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Psychological practice in the 21st century requires that we change our traditional ways of practice and create a vision to take advantage of the new possibilities in society. In response to the changing practice environment James H. Bray, Ph.D., created the Future of Psychology Practice presidential initiative. Dr. Bray convened the Presidential Task Force on the Future of Psychology Practice in 2008 to address practitioners’ needs and create a new vision for the future of psychology practice. Task Force members, which began meeting in July 2008, represented a diversity of practice areas, APA divisions and governance groups.

During its meetings, the Task Force discussed the broad focus of the Task Force and the need to be mindful of the expectations of the practice community related to its work. Additional topics discussed during the July 2008 meeting included the need to formulate recommendations on policies related to practice for consideration by the APA Council of Representatives, and recommendations that could inform the strategic plan of the APA Practice Directorate and APA Practice Organization (APAPO).

Consistent with the APA strategic plan, Task Force members agreed that a major focus of its work was to create a vision for the future of psychology practice. The Task Force also hoped to identify new opportunities and possibilities to assist practitioners in creating new models of practice for today and the future.

The goals of the Task Force centered on identifying:

  • Opportunities for future practice, based on an emerging science, to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse public.
  • Strategies and tactics to effectively address these opportunities.
  • Sustainable partnerships to implement new opportunities for practice and to develop a common public policy agenda.

To achieve its goals, the Task Force planned and convened the Presidential Summit on the Future of Psychology Practice: Collaborating for Change.

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Future opportunities for practice

The Task Force recognized that there are boundless opportunities for the practice and application of psychological science. However, it identified two future directions that hold significant promise:

  • Integrated health care
  • Applications of psychology in a range of industrial/organizational (I-O) settings

Both of these build on existing endeavors, but the Task Force adds a new commitment and focus to these efforts. The practice of psychology has a multiyear history of evolving toward an identity as a health care profession. The Task Force supports this trend and notes it is time to make a clear commitment to our identity as a health care profession as differentiated from solely a mental health profession.

The Task Force also recommends greater articulation of historical opportunities in applying psychological knowledge to fields as diverse as performance enhancement, public safety, family law, forensics, and human resource management. The Task Force recommends a strong commitment to growth areas, such as emerging treatments for serious mental illness, geropsychology, workplace safety, and media psychology. It has been exciting to learn of the many effective, innovative ways psychologists are practicing in these areas. The Task Force supports and recommends that these be given more recognition and support.

Presidential summit

To achieve its goals, the Task Force planned and convened the Presidential Summit on the Future of Psychology Practice: Collaborating for Change in San Antonio, TX, on May 14-17, 2009. The purpose of the Summit was to engage participants in an agenda-setting meeting that would inform the work of the APA and the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) to meet the needs of practitioners and the future of psychology practice.

The Task Force felt that a Summit would coincide well with the recent work done by the APA Council of Representatives on vision and mission statements for the organization (See Appendix E).

In addition, the Task Force recognized that a central consideration for the Summit was the need to plan for a future of psychology practice that will meet the needs of an increasingly culturally and demographically diverse society.

Lastly, the Task Force envisioned a Summit that could provide a forum by which leaders in the practice of psychology would join forces to articulate a series of recommendations grounded in the biopsychosocial model and reflecting a commitment to science and its application to practice.

Key drivers of change

Participants in the Summit reflected on the dynamic forces impacting the profession and moving psychologists from traditional first curve ways of practice to new and innovative second curve practices. The Summit, with its focus on the dynamic second curve, was designed to be a nodal event for the profession, much like what the Boulder and Vail conferences did for psychology education over the past 60 years.

The Task Force identified the following key drivers of change currently impacting the profession: economic challenges, new scientific knowledge, increasing global awareness, changes in healthcare systems, changing demographics, need for accountability measures, impact of technology, and the need to re-envision education and training.

In making its recommendations, the Task Force included initiatives that:

  • Address the need for appropriate compensation and reimbursement.
  • Advance the capacity to demonstrate accountability.
  • Encourage practice in integrated and primary care settings.
  • Emphasize and prioritize the roles of culture and diversity in the practice of psychology.
  • Address barriers to practice across state lines and national borders.
  • Enhance the public’s understanding of psychology and the practice of psychology.
  • Assist members in the use of technology.
  • Broaden the applications of psychological knowledge in organizational settings.
  • Support the re-envisioning of education and training.

The Task Force synthesized the ideas and recommendations of the Summit participants, all of whom were invited leaders in the practice of psychology, and leaders from other professions considered critical stakeholders and potential partners to the practice of psychology. While all recommendations are listed in this final report, the Task Force has highlighted recommendations deemed as priorities for the APA and the APAPO. The Task Force noted where recommendations coincided with the APA and APAPO strategic goals and objectives (See Appendix E and F of the full PDF report).

Economic Viability

Economic viability is essential to maintain and grow as a profession (APA Strategic Goal #2; APAPO Strategic Goal #1).

  • Ensure the inclusion of psychologists in the physician definition of Medicare.
  • Advocate with government entities, employers, and insurers for adequate and appropriate reimbursement for services and competitive salaries.
  • Collaborate with other organizations to offer business of practice learning opportunities to ensure culturally competent practitioners who are able to meet marketplace expectations and needs.

Accountability Measures

Psychologists must demonstrate accountability for work performed.

  • Advance an expedited APA governance process for the development of treatment guidelines.
  • Develop a framework for the collection and use of outcome measures for psychological services.
  • Create practice guidelines that reflect the measurement of outcomes related to performance (I-O).

Integrated and Primary Care

Psychological practice in the 21st century requires that psychologists consider changes in traditional ways of practice and take advantage of the new possibilities for expanding practice in the future (APA Strategic Goal #2; APAPO Strategic Goal #3).

  • Develop innovative training opportunities for multi-disciplinary training to assist psychologists to work in integrated, primary and collaborative care settings, plus patient-centered healthcare home (also known as the medical home or health home).
  • Create innovative tools that allow psychologists access to the research bases of health promotion, disease prevention, and the management of chronic diseases.

Mobility and Licensure Barriers

Provide psychologists the ability to practice and provide services across state lines and national borders.

  • Partner with the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) to reduce barriers for cross jurisdictional practice.
  • Support State, Provincial, or Territorial Psychological Associations’ (SPTAs), and other key stakeholders (e.g., National Register) advocacy efforts to eliminate mobility and licensure barriers.
  • Develop resources to support applied psychologists who want to be licensed, such as I-O psychologists.

Public Education and Branding

Increase and enhance the public’s interest and understanding of psychology and psychological practice (APA Strategic Goal #2, 3; APAPO Strategic Goal #2).

  • Develop an operational definition of “psychology” and “psychologist” that can be used in public education and branding campaigns.
  • Provide sufficient funding for APA public education campaigns to reach significant publics.
  • Collaborate with other health care organizations on public education campaigns that increase and enhance the public’s understanding of health promotion and the health care professions.

Use of Technology

Train psychologists to use and integrate technologies to provide quality services (APA Strategic Goal #2, 3; APAPO Strategic Goal #3).

  • Advocate for appropriate protections in legislation related to the use of technology (i.e., Electronic Health Records).
  • Assist members to transition to the use of electronic health records.
  • Collaborate with technology companies or organizations to provide web-based learning opportunities on the use of technology for networking and service delivery.

Education, Training and Lifelong Learning Opportunities

Re-envision education and training (APA Strategic Goal #2, 3; APAPO Strategic Goal #2, 3).

  • Support and encourage the collaboration of psychology education and training councils on re-envisioning education and training that is competency-based and meets marketplace needs.
  • Support and develop continuing education courses that reflect business of practice issues, leadership development, an understanding of cultural diversity, social and public policy.
  • Seek parity for the education and training of professional psychologists in federal training funds.
  • Integrate into psychology education and training an understanding of the key challenges impacting the profession, such as, the need for multi-cultural competence, accountability measures, new scientific knowledge, and changes in healthcare systems.
Task force members

James H. Bray, PhD, APA President, Chair
Carol Goodheart, EdD, APA President-elect, Co-chair
Margaret Heldring, PhD, Co-chair
Joan Brannick, PhD
Robert Gresen, PhD
Gary Hawley, PsyD
Tammy Hughes, PhD
Jennifer Kelly, PhD
Jana Martin, PhD
Susan McDaniel, PhD
Thomas McNeese, MEd, MA
Emil Rodolfa, PhD
Sandra Shullman, PhD
William Strickland, PhD

APA Practice Directorate Staff
Katherine Nordal, PhD
Randy Phelps, PhD
Joan Freund
Beth Nichols-Howarth

APA Education Directorate Staff
Cynthia Belar, PhD