What Is the American Psychological Association (APA)?

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What Is the American Psychological Association?

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest professional and scientific organization of psychologists in the United States. APA is based in Washington, DC, and had more than 117,000 members in 2017. Membership in APA is not limited to scientists or clinicians; it also includes educators and psychology students.

Functions of APA

What role does the American Psychological Association serve? How does APA contribute to the field of psychology? APA actually functions in a number of different ways.

Advancing and Promoting Psychology

One of the main roles that APA plays is to help further psychology as a science. Their mission statement provides some insight into their goals.

The American Psychological Association

The mission of APA is to advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

— The American Psychological Association

Regulating Official Titles

APA regulates the use of the word "psychologist" as a professional title. In order to be called a psychologist by APA's definition, a person must obtain a doctoral degree from an "organized, sequential program in a regionally accredited university or professional school."

Publishing the Official Style Manual

The American Psychological Association also established APA Style, a set of rules designed to aid in the communication of information in the social sciences. APA style is used in psychology as well as other sciences including sociology and education.

All of these writing rules can be found in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, which details how to organize professional journal articles, how to cite sources, and how to list references.

History of APA

The American Psychological Association was established in July 1892 at Clark University. During its first year, APA had 31 members and G. Stanley Hall served as the organization's first president. Today, APA is composed of 54 distinct divisions that each focus on a sub-discipline or topic within psychology, such as educational psychology (division 15) and behavior analysis (division 25).

Some of the past presidents of APA include some of psychology's most famous thinkers, such as:

APA Today

Frank C. Worrell, PhD, was elected the 2022 president of APA. He is also the director of the school psychology program at the University of California, Berkeley.

APA is currently executing the objectives of its three- to five-year strategic plan. In order to create the plan, APA collaborated with people in the psychological community, both APA members and non-members, as well as the public.

The two main focuses of APA's strategic plan are to prepare for the future of psychology and to strengthen APA's voice as a trusted source.

Preparing for the future, according to APA, includes diversifying the field of psychology, using new technologies, and making psychology interdisciplinary and collaborative.

Strengthening APA's voice means serving as an authority on psychology and being the go-to resource for psychology education and careers. In their strategic plan, APA also notes that they will use their voice to advocate for social welfare.

Racial Injustice

In 2021, APA issued a public apology for not doing their part to combat systemic racism and for hurting communities of color. Their statement included a list of resolutions to advocate for social equality across many areas including education, criminal justice, and research.

To address racial inequality in the U.S. education system, APA resolved to:

  • Reaffirm that race is a social construct with no biological basis
  • Help foster more positive learning environments for people of color
  • Emphasize the importance of teaching the history of racism in schools
  • Promote teacher training to diminish racial biases
  • Call on educational institutions to adopt anti-racist policies

Regarding racial inequalities in the criminal justice system, APA resolved to:

  • Address harms that the criminal justice system has inflicted on people of color
  • Help criminal and juvenile justice systems partner up with psychologists
  • Assist criminal and juvenile justice systems with incorporating antiracist policies

To foster racial equality in research, APA resolved to:

  • Develop programs to address the consequences of racism
  • Have scholars take research samples that are more representative of communities of color and that do not assume White as the default
  • Urge psychologists to practice in a way that is culturally sensitive
  • Advocate for increased federal spending on training psychologists from underrepresented groups

COVID

During COVID-19, APA created resources to help clinicians transition to virtual sessions, including an "office and technology checklist" to help determine whether a patient is a good candidate for videoconferencing.

APA called on Medicare, Medicaid, and private payers to provide more comprehensive coverage so that patients could access telehealth services.

APA also allowed free access to their COVID-related psychological research as well as their APA teaching resources for high school psychology teachers.

A Word From Verywell

It is important to note that the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association both share the acronym APA. The American Psychological Association is bigger in terms of membership, while the American Psychiatric Association is the publisher of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The American Psychological Association has played an important role in the history of psychology and will continue to have an important influence on the direction of psychological research in the future.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. By the numbers: APA at its 125th anniversary.

  2. Kreutzer JS, DeLuca J, Caplan B. Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology. New York: Springer; 2011.

  3. American Psychological Association. About APA. Chapter IX. Educational affairs.

  4. American Psychological Association. About APA style.

  5. American Psychological Association. APA divisions.

  6. American Psychological Association. About APA. Former APA presidents.

  7. American Psychological Association. Impact.

  8. American Psychological Association. Role of psychology and APA in dismantling systemic racism against people of color in the U.S.

  9. American Psychological Association. Advancing APA's strategic priorities within a COVID-19 reality.

  10. American Psychological Association Services. APA calls for comprehensive telehealth coverage.