“Let’s Make SCP Great Again!”

By Bradley E. Karlin, Ph.D., ABPP

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Brad

There has arguably never been a more critical time for the field of clinical psychology and, specifically, for the Society of Clinical Psychology (SCP), in light of recent professional developments. As I write this, my inaugural Presidential Column, on the eve of Super Tuesday and reflect on the present and future, I feel a sense of significant urgency and great opportunity to strengthen and grow SCP, building on, but expanding beyond, our rich history.

Developments within and outside of SCP urge that we focus on and invest internally in current members and in recruitment of new members. SCP, like many other professional membership organizations, has experienced significant declines in membership over the past several years, due to multiple factors. At a time when many are at a difficult choice point when considering writing their membership dues checks, and when there exist a spate of seemingly similar professional organizations, it is essential that we promote membership value and engagement among a broader array of members. In my candidate statement for SCP President, I wrote about hoping to “focus internally on the organization and bring fresh eyes, creativity, and vision to promote membership diversity, recruitment, and the value of the Society for a broader range of engaged members and leaders.” With the average age of SCP members just approaching the age of Medicare eligibility, it is essential that we make SCP an organization of early and mid-career psychologists, as well as more senior psychologists – and in so doing supporting and developing future leaders of clinical psychology.

For both the future of SCP and the field of clinical psychology, it is essential that we better connect with, be relevant to, and support early career and mid-level psychologists, while also providing current value to and leveraging the senior members, luminaries, and leaders of clinical psychology within the Society. I would like to share some key initiatives – at organizational and programmatic levels – designed to achieve these important goals enthusiastically discussed and embraced by the SCP Board of Directors at the Mid-Winter Board Meeting in February.

Promoting membership value and engagement first requires that we address internal needs and opportunities, including how we connect and communicate with members (and prospective members). Below is a description of several strategic priority areas and activities at the organizational level that are designed to further engage and connect with existing and new members.

  1. Inclusivity. Providing increasing opportunities for inclusivity and leadership among the broad membership of SCP is critical to the success of the organization. For SCP and the next generation of clinical psychology leaders to thrive, it is essential that we provide opportunities to members of varying backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to develop and exercise leadership and engage in dialogue and discussion on key issues. I have already received enthusiastic messages from a number of members excited about being engaged – and engaging others. As part of the goal toward inclusivity and leadership, we have recently issued open calls for nominations for SCP committee and other leadership positions, with particular encouragement of nominations from early and mid-career psychologists, as well as others who may not have previously considered, or been considered, for leadership positions. I truly hope that many members respond to such direct calls – this is your organization and we need your input and individual leadership for SCP to thrive. In addition, we recently issued a special call for APA convention proposals specifically for students and early career professionals, which generated strong interest. And, Section 10 (Graduate Students and Early Career Psychologists) is planning a podcast on SCP’s increasing focus on engaging and promoting leadership development opportunities for early career and student members.
  2. Needs Assessment. In order for SCP to best serve the needs of and engage members – and thrive as a diverse and inclusive organization – it is important that we understand the needs of the membership and how SCP is meeting and could better meet members’ needs. To be relevant, connected to, and supportive of our members, it is important that we have our finger more closely on the pulse of the membership. Accordingly, we are planning to conduct a membership needs assessment to identify members’ needs, what they value about SCP and SCP membership, and what might be done to promote the value proposition of SCP membership. This insight is essential for both recruiting and retaining members. Furthermore, such communication with the membership is likely to yield new insight, ideas, and creativity to aid both operational and strategic functions, including the development of a new SCP strategic plan in the future. I hope you will take a few moments to complete this important needs assessment when it is sent out in the near future and, in so doing, consider carefully how SCP is meeting your needs and suggest actionable recommendations for how we may increase membership value.
  3. Mentorship Program. I am very excited to share with you plans we have for implementing a mentorship program in SCP – available to and potentially relevant to all members – which generated much interest and enthusiasm at the recent SCP Board Meeting. I have personally been involved in some mentorship programs (as both a mentor and mentee) that have been very successful and provided value and meaning on both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship. As part of the SCP Mentorship Program, a member (mentee) with a particular interest in receiving mentorship in a specific area would be paired with another member (mentor) with experience or expertise in that area. The program would be available for general mentorship in clinical psychology, as well as be organized by more specific interest areas (e.g., integrated care, evidence-based psychotherapies, working in academic medical settings, working with older adults, working in administrative, executive, or other “non-traditional” roles, establishing a practice, evidence-based assessment, working with specific minority populations, etc.). A mentorship program seems like a particular area of opportunity and fit within SCP given the rich experience of our members, both in terms of years of experience and the diversity of interests and expertise (as reflected, for example, by the 8 Sections in Division 12!). A mentorship program provides an ideal opportunity to bring together the younger and more senior members of SCP. And, with the average age of SCP members in the seventh decade of life (a decade in which Erik Erikson told us generativity is a major developmental focus), this seems like a natural opportunity. In fact, while there is hope that this could be a significant draw to younger mentees (both existing and new), this would be a program that could be directly relevant to and provide mentorship value to virtually all members regardless of age or professional experience, including members who may be interested in (1) expanding their clinical, scientific, or academic work, (2) exploring new fields, (3) pursuing second (or third!) careers, or (4) those just interested in promoting their connections, expanding their networks, or engaging in intimate intellectual discourse with other psychologists. Incidentally, my wife, who accompanied me to the SCP Mid-Winter Board Meeting, made a related (and poignant) comment to me that prompted met to mindfully reflect. As we returned to our hotel room following dinner with the Board, she (a change management and strategic communications professional – not a psychologist or member of a professional discipline) remarked how fortunate I was to have such a vast network of colleagues and with highly diverse interests (and this was just a subset of Board members she was basing this on!). A few moments later, I recognized that I had taken this somewhat for granted, as this is what I have known and experienced for many years. However, as she brought to my awareness, this is not the case for so many other professionals. We have an extremely deep well of intellectual resources that could make the Mentorship Program one of our most vibrant programs and bring us even closer together, and across Sections, as a professional organization. Let’s leverage among the greatest and unique strengths of SCP – the considerable wisdom and experience of our successful and heterogeneous membership! We plan to gauge members interest in participating in a mentorship program in the forthcoming needs assessment described above, as well as inquire about potential areas of interest and expertise for mentees and mentors. If there is significant interest in such a program, we will plan to launch this later this year. I hope you will consider participating either as a mentor or mentee!
  4. Existing and Prospective New Member Events. With the support and leadership of the Membership Committee, we plan to implement a strategically developed and announced new and existing member event that would provide opportunities for meaningful networking and professional and leadership development. We are even exploring possibly incorporating speed mentoring, which some other organizations have held with great success, into the event. Such a member event would be preceded by a broad and strategic communications blitz to reach a large number of potential new members, as well as existing members. This would build on events SCP has held recently at ABCT and APA, as well as a Graduate Student Summit that was held a couple of years ago.
  5. Strategic Communications and Outreach. Strategic communications and outreach is an important component of SCP operations and is critical for successful retention and recruitment. It is essential that we communicate through the most relevant, appropriate, and high-yield channels, particularly those that are more likely to reach younger members and prospective members, including but not limited to social media. To accomplish this, we are exploring opportunities for low-cost, expert consultation and support in communications, branding, and marketing. In addition, we are exploring adding dedicated internal social media and communications capacity, building on the foundation established by SCP’s Web Editor, Damion Grasso and others.

In addition to addressing key organizational needs and opportunities, we are excited to leverage programmatic level opportunities for the Society to be a content and thought leader in an emerging field in which there is no identified leader within professional psychology – namely, the field of dissemination and implementation. D&I is an emerging field of critical importance to bridging enduring gaps in science and practice and that fits very well with SCP’s rich history and mission. For too long, we have focused so much in clinical science and practice on the “what” (i.e., specific treatments) and too little on the “how” (i.e., the process for how to get treatments into routine clinical practice). As the field of D&I has matured (and become increasingly empirically-oriented), research and experience has clearly shown that more active and sophisticated approaches to dissemination and implementation that account for facilitators and barriers at multiple levels of the organization or system can yield significant impact – much greater impact than reliance on traditional approaches that are more passive and one-dimensional (e.g., toolkits, clinical practice guidelines, etc.).

SCP is well poised to exert internal and external leadership in D&I at a time when many are seeking a home for dissemination and implementation within professional psychology. Moreover, D&I is a unifying area of opportunity, as it cuts across many different sub-fields within clinical psychology and within SCP, specifically. It is also a discipline that is of significant interest to many younger clinical psychologists, as well as to more seasoned clinicians and scientists within clinical psychology, including many treatment developers who yearn to see treatments that were the product of many years of labor realize their potential for impact. One of the greatest opportunities and privileges of my professional career has been to work to promote the broad dissemination and implementation of evidence-based psychological treatments for Veterans and to see the lives of many of our nation’s heroes improve considerably when provided an opportunity to receive these treatments. I now work with various public and private systems to promote the broad dissemination and delivery of evidence-based psychotherapies and dementia care interventions.
I am energized to work together to advance these organizational and programmatic needs and opportunities. While the foregoing activities are priorities of my Presidential year, this endeavor will require a multi-year commitment and will continue with the strong support and leadership of President-Elect Michael Otto and the SCP Board.

It is an honor to serve as your president, a responsibility I take very seriously. I am committed to helping to advance the Society during this critical time and to working together to realize significant opportunities for us to make SCP great again!