A psychology association is a professional organization for those in a psychology career. They are usually nationally based organizations, sometimes organized around a specialty or subspecialty practice. Some of the primary activities of these associations are hosting annual educational conferences and providing continuing education. Sometimes, a psychological organization will take a public stance on mental health issues and serve as the voice of its members. Some psychology associations publish medical journals.
The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest and possibly most well-recognized psychology association in the United States. The APA was founded in 1892 at Clark University. Their mission is to “advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.” The APA also publishes the American Psychologist, which is one of the top five cited journals in the field.
The following is a listing of some psychology associations in the United States:
- Association for Psychological Science
- U.S. National Committee for Psychology
- Association for Research in Personality
- Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy
- Society for Judgment and Decision Making
- Society for Personality and Social Psychology
- Society for Social Neuroscience
- Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
- Society for the Teaching of Psychology
- Society of Experimental Social Psychology
- Academy for Eating Disorders
- Academy of Behavioral Profiling
- American Academy of Sport Psychology
- National Association of School Psychologists
Many psychology associations publish practice guidelines that are available to its members. These guidelines serve to standardize the practice of psychology. Guidelines help insure that all patients with similar characteristics receive the same treatments or, at a minimum, the same treatment options.
Psychology associations also help link practitioners together by practice specialty by offering education conferences. The primary purpose of these conferences is to further the education of psychologists, but it is advantageous to member psychologists for other reasons. Conferences, and even the associations as a whole, help psychologists network. Oftentimes, conferences will have places where current employment opportunities are listed, and sometimes, one can even carve out time during a conference for a sort of informal interview.
Some associations award scholarship money to practicing psychologists and students in a psychology field. The APA, for example, offers scholarships for psychologists to travel to education conferences and awards money to students seeking different fellowships or internships. The APA website also has a searchable database for individuals looking for grants or scholarships provided by other sources, including private parties.
Some associations, like the APA, are so large that they are able to influence public policy. The APA has three government relations offices that are tasked with advocating for psychology at a federal level. For example, the Public Interest Government Relations Office aims to shape federal policy to promote the practice of psychology in certain public interest areas. These may include minority affairs, HIV/AIDS issues, and issues affecting youth and family. The Public Interest Government Relations Office also helped draft a recently passed act that promotes research into postpartum depression.
Psychology associations work tirelessly to keep their membership abreast of the latest research advances. Journals published through these memberships allow for outlets for this information to pass through, but the associations themselves can coordinate separate continuing education activities.
A psychology association can serve many purposes, including networking for psychologists, providing continuing education activities, and publishing findings in their own journals. They advocate both for their members and on behalf of mental health issues.