Perhaps due to the ethical quandaries that the American Psychological Association (APA) appears to be continuously facing nowadays, the professional organization that represents psychologists in the United States appears to be hemorrhaging regular bread-and-butter members.
At the height of its membership in 2008, the APA counted 92,322 members (8,318 of which were associate members — members who have no voting rights in the organization). In 2013, the last year which the APA makes membership statistics available, they had only 82,153 members. That’s a drop of 10,169 members in just 6 years — a loss of about 11 percent of its membership.
Meanwhile, the APA continues to have problems portraying itself in a transparent and completely honest manner. For instance, on its About page, it states:
The American Psychological Association is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members.
The statement is yet another example of the APA’s difficulties in telling the truth. “Students” are not members of the American Psychological Association, according its own rules and bylaws. They are affiliates, with very few actual rights in the organization (other than to pay to receive its publications and journals — something that anyone can do).
In 2013, the APA had only 73,803 dues-paying, full voting members — a far cry from the 122,500 it lauds publicly (and 8,350 less than what the APA claims as its members, since I wouldn’t count non-voting “Associate” members). The claim that those “affiliated” with the organization are the same as full-fledged members is apparently done on purpose. It is to make the organization look bigger — and have more influence with policy-makers — than it actually is.
We’re not talking about a tiny discrepancy here — we’re talking about numbers making it look more than a third larger.
A Pattern of Deceit?
It’s yet another example of how the APA continually portrays itself in ways that are disingenuous. It seems to me to be a systematic, organization-wide pattern of abuse.
For example, for over 8 years in the 2000s, the APA claimed that a “mandatory assessment” fee was required if you were a psychologist member in clinical practice. Only, it turned out that “mandatory” for the APA means something different than how you or I take the word — the fee was never required for APA members to maintain their APA membership (contrary to what the vast majority of its membership thought).
Rather than acknowledge — much less apologize — for misleading its members over this fee, the APA earlier this year settled a class-action lawsuit brought against it — by its own members! — for $9 million. The leader of the American Psychological Association acknowledged no wrong-doing nor did they apologize.
Add this to the latest revelations about how officials at the APA lied and colluded in order to keep in the good graces of the U.S. military and government agencies, and you begin to wonder — what is going on in the offices of the American Psychological Association? Where are their ethics? When did the organization start believing honesty was just another thing to be manipulated with PR?
The APA has a long road back to building trust both with the public and with its own members. It could begin by representing itself honestly in its dealings with lawmakers and the public by clarifying the numbers of actual, voting members it has.