The Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) was founded in December 1972 by a group of Asian American psychologists and other mental health professionals in the San Fancisco Bay Area. With the leadership of Dr. Derald Sue (AAPA’s first President) and Dr. Stanley Sue, the first core group was formed and included educators, social workers, master’s level psychologists and other mental health professionals. The group was vitally interested in Asian American psychology and mental health issues, in the training and education of Asian American mental health professionals, and in collaborating and networking with their peers. Psychologists in this early group included Roger Lum, Marion Tinloy, Tina Tong Yee, and Reiko True. From these beginnings in the 1970’s, the AAPA struggled in its growth from a handful of active members located in California to a national organization with nearly 400 members in 1995.

Since its inception, the Association advocated on behalf of Asian Americans as well as advancing Asian American psychology. In the 1980’s, for example, the AAPA pressed the U.S. Bureau of the Census to include Asian American subgroups in its census data, and fought against the English-only language movement in California. The development of Asian American psychological theory, research and practice was shaped by members such as Derald Sue, Stanley Sue, Harry Kitano, Richard Suinn, Frederick Leong and others. Throughout its history, AAPA has published journals and newsletters focused on the education and training of Asian American psychologists, Asian-American psychological topics, and methods of improving mental health services for Asian Americans. The Association leads and guides other professional organizations on Asian American psychology and is in the forefront of the multicultural psychology movement.

A highly visible and influential organization, AAPA has many distinguished members who hold key positions of national importance:

• Dr. Stanley Sue served on the NIMH Advisory Board for the Asian American Mental Health Research Center in Chicago, IL and nurtured the AAMHRC in its growth. He was Director of the National Asian American Center on Mental Health (NRCAAMH) which functioned from 1988-2003. Among his many awards are the Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest, Distinguished Contribution Award for Research in Public Policy, and the Distinguished Contributions to Applied Research Award, all from the American Psychological Association. He is so well-known for his contributions that an American Psychological Association Division 12 Distinguished Contributions to Diversity award and a mental health center in Houston have been named in his honor.

• Dr. Richard Suinn was one of the early chairpersons of the American Psychological Association’s Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs (BEMA) and served as the first Asian American elected member of the APA Board of Directors. In 1995, Dr. Suinn was appointed chairperson of APA’s Committee for Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention, and Training (CEMRRAT). In 1999, Dr. Suinn was also the first Asian American psychologist in the 103 year history of the APA to serve as President of APA.

• Dr. Alice F. Chang served on APA’s BEMA, the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs (CEMA), the Committee of Structure and Function, and other APA governance groups. She is also the first ethnic minority woman member of the American Psychological Association Board of Directors and recently is a nominee for APA President-elect.

• Dr. Reiko F. True is the former Director of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Forensic Services for the city of San Francisco, CA. Dr. True served on APA’s Minority Fellowship Committee, worked on the planning and creation of BEMA as well as the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest, and served as AAPA President from 1997-1999.

A wonderful history of the AAPA may be found in a publication in Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology (CDEMP). CDEMP is the journal from Division 45, Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues and is published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The reference for this article on the history of AAPA is:

Leong, Frederick T. L.; Okazaki, Sumie (2009). History of Asian American psychology. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. Vol 15(4), 352-362.

From the abstract: An overview of the history of Asian American psychology is provided by reviewing the context for the development of the field as well as the early founding of the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA). The presidents of AAPA as well as key events and conferences are noted. The involvement of AAPA leaders in national mental health policies and activities are reviewed. The substantive areas of Asian American psychology and the education and training of Asian American psychologists are also discussed. The article ends with some comments about the future of Asian American psychology.”

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