Psychotherapy Bulletin

Psychotherapy Bulletin

2018 President’s Column

Turning Points and Turning 50!

Eight short years ago I wrote my final Psychotherapy Bulletin column as SAP Early Career Domain Representative. In re-reading this piece, I was reminded of my reflections on our various career “crossings,” often over imaginary lines that somehow (at least through the field’s lens) render us objectively more accomplished or even more expert (despite not feeling subjectively different from the day before!). At that time, I was specifically crossing the line from early to mid-career, and trying to accept and embrace all that the transition entailed. Fast-forward to today, and I am back on the SAP Board of Directors, but this time as its President. I suppose as one’s career progresses, it becomes less about crossings, and perhaps more about turning points. Leading an organization like SAP is indeed a personal turning point, as one is entrusted both to serve its mission and to help it evolve. Moreover, the organization itself and our field of psychotherapy have their ever-present turning points; thus, it is fitting that such turns will be the overarching theme of our Bulletin content this year.

Having just returned from our mid-winter board meeting, I am amazed at how many SAP initiatives reflect genuine turning points and relentless attempts to be on the cutting edge of psychotherapy research, practice, training, and professional development. It is clear that this is an exciting time for SAP, and as I noted at our meeting, I accepted the gavel for 2018 with gratitude, humility, and excitement. I am honored to be in this position, as SAP has supported my career both indirectly in terms of its mission, and directly in the form of grants, awards, and a place to call home professionally. As your President, I hope to give back to SAP not only in serving to keep a well-run organizing humming along, but also with several new initiatives related to my Presidential themes. I am also thrilled to do this in the context of a meta-turning point, as this year SAP celebrates it 50th Anniversary!

With our birthday in our background, we have an opportunity both to honor those who have come before, and to begin to shape the next 50 years of psychotherapy. In this spirit, I will give here just a quick note of thanks to Dr. Jeffrey Zimmerman, as the most immediate Past-President to come before, as he has been an inspirational leader of our organization and a personal “Presidential Trio” mentor to me. Also, regarding the short-term future, congratulations to Dr. Nancy Murdock on beginning her term as President-Elect. I know that I will pass the gavel in 2019 into extremely capable hands! And, of course, a huge shout out of thanks to the person who most connects past to present to future, Tracey Martin (our super-human administrator!).

Presidential Themes and Initiatives

My Presidential themes are summarized in our Convention programming call: Establishing and refining personalized mental health care: Promoting disruptive, evidence-informed innovations to psychotherapy training molds and methods. Regarding personalized mental health care, I am referring (broadly) to a movement away from fitting patients into particular therapy molds based on a categorical diagnosis, toward fitting treatments to patients in a personally responsive manner. This can be about fit, attunement to individual needs, responsivity to momentary process, ways of training beyond the faithful application of evidence-based protocols, and so forth. The term ‘disruptive innovation’ comes from the business world, referencing the reframing/reshaping of a typical way of doing business to be more efficient and more accessible. For psychotherapy, this could mean things like boiling treatment down into its most common and effective elements, developing new treatment delivery formats (e.g., Internet, peers), using outcome monitoring data to inform continuous quality improvement, better understanding and harnessing therapist vs. treatment effects, etc. I have invited several Convention presentations that speak to these themes, and how they would reflect disruptive turning points, and other presenters responded to the call on their own accord. Stay tuned for the release of SAP Convention programming, and we hope to see everyone in San Francisco in August!

Outside of Convention, I have listed below just a few initiatives that I will spearhead that relate to the above themes directly or indirectly, and that support SAP’s mission in general.

  • My team conducted an original meta-analysis on the association between patient-perceived credibility of therapist/treatment and outcome for the forthcoming book, Psychotherapy Relationships That Work (3rd); I had already signed on to update our meta-analysis on the patient outcome expectation-outcome link, but agreed to conduct the second meta-analysis as a Presidential initiative.
  • I have organized a Presidential symposium for SAP programming at APA Convention, with three presentations (to be delivered by Drs. Jesse Owen, Zac Imel, and me) and expert discussion (by Dr. Nancy Murdock) related to my multilayered Presidential theme.
  • I will create a web- or newsletter-based ‘brown bag’ series on psychotherapy science translation/dissemination, including a safe place to tout disruptive innovations that extend the reach of psychosocial services (consistent with our “turning points” theme).
  • I will create a task force on translating cutting edge research findings to create newer psychotherapy training molds, including member’s only web content, especially for continuing education purposes.
  • I have created two mid-career awards, one centered on scientific contributions and one centered on practice contributions; my reasoning is that although mid-career often gets overlooked in the career arc (in terms of awards and honors), it is perhaps a time when acknowledgement is most needed/appreciated to reinforce good work, combat burnout, etc.
  • I have created two new SAP poster awards to be given annually at Convention.
  • I will represent SAP at the May 2018 meeting of the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI) in order to raise awareness of SAP and to increase the active connection between these two organizations who share many overlapping missions and philosophies for advancing psychotherapy.
  • I will represent SAP at the Penn State Conference on Psychotherapy, for which its current “think tank” topic and book project centers on psychotherapy training.

Spotlighting Current Board Initiatives

To borrow Jeff Zimmerman’s words from last year, “So much is happening in the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy!” Below I have chosen to spotlight just a few initiatives that have been front and center during the past year or so since I have re-joined the Board. As there are many more, please do not read into any omissions. The fact that I can only spotlight a few here underscores how vibrant our Society is, and how tirelessly our Board members and general members work to advance psychotherapy. Also note that I simply use the term “we” to indicate SAP enterprises. As there is such a collaborative spirit among our Board members, it would be too challenging to list all of the associated names behind our creativities.

  • We continue, and plan to extend, our successful partnership with Oriental Insight, and we remain devoted to the internationalization of SAP.
  • We are producing companion videos to the chapters in the aforementioned book, Psychotherapy Relationships That Work (3rd); these videos, which will be cross-listed on our website and the Oxford University Press website, will be a series of interviews with contributing authors discussing the training implications of their original meta-analyses on factors that contribute to psychotherapy improvement.
  • We are developing a routine outcome measure that represents psychotherapy outcomes more dimensionally and consistent with the current funding climate.
  • We continue to engage in several projects to help bring psychotherapy to the underserved community.
  • We are interviewing private practitioners to better understand their unique needs and ways in which SAP can be responsive.
  • We continue to cultivate respect for diversity, and our Board recently completed our mandated training, which centered on ally building.
  • We are developing an early career psychologist (ECP)-specific listserv, as well as ECP-relevant web content.
  • We will soon roll out a newly developed advocacy and mentoring program for diversity.
  • We have developed a workgroup to explore avenues for childcare at SAP meetings, Convention, etc.
  • We have developed and advertised two new student awards, the Student Excellence in Practice Award and the Student Excellence in Teaching/Mentorship Award.
  • We are pursuing a bylaw change to allow undergraduate students in psychology to be affiliate members of SAP.
  • We continue to disseminate cutting-edge empirical, conceptual, and integrative material via our print journal, Psychotherapy, and our online outlets—the Psychotherapy Bulletin, our newly remodeled (and beautiful!) website, our newsletter, and our listserv.
  • Psychotherapy will release two special issues this year: (1) Cultural Processes in Psychotherapy (organized by Associate Editor, Jesse Owen); and (2) Group Psychotherapy: Using Member Feedback to Enhance Clinical Practice (organized by Associate Editor, Cheri Marmarosh).
  • Psychotherapy has a call for another special series, International Perspectives on Psychotherapy Training and Practice, so please consider submitting your relevant work!

50th Anniversary Activities

We have several initiatives planned for commemorating our 50th anniversary:

  • We have created a one-time request for proposals for the 2018 Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy 50th Anniversary Research Grant, which will provide $30,000 toward the advancement of research on psychotherapy process and/or outcome that will help shape the field for the next 50 years.
  • Our anniversary has prompted us to give our SAP logo a facelift, and I have convened a workgroup to this end.
  • We have convened a workgroup to plan special events, especially at convention (e.g., social hour, lunch with the masters, award ceremony), to celebrate our birthday. At a minimum, there will be cake! Stayed tuned, though, for things beyond sugar.

Final Comments (for now …)

To our Board members, thank you, again, for all that you do for SAP! To all SAP members, thank you, again, for entrusting me to lead our organization this year. We have many wonderful mission-relevant initiatives, programs, and awards, both old and new, of which we should be proud, and I am committed to helping SAP reach its goals for this year and beyond. Let’s make some important turns together.

Dr. Michael J. Constantino received his BA in Psychology from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, and his MS and PhD from the Pennsylvania State University. He completed a predoctoral clinical internship at SUNY Upstate Medical University, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Stanford University Medical Center. He then joined the Clinical Psychology faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), where is a Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS). At UMass, he directs the Psychotherapy Research Lab, teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on psychotherapy, supervises clinicians-in-training, and is the PBS Graduate Program Director. Among other professional positions, Dr. Constantino is Past- President of the North American Society for Psychotherapy Research and APA Division 29 (Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy). Dr. Constantino’s professional and research interests center on patient, therapist, and dyadic characteristics/processes influencing psychosocial treatments; pantheoretical principles of clinical change (i.e., common factors); and measurement-based care.President of the North American Society for Psychotherapy Research, and current President of APA Division 29 (Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy). Dr. Constantino’s professional and research interests center on patient, therapist, and dyadic characteristics/processes influencing psychosocial treatments; pantheoretical principles of clinical change (i.e., common factors); and measurement-based care.

Cite This Article

Constantino, M. (2018). 2018 president’s column: Turning points and turning 50! Psychotherapy Bulletin, 53(1).



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