December 17, 2009

Texas Psychologist Melba J. T. Vasquez Elected 2011 President of American Psychological Association

vasquez-president-2011WASHINGTON—Melba J. T. Vasquez, PhD, an independent practitioner in Austin, Texas, has been elected 2011 president of the American Psychological Association. 

As a leader in her field, Vasquez has focused on raising the visibility and participation of women and ethnic minorities in psychology, developing feminist and culturally competent services for women and minorities and advancing scholarship and ethics within the field.

“I am incredibly honored to have been chosen to serve in the role of APA president,” said Vasquez. “Our association plays a central role in presenting psychology as the science of behavior. I will promote the benefits of psychological science to daily living and to helping with some of society’s challenges.”

In her psychotherapy practice, Vasquez treats clients from different cultures, consults and trains for organizations and provides forensic expertise. Among scholarly achievements, Vasquez is author or co-author of several book chapters and journal articles on ethics, multiculturalism, psychotherapy and the psychology of women.

Throughout her career, Vasquez has been integral in implementing ethical responsibility standards for psychologists. As a member of APA’s Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility for Psychologists (later re-named the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest), she helped spur APA to cancel its investments in South Africa during apartheid and raised awareness about HIV/AIDS.

She has almost three decades of experience in APA governance, including service on the Ethics Committee, the Board of Professional Affairs, the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice and on the Committee of Women in Psychology. She also co-founded two divisions, the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues and Trauma Psychology. Vasquez has received many awards from APA divisions and state psychological associations, including the 2004 James M. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award from APA’s Minority Fellowship Program.

As APA’s first Latina president, Vasquez plans to make inroads with minority groups that are traditionally underserved by psychology. “Strategies to promote coping and resilience for members of those groups are important to communicate to the public,” she said. She also hopes to promote opportunities for students and early career professionals by implementing many of the recommendations from APA’s 2009 Practice Summit, and through dissemination of the APA Workforce Analysis findings.

As president, Vasquez says she will be eager to focus on making mental health parity a reality. “All members of our society should have access to  affordable health care. I will support efforts to educate consumers about the role psychology plays in health and wellness.”

Vasquez, who is currently on APA’s Board of Directors, has served as consulting editor to Professional Psychology: Research and Practice and Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, both published by APA. She has been a member or chair of seven APA task forces and the president of two divisions, the Society of Counseling Psychology and the Society for the Psychology of Women. She is also an APA fellow, a diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology and a distinguished member of the National Academies of Practice.  She is a past president of the Texas Psychological Association.

Vasquez earned her doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Texas, Austin. Before becoming a psychologist, Vasquez taught middle school English and political science. She is a native of San Marcos, Texas, and earned her undergraduate degree from Texas State University in San Marcos.   

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.