November 1st, 2014

Creating new divisions: a lengthy process

From time to time, a group of psychologists lobbies to create a new division that reflects an unaddressed niche area in the profession. The process from concept to reality is time-consuming and labor intensive and requires determination and patience.

Sarah Jordan, director, Division Services, Governance Affairs at the American Psychological Association, estimates that she receives three inquiries annually. “But many do not follow through and send in a letter of intent. There have been five divisions in formation that have sent in a letter of intent since 2006,” she says, noting that the last division established was Trauma Psychology eight years ago.

In 2012, organizers petitioned for two new divisions: Financial Psychology and Implementation Science in Psychology. Neither proposed division has collected the 710 signatures needed to move their petitions forward, according to Jordan.

Mary Gresham, Ph.D., the primary organizer for Financial Psychology, notes that she has stepped back her efforts while working on local issues for the Georgia Psychological Association. “We have only 70 signatures and need 710. I would have to make a major push and am ambivalent at this point. It has been a one-person operation and I need to get more people involved, but am afraid that I now see it as a low priority in my life with few returns,” she says.

“If someone else wants to pick it up, I would welcome some assistance. It is interesting to me that other professions see how much we have to offer in this area – as investment managers, etc. – but we don’t.”

Organizers of the proposed Implementation Science in Psychology division, on the other hand, are pushing ahead. Cara Charissa Lewis, Ph.D., HSPP, indicates the group has made some progress, but still need hundreds of signatures. “We have 144 of the total 710 needed, 20.3 percent of the way to our goal,” she says, adding that there is no time limit imposed, since the APA acknowledges that the process can be quite lengthy.

This group has launched an email campaign to provide information to individuals within their professional networks, through relevant listservs and to leadership of other standing divisions.

“We have also been featured in the APA Access newsletter,” Lewis says. “We have a Facebook page ( and a twitter account (@APAISDiv) that are highly active in terms of providing concise research updates and information on implementation-relevant resources to our followers on a weekly basis. Our committee members also post information on their LinkedIn pages.”

Lewis explains that the purpose of this division would be to “provide a home in APA for psychologists who are committed to optimizing real world practices through the integration of evidence-based innovations.”

She points out that implementation science is a new field that emerged because of the gap between science and practice. “We believe that to most efficiently and effectively identify ways to use science to inform practice, we need to all be working together. It is hoped the division elevates a focus on implementation of evidence-based practices and innovations within APA. We plan to facilitate this through creation of a journal, regular meetings at the annual convention and an active Web site with helpful resources.”

Within this division, Lewis foresees members focusing on ensuring that the research is most relevant to issues faced in practice and, wherever possible, is efficiently translated into practice.

“We envision that natural collaborations will emerge once members identify shared goals,” she adds. “There is no centralized home for psychologists interested in implementation within the APA. Moreover, psychologists are unfortunately not central players in identifying solutions and shaping the changing mental health landscape.”

By Phyllis Hanlon

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