National advocacy group for practicing psychologists unveiled

By James Bradshaw Assistant Editor
July 1, 2006



A respected group of practicing psychologists has formed a national action organization to overcome what they see as inaction by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the professional community as a whole on issues of importance to practitioners.

The National Alliance of Professional Psychology Providers (NAPPP) was unveiled July 1 through an advertising campaign and a website (www.nappp.org) promising prospective members assertive leadership to “protect and advance scope of practice issues through lobbying, legislative and litigation strategies.”

Members are also promised tangible benefits, including free continuing education courses, downloadable practice tools and low-cost malpractice insurance.

Although much of the impetus for creating NAPPP stems from dissatisfaction with representation by the APA and its Practice Directorate, most of the founders intend to continue APA membership.

John Caccavale, Ph.D., M.S., a prime mover in the effort, said the APA functions well as an umbrella organization to represent all psychologists but practicing psychologists need specific representation by an organization unencumbered by the internal politics and bureaucracy that he and his fellow NAPPP board members feel has blunted the APA’s efforts on behalf of practitioners.

“The APA has been taken over by the academics,” Caccavale said. “Those who are not in practice – who have no idea what practice is – are making decisions for us.”

As an example, he pointed to a September action by Cynthia Belar, Ph.D., ABPP, as director of education at APA.

The National Register, working with the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, proposed criteria in a model curriculum for psychologists seeking proficiency in psychopharmacology that would require all training be conducted through colleges or universities.

In a letter to July Hall, Ph.D., the National Register’s executive officer, Belar agreed with the criteria, saying the APA Board of Educational Affairs “never anticipated” psychologists receiving RxP education through continuing education courses.

Caccavale said that interpretation would invalidate training of at least 600 psychologists nationwide who have taken RxP courses at an average cost of $20,000 each over the past 10 years despite the fact that CE training was provided by training programs approved by the APA and many of the graduates paid for and passed APA’s PEP exam to demonstrate proficiency in psychopharmacology.

NAPPP’s first official action, he said, will be to send a letter to Belar warning her that denying credit for such training now would “constitute fraud and a restraint of trade” and she must rescind her decision to avoid “the need for adversarial actions.”

Caccavale said NAPPP has retained a Washington, D.C., law firm if needed for a lawsuit that could seek damages in excess of $10 million.

(NAPPP’s letter to Belar was to be mailed after this edition of The National Psychologist went to press. APA’s response to the move will be sought for the September/October edition.)

Although NAPPP’s first action involves the RxP movement, the total agenda is much broader, according to Nicholas Cummings, Ph.D., Sc.D., who is a NAPPP board member and former APA president. (The complete list of board members is included in NAPPP’s ad.)

Cummings said NAPPP will work to expand mental health parity laws to provide broader coverage for practicing psychologists. He said APA has actively campaigned for adoption of parity laws, which has now been accomplished in 39 states, but has done little to blunt dilution of those laws through such actions as limits imposed by managed care.

“It’s like counting the grains of sand on the beach,” he said, describing the futility of keeping score by counting the number of ineffective laws passed.

Cummings said APA also has been short-sighted in not counting business courses toward psychologists’ CE requirements, which both the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association do. “These are the kinds of things we’re discussing that APA won’t discuss,” he said.

Cummings said he is impressed by Caccavale’s energy, an energy he has put to practical use in a federal suit he fostered seeking RxP authority for trained psychologists in California’s prison system.

Another former APA president on NAPPP’s board, Jack G. Wiggins, Ph.D., Psy.D, ABPP, expressed his frustration with APA’s representation of practicing psychologists.

Wiggins, long-time editor of the newsletter for Division 55, the American Society for the Advancement of Pharmacology, said neither the APA nor the state psychological associations will ever meet the financial investment needed for effective advocacy for practitioners.

NAPPP, he said, would face a similar lack of funding if it attempted to fight practitioner battles on its own. Instead, Wiggins said, NAPPP will overcome that limitation “by creating productive alliances with politically powerful organizations.”

Wiggins did not specify what alliances NAPPP anticipates, but Caccavale said the alliances would involve consumer groups, unions and possibly others. Details will be announced later, he said.

Caccavale said annual dues for NAPPP are $240, which most members will be able to make up through free CE courses. An undisclosed number of psychologists already have been approached and agreed to join, he said.

The objective will be to attract about 1,000 new members a month so that by year’s end NAPPP will represent 5,000 to 6,000 doctoral level practicing psychologists, Caccavale said. He said NAPPP is developing a data base of all licensed psychologists in the nation and will be sending out mass mailings soon.

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