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American Psychological Association (APA)

American Psychological Association (APA)

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest association of psychology professionals in the United States, with over 115,000 members. Members include doctoral level psychology professionals whose primary focus is on diagnosis and treatment, research, and/or education, and psychology students. Other membership statuses include professionals who have a master’s degree in psychology, professionals who are citizens in another country, and teachers in community colleges or high schools.

The APA was founded in 1892 at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, by G. Stanley Hall, who was also the APA’s first president. The first meeting of the APA occurred on July 8, 1892, in Hall’s office. Those who gathered agreed to form the organization and to assemble a seven-member committee charged with developing a plan for formalizing the association and to organize its first annual meeting, which was ultimately held in December 1892. These seven members also served as the association’s Council, which appeared to be the controlling group. The charter members of the APA included 31 men, most of whom were colleagues of Hall at Clark University.

Various historical events affected the structure and mission of the APA (Evans, Sexton, & Cadwallader, 1992), perhaps none more so than World War II. In 1940, membership in APA was below 1000 members. By 1945, membership was over 4000 and by 1970 had reached to over 30,000 members. Explanations of the effect of WWII on the APA included the fact that servicemen returning from the war required effective psychological services. This led to the refinement of psychological testing and methods of psychotherapy.
Post-World War II also saw the establishment of the National Institute of Mental Health in 1949, which bolstered the nation’s growing interest in psychology. Along with the growing interest in psychology came a diversity of interests among those who chose to become members of the APA. This diversity emerged in part due to the APA’s recruitment of other organizations to merge with it. As a result, subsections or divisions of APA
were established. In 1944, 19 divisions were officially established. Forty-two years later, the APA’s Council of Representatives approved the 47th division of the APA, the Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology, with around 30 members. Current membership exceeds 700 and the division recently changed its name to the Society for Sport, Exercise & Performance Psychology.


Evans, R. B., Sexton, V. S., & Cadwallader, T. C. (1992). The American Psychological Association: A historical perspective. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

***Contributed by Christine L.B. Selby for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.