Here is a write-up I did for a colleague on my experience at this year’s APA State Leadership Conference. She has a blog for Early Career Psychologists (ECPs): http://www.ecpproject.com. My article may appear there, but I thought I would still share it here.
Stoking the Fire: My First APA State Leadership Conference
Jesse D. Matthews, Psy.D.
I have been a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania for about a year and a half. I work in private practice and hold a few contract positions. I’m also the chair of the Early Career Psychologists (ECP) Committee for the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA).
Each spring about 500 leaders in psychology from every U.S. state and D.C., U.S. territories, and Canadian provinces gather in Washington, D.C. for the State Leadership Conference (SLC), sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA). This is a four-day conference with many opportunities for learning, sharing new ideas, networking, and advocating for psychology and consumers of behavioral health services. The conference is capped off by attendees making visits to Capitol Hill to speak with members of congress on important issues.
Although I spent four years on a committee as a student and had the chance to attend several meetings and an APA Convention in Washington, this was my first SLC. The theme was “Practice Innovation”, which, as an early career practitioner with a lot of big ideas, was exciting. In all, the conference was fantastic, and the sessions were top-notch- from how to start an integrated care practice, to alternative business models, to several sessions on advocacy and the inner workings of Congress, to a really great session on storytelling, to the 10th annual Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards. I especially liked that the conference featured presenters of all kinds- not only psychologists, but MDs, businesspeople, politicians, and a former TV writer. I loved the varying perspectives on mental health, leadership, advocacy, and business, and took a lot of great notes. And of course, visiting Capitol Hill on the last day was an experience as well. As a first-timer to this kind of advocacy, I really enjoyed this and was amazed at how confident I felt; given the preparation I had at the conference on the issues we were discussing (all had to do with Medicare and psychologist reimbursement).
Two things I took away from this conference- and this is how I came up with the title of this article, are 1) a renewed sense of excitement about psychology and the work that I do, and 2) an enhanced sense of confidence- in myself as a person and a professional, and that I can go home and do my job well.
Conferences- especially big ones where I can get exposed to new people, new ideas, and new experiences- are always invigorating, and I leave so excited to get back to work. For me, it’s easy to get bogged down in my everyday routine, paperwork, and my often challenging caseload- taking care of the “must do’s”, while pushing off the “want to do’s”. This makes me forget just how cool it is that I became a psychologist and how much I love what I do. And with that, new ideas are often put on the shelf or totally forgotten.
Relatedly, doing clinical work- especially in private practice or through some of the contract positions I hold, can be a little isolating. Being a private practitioner, I recognize the value of networking and marketing myself and my practice- but being busy, it’s not always at the top of my list. And admittedly, when I’m working alone a lot I’m prone to feeling negative about my ideas and either not starting them or not seeing them through to fruition. But after attending a conference like this year’s SLC, I came home with a ton of ideas- and I already have two big ideas I’m working on. I’m committed to seeing them through, but I made a lot of great connections at the conference, so I’ll be sure to reach out to some of them for advice or support.
I love going to conferences and participating in leadership. To me, the opportunities to keep learning and to get excited about psychology with others who feel the same way are some of the best things about being a psychologist. As I move on in my career I see how important it is for me to stoke the fire inside from time to time.