Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

The Psychology of Advocacy and the Advocacy of Psychology

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

The Psychology of Advocacy and the Advocacy of Psychology

Article excerpt

This article addresses needs and opportunities for advocacy for the science, education and practice of psychology from the perspectives of three leaders within organized psychology, academia, and hospital practice. The authors make distinctions between knowledge transfer and knowledge translation as well as between lobbying and advocacy. They define proactive and reactive advocacy and draw attention to the impact of self-promotion and the need for collaboration in advocacy activity. Further, the authors define the need for and application of advocacy within the university environment, highlighting how advocacy skills can be taught and can have a broad reach within university student populations. The authors then address the characteristics of a practice environment upon which successful advocacy in this setting depends: the size of the problem, the effectiveness of available solutions, and the unique role psychology can play in the application of solutions. The article concludes by underscoring the collective responsibility psychologists have to be advocates and offers 12 steps in support of successful advocacy for psychology at individual, departmental, and organisational levels.

Keywords: advocacy, lobbying, knowledge translation, advocacy training, steps in support of advocacy

As the national organisation representing psychologists, the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) has a long history of advocacy on behalf of the science and the profession of psychology. The mission and mandate of the CPA include two specific advocacy objectives:

* "To promote excellence and innovation in psychological research, education, and practice;

* To promote the advancement, development, dissemination, and application of psychological knowledge." (CPA, n.d.)

The importance of these objectives to the membership of the CPA and to Canadian psychology is as salient now as it was in the early days of CPA's organisation. The fruits of Canadian psychology's advocacy efforts are evident as Canada boasts a strong scientific community of psychologists (Carleton, Peluso, & Asmundson, 2010), record-breaking enrolment in both undergraduate and graduate programs in psychology (Canadian Association of University Teachers, CAUT, 2010), a well-established accreditation mechanism for professional psychology programs (Hunsley & Barker, 201 1), and psychologists contributing vital roles in diverse employment settings (Ronson, Cohen, & Hunsley, 2010). Advocacy initiatives are a prominent focus of the CPA's newly formed Science and Practice Directorates. In addition to those advocacy efforts and activities supported by CPA, many important advocacy activities have been undertaken by provincial and territorial associations of psychology in the form of developing government and media relations kits, TV commercials, media training, and leadership conferences. A number of these latter activities were made possible by funds returned to Canada by the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice of the American Psychological Association (APA) - the funds representing a proportion of the Practice Assessment Dues paid by Canadian members of the APA (J. Frain, personal communication, November 24, 201 1).

In addition to the explicit advocacy engaged in by the highly experienced staff of the CPA, there are countless ways that members of the Canadian psychological community promote our science and our profession via the products of their work. From early in their training, graduate students in psychology are encouraged to present their findings at scholarly conferences and to submit their work for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Psychological research is published in a vast array of scholarly journals. Practitioners train and consult to service agencies and fellow practitioners. Many among our science, practice and training communities consult to public agencies and participate in public events and lectures. …

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