Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Advocacy Required!

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Advocacy Required!

Article excerpt

This article reproduces my presidential address at the Canadian Psychological Association's 74th Annual Convention in Quebec City. The theme of my presidency was Advocacy to bring to the attention of the profession the timely and urgent need for engaging with those who are making decisions about our profession and our research funding. Also I want to make all psychologists aware that everything we do in our daily work contributes to that advocacy. This led me to conceive of the CPA (2013b) video entitled Stories from the Field: Advocacy Success Stories. This video contains a series of interviews with Canadian advocates for psychology. As the video illustrates, advocacy includes learning how to interact with governments and funding sources, but also occurs in the effective and assertive actions of psychologist leaders, practitio- ners, researchers, and students in their workplace or academic setting. In celebrating their achievements at the local level, we can seek inspiration, but also the awareness that we are all advocates for psychology.

Supporting Canadian Psychology: Advocacy Required!

The theme of my talk is that we are all advocates, and every professional encounter that we have is a form of advocacy. Beyond that, we also need to step up and take a more visible advocacy role. This can occur with governments, in the workplace, or as students who are invested in the viability of their programs of study. Yet we are not trained to be advocates: "a lack of training or education in advocacy is a considerable and consistent obstacle in advocacy participation" (Heinowitz et al., 2012, p. 373); "Sixty percent of psychology graduate programs do not offer specific advocacy training" (Lating, Barnett, & Horowitz, 2009, p. 108); "Without training students graduate without the confidence and tools nec- essary to advocate effectively" (Heinowitz et al., 2012, p. 376).

What Is Advocacy?

"Advocacy is the process of informing, influencing, and assist- ing decision-makers over time" (CPA, 2013a,p.2).

Why Do We Need to Advocate?

On the practice side, psychology has the knowledge and exper- tise to facilitate the functioning and well-being of many Canadians who may be in need. For example, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem or disorder in a given year (Health Canada, 2002). Unfortunately only one third of those who need mental health care will actually receive it (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2012). Moreover, of the one in five Canadians who will experience a mental health problem or disor- der, the most commonly experienced disorders will be anxiety and depression (Mood Disorders Society of Canada, 2009, pp. 4 -5)- disorders that psychologists can treat very effectively (e.g., Hunsley, Elliott, & Therrien, 2013), and with no nasty side effects.

As well, mental disorders account for more of the global burden of disease than all cancers combined (Mood Disorders Society of Canada, 2006), and, according to the World Health Organisation, by 2020 depression will become the second leading cause of disability surpassed only by heart disease (http://www.who.int/whr/ 2001/chapter2/en/index4.html).

Another reason why psychologists should engage in advocacy is because the viability of the profession and its capacity to provide fundamental and essential services are directly affected by legis- lation and regulations (Barnett, 2004). If we do not involve our- selves in advocating "we forfeit opportunities to provide input into critical issues" (Heinowitz et al., 2012, p. 373).

Katherine Nordal, the American Psychological Association Ex- ecutive Director of Professional Practice, summed up the critical importance of advocacy efforts by psychologists when she said "if we're not at the table we are on the menu!"

The same fundamental truth applies to the necessity of advo- cating for support for psychological research. In these times of fiscal restraint and narrowing of funding eligibilities, it is critical to be sitting at the table when priorities are being deliberated. …

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