I am honored to have been a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) since the early 1980s, when I was in graduate school. The APA is the largest professional organization for psychologists in the world, with over 133,000 members. On the day I am writing this post, I have renewed my APA membership for next year, thus, it is interesting for this topic to be next on my list of topics about which to write. The APA supports all kinds of psychologists, from clinicians, to academics, to people who, like me, work in applied settings. Although we are a varied group in terms of jobs and career paths, we share the bond of psychology and, along with it, the commitment to “give psychology away.” I have written about the giving away of psychology in the past, but this post is devoted exclusively to this topic. What does it mean for a psychologist to “give psychology away”? Giving psychology away can be accomplished in a myriad of ways, depending on the type of psychology in which one specializes. For me, as a social psychologist who consults with attorneys, giving psychology away has included: (1) consulting on numerous pro bono cases (meaning at no charge); (2) making presentations to hundreds of lawyers and insurance groups, reaching thousands of attendees, for no charge; (3) educating attorneys, one on one, about social psychological principles that, if mastered, will make them better able to help their clients; (4) patiently guiding young and inexperienced attorneys as they learn to navigate the challenging world of litigation; and (5) serving as a positive role model for attorneys, employees, vendors, and research participants by adopting a professional, courteous, and respectful demeanor at all times during our interactions. Giving psychology away, of course, does not end when my work day is over. It continues in many interactions with my family and friends. I often serve in the role of mediator in family disputes, lending a listening ear and offering advice to my loved ones. It is frustrating, of course, when they fail to heed my advice, however, I try not to respond with a negative attitude, instead, I wish them well. I have spent countless hours helping dying friends, including making daily phone calls to one terminally ill friend for 7 years. I visit sick friends and check their well being in other ways. When my friends lose a spouse or other loved one or suffer a loss due to a disaster, I repeatedly check on them, sometimes, just to let them know I’m thinking of them. Giving psychology away can be quite exhausting to the giver, but I am glad to possess the education, skills, and experience to be able to help those in need.
I have supported Melissa in her giving away psychology efforts for over 35 years. Admittedly, some of the efforts she enumerated hopefully help with business development. But, I agree that when someone has a special skill, talent, or knowledge, there are times when sharing that expertise is somehow warranted by our societal values. I suspect this concept comes in large part from the Biblical new testament, specifically Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” – this is from the King James translation, a more modern, more inclusive translation removes the sexist language and is “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.” In the case of someone like Melissa who was given the capacity to learn complex concepts and who possesses empathetic listening skills, she certainly uses those abilities to the benefit of others. Near the end of her part of this posts she talked about some of the “family and friends” efforts she has made over the years. While she certainly has benefitted in some ways because of the strength of her connections with her friends and family, I can attest to the reality that it takes a toll on her well being. It is mentally draining to be in the position to offer so much to so many. Sharing what you have to share brings its own rewards, in Melissa’s case, in knowing that the advice, or just listening, is helpful in more ways than imaginable.
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