A Message From Your President
In my last column I introduced a series of efforts underway within SIOP designed to advance our strategic goals. The theme across these efforts is about “extending SIOP’s influence.” In this column I’ll say more about this theme and provide an example of how the work of the Society can expand the influence of our science and practice.
Often, the president’s theme will celebrate an important aspect of our profession, to bring visibility to the benefits of our work and our Society. There is much to celebrate about our field, and there were many options to choose from when deciding upon a theme. In the end, I chose a theme with a dual purpose in mind. “Extending our influence” is intended not only to celebrate the good work that has been done to ensure the perspective of I-O psychology is heard beyond our membership, it is also a call to action. I picked the theme as a beacon and as a reminder that, of the many issues that demand the attention of SIOP during my term, my intention was to place an elevated priority on the issues outside of our organization that we can help to shape.
There are many topics that deserve our attention, and there are several organizations that may be good partners as we seek to expand our influence. I’ll mention just one example in this column: the issue of licensure for psychologists. Of course, this is a complex topic with a long history, so a short update in this column will just touch on a few key facets of the issues at hand and our involvement with a few of the organizations that are central to their advancement.
Any discussion of licensure within SIOP seems to quickly bump into the complicated question of whether or not I-O psychologists should be licensed in order to practice. It is an understatement to note that there are diverse views on licensure among SIOP members; I’d guess that attitudes on the topic are normally distributed, a few are strong advocates, a few are strongly opposed, and the majority of our members are probably in the middle or, depending on their circumstances, may not really attend to the issue at all. My view is that this question is a distraction. Seeking common ground within SIOP is not necessary for us to engage productively with the issue.
Consider these facts: There are some SIOP members who live in states that require them to be licensed; other members may desire to be licensed but live in states that do not make accommodations for I-O psychologists. Licensure laws are developed and enforced at the state level; both the APA and the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) serve as resources to the states as they update their regulations. I believe it is also true that the interests of I-O psychologists won’t naturally be represented by those who are closest to the issues, not out of unwillingness to do so, but more out of a lack of understanding about how we are trained and how we practice. Likewise, we may lack an understanding of the objectives and perspectives of these organizations as well. This situation provides the context from which we can be more involved and have influence.
Over the past 5 years or so, the APA has developed a new Model Licensure Act (MLA). This is an official APA document that states and provinces may use when formulating their laws. The MLA was assembled with input from SIOP members, and it specifically allows for exemptions for non-healthcare psychologists. This is a positive development because it recognizes that I-O and other nonhealthcare psychologists operate in realms that are far different from those who are the intended targets of the core of the legislation (e.g., vulnerable populations who are contracting the services of psychologists). Note that APA’s MLA has not yet been incorporated into any state legislation, but maintaining our involvement with the APA Practice Directorate provides one basis for monitoring and influencing developments that affect licensure.
The ASPPB provides another point of involvement. Last fall, I was invited to attend the ASPPB’s Executive Board meeting as a SIOP representative. I found the perspective of I-O psychology to be welcomed at the table. As I described the diversity of views on licensure within our field, and the dilemmas that many I-Os face as they attempt to navigate through various licensure regulations, one of the ASPPB Board members commented that state licensure boards don’t seek to impose undue barriers for I-O psychologists, but they don’t often understand the issues we face either, so regulations may end up being phrased in ways that don’t reflect our interests.
To extend our influence in this arena, SIOP has taken steps to build closer ties to ASPPB so we can better monitor developments on the licensure front. Thanks to the efforts of our State Affairs Committee and our Professional Practice Officer, Joan Brannick, we have increased the attention to these issues and created new channels of communication with important partners. The chair of State Affairs, Mark Nagy, attends the semiannual ASPPB conference each year and was instrumental in my attendance at their board meeting. Mark is paving the way for our future officers to attend as a regular operating principle within SIOP. Because of the work of Joan, Mark, and many others in SIOP on issues such as the development of the APA MLA, SIOP has been brought closer to the APA’s Practice Directorate. Several members of SIOP’s Executive Board and I met with representatives from the Practice Directorate at the APA conference this past August, with the intention of identifying areas of mutual interest and better understanding the perspectives of each other’s constituents.
Presence does not guarantee influence, but it is certainly a prerequisite. As our involvement grows, we need to continue to track the issues about licensure that are relevant to our membership. One such example is the emerging guidelines on “telepsychology.” Have you ever administered an assessment over the Internet? Consulted with a client over e-mail? If so, these draft guidelines may be relevant to your work. It is important that SIOP share a perspective on how the practice of I-O psychology is conducted, where there are real risks, and where the presumed risks are small and should be exempted from regulation. As I write this column, SIOP is organizing a team to collect comments on these guidelines from our membership, and I trust that our comments will be better heard because of the relationships we are building with the organizations sponsoring the work.
This year, the State Affairs Committee is also planning an important project to assemble a description of the issues and barriers that I-O psychologists face when they seek licensure. This effort will result in briefing materials that can be shared directly with state psychology boards as they consider revisions to their licensing regulations.
Each of these initiatives sidesteps the controversial question of whether I-O psychologists should be licensed—a question best addressed by individual members based on a review of their state’s laws. They are instead focused on the promotion of an accurate understanding of what I-O psychology is and how it is practiced in organizations. The ultimate goal of reducing unnecessary barriers for the practice of I-O psychology benefits all of us, regardless of your views on licensure.
As I mentioned at the outset of this piece, the example of licensure can be complex, more so than I’ve reflected here. SIOP can’t unilaterally determine the future path for the issue. For this reason it serves as just one example of an area where we need to be deliberate about building our partnerships and extending our influence in a manner that reflects our interests.