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WSPA Statements on Public Issues

On September 1, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a historic speech to members of the American Psychological Association who gathered in Washington, D.C. for its 75th Annual Convention. Dr. King spoke directly about the problems of racism and segregation in our country, and he called on psychologists as social scientists to assume a more active role in their eradication. Fifty years later Dr. King’s words have taken on a new sense of meaning and urgency not just for psychologists but for our nation as a whole.

The Charlottesville white nationalist rally in August in which three people lost their lives and many others were injured follows a nationwide increase in hate crimes in the past year. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported as many as 1,094 incidents in the first month after the presidential election last year, and 1,863 between November 9 and March 31 of this year. There are 917 hate groups currently operating in the United States according to SPLC. Considering that most hate crimes are not reported to the police (Bureau of Justice Statistics), these recent numbers represent a pressing call for increased public discourse and action.

Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA) joins the American Psychological Association to firmly and unequivocally condemn the acts of racism and violence which took place in Charlottesville, and all other acts of bias, prejudice, and discrimination, which lead to hate crimes motivated by an offender’s bias against a victim’s race, ethnicity, gender and gender expression, culture and national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and/or socio-economic status. White supremacist views and other forms of racism, bigotry, discrimination and prejudice do not belong in our society and must be recognized and denounced.

Violent crimes motivated by bias and hate have far reaching effects on the victims. These include feelings of helplessness and humiliation (Herman, 1992), a loss of the sense of safety and security, and symptoms of depression and anxiety (APA, 2017). As mental health professionals, psychologists are uniquely equipped to assist individuals, groups, and communities traumatized by hate crimes. Today, fifty years later, we remember Dr. King’s call and recommit as social scientists to use our knowledge and skills to realize improved outcomes for all individuals and communities. We foster healing in all people through mental health treatment, community-based education including programs teaching tolerance, reducing prejudice, and promoting social justice, and research and policy initiatives targeting a safer, healthier, and more equitable society for all.

It is the policy of both Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA) and American Psychological Association (APA) that “...same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality."

In 2009, APA published the findings of its Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The Task Force not only found no scientific basis for positive results of Sexual Orientation Conversion Efforts (SOCE) but also declared SOCE likely poses significant potential dangers for mental health, particularly for vulnerable youth.

WSPA fully supports these findings and since 2013 we have actively supported efforts to change Washington State law to make the practice of conversion therapy an act of unprofessional conduct in the State's Uniform Disciplinary Act (RCW 18.130).

Letters of our advocacy can be found below:

Letter of support for funding a working group to study the effects of SOCE in Washington State.

Letter of support introducing legislation to restrict the practice of SOCE.

Letter of support to Washington Conversion Therapy Ban (HB 2451).
Memo to House Health Care & Wellness Committee.

Letter of support to City of Seattle's Conversion Therapy Ban.


Public Testimony on SB 5722 Restricting the Practice of Conversion Therapy.


Note: if the video screens below are not seen, please allow pop-ups on your browser.
Dr. Lucy Homans providing testimony on January 11, 2018.


Dr. Lucy Homans and Dr. Matt Goldenberg providing testimony on February 7, 2018.


Governor Jay Inslee signs HB 1085, 2ESHB 2057, EHB 2097, SHB 2887, ESHB 2938, SB 5722 (Relating to restricting the practice of conversion therapy), & SSB 6124 during a ceremony held at the state capitol.


Washington State Psychological Association joined with American Psychological Association in supporting the March for Our Lives Event held Saturday, March 24, 2018 to prevent further gun violence. WSPA members marched with others throughout the state and country in supporting our young people who are asking us to do more to protect them from further violence by firearms.

As psychologists, with our unique skills, training, and knowledge, we can support our communities by actively participating in resolving this public health crisis. Our members are involved in many aspects of this complicated issue including research, education, assessment, prevention, and treatment of victims of gun violence. We have an important contribution to make so that we can all better protect our children.

The following links for information on APA’s support of March for Our Lives and APA’s policies on advocacy for gun-violence prevention:

As a parent, you may be struggling with how to talk with your children about a shooting rampage. It is important to remember that children look to their parents to make them feel safe. This is true no matter what age your children are, be they toddlers, adolescents or even young adults.

Consider the following tips for helping your children manage their distress.

Talk with your child. Talking to your children about their worries and concerns is the first step to help them feel safe and begin to cope with the events occurring around them. What you talk about and how you say it does depend on their age, but all children need to be able to know you are there listening to them.

  • Find times when they are most likely to talk: such as when riding in the car, before dinner or at bedtime.
  • Start the conversation. Let them know you are interested in them and how they are coping with the information they are getting.
  • Listen to their thoughts and point of view. Don't interrupt — allow them to express their ideas and understanding before you respond.
  • Express your own opinions and ideas without putting down theirs. Acknowledge that it is okay to disagree.
  • Remind them you are there for them to provide safety, comfort and support. Give them a hug.
Keep home a safe place. Children, regardless of age, often find home to be a safe haven when the world around them becomes overwhelming. During times of crisis, it is important to remember that your children may come home seeking the safe feeling they have being there. Help make it a place where your children find the solitude or comfort they need. Plan a night where everyone participates in a favorite family activity.

Watch for signs of stress, fear or anxiety. After a traumatic event, it is typical for children (and adults) to experience a wide range of emotions, including fearfulness, shock, anger, grief and anxiety. Your children's behaviors may change because of their response to the event. They may experience trouble sleeping, difficulty with concentrating on school work or changes in appetite. This is normal for everyone and should begin to disappear in a few months. Encourage your children to put their feelings into words by talking about them or journaling. Some children may find it helpful to express their feelings through art.

Take "news breaks." Your children may want to keep informed by gathering information about the event from the Internet, television or newspapers. It is important to limit the amount of time spent watching the news because constant exposure may actually heighten their anxiety and fears. Also, scheduling some breaks for yourself is important; allow yourself time to engage in activities you enjoy.

Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your children. Be a model for your children on how to manage traumatic events. Keep regular schedules for activities such as family meals and exercise to help restore a sense of security and normalcy.

These tips and strategies can help you guide your children through the current crisis. If you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, you may want to consider talking to someone who could help. A licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living.

Thanks to psychologists Ronald S. Palomares, PhD, and Lynn F. Bufka, PhD. who assisted us with this article.

Link to the original article on APA's website.

More links concerning gun violence:
Coping with Mass Shootings
Talking to Kids When They Need Help
7 Ways to Talk to Children and Youth about the Shootings in Orlando
Helping Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting
How Much News Coverage is OK for Children?
Gun Violence Prevention
APA Initiatives to Prevent Gun Violence

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