Why are Early Career Psychologists Important to ArPA?

To answer this question, first the backstory…

The Arkansas Psychological Association (ArPA) leadership has strived to recruit Early Career Psychologists (ECPs) for years, but in 2012, the association developed its first long-term strategic plan. It identified ECP membership and engagement as a goal, and it exceeded its ECP membership target.  Since that time, several ECPs have become fully-invested in the organization and many have come to view ArPA membership as a career asset and a wise business decision as they begin their careers.

Currently, ArPA leadership extends recruitment efforts to newly licensed psychologists by attending the Arkansas Psychology Board’s oral examinations and sharing with examinees the importance of ArPA to our profession, especially in Arkansas. ArPA’s ECP chair then follows up with interested individuals to express the importance of membership and to encourage joining. We currently have a “Featured Early Career Psychologist” prominently displayed on our website and blog. ArPA’s Professional Development Committee (PDC) ensures that CE events offer useful educational experiences to ECPs and even sponsored luncheons, providing the opportunity for selected ECPs and students to meet and get to know such notable authors as Jon Norcross and Paul Wachtel.

So why is ArPA paying so much attention to ECPs? With a steady stream of Early Career Psychologists, ArPA maintains a pool of motivated, ambitious individuals who want to see their careers and profession blossom, and that pretty well defines ArPA’s mission. As they progress in developing their own careers in this helping profession, our organization evolves and grows with them.  ECPs now are playing vital roles in leadership, advocacy, and the provision of professional training to Arkansas Psychologists. They are involved at all levels of ArPA governance, including President Elect, Vice President Elect, Treasurer, and Secretary. ECPs are represented in attendance at both executive and board meetings and have contributed a great deal to decision making and planning. The association is excited to add new ECPs to the Executive Committee this year, such as Dr. Khiela Holmes and Dr. Liv Miller. Although ArPA ECPs play an important role in leadership, what’s most impressive is the accomplishments of this group of vibrant individuals through advocacy, committee work, and professional training.

First, Early Career Psychologist are actively involved in advocacy. Tisha Dean, PhD, who is ArPA’s Treasurer and chairs the Legislative Committee, recently teamed up with our past president, Courtney Ghormley, PhD and visited Representative Tim Griffin, at his Little Rock office, to advocate for the physician definition bill (HR 794) in 2013. Thanks to their outreach, Rep. Griffin signed onto the bill, that if passed by congress would allow psychologists to be included under the physician definition in Medicare, not just in Arkansas, but across the country. (For more information on the significance of this bill see Dr. Paddy Walz’s article: Psychologists and Medicare’s Physician Definition)

Another Early Career Psychologist, Adam Benton, PhD, who is ArPAs President-Elect, is actively involved with Arkansas Medicaid reform (the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative). The initiative is restructuring healthcare in Arkansas. It is changing the rates of reimbursement and the services available in order to reward quality over quantity of care.  The changes will affect all Arkansas Medicaid beneficiaries and will likely also be adopted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arkansas, and other private insurances. The program is the first of its type in the nation and is being haled as  a model program for the rest of the country, by such sources as the New York Times. Dr. Benton has been involved in defining and changing the services offered and has advocated for the role of psychologists, psychological testing, and effective treatments for children within the new system.  (See Dr. Adam Benton’s article, Arkansas Medicaid Payment Reform, for more details)

Second, ArPA’s Early Career Psychologists are extremely active in building the organization through their networking and committee work as well. For instance, Rebekah Evans, PhD, Chair of the Public Education Committee, has routinely and enthusiastically highlighted psychology and ArPA psychologists in her outreach to local news media outlets. She has produced press releases in collaboration with APA’s PEC office on such topics as holiday stress, seasonal affective disorder, back to school stress, and many others. Her work has resulted in numerous TV appearances for local psychologists from across the state as well as interviews in print media. These appearances not only give recognition to psychologists as local experts but also serve to rally enthusiasm among ArPA members and provide an important educational service to the public.

The ECP led collaboration between the Public Education and Early Career Committees has produced a social media team and a vast social networking presence that is unprecedented for Arkansas psychologists. Through our new blog (www.arpapsych.com), Facebook page (Arkansas Psychological Association), and Twitter (@arpapsych) feeds, we are now able to reach hundreds of psychologists and residents across Arkansas and the nation.  As of the fall of 2013, ArPA is now actively utilizing social media for press releases and announcements to keep the public informed, to keep ArPA members up to date on the association’s efforts to promote and advocate for the profession, and to draw in members and non-members alike to become more involved in their profession and ArPA. The social media team is excited about the recent addition of Dr. Elizabeth Hufstutter and the newly nominated ECP Committee chair, Dr. Jason LaGory.  One list-serve member recently commented as follows:

Kudos and congratulations!  Your work on the website and utilization of social media are exciting and important additions to the presence of psychology and ArPA in Arkansas and the region/nation!  While it’s a lot of work for you on the front end, having a pleasing, updated, and functional website AND presence in the forums people read will undoubtedly increase our ability to communicate with each other.  Probably more important, increasing the accessibility of psychology and psychologists to the public should go hand-in-hand with the parallel changes in healthcare reform and all that we have to offer across the spectrum of consumers.  Thanks to you and ArPA leadership for forging ahead in your work, and keep us posted on we all can do to help.     

Third and finally, ECPs are taking a growing role in the continuing education of psychologists throughout the state. ECPs play an important role in coordinating our annual fall conference and providing training to other psychologists on topics like social media ethics and utilizing social media to promote private practices, clinics and programs. In addition, ECPs like Nicholas Rios, PsyD, serve actively on the Diversity committee and provided a stellar presentation at the annual Fall Conference on multicultural awareness, resources and strategies for working with hispanic immigrant families.

ArPA has proven successful at steadily recruiting and engaging ECPs in recent years, which is paying off as our leadership team and various committees exemplify a balance of experience and historical perspective with passion and new ideas that are making some very positive things happen in Arkansas.