When private practitioner Carol D. Goodheart, EdD, isn't working, she's often in her garden at home in Princeton, N.J. “I have climbing vines and peonies and rosebushes and a few herbs,” she says. “Since what I do at work is intellectually and emotionally challenging, I find it very soothing to be in the garden. And I do my best thinking there.”

As APA's 2010 president, Goodheart plans to grow something else: a sense of community among APA's members and the value they get from belonging to the association. She'll accomplish that goal by making APA's annual convention more welcoming and by creating new resources, including a pilot interactive “wiki” site, a framework for measuring treatment outcomes and a toolkit on family caregiving.

These plans grew out of Goodheart's experiences campaigning for the presidency two years in a row.

“I learned about the incredible diversity of our members,” she says. “You cannot help but be a better president when you have been listening to what members' work is, what their concerns are and what they hope and want to get from APA.”

A scholar-practitioner

Goodheart didn't start her career as a psychologist.

“I took my first psychology class in high school and was fascinated by it,” she says. “But when I was young, I didn't really understand exactly what a psychologist was or did.”

So Goodheart became a nurse and worked in settings as varied as big-city emergency rooms and U.S. Public Health Service facilities on Native American reservations, a background she says will help her build alliances between APA and other health-care groups.

By the time she decided to go back to school to earn a doctorate in counseling psychology at Rutgers University, she was married and the mother of three small children. She received her degree in 1978.

Today, Goodheart is a health psychologist who specializes in helping individuals, couples and families cope with chronic physical diseases and disabilities as well as treating patients with depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.

She is also the author and editor of many books and articles on psychology's role within health care. She co-edited “Evidence-Based Psychotherapy: Where Practice And Research Meet” (APA, 2006), for example. Her co-authors and co-editors have included a primary-care physician, psychological scientists and the parent of an ill child.

She'll bring that same emphasis on collaboration to her leadership of APA.

Goodheart has been involved in APA governance for more than two decades. Among her many roles, in 2005 she chaired the APA Presidential Task Force on Evidence-based Practice, which developed guidelines to help psychologists better serve their clients. She served as APA's treasurer from 2005 to 2007, a position she believes will help prepare her to guide APA through challenging economic times. And she has been president of APA's largest division, Div. 42 (Psychologists in Independent Practice).

“I've belonged to the organization since the day I finished graduate school,” says Goodheart. “I've really enjoyed the opportunity to work together with colleagues from all over the country.”

Presidential priorities

Goodheart plans to focus her presidential year on the integration of science and practice and has three primary initiatives:

  • Advancing practice. This task force will focus on two main goals. The first is to create a framework for the collection and use of outcomes measures for psychological services. “In this age of accountability, the best way we have to demonstrate the effectiveness of what we do is to measure our outcomes,” Goodheart says. “It's valuable to differentiate psychology from other psychotherapy-delivering groups.”

    The task force's second project is to pilot a wiki platform — an interactive Web site created by users themselves — designed to bring together in one place resources that practitioners have found helpful in their work. “During my campaign travels, someone told me, 'When I have a break between patients and have a clinical question, I don't want to do a Google search of the universe; I'd like to be able to go to the APA Web site, find exactly what I need and know that it will be trustworthy and relevant to my practice,'” says Goodheart. Taking advantage of APA's newly redesigned Web site, the project will invite members to contribute resources and constantly update and refine the site.

  • Supporting caregivers. The Caregivers Task Force will focus on family caregiving, an issue Goodheart believes will become even more pressing as the Baby Boom generation ages. It's also a subject Goodheart has experience with in both her professional and personal lives. “At one point in my life, I found myself dealing with an aging parent with dementia and a child in our family who had cancer,” says Goodheart. “Psychology has so much to contribute in this area.” The task force will develop an online “Family Caregiver Briefcase” of resources to assist psychologists in any setting and address caregiver needs across the life span.

  • Making APA's convention more welcoming. “The first time I attended an APA convention, I found it overwhelming,” admits Goodheart. “Just the sheer size and number of programs and people who were there...I wasn't sure what my place would be.” Goodheart is determined to make sure other newcomers aren't as intimidated as she was. Several innovations will help her achieve that goal. There will be a bring-the-family event featuring a psychologist speaking on a topic of broad general interest, so conference-goers can bring their spouses, teenage children or friends. There will be a camp for children of registered participants. And there will be a special hands-on training day in the middle of the convention, which will help researchers, educators and practitioners get to know each other and learn cutting-edge skills they can put to use when they go back to work.

“What I'm trying to do is make the convention as welcoming and accessible to everyone as possible,” she says.

Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.