Perspective on Practice

In 1984, APA’s first “leadership conference/workshop” hosted 57 attendees. This month, more than 500 of your psychology leaders from the United States and Canada are gathering in Washington, D.C., for four days of networking and training in leadership and advocacy at our 27th annual State Leadership Conference. Sponsored by the APA Practice Directorate and Practice Organization, the SLC culminates in a beautiful sight: a wave of hundreds of psychologists on Capitol Hill, delivering professional psychology’s messages to policy-makers.

But the Hill event is not the end of the story, it is just the beginning. While the conference closes with psychologists attending more than 300 meetings with members of Congress and their staffs, the work of SLC is just getting started. That’s because when these psychologists return to their home states, they take with them tools and training, as well as the seeds of crucial connections made with their representatives in Congress. They build on these relationships all year, giving the Practice Organization the foothold we need to ensure forward momentum for psychology’s priorities, as well as strong state, provincial and territorial psychological associations (SPTAs).

What APA and the SPTAs can achieve together is greater than what the states can do individually or what we can accomplish alone in Washington. SLC is a major part of our grassroots advocacy and that has resulted in:

  • Passage of full mental health parity at the federal level and in many state legislatures.

  • Blockage of a controversial insurance deregulation bill that would have undermined critical state consumer protection, minimum benefits and mental health parity law.

  • Blockage of more than six years of sustainable growth rate cuts to Medicare.

  • Multiple extensions of a 5 percent payment boost for Medicare psychotherapy services.

  • Authorization of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act, a federal grant program to help states and localities improve mental health services delivery for nonviolent offenders and reduce the criminalization of people with mental health disorders.

  • Passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, which provides many of the health records privacy and security provisions we’ve sought on behalf of psychologists and their patients.

Recognizing the power of this partnership isn’t new. In 1985 — just the second year of the conference’s existence — SLC attendees adopted a resolution to grant resources to the state affiliates because APA members realized that the state-level legislative and judicial processes had a significant effect on the profession of psychology. They also appreciated that the federal legislative process was constituent-driven, making the states critical to an effective federal advocacy strategy.

Thanks to this wisdom, plus a lot of enthusiasm and hard work, the SLC has only grown for the better. In addition to legislative advocacy, its focus has been expanded to include legal and regulatory, public education and marketplace initiatives. One of the most successful projects of the last category has been the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, which educates employers about the link between employee well-being and organizational performance and provides resources to help them create healthy, high-performing organizations.

In past years, conference themes have included “Empowering Psychologists,” “Psychology on the Front Line” and “With Challenge Comes Opportunity.”

This year’s conference theme is “The Power of Advocacy.” I invite each of you to personally commit to professional psychology’s advocacy efforts. There is power in numbers. As always, please feel free to contact me by e-mail with your comments and suggestions.