It is November, and like the nation, we are making transitions in governance. Unlike the nation, ours is proceeding smoothly and without drama. In January Dr. Jeff Zimmerman will assume the Presidency, Dr. Michael Constantino will become President-elect, and I will move to Past-president. Dr. Rod Goodyear will be retiring from the Executive Committee but will continue his work with the International Domain. All of us are working together to insure that current initiatives continue unabated and new ones succeed. In Dr. Zimmerman you will find a president well prepared to lead judiciously, collaboratively, and with great respect for his team and, most of all, for you—our members. The ease of the transition testifies to the number of capable leaders committed to promoting the interests of the Society.
In an earlier column I reported on the many changes that have been taking place in APA and how they affect our Society. In this column I want to report the several positive changes we have implemented since January.
The National Elections and Psychotherapy
But before I do, I would like to exercise a presidential prerogative to offer some remarks on the psychological fallout from the national elections and the changes they are certain to bring. I do so, not to comment on the politics of the election or to be preemptive but to note the implications for us as psychologists and psychotherapists and for the clients and public we serve (for more on that topic, please see this issue’s “Clinical Notes With Dr. J”). Even before the election the APA issued survey results, picked up by more than 2,500 media outlets, showing high levels of anxiety in more than 50% of the respondents. It affected all sides of the political divide. And what a divide it has exposed! If my practice in Chicago is like yours, then the depth and scope of the impact of the election are showing up in many of your clients. Anticipating the strains families and friends could experience during the holidays, the APA publicized suggestions for coping with divisions that might surface around dinner tables (for details, visit http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2016/10/presidential-election-stress.aspx).
Apart from being prepared to treat the post-election anxieties clients might be experiencing individually, it makes sense for us to be especially mindful of the implications of the cultural differences that the nation must now face. At the very least we are recognizing the extent to which Americans are feeling threatened and left out if not pushed aside by other Americans. Angry, too. Anger, I believe, springs from caring deeply; if I did not care, I would not be angry. How we will manage to avoid bitter conflict and the urge to blame and punish depends on how well we can mobilize that anger for constructive engagement. Constructive engagement, in turn, will depend on the extent to which we can listen with compassion to the narratives of each other. For those of us who have done couples or divorce counseling, this is familiar territory. And yet in a climate of extremes, it is too easy to commit the sins we condemn in others.
What is the point of these comments? Briefly, it is to suggest that it is for us to change what we can within our respective spheres of influence. We as mental health providers know how to meet the distress of persons in our offices. Most often it involves listening with an open ear. But here I am encouraging us to remain attuned and responsive to what the election is telling us about the frustrated dreams now so starkly before us. From years of diversity trainings, I have learned how tough it is to change entrenched attitudes and beliefs. And yet I have lived long enough to see how small changes add up to big ones. Change is the problem and change is the answer.
A Year of Change
If you read my previous columns, you will already know the more significant changes the Society has made in 2016. Here is a brief summary of those changes at year’s end.
- Establishment of a new Domain for International Affairs. The membership approved a bylaws change to create a domain to expand our growing commitment to collaborate with international partners and together to promote psychotherapy research and practice, electing Dr. Fred Leong as the Domain’s first Representative. Dr. Leong set up the Committee for International Affairs with Dr. Changming Duan as its first chair.
- Signing a partnership with Oriental Insight. Under the leadership of Past-president Rod Goodyear, Dr. Changming Duan, and Dr. Fred Leong, the Society signed an agreement with Oriental Insight (OI), a respected psychological organization in China, to collaborate in the exchange of resources. Members of OI plan to join the Society as Affiliate Members. Note: On our website is a video of the signing ceremony recorder and edited by FIL Sibley of FSP Media (http://societyforpsychotherapy.org/new-partner-oriental-insight-organization-chinese-psychologists/).
- Co-sponsoring an Oriental Insight conference in Wuhan, China, in April 2017. Several of the Society’s leadership will be presenting on topics ranging from supervision and ethics to LGBT relationships and marriage and divorce.
- Collaborated with the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI). Continuing its long and productive relationship with SEPI, the Society again sponsored its CE program. Many of our Board members and researchers offered sessions at the conference held in Dublin, Ireland.
- Co-sponsored the CE program for the North American Society for Psychotherapy Research (NASPR) Conference in Berkeley, CA.
- Conducted the first Domain Day. The Domain Day offered the first daylong orientation for new and current Board members prior to the semi-annual business meeting. It aimed to develop more productive working relationships among our several Domains and review the agenda for the coming year. It was a success, and the Board voted to institutionalize the initiative. Under Dr. Jeff Zimmerman’s leadership it will be dubbed Fast Start.
- Increased Diversity grant funding from $2000 to $5000 in 2017.
- Provided funding to improve our website’s user interface. This promises to make navigating the website easier and more intuitive.
- Digitizing the Psychotherapy Bulletin. The Board voted in September to move the Psychotherapy Bulletin to a digital-exclusive format in July. Note: There will be several announcements notifying members of the change and the process for the transition. These announcements will also provide details on how to access the Bulletin online.
- Random “Thank you!” calls to members. I began making random calls as President-elect to members just to say thank you for your loyalty and support of the Division. This year Board members have joined me in making those calls. It is important to us all that you know how much we value you and your voice.
These are but the highlights of a year of change and growth. There are more to come in 2017.
Getting to Know Your Board
Each column I have been introducing two members of the Board whom you should know. In this last column I want to let you know more about Susan Woodhouse, PhD, and Barbara Thompson, PhD.
Susan Woodhouse, PhD.
Dr. Woodhouse is the Domain Representative for Science and Scholarship. She is also an Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Lehigh University, interested in both basic and applied research that focuses how best to assess and support parenting strengths in diverse, low-income, underserved families with young children—including research on the psychotherapy relationship and process of psychotherapy with parents. She has received a $2.3 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study links between parenting and later infant outcomes, including infant attachment security, physiological indicators of infant emotion regulation and stress reactivity, as well as infant mental health in low-income families.
One important contribution Dr. Woodhouse is making to the Division is collaborating with other Board Members on a project focused on models for making psychotherapy more accessible to underserved people. Barbara Thompson, PhD. Dr. Thompson is the Domain Representative for Psychotherapy Practice. She is in her second 3-year term as the Domain Representative for Professional Practice and is an adjunct professor at Lehigh University and Loyola Marymount Los Angeles teaching online masters level counseling students and providing supervision to graduate students. Dr. Thompson maintains a full-time solo practice in Maryland working with adults and couples. As much as her practice demands allow, she participates in qualitative research aimed at understanding difficult to measure aspects of psychotherapy, such as Therapist Compassion.
A Final Note
I wish I could communicate effectively what it is like to have presided over the Society this year. If I could do it well enough, I might just persuade you to come on board with us. Then you too would understand why I have the greatest respect and appreciation for my colleagues in the Society. My thanks to you and to them!