Psychotherapy Bulletin

Psychotherapy Bulletin

Change Is the Problem and Change Is the Solution

In my last column I reported some of the changes that our Society has made in recent years to adapt and to improve. I mentioned, too, that the winds of change are strong in APA these days. In this column I want to tell you what some of those changes are. Some of these changes affect us directly and others indirectly. For some change will be the problem; for others change will be the solution. But all agree that change is necessary for a viable APA future.

Changes to Our Bylaws

First, I want to announce an important change to our Society: We have a new Domain for International Affairs! The Bylaw to establish it passed. This realizes the vision of a number of our former and current Board members. In particular, I want to thank Drs. Marvin Goldfried, Rod Goodyear, Changming Duan, Jeff Zimmerman, and Fred Leong for their efforts over the years to develop out international initiatives.

All the other proposed Bylaws were likewise adopted.

Special thanks are due to Drs. Jeff Barnett, Jean Carter, and their Bylaws Task Force members.  More than capable and dedicated, they plodded through the painstaking task of drafting, reviewing, and editing versions of each proposed change until the entire Board was satisfied they were ready for your vote.

And thanks are always due to our Executive Director, Tracey Martin, who insures that we comply with our Bylaws when we unwittingly stray, reminds us of deadlines when we forget, and facilitates our work and meetings year after year.

And you deserve thanks, too. Your voice and votes always matter.  Thank you!

Making Change: The Good Governance Project, or Why This Change Is Important to Division 29 Members

The problem: too many representatives. For several years now the Council of Representatives (COR) has been considering how to improve its functioning. The current size of Council, 173 representatives, is unwieldy for deliberations and decision-making and is expensive to maintain. Certainly, timeliness has suffered. A proposal for resolution aimed at providing psychological knowledge on important issues of the day to the public, for example, can take up to 18 months while it wends its way through a review by governance boards and committees. On the other hand, the present system provides the checks and balances that a data based profession like ours needs before informing the public on contentious concerns like end-of-life issues and healthcare disparities.  

The response. APA’s first strategic plan provided a mandate to maximize organizational effectiveness. The Good Governance Project (GGP) was APA’s plan to take a data based approach to understanding how APA governance could be improved. In 2010 the Board appointed 15 APA members to the GGP, charged them to gather relevant data and, based on those data, to recommend actions to COR that would improve communication across APA and determine optimal structures and functions for accomplishing these goal. In 2013 the GGP made several recommendations, including enhancing technology to improve communication among members and governance entities and developing leadership training. Some recommendations, such as making COR an exclusively policy-making body, focused on major strategic issues for the discipline and APA, appealing to COR’s need to be timely and to engage more readily the rich expertise COR members bring to the table.

Two other recommendations, however, have generated considerable controversy. These pertain to assigning to a newly organized and larger Board of Directors final authority for the budget. COR delegated that control on a trial basis for three years. It will consider the future of that GGP recommendation later this year or in early 2017. The other concerns the restructuring of Council itself.

The problem: not enough representation. Several models for reducing the size of COR have been proposed, each of which satisfies one constituency more and another less, but none has received unequivocal support. With one-third of COR changing every year it is easy to see why old arguments need repeating and new ones are presented. The aftermath of any decision will have momentous consequences for more than self-governance, potentially impacting the APA’s power to protect and advance the interests of all its members. With stakes so high, COR resists acting precipitously. So, six years after the GGP made its recommendations, COR remains stuck and progress stalled.

Representation means influence. Reducing the number of representatives means reducing influence. Who wants to shrink their voices and votes when the outcome of a debate can adversely affect their interests? There is no substitute for a voting seat at the table. Multiple seats mean more influence. Having two or more members of COR translates into more, and more effective, lobbying.

This is a major concern for the underrepresented and minority members of COR, who have historically been marginalized along with their interests. It is also the concern of every division that elects one or more of its members to represent its interests. Each division has at its core a mission to advance scholarship and expertise and, based on that, the professional authority of its members. In our case, that means promoting psychotherapy as a core discipline within psychology and pressing APA to promote psychotherapy with the public and policy makers.

It must be remembered that, though elected by a constituency, every COR member has a fiduciary responsibility to give priority to the interests of the organization as a whole! First and foremost that representatives represent not only you, the members of the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy, but all of APA’s loyal members. All representatives must balance the interests of their constituencies with the interests of the larger association—no easy task.

We have always been fortunate to have effective and smart representatives acting on our behalf.  Some have been presidents of the APA; many have sat on the APA Board of Directors. At present, we have two exceptional representatives in COR to act on our behalf: Drs. Jean Carter and John Norcross. Ours is well-respected Division. “When our reps speak, COR listens.”

However, we have had three representatives on COR. We lost our third seat as a result of the Apportionment Ballot that you receive in the fall. The number of votes, in proportion to the number of votes each APA member casts across all divisions or states, determines the number of seats any division is assigned. That’s why we appeal to you each year to give all or as many of your votes as you can to us. Your voice and votes always matter. And that is why the Good Governance Project is important to us. However, COR determines to structure itself, our interests will be determined with it.

Diversity in Governance

Persons of color, persons of faith, persons with disabilities … any stigmatized minority has an understandable investment in reducing the size of COR. Will the number of voices of the historically marginalized be strong enough to repair painful injustices and insure equality?

Our Society has made tangible commitments to diversity. In addition to having two

Diversity Domain seats to influence our agenda, conducting a daylong diversity workshop triennially, slating diversity candidates for Board leadership, and seeking diversity candidates for committee members and chairs, we support the biennial National Multicultural Summit (NMCS). The NMCS was founded by four APA divisions to address multicultural concerns and is now the largest such conference in psychology outside the APA annual convention.

We want to support our diversity members and our diversity colleagues on COR. We will be guided by our Diversity Domain reps and will collaborate with our diversity colleagues in COR to protect what progress we have made and to further equality and fairness.

Again, this is what makes GGP important to us.

Change of these proportions, as always, lays siege to our deepest values. It is our values that are tested most deeply and sorely. Yet, it is our core values that can and should guide our management of change … if we do not abandon them.

Commission on Ethics Processes

I have just returned from Washington, where I am serving as a member of the Commission on Ethics Processes. The Commission represents another change taking place in the APA.

As one response to the findings of the Independent Review, aka the Hoffman report, the Council of Representatives established a blue ribbon panel, composed of a diverse group of 17 psychologists and non-psychologists with expertise in ethics, to evaluate and recommend changes, where needed, to APA’s ethics processes, including, but not limited to: (1) the relationship between ethics education and adjudication, (2) the efficacy and utility of the investigative and adjudication processes, and (3) the possible establishment of a Chief Ethics Officer.

The Commission is chaired by Paul Root Wolpe, PhD, and Melba Vasquez, PhD. The Commission is to consider all operations of the Ethics Committee and Office but not to address the Ethics Code or any other findings of the Hoffman report. Liaisons from the APA Board of Directors are Jennifer Kelly, PhD, and Rick McGraw, PhD. APA staff members are Katherine Nordal, PhD (Acting Director of the Ethics Office), Lindsay Childress-Beatty, JD, PhD, and Joan Freund.

The Commission met for the first of two scheduled face-to-face meetings at the APA offices during the second week of May. The plan is to complete its report to COR by the end of the year. The following is a summary of that first meeting.

After reviewing the independent report, letters, articles, and documents, as well as studying the current rules and procedures of the Ethics Committee and Office, the Commission established three working groups: 1) Ethics adjudication and education to evaluate all procedures related to managing ethics complaints and to review its education programs, 2) Ethics Committee, APA ethics policies and procedures to examine the role of the ethics function in the APA, 3) APA institutional culture, structure and external relationships and power influences, 4) Benchmarking to consider the best practices of other organizations, and 5) Communications to and from members and governance groups.

The goal is to create recommendations that will be broadly disseminated for feedback on a public comment site. In addition, a town hall meeting will be scheduled during the APA annual convention in Denver in August along with the Commission progress report to Council.

Getting to Know Your Board Members

I thought that you might be interested in knowing a bit more about the officers and Domain Reps you elected. For that reason I will include some brief comments about the work, achievements, and interests of one or more in my columns.

Given that I cannot include them all before I leave office, I instituted an arbitrary selection process. I wrote the name of each board member on an index card, shuffled them, and drew one. This time I drew the name of Jesse Owen, PhD, our Treasurer.

Now in his first year as Treasurer, Jesse is part of the Executive Committee. Prior to his election to his office, he held the position of Domain Representative for Education and Training. When not meeting his responsibilities to the Society, Jesse is an Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Counseling Psychology at the University of Denver, where he teaches and conducts an impressive research program on psychotherapy. Jesse has developed and empirically tested the Multicultural Orientation framework, a transtheoretical psychotherapy driven model for working with culturally focused topics in treatment.

Jesse’s research has also received the 2015 Most Valuable Paper from the Editorial Board of our journal, Psychotherapy, and Jesse received the Johnson Grant of $10,000 last year.

Two Final Notes

I want to remind you that the convention is coming up and to encourage you to attend. Our Program Chair, Dr. Changming Duan, with important support from Dr. Gary Howell, our Associate Chair, has coordinated and lobbied for a series of programs that will be intellectually stimulating and professionally valuable. Many appreciative thanks to both for their impressive work. Sessions include reports of current psychotherapy research and applications of evidence in the provision of psychotherapy services. We have applied for Continuing Education credits to increase the value to you.

Last of all, I will be attending the international gathering of the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI) in Dublin, Ireland, in June. Our Society will be well represented by present and former Board members: Dr. Marvin Goldfried (a founding member of the Society), along with Drs. Abe Wolf, Jeffrey Magnavita, Rod Goodyear, and John Norcross. Division 29 is sponsoring the CE program as well.

Be the 1st to vote.

Dr. Armand Cerbone has a long history of leadership in APA governance. In addition to more than ten years on the Council of Representatives, he is a former member of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association (APA), a past Chair of the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest, the APA Ethics Committee, the Policy and Planning Board, a past president of Division 29 (Psychotherapy) and Division 44 (SOGI), as well as the Illinois Psychological Association. He holds a diplomate in Clinical Psychology and is a Fellow of seven divisions of the APA. He is co-author of the APA Guidelines on psychotherapy with LGB Clients and chaired the working group that developed the APA’s Resolution on sexual orientation and marriage and Resolution on sexual orientation, parents and children. He has received many awards for his work. Among them are the APA’s Committee on LGBT Concern’s Outstanding Achievement Award and The Society for the Psychological Study of LGB Issues’ (Div 44 in APA) awards for Distinguished Professional Contribution, and Distinguished Contributions to Education. In 2003 he was inaugurated into the City of Chicago Lesbian and Gay Hall of Fame. In 2016 he received the Ray Fowler Award, APA highest award for Outstanding Member Contributions.

Cite This Article

Cerbone, A. R. (2016). Change is the problem and change is the solution. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 51(2), 2-5.



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