assist reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences. Designed to ensure clarity of communication, the rules are designed to "move the idea forward with a minimum of distraction and a maximum of precision." The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association contains the rules for every aspect of writing, especially in the social sciences from determining authorship to constructing a table to avoiding plagiarism and constructing accurate reference citations. "The General Format of APA is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. General guidelines for a paper in APA style includes: typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11") with 1" margins on all sides. The font should be clear and highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font."
APA maintains an abstract database named PsycINFO. It contains citations and summaries dating from the 19th century, including journal articles, book chapters, books, technical reports, and dissertations within the field of psychology. As of January 2010, PsycINFO has collected information from 2,457 journals. Similar databases operated by other organizations include PsycLit and Psychological Abstracts. APA also operates a comprehensive search platform, PsycNET, covering multiple databases. Date: 11 October 2013
The APA was founded in July 1892 at Clark University by a group of 26 men, the first president was G. Stanley Hall. It is affiliated with 60 state, territorial, and Canadian provincial associations.
Dominance of clinical psychology
Due to the dominance of clinical psychology in APA, several research-focused groups have broken away from the organization. These include the Psychonomic Society in 1959 (with a primarily cognitive orientation), and the Association for Psychological Science (which changed its name from the American Psychological Society in early 2006) in 1988 (with a broad focus on the science and research of psychology). Theodore H. Blau was the first clinician in independent practice to be elected president of the American Psychological Association in 1977.
Positions on homosexuality
Cause of homosexuality
The APA states the following:
"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."
In 1975 APA issued a supporting statement that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. There is a concern in the mental health community that the advancement of conversion therapy itself causes social harm by disseminating inaccurate views about sexual orientation and the ability of homosexual and bisexual people to lead happy, healthy lives. Most mainstream health organizations are critical of conversion therapy, and no mainstream medical organization endorses conversion therapy.[note 1]
The APA adopted a resolution in August 2009 stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. The approval, by APA's governing Council of Representatives, came at APA's annual convention, during which a task force presented a report that in part examined the efficacy of so-called "reparative therapy," or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).
The "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts" also advises that parents, guardians, young people and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services "that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth."
The APA adopted a resolution stating that it is unfair and discriminatory to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage and to all its attendant rights, benefits, and privileges. It also filed an amicus brief in the federal court case in which Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The APA later praised the decision and denied the existence of any "scientific justification" for a ban on same-sex marriage.
In August 2011, the APA clarified their support of same-sex marriage in light of continued research suggesting that the same community benefits accepted as result of hetero-sexual marriage apply to same-sex couples as well, "We knew that marriage benefits heterosexual people in very significant ways, but we didn't know if that would be true for same-sex couples," said Dr. Clinton Anderson, associate executive director of the APA and director of the Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns. Anderson would also go on to clarify the Association's view on Civil Unions as an alternative to same-sex marriages: "Anything other than marriage is, in essence, a stigmatization of same-sex couples. Stigma does have negative impacts on people."  Anderson's statements have been met with scrutiny from organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage, that dispute the notion that communities are more accepting of homosexuals in states that legally sanction same-sex marriage.
APA internship crisis for graduate students
The APA is the main accrediting body for U.S. clinical and counseling psychology doctoral training programs and internship sites. APA-accredited Clinical Psychology PhD and PsyD programs typically require students to complete a one-year clinical internship in order to graduate (or a two-year part-time internship). However, there is currently an "internship crisis" as defined by the American Psychological Association, in that approximately 25% of clinical psychology doctoral students do not match for internship each year. This crisis has led many students (approximately 1,000 each year) to re-apply for internship, thus delaying graduation, or to complete an unaccredited internship, and often has many emotional and financial consequences. Students who do not complete an APA accredited internships in the U.S. are barred from certain employment settings, including VA Hospitals, the military, and cannot get licensed in some states, such as Utah and Mississippi. Additionally, some post-doctoral fellowships and other employment settings require or prefer an APA Accredited internship. The APA has been criticized for not addressing this crisis adequately and many psychologists and graduate students have petitioned for the APA to take action by regulating graduate training programs. Many graduate students attend APA accredited programs, yet are unable to secure APA accredited internships possibly leading to financial and employment hardships.
Use of coercive techniques considered equivalent of torture
The APA absolutely condemns the use of any of the following practices by military interrogators trying to elicit anti-terrorism information from detainees, on the ground that "there are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether induced by a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, that may be invoked as a justification" for them:
- An absolute prohibition against the following techniques therefore arises from, is understood in the context of, and is interpreted according to these texts: mock executions; water-boarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation; sexual humiliation; rape; cultural or religious humiliation; exploitation of fears, phobias or psychopathology; induced hypothermia; the use of psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances; hooding; forced nakedness; stress positions; the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate; physical assault including slapping or shaking; exposure to extreme heat or cold; threats of harm or death; isolation; sensory deprivation and over-stimulation; sleep deprivation; or the threatened use of any of the above techniques to an individual or to members of an individual’s family.
When it emerged that psychologists as part of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team were advising interrogators in Guantánamo and other U.S. facilities on improving the effectiveness of the "Enhanced interrogation techniques", the Association called on the U.S. government to prohibit the use of unethical interrogation techniques and labeled specific techniques as torture. Critics pointed out that the APA declined to advise its members not to participate in such interrogations. One group of psychologists in particular, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, has been very harsh in its criticism of the APA stance on its refusal to categorically prohibit members from participating in any phase of military interrogations. They recently stated their continuing disagreement with APA leadership in an open letter posted on their website, www.ethicalpsychology.org, on October 31, 2012 in which they reiterated their condemnation of torture and enhanced interrogation techniques, and called for the APA to require its members to refuse participation in military conducted interrogations of any kind. The diluted directive by the APA was in contrast to the American Psychiatric Association ban in May 2006 of all direct participation in interrogations by psychiatrists, and the American Medical Association ban in June 2006 of the direct participation in interrogations by physicians. In addition, an independent panel of medical, military, ethics, education, public health and legal professionals issued a comprehensive report in November 2013 that "charged that U.S. military and intelligence agencies directed doctors and psychologists working in U.S. military detention centers to violate standard ethical principles and medical standards to avoid infliction of harm".
In September 2008, APA’s members passed a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the U.S. Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.” The resolution became official APA policy in February 2009. However, the APA has refused to sanction those members known to have participated in, and in some cases, designed abusive interrogation techniques used in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan interrogation centers.
Amending the Ethics Code
In February 2010 APA's Council of Representatives voted to amend the association's Code of Ethics to make clear that its standards can never be interpreted to justify or defend violating human rights. Following are the two ethical standards and the changes adopted. Language that is in bold was newly adopted:
1.02, Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority
If psychologists’ ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.
1.03, Conflicts Between Ethics and Organizational Demands
If the demands of an organization with which psychologists are affiliated or for whom they are working are in conflict with this Ethics Code, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code, and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.
- American Board of Professional Psychology
- American Psychoanalytic Association
- American Psychiatric Association
- APA style
- Association for Psychological Science
- Canadian Psychological Association
- Psychonomic Society
- Mainstream health organizations critical of conversion therapy include the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the National Education Association.
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- Reaffirmation of the American Psychological Association Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Its Application to Individuals Defined in the United States Code as “Enemy Combatants”
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- Official website
- American Psychological Association Rejects Blanket Ban on Participation in Interrogation of U.S. Detainees
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