Family values: Increasing the visibility and influence of Div. 43

The division president addresses increasing the division’s visibility and influence in APA and beyond.

By Erika Lawrence, PhD

Couple and family psychology is an identity we all share, whether as researchers, educators, practitioners, public policy advocates or all of the above. Family psychology is relevant to clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, school psychologists, child clinical and pediatric psychologists, health psychologists, multicultural psychologists, and those who work to end family violence. As your president, my primary goal is to highlight the importance and centrality of couple and family psychology to the larger field of psychology.

Our membership is too large, too passionate and too productive not to play a larger and more important role in APA. We should be at the table when it comes to lobbying for community resources, educating funding agencies about the importance of families in research and counseling services, and educating APA itself about the central role of family psychology in everything APA values.

Fortunately, the centrality of couple and family psychology to psychology as a whole is becoming increasingly valued in APA. Last year, one of past president Donald Bersoff’s three initiatives highlighted the importance of the family:

“…ensure that psychologists are in the forefront in providing services to military personnel, veterans and their families…”

Additionally, our current APA President, Nadine Kaslow, is a family psychologist and a past president of our division. One of her three initiatives is as follows:

“... a task force will be formed to evaluate and communicate the data demonstrating the extent to which psychologists in PCMHs are ‘value added’ vis-à-vis enhancing patient and family behavioral and physical health outcomes, enhancing patient and family satisfaction with care…”       

Moreover, one of the co-chairs of this task force is Anne Kazak, a family psychologist and former editor of the Journal of Family Psychology.

As your president, I am capitalizing on this shift toward recognizing the centrality of family psychology by increasing our visibility and influence both within and outside of APA. In this column, I introduce some of the efforts I am undertaking to achieve this goal.  

Increase our Efforts on Key Boards and Committees

One way to increase our visibility is to place our highly respected and accomplished members on key APA committees and help them win prestigious awards outside of those awarded within our division. I am establishing a nominations committee who will generate a list of standing committees and awards, identify potential nominees, and begin preparing materials in advance. Then, when the calls for nominations are released with short deadlines, we will be ready with our nominations.

Establish Sustainable Working Relationships with Members of Key Divisions and Organizations

Our interests overlap tremendously with those of several other APA divisions as well as with organizations outside of APA (e.g., ABCT couples SIG, AAMFT, AFTA, IARR). I am in the process of pairing division members with other divisions or organizations to serve as liaisons and help us build bridges with our colleagues. Efforts will start out small, such as by placing announcements about upcoming events and efforts in each other’s newsletters, inviting them to participate in our events throughout the year, and holding social gatherings at non-APA conferences.

Similarly, we should be working and communicating regularly with members of key APA boards and committees such as the Board of Professional Affairs, the Board of Educational Affairs, the Board of Scientific Affairs, the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI) and the Committee on Children Youth and Families (CYF). Ultimately, our goal should be to have couple and family psychologists serving on these committees. In the short term, we should be working closely with Committees and Boards such as BAPPI and CYF to increase funding for research and for causes about which we are passionate.

Sharing our Knowledge Year-Round

We have leading experts in the field in our division and could be sharing our knowledge more regularly. Ruth Morehouse’s case consultation series last year was a great example of how we can reach out to others. Moreover, we typically try to share our knowledge during the convention. This is valuable, but there are many young couple and family psychologists who do not attend the convention. The board members and I are establishing a quarterly webinar series that we will advertise across divisions and across organizations. My hope is that these webinars can be offered for free to division members and, ultimately, provide free CE credits to members. Potential topics include: statistical approaches specific to analyzing couple and family data, funding options for couple and family research, how to write a specific aims page of a grant application, workshops on specific types of empirically supported couple and family interventions, how to give a great job talk, how to write a research statement, case consultations, and how to become board certified as a couple and family psychologist.

These are just a few of the changes taking place within our division. As your president, I am eager to get to know you and work with you to communicate the importance and centrality of couple and family psychology to the broader discipline of psychology. Let us ensure that our collective voice is heard.