Early Career Psychologists (ECP) Initiative Award Offered by APA Division 31

It is a distinct pleasure to submit this nomination on behalf of the Arkansas Psychological Association (ArPA) for the Early Career Psychologists Initiative Award. We hope you will strongly consider ArPA for the award as ArPA takes great pride in developing strong Early Career Psychologist (ECP) leaders. We recognize that ECPs are crucial to the growth and sustainability of the organization and the profession, and they have unique skills to offer fellow members, the community, and our Association.

Success in recruiting and engaging ECP members. Since formally establishing ECP membership growth as a goal in ArPA’s 2012 strategic plan, the Association has exceeded its ECP membership target and many ECPs have become fully-invested in the organization and recognize ArPA membership as a career asset and a wise investment in their future. Because of this, we now have an active and motivated group of ECP members at all levels of ArPA leadership. ECPs have played pivotal roles in advocacy, leadership, student mentoring and the provision of quality continuing education opportunities.

To recruit ECPs, the association starts with a strong, vibrant Student Committee where undergraduate and graduate students learn the importance of advocating for their profession and role of ArPA and APA in promoting psychology and psychologists. At Continuing Education (CE) events, ArPA holds research poster presentations, awards student scholarships and offers students registration for a minimal fee. During the research poster presentations, students have an opportunity to engage with psychology professionals at all levels from early to late career. In recent conferences, psychology student attendance constituted a significant proportion of overall attendance.

ArPA leadership sponsors activities and initiatives that support the development of ECPs, preparing them for the future of psychology and integrated practice competencies. ArPA’s Social Media Team, consisting of seven ECPs who regularly posts resources and opportunities beneficial to psychologists early in their careers. It uses social media sites, including the ArPA Blog, website, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and list-serve enthusiastically to promote new ECP members and feature their training, specialties, and practices in the community. ArPA exhibits a “Featured Early Career Psychologist” prominently on its website and blog.

The ArPA’s Professional Development Committee (PDC) ensures that CE events offer useful educational experiences to ECPs. In 2014, ArPA’s Fall Conference, Changing Landscapes in Mental Health, featured local and national experts on healthcare reform and integrated care. The state Insurance Commissioner and Surgeon General were among the line-up of presenters. ECPs presented on legislative issues, social media and technologies for mental health professionals. Over the past couple of years, ArPA’s fall conference speakers have included such notable individuals as Katherine Nordal, John Norcross, and Paul Wachtel. ArPA sponsored a meal with each speaker, providing the opportunity for selected ECPs and students to meet and become familiar with these prominent contributors to the profession. At past conferences, ECPs presented on such topics as social media ethics and utilizing social media to promote practices and programs. In addition, ECPs have provided stellar presentations on multicultural awareness, resources and strategies for working with Latino immigrant families.

ArPA’s efforts to recruit, prepare and educate ECPs in the association is overshadowed only by its success in engaging ECPs in leadership roles within the organization. ECPs play vital roles in leadership, advocacy, and the provision of professional training in the Association. They are involved at all levels of ArPA governance, including President, President-Elect, Vice President-Elect, and various committee chairs. Our ECPs are represented in attendance at both executive and board meetings and have contributed a great deal to decision making and planning over the past three years. Although ArPA is proud of its success in recruiting and engaging ECPs, we are proudest of the accomplishments of this group of vibrant young professionals on several initiatives.

First, Early Career Psychologist, Tisha Deen, Ph.D., who chairs ArPAs Legislative Committee, teamed up with our past president, Courtney Ghormley, Ph.D. in 2013 and visited Representative Tim Griffin, at his Little Rock office, to advocate for the physician definition bill (HR 794). Thanks to their outreach, Rep. Griffin signed the bill that if passed by Congress would include psychologists under the physician definition in Medicare, not just in Arkansas, but across the country. Dr. Deen proceeded to develop a strong legislative committee that meets regularly to discuss and advocate local and state issues affecting psychologists. Dr. Deen and members of her committee were active in addressing a licensing change that went into effect in January 2014. It resulted in the suspension of payment for services provided by doctoral psychology interns across the state. In response, a grassroots task force of ArPA members drafted new rules and met with the Arkansas Department of Human Services and the Arkansas Psychology Board to make regulation and rule changes. These changes allowed intern reimbursement for services provided under supervision of a licensed psychologist. Arkansas now joins Oklahoma, Minnesota, Nevada, Alabama, Georgia and Ohio in allowing Medicaid reimbursement for psychological services provided by predoctoral interns.

Second, Early Career Psychologist, Adam Benton, Ph.D., successfully advocated for psychologists at the Arkansas Department of Human Services workgroup committees on Arkansas’ Medicaid payment reform (the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative). For almost three years, the group has met, discussed and participated in the design of systemic changes in behavioral health care for Arkansas. The changes will affect all Arkansas Medicaid beneficiaries and will likely be adopted by Blue Cross Blue Shield and Qualchoice of Arkansas as well. The program is the first of its type in the nation and is being hailed as a model program for the rest of the country, by such sources as the New York Times. Dr. Benton was involved in defining and changing the services offered and continues to advocate the role of psychologists in the new system. It is because of his advocacy, and that of others, that psychological testing plays a greater role in the new system and psychologists are recognized as Principle Accountable Providers, a role that is equal to psychiatrists and primary care physicians in their ability to make important decisions for behavioral/mental health patients. After Medicaid Reform workgroup meetings, Dr. Benton consults with other ArPA Board Members on the impact of the policies discussed and strategies to advocate for psychologists in his role with the Payment Improvement Initiative. The decisions made during these healthcare reform meetings will have a lasting impact on behavioral/mental health care and psychologists in Arkansas for years to come, and ArPA has an Early Career Psychologist in the thick of it.

Third, Arkansas’ Early Career Psychologists are making waves with their networking and committee work as well. For instance, Rebekah Evans, Ph.D., an Early Career Psychologist and Chair of the Public Education Committee, has proven vigilant in her writing of press releases and outreach to local news agencies. She has produced press releases on such topics as holiday stress, seasonal affective disorder, and back to school stress, among many others. Her work has resulted in numerous TV appearances for local psychologists from across the state. These appearances not only give recognition to psychologists as local experts but also serve to rally enthusiasm among ArPA members and provide educational services to the public. In addition, Dr. Evans routinely hosts “Meet and Greets” to spread the news about ArPA activities and to recruit new members from her corner of the state.

Forth, Dr. Khiela Holmes, who chaired the diversity committee played a key role in ArPA’s hosting of the city-wide Commemoration of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. During the event, ArPA prepared and presented a public statement speaking out against all types of discrimination in the workplace. We honored Arkansas Civil Rights heroes, Brownie Ledbetter, and Terrence Roberts for their courageous efforts to further civil rights. Over 200 people attended the event from around the state. Dr. Holmes has also chaired the Student Services Committee since joining ArPA and coordinates the research poster presentations at the annual conference. She has met with and mentored a number of students who have joined ArPA.

Fifth, the ECP led collaboration between the Public Education and Early Career Committees has produced a vast social networking presence that is unprecedented for Arkansas psychologists. Our blog (www.arpapsych.com) Facebook (Arkansas Psychological Association), Google+ (ArPAPsych) and Twitter (#arpapsych) feeds are now reaching hundreds of psychologists and residents across the country. As of late 2014, ArPA was actively utilizing social media for press releases and announcements to keep the public informed. They keep ArPA members up to date on the Association’s efforts to promote and advocate for the profession, and they draw in members and non-members alike to become more involved in their profession and ArPA. Since our 2014 submission for this award, ArPA’s use of social media has soared to new heights and has quickly become a crucial part of ArPA’s communication network. It has become a powerful tool to promote the association and the work of our busy committees. One list-serve member 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 ArPA leadership for forging ahead in your work.  Anitra Fay, PhD

The development of the various social media sites has been an increasingly important method of “spreading the word” about Psychology in our state.  Arkansas is a small, mostly sparsely populated state, and the increasing use of the internet by the Arkansas Psychological Association by local psychologists has been an amazing success.  Not only are the social media sites providing useful information and connections between the psychologists in Arkansas, the Facebook and other social public websites have been an increasingly helpful tool for the public.  Schools, parents, potential clients, and others continue to find timely and important information that can only be obtained on the ArPA social media outlets. Keep up the good work! Gary T. Souheaver, Ph.D., ABPP

With this award, ArPA will devote funding to bolster recruitment, empower and engage ECPs with two agendas. First, ArPA wants to invest in pictures, software and other resources to improve the quality of its social media efforts. Due to ArPA’s tight budget these expenses have come directly from members of the social media team. The initiative will further ArPA’s use of social media as a community forum to address issues critical to the development of innovative clinical and business practices where ECPs may flourish.

Second, with this award ArPA can partially fund a joint program between Diversity and Student Committee Chair, Dr. Khiela Holmes and ECP Committee Chair, Dr. Laura Horton. Their joint program aims at recruiting and sustaining membership of students, psychologists in academics, and early career psychologists. By funding Dr. Holmes’ initiative to create training resources for students across the state in connection with Dr. Horton’s initiative to develop an ECP mentorship program, those individuals early in their career will have formal opportunities for networking, support and learning. Dr. Holmes and Dr. Horton’s agenda will promote ECPs involvement in ArPA and provide career-building opportunities, such as valuable resources, networking, and training.
These initiatives will empower ECPs. They are new and innovative programs that contribute to increased knowledge about leadership and advocacy in the Association. They promote the value of association membership and result in greater public awareness of psychologists and the profession. It is our hope that Division 31 will recognize the efforts of many in our small Association, and help us further promote ECPs in our state, through this award.


Adam Benton, PhD

Khiela Holmes, PhD