APA Past President

Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD

Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JDFor 50 years, Bersoff has had a gratifying career as a practitioner, academic and educator. He recently retired as director of the JD/PhD Program in Law & Psychology at Drexel University and now serves on the faculties of the Earle Mack School of Law as professor emeritus and as an adjunct member of the psychology department. He also consults with attorneys and psychologists on ethico-legal issues and has served as an expert witness in such cases. He was born and bred in New York and attended New York University where he was awarded a BS, MA and PhD (in 1965), mentored by Bernie Kalinkowitz, Gil Trachtman and Florence Halpern. After receiving his PhD, he served as an Air Force clinical psychologist (1965-1968), including two years in Southeast Asia; taught psychology at Ohio State and the University of Georgia; maintained a private practice in Pennsylvania and Ohio; and directed a college counseling center. In 1976, he received his JD from Yale Law School and joined the faculties of the University of Maryland Law School and the Johns Hopkins psychology department, where he developed the nation’s second law & psychology program.

In 1979, Bersoff became the first general counsel of APA. In his 10 years in that position, he authored 50 briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal and state courts, informing these courts of social science evidence relevant to such issues as sex stereotyping, women’s and adolescents’ reproductive rights, hospital privileges for psychologists, admissibility of psychological expertise, jury decision making, privacy rights of the LGBT community, children’s testimony and rights of the severely mentally disabled, among others.

Bersoff has authored more than 100 chapters, articles (eight in the American Psychologist®; others in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology®, Journal of Educational Psychology®, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Psychology, Public Policy and Law®) and papers, on ethics and the interaction of law, psychology and public policy. His textbook, "Ethical Conflicts in Psychology," now in its fourth edition, published by APA and a perennial best-seller, is used as the basic text in many graduate professional psychology courses. He is an APA fellow and an American Board of Professional Psychology diplomate. He knows APA from the inside as well as being a lifetime member. He has been elected to three terms on the Council of Representatives, to the Board of Directors (1994-1997), and as chair of the Policy & Planning Board. Bersoff served as president of the American Psychology-Law Society (now Div. 41) and as program chair for the Society for General Psychology (Division 1). He has worked to promote psychology with organizations outside of APA, including Oxford, the American Bar Association, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society for Research in Child Development, U.S. Department of Education, as a social science consultant/commission member studying gender and racial discrimination in the federal court, and as consultant to the National Commission on the Protection of Human Subjects.

Bersoff is the recipient of an APA Presidential Citation for Distinguished Service to APA (2000), Distinguished Contributions to Psychology as a Science and Profession award and an Ethics Educator of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Arthur Furst Ethics Award from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology and the Lifetime Contribution Award from Div. 41.

2013 Presidential Address From Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD

In his presidential address, 2013 APA President Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD, outlines his presidential initiatives and provides a brief history of his involvement with APA over the past 50 years.

Presidential Initiatives

  1. To ensure that psychologists are in the forefront in providing services to military personnel, veterans and their families, as well as military members who have been sexually harassed in the service.
  2. To stimulate more diversity by identifying innovative doctoral programs that have admitted students from diverse cultures.
  3. To advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives by attracting and retaining academicians and scientists as members.

Major Publications

(2008), Ethical conflicts in psychology. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association (4th Ed.)

(2005), The differing conceptions of culpability in law & psychology. Widener Law Review, 81-92(11 Widener L. Rev. 81 (2005)).

(2002), Some contrarian concerns about law, psychology, and public policy. Law and Human Behavior, 26, 565-574.

(1999), Law and mental health professionals: Pennsylvania. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association), (Senior author with R. Field, S. Anderer, & T. Zaplac),

(1995), The not-so Weisman: The Supreme Court’s continuing misuse of social science research. University of Chicago Law School Roundtable, 2, 279-302. (Senior author with D. Glass) (2 U. Chi. L. Sch. Roundtable 279 (1995)).

(1976), Learning to teach: A decision-making system. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath. (co-author with M. Tillman J. Dolly).

(1973). Silk purses into sow's ears: The decline of psychological testing and a suggestion for its redemption. American Psychologist, 28, 892-899. Reprinted in School Psychology Digest, 1973, 2, 18-23.