American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association logo.svg
FormationJuly 1892; 128 years ago (1892-07)
Headquarters750 First Street, NE
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Coordinates38°54′00″N 77°00′27″W / 38.89988°N 77.00753°W / 38.89988; -77.00753Coordinates: 38°54′00″N 77°00′27″W / 38.89988°N 77.00753°W / 38.89988; -77.00753
Over 121,000
Sandra L. Shullman[1]
Arthur C. Evans, Jr.

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States,[2] with over 121,000 members, including scientists, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students.[2] It has 54 divisions—interest groups for different subspecialties of psychology or topical areas.[3] The APA has an annual budget of around $115m.[4]


The APA has task forces that issue policy statements on various matters of social importance, including abortion, human rights, the welfare of detainees, human trafficking, the rights of the mentally ill, IQ testing, sexual orientation change efforts, and gender equality.[5]


APA is a corporation chartered in the District of Columbia. APA's bylaws describe structural components that serve as a system of checks and balances to ensure democratic process. The organizational entities include:

  • APA President. The APA's president is elected by the membership. The president chairs the Council of Representatives and the Board of Directors. During his or her term of office, the president performs such duties as are prescribed in the bylaws.
  • Board of Directors. The board is composed of six members-at-large, the president-elect, president, past-president, treasurer, recording secretary, CEO, and the chair of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). The Board oversees the association's administrative affairs and presents an annual budget for council approval.
  • APA Council of Representatives. The council has sole authority to set policy and make decisions regarding APA's roughly $60 million annual income. It is composed of elected members from state/provincial/territorial psychological associations, APA divisions and the APA Board of Directors.
  • APA Committee Structure: Boards and Committees. Members of boards and committees conduct much of APA's work on a volunteer basis. They carry out a wide variety of tasks suggested by their names. Some have responsibility for monitoring major programs, such as the directorates, the journals and international affairs.

    The Good Governance Project (GGP) was initiated in January 2011 as part of the strategic plan to "[assure] APA's governance practices, processes and structures are optimized and aligned with what is needed to thrive in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex environment."[7] The charge included soliciting feedback and input stakeholders, learning about governance best practices, recommending whether change was required, recommending needed changes based on data, and creating implementation plans.[7] The June 2013 GGP update on the recommended changes can be found in the document "Good Governance Project Recommended Changes to Maximize Organizational Effectiveness of APA Governance".[8] The suggested changes would change APA from a membership-based, representational structure to a corporate structure. These motions were discussed and voted upon by Council on July 31, 2013 and August 2, 2013.[8]

    Organizational structure

    APA comprises an executive office, a publishing operation, offices that address administrative, business, information technology, and operational needs, and five substantive directorates:

    • the Education Directorate accredits doctoral psychology programs and addresses issues related to psychology education in secondary through graduate education;[9]
    • the Practice Directorate engages on behalf of practicing psychologists and health care consumers;[10]
    • the Public Interest Directorate advances psychology as a means of addressing the fundamental problems of human welfare and promoting the equitable and just treatment of all segments of society;[11]
    • the Public and Member Communications Directorate is responsible for APA's outreach to its members and affiliates and to the general public;[12]
    • the Science Directorate provides support and voice for psychological scientists.

      APA policy on the use of the title psychologist is contained in the Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists:[14] psychologists have earned a doctoral degree in psychology and may not use the title "psychologist" and/or deliver psychological services to the public, unless the psychologist is licensed or specifically exempted from licensure under the law. State licensing laws specify state specific requirements for the education and training of psychologists leading to licensure. Psychologists who are exempted from licensure could include researchers, educators, or general applied psychologists who provide services outside the health and mental health field.

      Full membership with the APA in United States and Canada requires doctoral training whereas associate membership requires at least two years of postgraduate studies in psychology or approved related discipline. The minimal requirement of a doctoral dissertation related to psychology for full membership can be waived in certain circumstances where there is evidence that significant contribution or performance in the field of psychology has been made.[15]

      Affiliate organizations

      American Psychological Association Services, Inc. (APASI) was formed in 2018 and is a 501(c)(6) entity, which engages in advocacy on behalf of psychologists from all areas of psychology.


      Each year, the APA recognizes top psychologists with the "Distinguished Contributions" Awards; these awards are the highest honors given by the APA.



The APA was founded in July 1892 at Clark University by a small group of around 30 men; by 1916 there were over 300 members. The first president was G. Stanley Hall. During World War II, the APA merged with other psychological organizations, resulting in a new divisional structure. Nineteen divisions were approved in 1944; the divisions with the most members were the clinical and personnel (now counseling) divisions. From 1960 to 2007, the number of divisions expanded to 54.[33] Today the APA is affiliated with 60 state, territorial, and Canadian provincial associations.[34]

Dominance of clinical psychology

Due to the dominance of clinical psychology in APA, several research-focused groups have broken away from the organization. These include the Psychonomic Society in 1959 (with a primarily cognitive orientation), and the Association for Psychological Science (which changed its name from the American Psychological Society in early 2006) in 1988 (with a broad focus on the science and research of psychology). Theodore H. Blau was the first clinician in independent practice to be elected president of the American Psychological Association in 1977.[35]


APA Presidents from the present to 1892
2019  Rosie Phillips Davis
2018  Jessica Henderson Daniel
2017  Antonio Puente
2016  Susan H. McDaniel
2015  Barry S. Anton
2014  Nadine Kaslow
2013  Donald N. Bersoff
2012  Suzanne Bennett Johnson
2011  Melba J. T. Vasquez
2010  Carol D. Goodheart
2009  James H. Bray
2008  Alan E. Kazdin
2007  Sharon S. Brehm
2006  Gerald Koocher
2005  Ronald F. Levant
2004  Diane F. Halpern
2003  Robert J. Sternberg
2002  Philip G. Zimbardo
2001  Norine G. Johnson
2000  Patrick DeLeon
1999  Richard Suinn
1998  Martin E.P. Seligman
1997  Norman Abeles
1996  Dorothy Cantor
1995  Robert J. Resnick
1994  Ronald E. Fox
1993  Frank Farley
1992  Jack Wiggins, Jr.
1991  Charles Spielberger
1990  Stanley Graham
1989  Joseph Matarazzo
1988  Raymond D. Fowler
1987  Bonnie Strickland
1986  Logan Wright
1985  Robert Perloff
1984  Janet Taylor Spence
1983  Max Siegel
1982  William Bevan (psychologist)
1981  John J. Conger
1980  Florence Denmark
1979  Nicholas A. Cummings
1978  M. Brewster Smith
1977  Theodore H. Blau
1976  Wilbert J. McKeachie
1975  Donald T. Campbell
1974  Albert Bandura
1973  Leona E. Tyler
1972  Anne Anastasi
1971  Kenneth B. Clark
1970  George W. Albee
1969  George A. Miller
1968  Abraham Maslow
1967  Gardner Lindzey
1966  Nicholas Hobbs
1965  Jerome Bruner
1964  Quinn McNemar
1963  Charles E. Osgood
1962  Paul E. Meehl
1961  Neal E. Miller
1960  Donald O. Hebb
1959  Wolfgang Köhler
1958  Harry Harlow
1957  Lee J. Cronbach
1956  Theodore Newcomb
1955  E. Lowell Kelly
1954  O. Hobart Mowrer
1953  Laurance F. Shaffer
1952  J. McVicker Hunt
1951  Robert R. Sears
1950  Joy Paul Guilford
1949  Ernest R. Hilgard
1948  Donald R. Marquis
1947  Carl Rogers
1946  Henry E. Garrett
1945  Edwin R. Guthrie
1944  Gardner Murphy
1943  John Edward Anderson
1942  Calvin Perry Stone
1941  Herbert Woodrow
1940  Leonard Carmichael
1939  Gordon Allport
1938  John Dashiell
1937  Edward C. Tolman
1936  Clark L. Hull
1935  Albert Poffenberger
1934  Joseph Peterson
1933  Louis Leon Thurstone
1932  Walter Richard Miles
1931  Walter Samuel Hunter
1930  Herbert Langfeld
1929  Karl Lashley
1928  Edwin G. Boring
1927  Harry Levi Hollingworth
1926  Harvey A. Carr
1925  Madison Bentley
1924  G. Stanley Hall
1923  Lewis Terman
1922  Knight Dunlap
1921  Margaret Floy Washburn
1920  Shepherd Ivory Franz
1919  Walter Dill Scott
1918  John Wallace Baird
1917  Robert Mearns Yerkes
1916  Raymond Dodge
1915  John Broadus Watson
1914  Robert Sessions Woodworth
1913  Howard Crosby Warren
1912  Edward Thorndike
1911  Carl Emil Seashore
1910  Walter Bowers Pillsbury
1909  Charles Hubbard Judd
1908  George Malcolm Stratton
1907  Henry Rutgers Marshall
1906  James Rowland Angell
1905  Mary Whiton Calkins
1904  William James
1903  William Lowe Bryan
1902  Edmund Sanford
1901  Josiah Royce
1900  Joseph Jastrow
1899  John Dewey
1898  Hugo Münsterberg
1897  James Mark Baldwin
1896  George Stuart Fullerton
1895  James McKeen Cattell
1894  William James
1893  George Trumbull Ladd
1892  G. Stanley Hall


The APA has 56 numbered divisions, 54 of which are currently active:[36]

  1. Society for General Psychology – the first division formed by the APA, in 1945, concerned with issues across the subdisciplines of psychology[37]
  2. Society for the Teaching of Psychology – provides free teaching material for students and teachers of psychology and bestows many awards[38]
  3. Society for Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science
  4. Currently vacant – initially the Psychometric Society, which decided against becoming an APA division[39]
  5. Quantitative and Qualitative Methods – previously named Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics[40]
  6. Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology
  7. Developmental Psychology
  8. Society for Personality and Social Psychology
  9. Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI)
  10. Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts
  11. Currently vacant – initially Abnormal Psychology and Psychotherapy, which joined division 12 in 1946[39]
  12. Society of Clinical Psychology – established in 1948 with 482 members, in 1962 it created clinical child psychology as its first section[41]
  13. Society of Consulting Psychology
  14. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  15. Educational Psychology
  16. School Psychology – originally formed as the Division of School Psychologists in 1945, renamed in 1969[42]
  17. Society of Counseling Psychology
  18. Psychologists in Public Service
  19. Society for Military Psychology
  20. Adult Development and Aging
  21. Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology
  22. Rehabilitation Psychology
  23. Society for Consumer Psychology
  24. Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
  25. Behavior Analysis
  26. Society for the History of Psychology
  27. Society for Community Research and Action: Division of Community Psychology
  28. Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse
  29. Psychotherapy
  30. Society of Psychological Hypnosis
  31. State, Provincial and Territorial Psychological Association Affairs
  32. Society for Humanistic Psychology
  33. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities / Autism Spectrum Disorder
  34. Society for Environmental, Population and Conservation Psychology
  35. Society for the Psychology of Women
  36. Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
  37. Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice
  38. Health Psychology
  39. Psychoanalysis
  40. Clinical Neuropsychology
  41. American Psychology-Law Society
  42. Psychologists in Independent Practice
  43. Society for Family Psychology
  44. Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues
  45. Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues
  46. Media Psychology
  47. Exercise and Sport Psychology
  48. Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology Division
  49. Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy
  50. Society of Addiction Psychology
  51. Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinities
  52. International Psychology
  53. Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology
  54. Society of Pediatric Psychology
  55. American Society for the Advancement of Pharmacotherapy
  56. Trauma Psychology – addresses issues of trauma with projects, working groups and via collaborations[43]

Positions on homosexuality

Cause of homosexuality

The APA states the following:

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.[44]

Conversion therapy

In 1975, APA issued a supporting statement that homosexuality is not a mental disorder.[45][46] There is a concern in the mental health community that the advancement of conversion therapy itself causes social harm by disseminating inaccurate views about sexual orientation and the ability of homosexual and bisexual people to lead happy, healthy lives.[47] Most mainstream health organizations are critical of conversion therapy, and no mainstream medical organization endorses conversion therapy.[47][48][49][50][note 1]

The APA adopted a resolution in August 2009 stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. The approval, by APA's governing Council of Representatives, came at APA's annual convention, during which a task force presented a report[51] that in part examined the efficacy of so-called "reparative therapy", or sexual orientation change efforts.

The "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts" also advises that parents, guardians, young people, and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services "that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth."[52]

Same-sex marriage

The APA adopted a resolution stating that it is unfair and discriminatory to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage and to all its attendant rights, benefits, and privileges. It also filed an amicus brief in the federal court case in which Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.[53] The APA later praised the decision and denied the existence of any "scientific justification" for a ban on same-sex marriage.[54]

In August 2011, the APA clarified their support of same-sex marriage in light of continued research suggesting that the same community benefits accepted as result of heterosexual marriage apply to same-sex couples as well. Dr. Clinton Anderson, associate executive director of the APA and director of the Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns, said that, prior to this research, "We knew that marriage benefits heterosexual people in very significant ways, but we didn't know if that would be true for same-sex couples". Anderson also put forward the APA's view that merely allowing same-sex civil unions is an inadequate option: "Anything other than marriage is, in essence, a stigmatization of same-sex couples. Stigma does have negative impacts on people."[55]

APA internship crisis for graduate students

The APA is the main accrediting body for U.S. clinical and counseling psychology doctoral training programs and internship sites.[56] APA-accredited Clinical Psychology PhD and PsyD programs typically require students to complete a one-year clinical internship in order to graduate (or a two-year part-time internship). However, there is currently an "internship crisis" as defined by the American Psychological Association, in that approximately 25% of clinical psychology doctoral students do not match for internship each year.[57][58] This crisis has led many students (approximately 1,000 each year) to re-apply for internship, thus delaying graduation, or to complete an unaccredited internship, and often has many emotional and financial consequences.[59] Students who do not complete an APA accredited internships in the U.S. are barred from certain employment settings, including VA Hospitals, the military, and cannot get licensed in some states, such as Utah and Mississippi.[60][61] Additionally, some post-doctoral fellowships and other employment settings require or prefer an APA Accredited internship.[60] The APA has been criticized for not addressing this crisis adequately and many psychologists and graduate students have petitioned for the APA to take action by regulating graduate training programs.

Warfare and the use of torture

A year after the establishment of the Human Resources Research Organization by the U.S. military in 1951, the CIA began funding numerous psychologists (and other scientists) in the development of psychological warfare methods under the supervision of APA treasurer Meredith Crawford. Donald O. Hebb, the APA president in 1960 who was awarded the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1961, defended the torture of research subjects, arguing that what was being studied was other nations' methods of brainwashing. Former APA president Martin Seligman spoke upon the invitation of the CIA on his animal experimentation where he shocked a dog unpredictably and repeatedly into total, helpless passivity. Former APA president Ronald F. Levant, upon visiting Guantanamo Bay, affirmed that psychologists were present during the torture of prisoners, arguing that their presence was to "add value and safeguards" to interrogations.[62] Former APA president Gerald Koocher argued, referring to allegations of continuing systemic abuse by psychologists, that such allegations were originating from "opportunistic commentators masquerading as scholars".[63]

When it emerged that psychologists, as part of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, were advising interrogators in Guantánamo and other U.S. facilities on improving the effectiveness of the "enhanced interrogation techniques", the APA called on the U.S. government to prohibit the use of unethical interrogation techniques and labeled specific techniques as torture.[64] Critics pointed out that the APA declined to advise its members not to participate in such interrogations.[65][66] In September 2008, the APA's members passed a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where "persons are held outside, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the U.S. Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights."[67] The resolution became official APA policy in February 2009. However, the APA has refused to sanction those members known to have participated in and, in some cases, designed abusive interrogation techniques used in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan interrogation centers.[68][69][70]

The APA directive was in contrast to the American Psychiatric Association ban in May 2006 of all direct participation in interrogations by psychiatrists,[71] and the American Medical Association ban in June 2006 of the direct participation in interrogations by physicians.[72] An independent panel of medical, military, ethics, education, public health, and legal professionals issued a comprehensive report in November 2013 that "charged that U.S. military and intelligence agencies directed doctors and psychologists working in U.S. military detention centers to violate standard ethical principles and medical standards to avoid infliction of harm".[73] One group of psychologists in particular, the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, has been very harsh in its criticism of the APA stance on its refusal to categorically prohibit members from participating in any phase of military interrogations. They recently stated their continuing disagreement with APA leadership in an open letter posted on their website on October 31, 2012, in which they reiterated their condemnation of torture and enhanced interrogation techniques, and called for the APA to require its members to refuse participation in military conducted interrogations of any kind.[74]

Amending the Ethics Code

In February 2010, the APA's Council of Representatives voted to amend the association's Ethics Code[75] to make clear that its standards can never be interpreted to justify or defend violating human rights. Following are the two relevant ethical standards from the Ethics Code, with the newly adopted language shown in bold:

1.02, Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority

If psychologists' ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.

1.03, Conflicts Between Ethics and Organizational Demands

If the demands of an organization with which psychologists are affiliated or for whom they are working are in conflict with this Ethics Code, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code, and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be used to justify or defend violating human rights.[76]

In its 2013 "Policy Related to Psychologists' Work in National Security Settings and Reaffirmation of the APA Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment the APA condemns the use of any of the following practices by military interrogators trying to elicit anti-terrorism information from detainees, on the ground that "there are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether induced by a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, that may be invoked as a justification."[67]

Hoffman report

In November 2014, the APA ordered an independent review into whether it cooperated with the government's use of torture of prisoners during the George W. Bush administration, naming Chicago attorney David H. Hoffman to conduct the review.[77] On July 2, 2015, a 542-page report was issued to the special committee of the board of directors of the APA relating to ethics guidelines, national security interrogations, and torture.[78] The report concluded that the APA secretly collaborated with the Bush administration to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners.[79] Furthermore, the report stated that the association's ethics director Stephen Behnke and others had "colluded with important Department of Defense officials to have the APA issue loose, high-level ethical guidelines that did not constrain" the interrogation of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. The association's "principal motive in doing so was to align APA and curry favor with DOD."[80] An APA official said that ethics director Stephen Behnke had been "removed from his position as a result of the report" and indicated that other firings or sanctions might follow.[80]

On July 14, 2015, the APA announced the retirement of its CEO, Norman B. Anderson, effective the end of 2015, and of Deputy Chief Executive Officer Michael Honaker, effective August 15, 2015, and the resignation of Rhea K. Farberman, APA's executive director for public and member communication. Anderson had been CEO since 2003.[81][82]

Ban on involvement

For at least a decade, dissident psychologists within and outside the APA, including the group WithholdAPAdues,[83] had protested the involvement of psychologists "in interrogations at CIA black sites and Guantánamo". Prior to the release of the Hoffman report, which undermined the APA's repeated denials and showed that some APA leaders were complicit in torture, the dissidents were ignored or ridiculed.[84][85]

On August 7, 2015, just weeks following the release of the Hoffman report, the APA council of representatives met at the association's 123rd annual convention in

In 2013 a class action lawsuit was brought against APA on behalf of approximately 60,000 of its 122,000 members who were licensed clinicians. Those members paid an additional $140 practice assessment fee as part of their membership dues every year beginning in 2001 to fund the lobbying arm of APA, the APA Practice Organization (APAPO). The lawsuit accused APA of using deceptive means by representing that the assessment was mandatory for APA membership even though payment of the assessment was only required for membership in the APAPO. In 2015 APA settled the case by establishing a $9.02 million settlement fund to be used to pay claims made by members of APA who paid the practice assessment, as well as attorneys' fees and certain other costs. APA agreed to change its policies to make clear that the APAPO membership dues are not required for membership in APA.[88][89][90][91][92]

See also