Should You Join APA or APS or Both?

The American Psychological Association (APA) is a voluntary member-supported organization founded in 1892 representing psychologists of all specialties. The American Psychological Society (APS) was founded in 1988 by a group of scientifically oriented psychologists who were concerned that their interests were not represented in the APA. The APS represents itself as the only organization dedicated solely to the science of psychology (in contrast to the APA’s emphasis on both the science and the practice of psychology).

Graduate students are often unsure which organization to join. Why not join both? Student membership in the APA is a good deal. Dues don’t begin to escalate until graduate school is over. The APS continues to be a relative bargain even after graduate school, while the APA’s dues of $247 (in 2004) are just the beginning. Psychologists who provide services are assessed additional dues based on their income. This assessment funds the Practice Directorate which represents the interests of psychologists who provide services. This assessment can easily double the amount of dues that you pay.

Practicing psychologists may have additional reasons go avoid APA membership. An article in the May/June 2004 issue of the National Psychologist entitled Resign from APA while you can reminded practicing psychologists of the power that this voluntary member-supported organization sometimes wields. Linda Hertel Dykstra, Ph.D. is a psychologist who sometimes works with domestic violence. She reports that she was working with a couple where domestic violence had been involved, and the husband refused to attend sessions. She continued to work with the wife, and the husband (who was the perpetrator of the violence) filed a malpractice suit, an ethics complaint to the state licensing board, and a complaint to the American Psychological Association’s ethics committee. According to Dykstra the malpractice suit and the licensing board complaint were quickly dismissed.

The APA ethics committee then pursued an investigation which required her to hire an attorney specialized in professional ethics. She was not allowed to simply resign from APA. If she did so the organization told her that they would send all 100,000 APA members a notice that she had “resigned while under an ethics investigation.” They then found her guilty of violating an APA ethics standard because she continued to work with the wife after the husband refused to attend sessions, and sanctioned her. The finding was dismissed on appeal, but not before she spent a great deal of time and money fighting an essentially frivolous complaint.

Dykstra recommends that psychologists resign from APA while they have the chance. I agree with her. I was a member of APA from 1978 until 2002. I quit paying APA dues in 2003 because I disagreed with the level of dues and they way that they spent my money. When APA paid 2.2 million dollars to “buy out” the contract of Raymond Fowler*, former Executive Director of APA, I was glad that my money was not going toward this expense.

I joined the APS in 2003, despite the fact that this smaller organization was made-up primarily of psychologists involved in research. I feel much more comfortable there, even though I am a clinician and not a researcher.

If you are a psychologist should you resign from APA? I believe that you should certainly consider doing so. I am finding that the APS journals keep me abreast of the latest psychology research. The National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology and the National Psychologist newspaper keep me connected with the practitioner community. I hope to continue some support of APA by attending their convention in the future and paying the higher non-member rates. The American Psychological Association has a long history of representing psychology and psychologists. As a practicing psychologist, I’m not convinced that being a member is in my best interests as a psychologist.

Leonard Holmes, Ph.D.


*APA Council of Representatives kept in dark on Fowler’s $2.2 million payout by Board is becoming into a comprehensive portal for psychology.  As the premier one-word destination for psychology information, it is also for sale at the Healing Sites Network.  Visit today for more information, or to choose a distinctive domain name that will help your site stand out from the crowd.

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