On July 8, 1892 a group of 31 diverse individuals met at Clark University to form the American Psychological Association with a vision for “a new psychology”. When 18 of them subsequently met at the University of Pennsylvania that December, the foundations were laid for a scientific psychology that focused on professional goals. Is APA in a position to continue to realize both the scientific foundation and professional goals outlined by our forefathers?
Psychology has not yet achieved the dreams that we were given. In some cases psychology is viewed as a second-class citizen in the world of science and health care. I am sick and tired of being as perceived as such. I first understood what it was to be a second-class citizen (actually an “Alien” is what they called me) when I emigrated from Cuba at 9. I did not know English nor American culture; did not even have enough to eat. Now that I have learned English and am now a psychologist, I find myself again being perceived as a second-class citizen. I have grown impatient with that station in life and I am sick and tired of this inequality.
I am disgruntled with university administrations’ believing that we are not a STEM science. Psychology should not be taught to large enrollment sections simply for economic reasons. It is embarrassing that only 50% of our students secure APA internships. I am in disbelief about the limited engagement that psychology has with our diverse world. I am through with physician colleagues receiving better reimbursement and access to clinical opportunities.
It is, however, a time of hope, of dreaming, and of excitement. That is what my students- from undergraduates to post-doctoral fellows as well as what my colleagues, clinical and academic, from both here and abroad, tell me. That is what my two children in psychology tell me- Krista, a PsyD, in Florida and my older son, Nicolas, a PhD, who is starting his post-doctoral fellowship at Hopkins. That is what my son, Lucas, who is studying political economics and what my wife, Linda, who has secondary multiple sclerosis, also say. And that is what I have come to believe. This is not a time of desperation and learned helplessness. It is indeed a time of hope, of dreaming and of excitement as well as a time to finally give psychology away.
However, dreaming without with direction is nothing more than moving clouds. I was faced with two options many years ago: 1) Give up and adapt to this second class status and the present unfortunate situation or 2) do something about it. And for a quarter of century I have dedicated myself to eradicating this situation and the incorrect perception of who we are and what we can do to make the world a better place.
Let me provide one example of what I have done to secure our future. I started, with the help of Sally Cameron, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Psychological Association, when I became President of our state association, and asked Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to allow me to bill for neuropsychological services. With the audacity and enthusiasm of an adolescent, I asked to be payed for what I knew which was based on science and experience That resulted in eventually APA, through APA’s Practice Directorate, appointing me as the first psychologist and one of 10 non-physicians (HCPAC) to the AMA CPT Advisory Panel of 120. After 15 years of fighting in the trenches for psychology in the HCPAC (and most recently for the psychotherapy codes we are all now using), I had the dream of being part of the actual panel. I wanted to shift my role from advisor to policy maker. With luck and who knows what, I now sit on that 17 member panel with the same vote as Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hospital Association of America and others.
Psychology HAS a seat at the table in health matters. Psychology is now in a position to expand the role of professional psychology to all of health care as well as to guide the development of all of health care in America.
The premise behind this focus of providing appropriate economic support for the profession of psychology is simple. Based on surveys I have conducted as well as actual membership, the members of APA are mostly professional. Further, scope of practice and reimbursement rate as the major concerns of our members. The assumption is as follows: if the profession of psychology is strong and economically viable, a strong infrastructure necessary to support the profession of psychology would equally be required. Hence, the student pipeline, the research behind the theories and the application of psychology to the greater good would all similarly flourish. Without each other, there would not be psychology.
Not only do we have to obtain the economic opportunity for the practice of psychology but
- We must have science be the foundation of psychology,
- We have to obtain the educational and training opportunities, resolve the internship crisis and boost clinical training funding, and
- We must make psychology reflective of and responsive to those we seek to understand and serve.
I am not running against other candidates. I am not against Medicare and insurance companies. I am not against those that do not appreciate the STEM nature of who we are. And for that matter I am not against those that seek to narrow our vision of psychology being for the greater good. I am, simply put, running towards the vision of our forefathers and for the science and profession of PSYCHOLOGY (see www.puenteforpresident.com orwww.antonioepuente.com).
We must refocus our vision to foster a “new psychology” based on scientific foundations and professional goals.
I believe in being able to change systems. I believe in, our science, our profession and in our ability to understand and serve ALL people. It is our future and it is our psychology. Finally, I believe in a dream of working together to place psychology where it rightfully belongs- as a leader.
It is time for Psychology.
WILL YOU WORK WITH ME TO MAKE THIS DREAM COME TRUE?