Why I Support the American Psychological Foundation (APF)

By Terence M. Keane, Ph.D.



In 1953, a group of pre-eminent psychologists started a not for profit foundation to support psychological studies worldwide. This was the beginning of the American Psychological Foundation (APF). Each year, APF provides small grants to graduate students, early career psychologists, and to those psychologists engaged in innovative work unlikely to garner support from the usual federal funding agencies. In addition, APF makes many awards recognizing outstanding students and early career psychologists; plus multiple lifetime achievement awards for our most accomplished scientists, academics, and scholars come from or through the APF. This is an amazing organization.

The range and scope of the work of APF is nothing short of remarkable. To understand the depth of the work, consider visiting the website: www.apa.org/apf

I should disclose that I am a member of the Board of Trustees of the APF and it is role that I truly value given its mission and vision. I’ve also decided that this is one place where I not only wanted to dedicate some personal time, but also where I wanted to contribute philanthropically. As a senior member of the Psychology community, I deeply appreciate what this profession means to me and what it has given me over the course of my many decades of studying and practicing Psychology. APF is one place where I can express my appreciation while supporting young psychologists complete their dissertations, collect pilot data for a major grant submission, or conduct a clinical program that might serve as a demonstration project. In all cases, the APF helps the psychologists involved, the community, and the participants in any given project. APF does good things for many people with every grant it makes. The reach is astounding in many cases.

While the areas of interest supported by APF are broad and defined, the models, methods, and measures to study these areas aren’t at all specified. Intentionally, projects are drawn from the deep theoretical and methodological strengths that characterize our field. Thus, projects from clinical, counseling, developmental, experimental, cognitive, and the neurosciences are all solicited and funded in any given round of grant submissions. The areas of interest include topics of great current interest to our communities and to society broadly: a) Treating serious mental illness, b) Studying gifted children and adolescents, c) Preventing violence, d) Understanding prejudice, e) Connecting mental and physical health, f) Combating homophobia, g) Examining human reproductive behaviors, h) Exploring child psychology, and e) Using psychology to aid in disaster recovery. Yet, there are many other mechanisms established by philanthropically minded psychologists that address an even broader range of topics in Psychology. These are all delineated on the website. Do take some time to explore these opportunities.

Today, the APF is engaged in a capital campaign to raise funds that will permit the organization to fund more grants than ever from young people. We need help from all corners. We need your help. With a lean staff of five exceptionally talented people working for an outstanding Executive Director, Lisa Straus, and with the help of the APA for infrastructure, the APF is a lean organization that returns excellent yields on investments and operates with a very low level of overhead. This means that contributions go in large measure to the purposes intended by contributors.

At the annual SCP Board meeting in Toronto fellow Board member David Barlow and Executive Director Lisa Straus presented the APF mission, vision, and portfolio to the Board of SCP. The reception was excellent and the Board encouraged me to bring to our membership the opportunities that APF presents. With this Presidential Column, I am bringing to the attention of all the unique opportunity that APF presents to us to give back, to help the next generation, and to recognize the value of the work that our profession does for our community and for our country.

For me, APF represents great value. It is a trusted organization with more than sixty years of history doing good things for Psychology and for the people we serve. The range of grants it provides to young people touches upon the interests of almost all of us and these areas represent reasons why many of us became psychologists initially. APF also permits us to give back to the field, to make it ever stronger, and even more valuable to our society.

Let me provide an example of this. Mary Woody is a graduate student in clinical psychology at Binghamton University (SUNY) where she is studying depression with Brandon Gibb, Ph.D. one of the country’s bright young investigators working to understand the nature of intergenerational transmission of mood disorders. With her recent grant from the APF, Mary will extend their collaboration to study high risk children and their families looking for a neurodevelopmental marker in brain circuitry. By studying these children from a genetic, psychophysiological, and behavioral perspective the goal is to shed new light on the frequent observation that depressive disorders runs in families. Approaching the problem from multiple levels of analysis was made possible by the APF funds. Importantly, this work will serve as a dissertation that promises to make a significant contribution to this literature by studying children prior to their first episode of depression.

So many of us in this field are blessed with interesting jobs, work, patients, and colleagues and are grateful for the chance to do the work we do and have the careers we’ve chosen. Now, as the APF is engaged in a Capital Campaign, isn’t it time to ponder ways at this time of the year in which we can give back to the field? Doing so is easy: you can make a one-time contribution by going to the website, or you can send an email to foundation@apa.org One of our senior development people will be back in contact with you to present the various options for making a philanthropic gift.

Many years ago I was celebrating the awarding of a grant on PTSD with a collaborator who was decades my senior. We drove to a fine restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay for dinner. Immediately in front of us was another customer driving a car valued at over a hundred thousand dollars then! I was driving my trusty Toyota Camry and jokingly commented that maybe I couldn’t afford eating at this nice a place. My friend and colleague turned immediately to me and said: “Terry, there’s someone who doesn’t really know what to do with their money.” Over dinner, I learned what causes this person supported over the course of their lifetime and was deeply impressed. It was a lesson I vowed never to forget: those of us who do well have the responsibility to give back.

Please join me in supporting APF. There is never a better time than now for all of us to join together to make the world better, one psychology grant at a time.