Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Division of Psychoanalysis and the American Psychological Association-Part I

In the last few weeks a great deal has been written by our members on the Bylaws Discussion Forum concerning the Division’s relationship with APA. Many of those opposed to the bylaws changes frame their concerns in terms of our need to remain connected to APA, its governance and policy making. Their concerns can be summarized a follows:
  • If psychologists are allowed to be full members of the Division, many current members will resign from APA, thereby weakening our ability to sustain our current number of representatives to APA Council and thereby reducing our influence within APA.
  • If psychologists and nonpsychologists who are not members of APA are allowed to serve in the offices of secretary, treasurer and president, our ability to represent psychoanalytic psychology within APA will be reduced as these officers would have no credibility in their dealings with APA.
  • If psychologists who are not APA members are allowed into the Division, and they, along with nonpsychologists are allowed to hold key offices, our organization will become a "generic" psychoanalytic association rather than a force to promote and defend the science, practice and teaching of psychoanalysis in psychology.
These reasons for opposing the bylaws changes rest on a number of assumptions that I do not find credible, at least partly due to history of previous changes. For four years, nonpsychologist members of the Division have been eligible to vote in our elections and run for the office of section representative and member-at-large. There has been no great influx of nonpsychologists into the division and no one has competed for an office at the board level in that time. Also, although always true, in the last three years, we have realized that psychologists who are not APA members are able to join the Division as Affiliate Members, without voting or office holding rights. (The Division board had always assumed differently until we asked APA attorney to review our bylaws. The finding was that the Affiliate category, while not intended for psychologists, could not exclude them.) Still, few have chosen to do so. This was the history we relied upon in developing the bylaws proposals regarding membership and membership rights.

Obviously I do not share the dire predictions listed above. More importantly, I actually do share the concerns of members concerning our need to involvement in the governance and policymaking of APA. This is a challenge that will continue regardless of the outcome of the bylaws vote. More on that in Part II.

Did You Hear the One About the Forty Psychoanalysts Who Walked Into a Meeting?

Well, I am afraid the punch line to this story is not very funny (see below). At the same time, there was some humor and a great deal of relief when the Board of Directors (BoD) Meeting was held in January. First on the agenda was a discussion and vote on the proposed bylaws changes that had been passed by the BoD in August 2011. As you know (if you have read the earlier blog), the membership vote to approve the changes was suspended after it became clear that many members were not only opposed to the changes, but also felt there had been insufficient time to discuss and debate the changes. The BoD first offered a discussion forum for members to post questions and propose alternative wording for the measures; but this process proved cumbersome and few members participated in the discussions. The BoD then decided to revise the bylaws and present them again for approval of the new BoD in January. This is where the story of the forty psychoanalysts begins.

As president of the Division, my primary function is to move the agenda forward and facilitate resolutions and board decisions. As the board assembled, we were also greeted by about eight members of the Division who arrived for the discussion of the bylaws changes: all of them opposed to most of the proposed changes. Now I have attended BoD meetings as a guest and officer for about twelve years and have watched (and participated) in some lively and passionate debates; but this was the first time that the BoD was essentially confronted with a group of members solidly opposed to what the BoD had unanimously endorsed only months before. What a great day to assume the job of being residing officer!

Well, to get to the end of my story, we spent the morning discussing and debating the bylaws changes, far more than the hour allotted out of a busy agenda. I admit I felt increasingly anxious that the debating would fill up the entire day and no actual work would be completed. Knowing that the BoD would again endorse the bylaws changes once allowed to vote, I was concerned about the impact that would have on our colleagues. I was relieved to have our parliamentarian, Laurie Wagner, by my side, not so much for her rulings, as for her ability to help me contain my anxiety.

And the result? After the discussion the BoD voted to approve the bylaw changes with one exception and one amendment. The membership and rights and privileges changes were passed without change, as was the change in the responsibilities of the Publication Committee. We decided to “pull” the proposed name change, even though there appeared to be an emerging understanding of the purpose of the change, and refer the issue of changing our name to a new committee. Finally, the proposed change to allow electronic voting for bylaws changes was amended to make it clear that members could choose to vote either electronically or by post.

So what happened? While strong feelings were expressed for and against the proposed changes, we ended the discussion with positive feelings on all sides and the recognition that all those present wanted the best for the Division and for psychoanalytic psychology. So what is the joke’s punch line? “They had a respectful and reasonable discussion.” It will never make it into the Joke Hall of Fame, but I think we were all relieved and pleased with the outcome.

We are now in the next phase of our discussion and debate about the proposed changes and Division members are encouraged to participate in the Bylaws Discussion Forum that will last until late February. If you are not subscribed to the forum, please contact Ruth Helein (div39@namgmt.com). Once debate closes, pro and con statements will be added to the bylaws ballot and should be send out to members for their vote in mid-to late March. We will know the results one month later.