The Norwegian Psychological Association visits APA

Gøril Wiker and Per Halvorsen of the NPA visited APA Headquarters to discuss Public and Member Communications programs

By Dana Townsend

APA CEO Norman Anderson with Gøril Wiker (center) and Per Halvorsen (right) of the Norwegian Psychological AssociationDuring a two-day "field trip" coordinated by the APA Office of International Affairs in mid-March, staff from the Norwegian Psychological Association (NPA) visited APA headquarters in Washington, D.C., to learn about APA's communications and public policy programs and to share information about Norway and the NPA.

Gøril Wiker, NPA Chief Communications Officer, and Per Halvorsen, NPA Director of Web Operations, began their first day of meetings with a welcome from APA CEO Norman Anderson, followed by a staff overview of the structure, strategies, and programs in APA's Public & Member Communications area. The meeting focused on social media policies, public affairs, web management and development of the Monitor on Psychology and gradPSYCH publications. The second day of meetings covered APA's Public Policy and Advocacy programs with discussions on each of APA's directorates: Education, Practice, Public Interest, and Science.about advocating for psychology at the federal level. Staff and the NPA guests also discussed a summary of the services provided by APA's public education campaigns (e.g. Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, Stress in America, APA's Disaster Response Network, and the campaign on Mind/ Body Health and Resilience). Other activities included discussions on telepsychology, design services, and communication forums. "I have been most impressed with the amount of thought that has gone into developing programs at APA," said Halvorsen. "Everything has been carefully considered and organized to make sure it is of the highest quality." During the visit, APA staff also had the opportunity to learn about the NPA and psychology in Norway from Ms. Wiker and Mr. Halvorsen.

About the Norwegian Psychological Association

NPA was established in 1934 and currently has around 7,000 members, representing 90% of the psychologists in Norway. Unlike APA, the NPA functions as a trade union in addition to providing specialist education in psychology, working to address social responsibility and professional issues, and publishing its journal, Tidsskrift for Norsk Psykologforening, which includes peer-reviewed articles, editorials and psychology news.

To become a psychologist in Norway, students follow a six-year course of university study after which they are authorized by the government as Health Personnel and able to practice as psychologists. At this point, they have the option of a five-year specialization process, paid for by the state and their employer — an accomplishment the NPA has worked hard to achieve.

Dana Wakefield (left) of the APA Web Strategy and Content Office, and Kim Mills (second from left) of APA Public & Member Communications talk to Mr. Halvorsen and Ms. Wiker about APA's communications programs and policiesOne of the major challenges faced by psychologists in Norway has been the financial and societal cost of focusing on severe mental problems, rather than investing in preventive care and early intervention treatments. "Health expenditures are rising dramatically, and this is not sustainable," said Wiker. "They need to be cut, and the best way to do this is to prevent problems from arising." In 2007, NPA introduced and lobbied for a new definition of "low threshold" access to psychology services in Norway. With this access, patients could receive early intervention treatments in primary care, and psychologists could play a central role in planning and implementing individual and systemic interventions. In a recent breakthrough, the Norwegian government has agreed to concentrate on early intervention treatments and has increased funding to recruit and organize psychologists in local communities as part of the public primary care services.

The NPA is one of nine psychology associations with which APA has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Each memorandum articulates the associations’ mutual goals and outlines an agreement to communicate regularly and consider developing future projects and collaborative opportunities.

After an eventful two days, Ms. Wiker and Mr. Halvorsen had a chance to sit down with Office of International Affairs staff to talk about their visit:

PI: How was your visit to APA? Do you feel the meetings have been productive?

Wiker & Halvorsen: We were really pleased with the way APA received us, and we want to thank all of the representatives for taking their time and being so generous in sharing important information and thoughts with us.

PI: The past two days included a full itinerary of meetings with a variety of APA’s directorates and offices. What stood out to you the most? Are there any programs or strategies you may like to implement at NPA?

Wiker & Halvorsen: It is difficult to compare our two organizations because of the difference in their size and resources, but we were impressed with the systematic way that APA runs public campaigns like the Healthy Workplace Program, Stress in America Survey and Measuring the Public’s Perception of Psychology. We might be looking at possibilities for implementing similar programs at home. We do believe in educating the public, and we’re impressed with the consistency of APA’s campaigns.

PI: What is the biggest challenge in Norway regarding psychology as a discipline? What is NPA doing to combat this issue?

Wiker & Halvorsen: Telling what the future holds is impossible, so an answer to this broad question is to make sure that psychology will still be relevant for society as a profession and an academic discipline. NPA is addressing this issue both on a national and a European level, working closely within EFPA (European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations).

PI: In what areas have Norway and NPA had particular success in developing psychology as a discipline?

Wiker & Halvorsen: Since 2001, Norwegian psychologists and psychiatrists have had equal status when it comes to making professional decisions, apart from medication, but including compulsory treatment. This was a major breakthrough. These last years we have concentrated on introducing psychologists to primary care in the communities nationwide. Today all political parties support the idea of psychologists being an important part of community health care.

PI: What major differences have you seen between the practice of psychology in Norway and in the U.S.?

From left to right: Nina Levitt (Education Directorate), Diane Elmore (Public Interest Directorate), Ellen Garrison (Public Policy), Steve Breckler (Science Directorate), Per Halvorsen, Gøril Wiker, Merry Bullock (International Affairs), and Katherine Nordal (Practice Directorate)Wiker & Halvorsen: The greatest difference may be that in Norway all psychologists are licensed to practice and are regarded as authorized health personnel. Also, Norwegian health care, including mental health care, is overall free for everyone.

PI: In your opinion, what sort of collaborative projects might you like to see develop from the MOU signed by APA and NPA?

Wiker & Halvorsen: There are a number of big issues to collaborate on, such as the common challenge of making sure that psychology as a profession and as a scientific field stays relevant and is able to provide relevant services to society. There are also the important technological developments that we think will provide efficient contributions to the health care systems of the future. There are many aspects of this development that we should cooperate on and share.