President's Column

APA’s top priority is ensuring that the science and practice of psychology thrive. To do that, we work to make sure psychology is recognized by the public, legislators and funders as behavioral science and neuroscience that is relevant to everyday life. We showcase psychological research and demonstrate how it is translated into ever-evolving, high-quality services.

We illustrate the ways psychology contributes to the health, productivity, well-being and resilience of individuals, families, organizations and societies in a diverse world.

Of course, none of these endeavors are possible without the integration of psychological science and practice. This year, APA is furthering that integration through two projects: a task force I’ve created to enhance our ability to track outcomes and offer resources; and the association’s development of treatment guidelines for practice. The following steps apply to the health arena, but it is equally important that we pursue integration in all applicable areas.

Outcomes and resources

In this era of accelerating demands for accountability, the best way for psychologists to demonstrate the effectiveness of services is to measure outcomes. Through the 2010 Presidential Task Force on Advancing Practice, we will create an outcomes framework. This effort is focused on conceptualizing a comprehensive and informative framework for outcomes measurement that will include criteria for outcomes measures, data use, data accessibility and how outcomes can be applied in everyday practice. The ultimate goal of this effort is to shape and inform the accountability endeavors of health-care and behavioral health-care organizations, and to do so in ways that better capture the work of psychologist clinicians. Maximizing the impact of this framework can best be achieved by collaborating with other organizations that focus on outcome monitoring, quality care and optimizing performance.

In addition, we are building a resources framework called PsycLink, which will allow practitioners to share clinical information and practice tools. Now at a pilot stage, PsycLink is being built on an interactive wiki platform and the task force is in the process of “seeding” the site with invited materials of direct relevance and immediate practical use for clinicians. The resources will be available in many formats, including webinars, downloadable files and Web links. Over time, APA members will be able to add materials, comment on the utility of resources, post updates, and address common and unusual clinical questions. (If you are interested in participating in the test site, please e-mail Joan Freund.

The task force members are Drs. Karen Zager (chair), Helen E. Coons, Lori Crosby, Ann Doucette, Mary Miller Lewis, Darryl Salvador, Bruce Wampold, Jeffrey Zimmerman. Lynn Bufka and Joan Freund are staff members. I serve ex-officio.

Treatment guidelines

APA has also begun a process for developing treatment guidelines. For years, we did not develop guidelines because we assumed it would be difficult to reach consensus on their content. It’s now clear, however, that if APA does not develop strong guidelines, other organizations will and those guidelines would become the standard.

As directed by APA’s governance, a cross-directorate team of APA’s Practice and Science directorates has been working on recommendations for the structure and policy framework for developing the guidelines. Throughout the process, it’s important that we recognize that a treatment guideline is not a treatment manual, nor is it a consensus agreement. Rather, a guideline:

  • Defines key questions related to clinical practice and identifies possible options and their outcomes.

  • Identifies, summarizes and evaluates the best evidence and most current data.

  • Guides clinical decisions and criteria regarding diagnosis, management and treatment in specific areas of practice.

You will hear more about these projects as they unfold. The results matter to the public, which is profoundly affected by how well we succeed. Each step we make toward better integrating science and practice takes us closer to realizing APA’s mission.