Advocacy Corner

Amy R. Beck, PhD, RYT 200


At APA’s Practice & SPTA (State, Provincial,  Leadership, and Territorial Psychological Associations) Conference this February, Dr. Cathy Grus, the Chief Education Officer of APA’s Education Directorate made an announcement.  She stated that advocacy competencies for training were in development and soon to be released for public comment.  The graduate students of APAGS have primarily advocated for this change. No other information, including the timeline, is yet publicly available.

I, like many other conference attendees, was quite excited to hear this update!  Though the specifics are unknown, I am looking forward to taking additional steps as a discipline toward more fully embodying our Ethics Code through increased advocacy.  However, the idea of creating a public psychology where psychologists are trained and more fully engaged in advocacy as part of professional work is not new.  The Scientist-Practitioner-Advocate (SPA) model has been effectively implemented at the University of Tennessee for over a decade (Mallinckrodt, Miles, & Levy, 2014; Miles & Fassinger, 2021).

The SPA model is just as it sounds.  It takes the scientist-practitioner or Boulder Model that is familiar to many of us and integrates advocacy into that Venn diagram to overlap equally with and strengthen both (Mallinckrodt, Miles, & Levy, 2014).  This looks like extending change beyond the 1:1 of direct clinical practice to organizational or systemic levels.  I refer to this as “treating the system,” which is just as medically necessary as treating patients.  It also presents research as one of the most powerful tools for advocacy because research can effectively document problems with solutions and can be delivered directly to policymakers to implement change.  This SPA model delineates that we do not operate in a vacuum as psychology professionals.  Everything we do has public or political consequences, whether we want to acknowledge them or not, so it is best practice to accept this and train in such a way as to maximize those beneficial outcomes for the public good (Miles & Fassinger, 2021).

A thorough review of the SPA model is beyond the scope of this article, but I would strongly encourage you to check out the articles cited below.  Mallinckrodt, Miles, & Levy (2014) fully delineate the changes undertaken to implement this model successfully in their program, including benefits to student outcomes.  Miles & Fassinger (2021) discuss a broader history of advocacy in psychology, including the many barriers that have prevented us from fully engaging as a discipline.  Then, they discuss additional outcomes from the SPA model and review strategies to implement components of the model for incremental change.  While I have no idea what will be included in the new advocacy competencies, learning from what others have done well should only be beneficial for navigating those next steps.


Mallinckrodt, B., Miles, J. R., & Levy, J. J. (2014). The scientist-practitioner-advocate model: Addressing contemporary training needs for social justice advocacy. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 8(4), 303–311,

Miles, J. R. & Fassinger, R. E. (2021). Creating a public psychology through a scientist-practitioner-advocate training model. American Psychologist, 76(8), 1232-1247,