Dear RAPS, here are my thoughts about what the APS needs to do.
The restorative task of the Board is not to prescribe solutions, but to consult the membership, encouraging constructive contributions. The current two-tier membership fiasco is a consequence of a top-down management style. The Board, without adequate consultative processes, has negotiated an arrangement to the detriment of the majority of psychologists.
The consequences of this management style have been as devastating as they were predictable: division among psychologists, reputational damage to the profession, confusion for clients. These consequences are the inevitable result of the culture and structure created by the Board.
The approaches of the Board can be summarised as “The Board knows best”. The Board concluded a negotiation with the Federal Government undermining the status and livelihoods of the majority of its members! It responded to the resulting storm of controversy with single-minded self-justification.
There has been no effort to allay the concerns of the majority of registered psychologists; instead, the Board has maintained its position of treating the bulk of practitioners as a mere income stream.
The current structure of colleges and divisions is a failure. The vast majority of registered psychologists remain disengaged, there is no transparent or effective process for intelligent policy proposals from psychologists, and there is no accountability for Board decisions. We need a process for all registered psychologists to be involved in the development of policy and programs.
(i) The Board should establish a blog open to all registered psychologists, moderated by a
known Board member according to APS ethics. All contributions should be signed by the
writer together with the appropriate APS registration number. Discussion of the current
two-tier system and alternatives should be encouraged.
(ii) Board members should establish discussion groups across the country, ensuring access for all psychologists. These discussion groups should not be for the purpose of
justification of the existing structure, but should elicit practical suggestions for
improvement. The role of the Board member or representative is to encourage
discussion and maintain focus.
(iii) Proposals from the discussion groups should then be broadly promulgated and discussed in the blog and other APS publications. Alternatives to the two-tier system should be identified and those alternatives should be put to the membership in the form of a referendum. The results of the referendum should then be put to the Board.
While this process is time-consuming and cumbersome, it has the benefits of encouraging contribution from all registered psychologists, its transparency will promote trust and confidence, and it will assist in creating a culture of engagement and constructive contribution of members.
Structural Reform: Psychological Community Forums
The current structure of Colleges, Divisions, and Interest Groups, creates division and fragmentation. In this fragmentation of membership, the Board governs independently. Psychological Community Forums (PCF’s) with registered members local-community based would provide a unifying structure.
Psychologists practising in close proximity should be encouraged to establish a PCF with the following functions:
Mutual professional support, discussion and referral;
Informing their local communities of the benefits of psychology and publicising local
Promoting ethical psychological practices;
Discussing policies and practices of the APS;
Providing information to the APS about local concerns.
The APS should encourage PCF’s by:
Submitting policy proposals for discussion and feedback;
Modifying policies and practices to align with recommendations from PCF’s.
More detailed discussion of the potential role of PCF’s is beyond the scope of this paper, but the establishment of a formal structure within APS of all registered psychologists would assist in changing the culture and structure of the organisation to make it more responsive to the needs of all registered.