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The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization representing psychology in the US. It has around 150,000 members and an annual budget of around $70m. The APA mission statement is to "advance psychology as a science and profession and as a means of promoting health, education, and human welfare".



The mission of the APA[1] is to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

The American Psychological Association aspires to excel as a valuable, effective and influential organization advancing psychology as a science, serving as:

  • A uniting force for the discipline
  • The major catalyst for the stimulation, growth and dissemination of psychological science and practice
  • The primary resource for all psychologists
  • The premier innovator in the education, development, and training of psychological scientists, practitioners and educators
  • The leading advocate for psychological knowledge and practice informing policy makers and the public to improve public policy and daily living
  • A principal leader and global partner promoting psychological knowledge and methods to facilitate the resolution of personal, societal and global challenges in diverse, multicultural and international contexts
  • An effective champion of the application of psychology to promote human rights, health, well being and dignity

The APA core values statement

The American Psychological Association commits to its vision through a mission based upon the following values:

  • Continual Pursuit of Excellence
  • Knowledge and its Application Based Upon Methods of Science
  • Outstanding Service to its Members and to Society
  • Social Justice, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Ethical Action in All that We Do

The APA has task forces which issue policy statements on various issues of social import such as the APA position on psychology of abortion; APA position on human rights such as detainee welfare, human trafficking, and rights for the mentally ill; APA position on IQ; APA position on treating homosexuality (sexual orientation change efforts); and APA position on men and women (gender differences).[2]


Each year, the APA recognizes prominent psychologists with the "Distinguished Contributions" Awards; these awards are the highest honors given by the APA, and among the highest honors that a psychologist or psychology researcher can receive.

Membership and title of "psychologist"

Main article: Psychologist#United States and Canada

APA policy on the use of the title psychologist is contained in the Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists:[3] Psychologists have earned a doctoral degree in psychology and may not use the title “psychologist” and/or deliver psychological services to the public, unless the psychologist is licensed or specifically exempted from licensure under the law. State licensing laws specify state specific requirements for the education and training of psychologists leading to licensure. Psychologists who are exempted from licensure could include researchers, educators, or general applied psychologists who furnish services outside of the health and mental health field.

Full membership with the APA in United States and Canada requires doctoral training whereas associate membership requires at least two years of postgraduate studies in psychology or approved related discipline. The minimal requirement of a doctoral dissertation related to psychology for full membership can be waived in certain circumstances where there is evidence that significant contribution or performance in the field of psychology has been made.[4]

Organizational structure

Main article: Divisions of the American Psychological Association

APA comprises an executive office, a publishing operation, offices that address administrative, business, information technology, and operational needs, and five substantive directorates:

  • the Education Directorate accredits doctoral psychology programs and addresses issues related to psychology education in secondary through graduate education;[5]
  • the Practice Directorate engages on behalf of practicing psychologists and health care consumers;[6]
  • the Public Interest Directorate advances psychology as a means of addressing the fundamental problems of human welfare and promoting the equitable and just treatment of all segments of society;[7]
  • the Public and Member Communications Directorate is responsible for APA's outreach to its members and affiliates and to the general public;[8]
  • the Science Directorate provides support and voice for psychological scientists.[9]

Affiliate organizations

The American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) and the Education Advocacy Trust, which operates autonomously as a part of APAPO, are 501(c)(6) entities, separate from APA. They engage in advocacy on behalf of psychological practitioners and health care consumers and psychology education, respectively.

The Psychologically Healthy Workplace program

The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program (PHWP) is a collaborative effort between the American Psychological Association and the APA Practice Organization designed to help employers optimize employee well-being and organizational performance. The PHWP includes APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, a variety of APA Practice Organization resources, including PHWP Web content, e-newsletter, podcast and blog, and support of local programs currently implemented by 52 state, provincial and territorial psychological associations as a mechanism for driving grassroots change in local business communities. The awards are designed to recognize organizations for their efforts to foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance. The award program highlights a variety of workplaces, large and small, profit and non-profit, in diverse geographical settings. Applicants are evaluated on their efforts in the following five areas: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition. Awards are given at the local and national level.[10][11]

2010 award winners: American Cast Iron Pipe Company, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, Advanced Solutions (an HP company), Toronto Police Service and Leaders Bank.

APA Style

Main article: APA style

American Psychological Association (APA) Style is a set of rules developed to assist reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences. Designed to ensure clarity of communication, the rules are designed to "move the idea forward with a minimum of distraction and a maximum of precision."[12] The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association contains the rules for every aspect of writing, especially in the social sciences from determining authorship to constructing a table to avoiding plagiarism and constructing accurate reference citations. "The General Format of APA is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. General guidelines for a paper in APA style includes: typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11") with 1" margins on all sides. The font should be clear and highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font."[13]


The American Psychologist is the Association's official journal. APA also publishes over 70 other journals encompassing most specialty areas in the field, including:[14]

The APA has also published several books including children's books, software for data analysis, videos demonstrating therapeutic techniques, reports and brochures, and an eight-volume Encyclopedia of Psychology.[15][16]


APA maintains an abstract database named PsycINFO. It contains citations and summaries dating from the 19th century, including journal articles, book chapters, books, technical reports, and dissertations within the field of psychology. As of January 2010, PsycINFO has collected information from 2,457 journals.[17] Similar databases operated by other organizations include PsycLit and Psychological Abstracts. APA also operates a comprehensive search platform, PsycNET, covering multiple databases.[18]



The APA was founded in July 1892 at Clark University by a group of 26 men, the first president was G. Stanley Hall. It is affiliated with 60 state, territorial, and Canadian provincial associations.[19]

Dominance of clinical psychology

Due to the dominance of clinical psychology in APA, several research-focused groups have broken away from the organization. These include the Psychonomic Society in 1959 (with a primarily cognitive orientation), and the Association for Psychological Science (which changed its name from the American Psychological Society in early 2006) in 1988 (with a broad focus on the science and research of psychology). Theodore H. Blau was the first clinician in independent practice to be elected president of the American Psychological Association in 1977.[20]

Past presidents

Main article: List of presidents of American Psychological Association

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Positions on homosexuality

Cause of homosexuality

The APA states the following:

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."[21]

Conversion therapy

In 1975 APA issued a supporting statement that homosexuality is not a mental disorder.[22][23][24] There is a concern in the mental health community that the advancement of conversion therapy itself causes social harm by disseminating inaccurate views about sexual orientation and the ability of homosexual and bisexual people to lead happy, healthy lives.[25] Most mainstream health organizations are critical of conversion therapy, and no mainstream medical organization endorses conversion therapy.[25][26][27][28]Mainstream health organizations critical of conversion therapy include the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the National Education Association.</ref>

The APA adopted a resolution in August 2009 stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. The approval, by APA's governing Council of Representatives, came at APA's annual convention, during which a task force presented a report[29] that in part examined the efficacy of so-called "reparative therapy," or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).

The "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts"[30] also advises that parents, guardians, young people and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services "that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth."

Same-sex marriage

The APA adopted a resolution stating that it is unfair and discriminatory to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage and to all its attendant rights, benefits, and privileges. It also filed an amicus brief in the federal court case in which Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.[31] The APA later praised the decision and denied the existence of any "scientific justification" for a ban on same-sex marriage.[32]

In August 2011, the APA clarified their support of same-sex marriage in light of continued research suggesting that the same community benefits accepted as result of hetero-sexual marriage apply to same-sex couples as well, "We knew that marriage benefits heterosexual people in very significant ways, but we didn't know if that would be true for same-sex couples," said Dr. Clinton Anderson, associate executive director of the APA and director of the Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns. Anderson would also go on to clarify the Association's view on Civil Unions as an alternative to same-sex marriages: "Anything other than marriage is, in essence, a stigmatization of same-sex couples. Stigma does have negative impacts on people." [33] Anderson's statements have been met with scrutiny from organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage, that dispute the notion that communities are more accepting of homosexuals in states that legally sanction same-sex marriage.[citation needed]


APA internship crisis for graduate students

The APA is the main accrediting body for U.S. clinical and counseling psychology doctoral training programs and internship sites.[34] APA-accredited Clinical Psychology PhD and PsyD programs typically require students to complete a one-year clinical internship in order to graduate (or a two-year part-time internship). However, there is currently an "internship crisis" as defined by the American Psychological Association, in that approximately 25% of clinical psychology doctoral students do not match for internship each year.[35][36] This crisis has led many students (approximately 1,000 each year) to re-apply for internship, thus delaying graduation, or to complete an unaccredited internship, and often has many emotional and financial consequences.[37] Students who do not complete an APA accredited internships in the U.S. are barred from certain employment settings, including VA Hospitals, the military, and cannot get licensed in some states, such as Utah and Mississippi.[38][39] Additionally, some post-doctoral fellowships and other employment settings require or prefer an APA Accredited internship.[38] The APA has been criticized for not addressing this crisis adequately and many psychologists and graduate students have petitioned for the APA to take action by regulating graduate training programs. Many graduate students attend APA accredited programs, yet are unable to secure APA accredited internships possibly leading to financial and employment hardships.

Use of coercive techniques considered equivalent of torture

The APA absolutely condemns the use of any of the following practices by military interrogators trying to elicit anti-terrorism information from detainees, on the ground that "there are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether induced by a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, that may be invoked as a justification" for them:[40]

  • An absolute prohibition against the following techniques therefore arises from, is understood in the context of, and is interpreted according to these texts: mock executions; water-boarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation; sexual humiliation; rape; cultural or religious humiliation; exploitation of fears, phobias or psychopathology; induced hypothermia; the use of psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances; hooding; forced nakedness; stress positions; the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate; physical assault including slapping or shaking; exposure to extreme heat or cold; threats of harm or death; isolation; sensory deprivation and over-stimulation; sleep deprivation; or the threatened use of any of the above techniques to an individual or to members of an individual’s family.[40]

When it emerged that psychologists as part of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team were advising interrogators in Guantánamo and other U.S. facilities on improving the effectiveness of the "Enhanced interrogation techniques", the Association called on the U.S. government to prohibit the use of unethical interrogation techniques and labeled specific techniques as torture.[41][citation needed] Critics pointed out that the APA declined to advise its members not to participate in such interrogations.[42] This was in contrast to the American Psychiatric Association ban in May 2006 of all direct participation in interrogations by psychiatrists,[43] and the American Medical Association ban in June 2006 of the direct participation in interrogations by physicians.[44]

In September 2008, APA’s members passed a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the U.S. Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.”[45] The resolution became official APA policy in February 2009.

Amending the Ethics Code

In February 2010 APA's Council of Representatives voted to amend the association's Code of Ethics[46] to make clear that its standards can never be interpreted to justify or defend violating human rights. Following are the two ethical standards and the changes adopted. Language that is in bold was newly adopted:

1.02, Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority

If psychologists’ ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.

1.03, Conflicts Between Ethics and Organizational Demands

If the demands of an organization with which psychologists are affiliated or for whom they are working are in conflict with this Ethics Code, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code, and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.

See also

References & Bibliography

  1. American Psychological Association. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  2. Psychology Topics. American Psychological Association. URL accessed on 2012-12-14.
  3. Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists. American Psychological Association. URL accessed on 2012-12-14.
  4. APA Membership information. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  5. Education Directorate of the American Psychological Association. APA. URL accessed on 2012-09-07.
  6. APA Practice Directorate. URL accessed on 2012-09-07.
  7. Public Interest Directorate. URL accessed on 2012-09-07.
  8. Public and Member Communications. American Psychological Association. URL accessed on 2012-12-14.
  9. Science Directorate. URL accessed on 2012-09-07.
  10. Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program,
  11. Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program website,
  12. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  13. General APA Guidelines. Purdue OWL. URL accessed on 2/9/12.
  14. American Psychological Association Publications Search. URL accessed on 1 May 2011.
  15. Publications. APA. URL accessed on July 27, 2012.
  16. Alan E. Kazdin Encyclopedia of Psychology, APA.
  17. (2010). PsycINFO Journal Coverage. American Psychological Association. URL accessed on 2010-01-25.
  18. Psycnet. University of San Francisco: Gleeson Library—Geschke center.
  20. (2003). Noted psychologist Theodore Blau. St. Petersburg Times. URL accessed on 2007-09-14.
  21. "What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?" Page 4. APA. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  22. (1981). The diagnostic status of homosexuality in DSM-III: a reformulation of the issues. American Journal of Psychiatry 138 (2): 210–15.
  23. "An Instant Cure", Time; April 1, 1974.
  24. The A.P.A. Normalization of Homosexuality, and the Research Study of Irving Bieber. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  25. 25.0 25.1 (1999). Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel. American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, The Interfaith Alliance, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, National Education Association. URL accessed on 2007-08-28.
  26. American Medical Association policy regarding sexual orientation. American Medical Association. URL accessed on 2007-07-30.
  27. , Committee on Adolescence (1993). Homosexuality and Adolescence. Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics 92 (4): 631–634.
  28. Physician Assistants vote on retail clinics, reparative therapy. URL accessed on 2007-08-28.
  29. Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. URL accessed on October 13, 2012.
  30. Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts
  31. Brief of the American Psychological Association, The California Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy as amici curiae in support of plaintiff-appellees - Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of California Civil Case No. 09-CV-2292 VRW (Honorable Vaughn R. Walker). (PDF) URL accessed on 2010-11-05.
  32. APA Praises Prop 8 Decision as Victory for Science, Human Dignity. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  33. By Alden Mahler Levine, CNN. Psychological association calls for legalization of same-sex marriage. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  34. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  35. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  36. 2011 APPIC Match Statistics - Phase I. Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. URL accessed on July 16, 2013.
  37. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  38. 38.0 38.1 [ Frequently Asked Questions: Internship Applicants - Match Eligibility & Participation]. Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. URL accessed on July 16,
  39. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  40. 40.0 40.1 Reaffirmation of the American Psychological Association Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Its Application to Individuals Defined in the United States Code as “Enemy Combatants”
  41. APA Press Release, August 20, 2007
  42. Stephen Soldz: Psychologists, Guantánamo, and Torture: A Profession Struggles to Save Its Soul (ZNet, 3 August 2006); Protecting the Torturers Bad Faith and Distortions From the American Psychological Association (CounterPunch, 6 September 2006); Letter to the CEO of the American Psychological Association (, 28 November 2006)
  43. Statement on Interrogation (PDF file)
  44. Opinion 2.068 - Physician Participation in Interrogation
  45. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.
  46. URL accessed on 2012-10-14.

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