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PsychologistsLEAD: Did you miss the Let’s Talk Meeting on Applied Psychology (May 31, 2019)?



My Let’s Talk Series is for me to listen, learn and co-create an agenda for change as I run for APA president. A rich discussion emerged about important issues for Applied Psychology toward an agenda for change.

General Applied Psychology has long been overlooked in psychology. Hugo Munsterberg published the book Psychology: General and Applied as early as 1923. He was a pioneer—feeling strongly that psychologists have a responsibility to translate psychological knowledge to use for real world applications.

Psychologists have increasingly applied their practice to diverse areas, including business and industry, design and engineering, education, law, natural and built environments, sports, technology, consulting and organizational development—reflecting the breadth and relevance of psychology to all aspects of our lives and society today. Applied psychologists have expanded exponentially as practitioners although our profession has generally defined practice as limited to clinical, counseling, and school.

Expanding general applied psychology

APA’s strategic priorities and new Office of Applied Psychology reflects a renewed attention. General applied psychology will be an arena to prepare psychologists for the future and to use psychology to impact societal issues. While our teaching and preparation of students for careers in psychology have historically emphasized research and clinical practice, we now have the opportunity to expand careers in psychology at all levels of training include the doctoral, masters and bachelors degrees. To do this, we must recognize the complexity in psychology and define scope and levels of training for different areas of practice.

Current APA initiatives related to general applied psychology include a new Healthy Workplace, Technology, Mind, and Behavior journal, and the first Technology, Mind & Society conference in 2018. It is a start toward examining how we can use technology to revolutionize practice and provide new tools for general applied practice. The new APA Advocacy structure intended to advocate for all of psychology must also advocate for general applied psychology and how psychology can be applied to address pressing social issues, e.g., violence, terrorism, climate change, immigration.

What else we should be doing?

A major concern was how psychology and APA defines our brand. Psychology has historically been defined as health care or clinical practice, but it is broader than that. Not only does psychology include its science roots, but it also is a key influencer in many areas of daily life and society. Psychology is not a single identity; it is multidimensional. It includes our understanding and application of human factors, organizational processes, and translational research across a variety of settings in society. APA needs to brand this as what psychology is.

Another major concern is how we must recognize systemic and contextual factors that are important to effective and culturally competent practice. From a community perspective, many do not seek or want the traditionally defined modes of service. There is currently an overemphasis on clinical practice as confined to psychotherapy in an office. Many are seeking greater relevance and competence from psychologists who can be integrative and multicultural in their approach and methods.

Both concerns reflect a need for a shift in mindset. It calls for reexamining training curricula in psychology to include organizational processes, systemic issues, and consultation methods. It is about practice in context. APA needs to take leadership to “put a new face on psychology.” A place to start might be through convening what I call an Integrative Leadership Forum to bring together diverse perspectives to define our brand. and how we can promote its growth. We need to take leadership using an inclusive process to promote the growth of psychology that, in turn, will promote employment and career growth in psychology.

Prioritizing General Applied Practice within APA

Another major concern was how to prioritize general applied practice within APA. This is not to diminish the priorities of other constituencies in psychology, but to expand how we view psychology practice beyond the confines of a psychotherapy office. We need to define and address advocacy for this “new” area of General Applied Psychology. We need to identify and define new career paths for BA, MA and PhD/PsyD levels of training. We can start by recognizing the schisms within APA which create silos and work to build bridges across constituents—recognizing that we are interconnected amidst our diverse international and intercultural perspectives.

Convening an Integrative Leadership Forum on new career paths in psychology would be timely and relevant. We need to examine the usefulness of accreditation and licensure because many organizational psychologists see it as restrictive to innovation, research, and organizations. Many feel they are competing with consultants who are not psychologists, and want the freedom to experiment, celebrate diversity, and expand choices in how psychology is to be practice. The existence of educational standards can be used as a guide to ensure quality and competency. Much of the work being done by organizational psychologists is about employee engagement, team building, employee surveys which is not viewed as endangering the public.

Lastly, an attention to applied psychology can address how to prepare psychologists to work across domains, and address international mobility and retraining. We need to find ways to broaden our perspectives internationally to increase the pool of providers for underserved populations. For example, we need more Spanish speaking providers, but don’t recognize the credentials of foreign trained psychologists. This may mean for us to “unlearn” what we define as gold standards to reexamine how we may be excluding good talent and competent skills.

I hope to incorporate these issues into my agenda as I run for APA president. PsychologistsLEAD: Let’s LEAD together with psychologists as Leaders to Empower, Advocate, and make a Difference https://www.jeanlauchinforapapresident.com/

Jean Lau Chin for APA president—an experienced Leader as Practitioner-Consultant-Researcher-Academic-Educator; experienced in APA governance as past Council Leadership Team Chair (to facilitate policy development on APA council), and president of three APA divisions (International, Women, and Ethnic Minorities).


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