American Psychological Association

views updated May 21 2018

American Psychological Association


The American Psychological Association (APA) is the worlds largest scientific and professional association of psychologists, with 90,000 members and 65,000 student and teacher affiliates, international affiliates, and associate members. The APA was founded on July 8, 1892, by a small group of psychologists meeting in Professor G. Stanley Halls study at Clark University. The thirty-one charter members, not all present at the founding meeting, were primarily scientific and academic psychologists. In the first few decades, rival associations were formed by psychologists who felt that their theoretical or professional orientations were not adequately represented in the APA. During World War II these differences were set aside and a national coordinating committee channeled the skills of the entire psychological community toward Americas war effort.

In 1945 the member organizations of the coordinating committee enacted a plan to preserve the harmony of the war years by creating a reorganized APA, governed by a council of representatives of divisions and state and provincial associations and administered by a board of directors. Division status was accorded to seventeen special interest groups and formerly independent organizations, the largest being the American Association for Applied Psychology (AAAP). The basic structure of the modern APA is composed of the governance elements created in 1945. The APA constitution provides for the creation of new divisions, and by 2006 the number of divisions had grown to fifty-six.

The reorganized APA promptly hired its first professional staff and located its headquarters in Washington, D.C., where it has occupied a series of increasingly larger buildings. In 2006 the APA employed a professional staff of nearly five hundred people and administered an annual budget of about $60 million.

Since the mid-twentieth century, growing numbers of applied psychologists have joined the organization, the majority of whom are mental health service practitioners. In the 1980s a significant number of research-oriented psychologists proposed a new reorganization of the APA that would have moderated the influence of practitioner-oriented divisions. When the proposal was not approved by the membership, the reform group founded the American Psychological Society (APS). The APS draws its members primarily from the academic and scientific communities.

The contemporary APA is a vigorous leader in many domains. The APA publishes forty-nine of the most influential scientific and professional journals in the field. It publishes a comprehensive list of books for psychological scientists, practitioners, and the general public. The APA Publication Manual, its handbook of writing standards for published articles, first appeared in 1929 and has become the standard for professional writing in many fields. The association publishes standards for the conduct of psychologists, including standards for educational and psychological testing, for the ethical treatment of humans and nonhuman animals in research, and for ethical professional conduct by psychological service providers.

After World War II the APA developed standards for professional training programs to meet the national need for well-prepared clinical psychologists. In the early twenty-first century the APA endorsed training models that combine both scientific and professional practice skills by reviewing and accrediting doctoral educational and internship programs in clinical, counseling, and school psychology. Through its liaisons with state associations of psychology, the APA has promoted rigorous state licensure standards for psychological service providers.

Since 1894 the APA has published abstracts of the worlds scientific and professional literature in psychology. This resource, called PsycINFO, is composed of more than two million abstracts and sophisticated online searching tools. The association makes full text versions of its journal articles and book chapters electronically available.

The APA has brought the science of psychology to bear on social issues. For example, it promotes awareness of ethnic minority, gender identity, and age-related concerns in educational, counseling, and clinical treatment settings, it advocates for culture-fair aptitude and achievement testing, and it promotes studies of womens social, professional, and health-related issues. When legal cases involve critical psychological matters, the APA has filed amicus curiae briefs and has supported litigants with a legal defense fund. Among the APAs advocacy goals are infusing federal public policy with the findings of behavioral science, extending drug prescription privileges to specially trained psychologists, and elevating support of psychological health services and research to equal that of physical health programs.

SEE ALSO Mental Health; Mental Illness; Professionalization; Psychology


American Psychological Association.

Benjamin, L. T., Jr., ed. 1992. The History of American Psychology. American Psychologist Spec. issue 47 (2).

Evans, R. E., V. S. Sexton, and T. C. Cadwallader, eds. 1992. The American Psychological Association: A Historical Perspective. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Hilgard, E. R. 1987. Psychology in America: A Historical Survey. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Warren R. Street

American Psychological Association (APA)

views updated May 29 2018

American Psychological Association (APA)

The American Psychological Association (APA) was founded in July 1892, and by the 1990s, it was both the world's largest association of psychologists and the major organization representing psychology in the United States. APA has 159,000 members and affiliates (students and high school teachers) from around the world. APA sponsors approximately 50 specialty divisions.

The program of the APA is organized in four directorates, namely Science, Practice, Public Interest, and Education, all of which contribute to the goal of seeking ways to increase human wellness through an understanding of behavior. The Science Directorate promotes the exchange of ideas and research findings through conventions, conferences, publications, and traveling museum exhibits. It also helps psychologists locate and obtain research funding. The Practice Directorate promotes the practice of psychology and the availability of psychological care. It lobbies both federal and state legislatures on issues such as health care reform, regulatory activities such as state licensure, and public service such as the pro bono services provided through the Disaster Response Network. The Public Interest Directorate supports the application of psychology to the advancement of human welfare through program and policy development, conference planning, and support of research, training, and advocacy in areas such as minority affairs, women's issues, and lesbian and gay concerns. The Education Directorate serves to advance psychology in its work with educational institutions, professional agencies, and programs and initiatives in education.

APA publishes books as well as more than 24 scientific and professional journals and newsletters, including APA Monitor and American Psychologist. Since 1970, PsychINFO, a worldwide computer database, has provided references in psychology and related behavioral and social sciences. The week-long APA annual convention is the world's largest meeting of psychologists. More than 15,000 psychologists attend, and have opportunities to attend the presentation of more than 3,000 papers, lectures, and symposia.

See also American Psychological Society (APS); National Association for Mental Health; National Institute of Mental Health

Further Information

American Psychological Association. 1200 Seventeenth Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, (202) 3365500.


views updated May 29 2018

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American Psychological Association