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One to One...with James Bray

Past President of the American Psychological Association and commissioner of the Presidential Task Force on Psychology’s Contribution to End Homelessness - with web-only Q+A

04 April 2010

One conclusion of the APA task force on homelessness (
Providing psychological services to people who are homeless can help them become productive citizens again. We have significant research in this area that helps inform us about the plight of people who are homeless, and interventions that help them overcome and manage their mental health problems, stress, and develop positive coping skills.

One psychological heroine
E. Mavis Hetherington has been a long-time friend and colleague. As an early pioneer in developmental family research she conducted groundbreaking research on the effects of divorce and remarriage on children.

One problem that psychology should deal with
The big problems of society. Despite our outstanding research on divorce, remarriage, violence, substance abuse, obesity, etc. we continue to have large numbers of our population with these problems.

One book that you think all psychologists should read
I would recommend Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution by Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch (New York: Norton, 1974).

One difference between homelessness in the USA and the UK
The UK appears to have a stronger and better safety net for its citizens than in the USA, although there are some variations in the different states within the USA. This is because of the difference in our governments and political perspectives.

One alternative career path you might have chosen
Early in my life I strongly considered being a physician, minister or marine biologist. Later in my career I almost left the profession to become a professional pilot.

One great thing that psychology has achieved
Every year, millions of people safely fly across the world. Psychologists developed the safety procedures and methods that are used by the commercial aviation systems and pilot training. These methods are now being applied to increase patient safety in medical settings.

One challenge  
In the USA, traditional psychological practice is challenged by reimbursement policies and encroachments from other mental health professions. We are in danger of losing our unique place and becoming generic mental health providers and consultants. We need to refocus our efforts on branding our profession of psychology.

One thing that you would change about psychology
We spend too much time and energy talking to psychologists and not enough interacting and talking with other professions and the public. We need to be more collaborative.

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
Stay focused on your goals and enjoy yourself in all that you do. In leadership, ‘lead, follow or get the hell out of the way’.

One cultural recommendation
The History of the English-Speaking Peoples by Sir Winston Churchill. It is worth the time and effort to read the complete four volumes.

One way to increase the outreach of US psychology
Psychologists across the world have made major strides that can be helpful to US psychologists, but most do not know about them. I strongly encourage US psychologists to participate in international conferences to gain these perspectives.

Online extras

One person who inspired you
Harry McKnight, M.A., ABD. Harry has been a lifelong mentor, friend and advisor. He helps me stay true to my fundamental beliefs and values.

One hope for the future
We become full, integrated partners in the health care system.

One proud moment
As APA President, I developed a new vision for psychology practice through the Future of Psychology Practice Initiative. The Summit on the Future of Psychology Practice has the potential to be a transformative event that will position the practice of psychology for a successful future.

One achievement as President of the APA
Helping APA and the profession transform itself into a 21st great organisation. We started this by developing our first ever-strategic plan, developing a new vision for psychology practice through the Future of Psychology Practice Initiative and solidifying psychological science as a STEM discipline.

One moment that changed the course of your career
Two moments come to mind. First, after completing my doctorate I made the decision to do a post-doctoral fellowship in family therapy and research in Houston, Texas rather than doing a post-doc in quantitative methods at UCLA. While I had a strong interest in applied methodology and statistics, this decision changed my career into a focus on family psychology research and practice.

Second, when I was asked to run for APA President in 2002 I was thinking of leaving the profession. The decision to run for APA President has kept me deeply involved in psychology.

One thing that ‘organised psychology’ could do better
Serve our members and the public whom we serve.

One regret
That I did not have sufficient time as APA President to accomplish all that I wanted to. A year goes by too fast.