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SHAPA LAS Spotlight
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SPOTLIGHT

 

 

LAS SPOTLIGHT: SAM HOUSTON AREA PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION

 

 

 

Written in collaboration between Drs. Craig Henderson, Wendy Elliott, and Mary Alice Conroy faculty at Sam Houston State University Doctoral Clinical Psychology Program, Dr. Ronald Massey, Independent Practice in Conroe, Texas, and SHAPA Student Externs, Ms. Laurel Mattos and Ms. Dana Formon

 
The Sam Houston Area Psychological Association (SHAPA) is a Local Area Society that comprises psychologists from Walker, Montgomery, and surrounding counties.  With members from both private practice and academic settings, the group strives to actualize and enjoy the professional rewards of both academic and applied psychology.  SHAPA has benefitted considerably from the synergy of the science-practice connection, along with the leadership provided by individual members.  At present the association focuses on a number of key principles including professional development (PD); legislative awareness, with a recent eye toward advocacy; generativity, in terms of supporting student development; and social enjoyment and networking.  The group atmosphere is relaxed and open, providing members with an environment in which they can consult one another on ethical issues, develop new skills, and locate other professional resources.  SHAPA meetings are characterized by having a meal (including wine) along with a PD opportunity, offering continuing education credits often focusing on ethics and issues related to cultural diversity. 
 
Despite being fairly small in numbers compared to other LAS’s in the state, SHAPA has had notable influence on the practice of psychology in Texas through the leadership of individual SHAPA members, as well as the services they have provided to other practicing professionals. Several of SHAPA’s members have been involved in local, state, and national activities related to the practice of psychology.  Beyond providing PD opportunities for members, SHAPA has organized and provided a number of PD workshops at TPA.  Workshop topics have included the nuts and bolts of private practice, a practitioner’s guide to empirically supported treatments, how to stay out of trouble with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, and an introduction to proposed changes in board laws regarding the practice of supervision.  In recent years, SHAPA as an organization and its members have consistently been involved in legislative advocacy and recently have voted as an association to register official opposition to Senate Bill 6 (the “bathroom bill”), along with TPA and the Houston Psychological Association.



SHAPA began in the early 1980s, comprised primarily of private practitioners in the greater Montgomery County area, and was originally named the Montgomery County Psychological Association.  It initially functioned primarily as a networking opportunity and venue for PD; however, it slowly began to shift its emphasis to the areas noted above.  SHAPA’s legislative/advocacy emphasis began through the influence of Dr. Paul Burney, a politically well-connected professional doing a second career in psychology.  A natural networker, Dr. Burney developed many relationships, including political ones.  Dr. Burney connected with similar-minded individuals, such as Drs. Ron Massey (primary presenter on 8 joint SHAPA workshops presented at TPA), Rebecca Hamlin (began the Disaster Response Network), and Mary Alice Conroy (began the Forensic Special Interest Group in 2002 and was the first Director when it became the TPA Division of Forensic Practice in 2005), and provided mentorship in this area.  Dr. Burney’s influence on the private practitioners as well as Dr. Conroy’s influence with fellow professors and students interested in the future of professional psychology training and practice in Texas ensured that the members of SHAPA were aware of the most pressing legislative issues, as well as equipped to address them through venues such as Legislative Day. This level of legislative awareness and involvement continues today, as we plan for yet another Legislative Day and discuss ways that we can be heard on issues that impact our practice. 
 


In the early 2000s, academics, primarily from Sam Houston State University, who were interested in professional practice issues became involved in the LAS. This connection gave rise not only to a name change (officially named SHAPA in September, 2006) but to an emphasis on student development.  Solidifying the academic-practice partnership resulted in three tangible impacts on students affiliated with the association, all of which continue to the present day: (1) students have gained practicum experience and provided services under the supervision of SHAPA members; (2) student externs with a policy/legislative bent provide service to the organization each year (see the student extern perspective below); and (3) the SHAPA membership provides funding for students to attend the TPA convention each year. All of these actions, which show a dedication to developing strong future members of the psychology profession, set SHAPA apart from many other local area societies. 

Perhaps the impact of SHAPA’s focus on student development and future success of professional psychologists is best noted by one of the students themselves.  When asked to describe the impact of SHAPA on her career development, Laurel Mattos, a current SHAPA extern and Sam Houston State University Graduate Student provided the following: 

During my third year in the clinical psychology doctoral program, I transition from a clinical practicum placement at our program’s Psychological Services Center (where I was constantly surrounded by supervisors and students with whom to discuss cases and ask questions) to the local probation department.  There, I was often the only psychologist in the building, and although I was surrounded by warm and welcoming probation staff, I keenly felt the loss of a community of my peers.  This experience impressed upon me the importance of professional communities, or having a group with common interests and expertise with whom to share ideas and learn from, and propelled me to apply to serve as SHAPA student extern.  Thus far, my experience in SHAPA has exceeded my expectations.  Students within SHAPA are treated as professionals and colleagues, and as student extern I have been given significant responsibilities.  Serving SHAPA is more than a line on my CV - it has given me the opportunity to build relationships with members of our field and learn from a diverse group of individuals.  I have learned clinical and ethical issues from individuals with much more experience than myself – recently, I saw this directly impact my clinical practice when I was able to apply knowledge gained in a talk on working with LGBTQ individuals just days later while meeting with a transgender client.  While it was this clinical collaboration that initially drew me to SHAPA, since serving my interest and involvement in professional issues and public policy has grown substantially.  I have had the opportunity to meet important members of TPA, advocate to my local state representatives, and will be able to join in Legislative Day this spring.  Becoming a member of SHAPA has prepared me to be a more knowledgeable and active psychologist, and I will carry these lessons with me as I start my career.  
 
 
 
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