Psychotherapy Bulletin

Psychotherapy Bulletin

Division 29 is declining in membership and aging but thriving financially, thanks to a successful journal.

First, Division 29 membership has been declining at a rate of about 6% per year since a peak of about 7000 members in 1994.  The number of full members who paid their dues was 1781 in 2011, 1683 in 2012, and 1540 up to May in 2013. In addition, there were 120 student members and 12 affiliate members in 2011, 204 and 26 in 2012, and 94 and 21 so far in 2013 (more about these categories later). As context, although overall APA membership has been holding steady at about 150,000 for the last 10 years or so, those who are members of at least one division has dropped from over 80,000 to about 60,000 during that period, though a few divisions have been growing.

Second, a series of surveys across 30 years by John Norcross and his collaborators has found that Division 29's mean age has been rising at the rate of about 6 months per year: 45.6 in 1981;  51.4 in 1991; 56.6 in 2001; and 63.0 in 2012. Of course, each individual member's age rises by 12 months per year, so we have lost some older members and added some younger members to partially counterbalance our individual aging.

Third, we are in great shape financially. Our main sources of income are dues from members and royalties from our journal, Psychotherapy. Although income from dues alone no longer covers our costs, journal royalties have been increasing and have contributed about twice as much as dues to our income over the last few years.

If membership, mean age, and income continue to change at the current rates, then in 40 years, by 2053, Division 29 will have fewer than 200 members whose average age is 83 and enough income from royalties so that every member can have a $5,000 research grant every year.  Even if it doesn't quite come to that, the trends deserve attention.

The Division 29 Board (elected officers and domain representatives) have been addressing the declining membership in several ways. We make special efforts to welcome APA members who indicate interest in Division 29 on the checklist that comes with the annual APA dues statement. In a program organized by Annie Judge and Meg Tobias, we are this year offering  500 free student memberships. We are investing in a new mentoring program designed for early career professionals, designed by a group chaired by Susan Woodhouse. Contact those Board members for further information.

We are discussing a substantial broadening of criteria for affiliate membership in the Division. Affiliate members need not be APA members. They pay dues, and they receive  Psychotherapy, and Psychotherapy Bulletin, and they can participate in all activities of the division except that they cannot vote or run for elected office. The number of affiliate members is currently small, at least partly because our bylaws are currently rather restrictive, for example, requiring non-American affiliates to have a doctoral degree in psychology from an institution listed in the National Register/ASPPB designation program. This register will be phased out over the next few years, so our bylaws on this point must be revised anyway. At its October meeting, the Division 29 Board will discuss extending eligibility to any professionals who are entitled to practice psychotherapy within their jurisdiction.  The proposal that emerges will be brought to the membership for a vote, so watch for further news. And if you have opinions or suggestions that you would like considered in the discussion, please let me or some other Board member know by the beginning of October.

Our rising income presents another set of issues. As one response, we have developed and expanded a program of awards and small grants meant to recognize and advance important work on psychotherapy. As a member, you are eligible and invited to apply. Details are posted at:

http://www.societyforpsychotherapy.org/members/awards/

We continue to support work promoting professional communication and advocacy, and we are able to support new initiatives, such as the mentoring program mentioned earlier.

Importantly, the Division's income from royalties may not remain so high. Most journal income comes from subscriptions that offer institutions, such as universities, electronic access to packages of journals. Income to individual journals is allocated by formulas that assess use of each journal (e.g., downloading of specific articles) within the package. Psychotherapy is a well-used journal and is well served financially by this system. But the journal publishing industry is in flux as institutions object to paying high subscription costs for material that was written, in substantial part, by people who work in those institutions. Various models of open access are being proposed and tried, and it is uncertain whether what emerges will maintain our current income. So the Division is using some of its current income to build a reserve.

But the trends raise fundamental questions. Should we resist the trend towards a smaller older membership? Or should we accept these trends as inevitable? Division 29 has not been meeting as a group for over a decade; only the Board meets. Is this an effect--or a cause--of the Division being less central in members' professional identity?  Should the Division be doing more for its membership? Should the membership be doing more? If so, what should it be doing? If you have reactions or suggestions write to me or any other Board member (contact information in the front of Psychotherapy Bulletin and on the Division website). Or if you would like to be more actively involved in the Division, please write and describe your interest.

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Cite This Article

Stiles, W. B. (2013). President’s column. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 48(3), 2-3.

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