Data from the American Psychological Association’s (APA) surveys on the demographics of our workforce show that there are approximately n= 94,048 actively licensed psychologists, unevenly distributed across the United States.
California leads the pack at n= 15,321, followed by New York at n= 10,462, Illinois at n= 5,155, and Florida at n= 4,370.
Some states in the South, like Texas, at 4,155, also have a healthy population of psychologists, while other states point to a striking dearth of licensed psychologists. For example, Mississippi and South Carolina only have 12 to 13 psychologists per population of 100,000 residents.
Given the relative paucity of psychologists, it would seem to follow that it would make sense to form either formal or informal associations or work groups with fellow colleagues. However, the large majority of psychologists are not connected with their peers at either the local, state or national levels.
As just one example of the state with the most psychologists, the California Psychological Association (CPA) consists of less than 4,000 members, or about 25 percent of the total number of psychologists registered in California.
Several reasons may account for this lack of participation, but likely, the biggest culprit is a lack of awareness and insight into the benefits of joining local, state and national associations.
So why should you join your local association? The benefits are myriad, across the lifespan of your career. As an early career professional, local psychological associations can function as a key referral source as you start to build up your practice.
Often, local associations host listservs in which referrals are both solicited and offered for patients as well as more mundane issues like finding office space or navigating legal and ethical issues.
Offline, local associations can provide opportunities for networking and socializing with other psychologists in your area as well as opportunities for earning Continuing Education (CE) credits, often at a discounted price for members.
In the Bay Area, the San Francisco Psychological Association has sponsored several social and networking events, including social gatherings at a local playhouse, discussions at an art museum, a think tank on pressing issues in the local community and many CE opportunities throughout the year on a wide variety of topics.
At the state level, there are also perks that tend to pay for the cost of membership itself, including free consultation on ethical and practice issues that come up, free CE credits, as well as a free listing in the CPA psychologist locator service.
Arguably, even more important than the perks that come with membership is the important role that state psychological associations often play in advocacy in governmental affairs. Each year, each state legislature introduces hundreds, sometimes thousands of bills, some of which could significantly impact the practice of psychology.
State associations play the role of reviewing bills to determine the impact that a particular bill might have on either the practice of psychology or on the consumers who would use psychological services. Through lobbying efforts and political action committees, state associations also get involved with influencing the legislative process and supporting candidates and legislators who understand and support the work of clinical psychologists and who can further bills that protect our interests.
Finally, at the national level, joining the American Psychological Association connects psychologists to the biggest network of psychologists in North America. It provides five free CEs per year and a variety of discounts.
APA also encourages and supports early career psychologists by providing leadership, advocacy, peer consultation and training opportunities.
Since 2005, APA has spearheaded the Committee on Early Career Psychologists to support and accommodate the unique needs of early career psychologists.
There are many benefits to joining psychological associations from the local level to the national level and very few downsides. We wrote this short article to enumerate some of these benefits and hope that you will consider joining one of these networks of your professional colleagues.
J. Allison He, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in the Bay Area, specializing in psychotherapy and assessment for ADHD and related disorders. She also serves on the board of the San Francisco Psychological Association. She may be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Khashayar Farhadi Langroudi, Psy.D., is a clinical health psychologist in San Francisco and president of the San Francisco Psychological Association. He is also a member of the Diversity Committee at the Association for Contextual Behavioral Sciences. His email address is: email@example.com.
April 19, 2020
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