Message from CPA’s Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Karen Cohen , CEO

April 2023 marks my last month as the CPA’s CEO, a position I have been privileged to hold for 15 years.  Time goes very quickly in a job you enjoy, and especially quickly, when viewed from the rear-view mirror. The CPA and Canadian psychology have come a long way in that time, a journey made possible by a skilled and hard-working Head Office staff and a succession of conscientious and talented Board members and partners.

The CPA’s membership has increased steadily, and our policy and advocacy footprint have gown. We have helped to impact important Canadian legislation in the areas of same sex marriage, medical assistance in dying and disability – these impacts made possible by the work of psychology researchers and practitioners across the country. The study and practice of psychology is exceedingly relevant to the interests and concerns that face individuals, families, workplaces, and societies. How to successfully manage a pandemic, respond to climate change and emergencies, redress systemic discrimination or manage conflict requires an understanding of how people, think, feel and behave and…psychology knows something about that.

The importance of psychological factors and mental health and illness are now commonly acknowledged across governments, employers, and communities.  However, while many are talking the talk, we are not quite walking it.  Medicare, as well as extended health insurance plans still fall short in covering psychological services.  Granting councils still do a better job at funding stem and biomedical than psychosocial research.

That said, we have emerged from a challenging three years leaving in its wake a new perspective on illness management, new ways of working and delivering health care. We have felt stressed, angry, tired, sad but also thankful – states of being psychology knows something about too.  It has never been clearer, that what is often taken for granted (our mental well being), is the keystone to how we manage crisis, seize opportunities and make needed changes.  It has never been clearer, that the study and practice of psychology has a vital role to play in public policy, regulation, legislation and well being.

I have learned a lot in my journey as CPA’s CEO, about psychology, about leadership and about myself.  As you consider your own professional roles, maybe what follows will be of help.

  • Each leader stands on the shoulders of the ones who came before them. Success doesn’t start with you, and it won’t end with you.
  • Be your best self, rather than try to emulate the strengths of the leader who came before you; you and your work will be better for it.
  • Give your bosses and colleagues your best work and know which decisions are yours, and which are theirs to make.
  • Look at a problem from all sides, engage psychology’s many stakeholders and pay special attention to the perspectives that differ from your own.
  • When you find your stakeholders, play well with them, not just alongside them. Success isn’t a solo endeavour and collaboration requires more than giving everyone a turn.  They require committing to building something together in earnest and with goodwill.
  • Success for psychology is more likely when the needs and interests of the discipline and profession take priority over the many psychology groups and organizations that serve it.
  • Don’t lose sight of who your teaching, research or practice serves. Addressing the needs and issues of people and societies is a professional responsibility; it is ultimately why psychology matters.
  • And finally, as you travel your professional journey, be respectful, be kind but grow a thick skin – no one who achieves anything, does it by pleasing everyone all the time.

Most important to my final message is to convey my thanks – the CPA’s staff, its Board members and partners, its members and affiliates – thank you all for your confidence, support, and collegiality.  Thank you for the kind messages of appreciation so many of you have sent me.  It is truly an honour to hear that my work has helped psychology make a difference.

With best wishes, Karen