President's Column

With nearly 13,000 attendees and more than 1,350 sessions, business meetings and social events, APA’s 2010 Annual Convention was once again by far the world’s largest psychology meeting. This special issue of the APA Monitor on Psychology offers just a glimpse of the tremendously diverse and substantial programming the convention offered for psychologists in every realm.

My goal as APA president was to make this year’s convention a family-friendly event — and it was! In part, that was due to the terrific venue in San Diego, but it was also due to our more family-centered programming. Among the most popular sessions was a talk by our “Bring the Family” speaker, former APA President Diane F. Halpern, PhD, who spoke on “The Juggling Act: Balancing Work and Family.” As you’ll see in Psychologists seek better work-life balance, a new APA survey has found that trying to achieve that work-life balance is the top stressor for psychologists. The impact of marriage and children was also the major theme of keynote speaker Daniel Gilbert, PhD, whose research suggests that while many of us believe family will bring us happiness, that isn’t always the case.

Speaking of marriage, this year’s programs included a wealth of sessions on marriage equity, offered just days after a federal judge struck down the California’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. At several research-based sessions, psychologists discussed the findings that suggest marriage equity will lessen stigma and ease stress among gay and lesbian couples. It was gratifying to hear that APA’s efforts to support marriage equality were praised by the leader of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, which entertained attendees at a free convention event. During the performance, he said the chorus and the San Diego LGBT community appreciated APA’s work. “We watch these things and thank you,” he said.

Also in the family vein, this year’s convention offered programs focused on the increasing burden put on family members who care for ailing or disabled loved ones. Each year, an estimated 67 million Americans serve as unpaid family caregivers — and that number does not include the growing number of children who must step in to provide care, often at risk to their own mental health. To help address this growing problem, my APA Presidential Task Force on Caregivers is developing a Web-based toolkit for psychologists that will be released early next year.

The importance of caregiving and mental health was also underscored in comments by former first lady Rosalynn Carter, whose mental health advocacy began in the 1960s (see First lady of mental health). It was my honor to present to her an APA Presidential Citation in recognition of her vast work in the area, which includes her efforts to secure mental health parity and her leadership at the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving at Georgia Southwestern State University.

Family was also central to our preconvention HIV Community Day Conference, on Aug. 11. The event brought together psychologists, clergy and physicians to discuss ways of mobilizing families to curb the virus’s spread. To me, the event symbolized the best of psychology by showing how the practical application of psychological science can benefit community health. (See A family-based approach to curbing AIDS.)

A day later, I also had the pleasure of speaking as part of “Psychology Navy Day” at the San Diego Naval Medical Center, where senior staff and I spoke to Navy psychologists about APA’s efforts to promote the health and well-being of our service members, veterans and their families.

These are just some of the topics covered in this Monitor special issue. I’m happy to say that reports on these convention events and many, many others have been broadcast to the public through our new Facebook pages and our convention blog on APA’s website. In addition, APA’s work with the media led to more than 200 newspaper and magazine articles and broadcast reports on psychology-related topics presented at convention. As the Monitor and other reports show, psychology and APA are stronger and more vibrant than ever.