Taking a leadership role in advocacy is not a risk-free undertaking for a member-driven organization like the National Register. It would be naïve to presume that there will ever be unanimity amongst our psychologists and doctoral students about what issues are most important for the profession or society, and there is certainly not unanimity about where we should line up on any particular issue.
Sometimes the most effective advocacy does not require staking out a particular position—it simply involves providing the most accurate information possible. Indeed, the most effective advocacy is principled and driven by facts, not ideology. For example, in last term’s Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the court specifically cited the APA’s amicus curiae brief as being impartial and highly informative. Other times, advocacy does require clearly and forcefully taking sides on an issue.
Psychology has a valuable contribution to make to some of the most complex issues facing us today: the enduring stigma of mental illness, violence reduction, racism, and the difficult and complex societal changes associated with climate change and mass immigration, to name but a few. In addition to these global issues, psychology must speak up—we think with many strong voices—as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, Accountable Care Organizations are developed, reasonable and fair credentialing standards for Medicare and Medicaid providers are refined, and much more.
With 10,000 Registrants and more than 2,500 doctoral students banking credentials, the National Register has a strong presence in the present and future of professional psychology. I believe the time has come to position the organization as an advocacy voice for the psychologists and students we represent.
A caveat: The National Register is not a lobbying organization. We are incorporated as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit entity, as we have been for 41 years, and we are going to stay that way, both in terms of our mission and structure. The Register has always had some voice in professional issues—we routinely advise psychology licensing boards, state and provincial psychology associations, and healthcare organizations on issues we consider to be of importance to Registrants—but what I now envision is utilizing our unique placement in our nation’s capital to advocate more broadly for our profession.
To that end, we have begun working in partnership with a large number of DC-based psychology and multi-professional healthcare organizations that provide education, outreach, and information to their members and stakeholders, regulators, and consumers. We are looking to cultivate strategic alliances so that we can more positively impact issues that carry great meaning to our psychologists and doctoral students. In short, we want to be more involved.
I cannot guarantee that the positions the Register takes will please all of our Registrants and doctoral students and it would be foolhardy to believe that this will ever be the case. I can guarantee you, however, that when the Register does choose to take a position, it will be well-studied and carefully thought out, and will represent the best interests of our Registrants and students, the profession, and the public we serve. We as an organization owe it to future psychologists to not stand idly by while decisions vital to our profession are made on our behalf.