A Voice for Science in Clinical Psychology:

The History of Section III of Division 12

Thomas F. Oltmanns and Leonard Krasner

Reproduced from The Clinical Psychologist, Volume 46, Number 1, 1993, pp 25-32. 
Copyright by the Division of Clinical Psychology, Division 12 of the American Psychological Association


Section III of Division 12 of the American Psychological Association (APA) held its first official meeting in 1966. This paper summarized the circumstances that led to the formation of the section, which is now known as the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology (SSCP). The founding members believed that the scientist and the practitioner not only can be reunited but must be in order to continue the profession of clinical psychology as a viable, useful and unique one in society." They shared a broad intellectual commitment to the importance of empirical research, its integration with clinical practice, and the central role that science must play in the training of clinical psychologists. Contemporary psychologists are confronted by the same issues that stimulated the formation of SSCP. For 25 years, SSCP has provided a voice for science in clinical psychology and a home for those who are involved in advancing clinical psychology as an applied science.


Section III of Division 12 was created during a period of conflict and innovation. Many important changes occurred in clinical psychology during the decade of the 1960s (see Reisman, 1989). The field was attracting much larger numbers of students, and it had reached new levels of almost frenzied activity. Long standing disagreements between psychologists who were interested in practice and those who were committed to research were becoming increasingly apparent (Barlow, Hayes, & Nelson, 1984; Kendall & Norton-Ford, 1982; Strickland, 1988). New controversies arose as innovative paradigms were introduced to challenge traditional approaches to assessment and therapy. While some people argued that research was irrelevant to practice, psychologists from many backgrounds were launching research programs that would dramatically increase the success with which many kinds of clinical problems could be treated (e.g., anxiety, depression, eating and sexual disorders, to name only a few).

Traditional training models were being challenged on many fronts. In 1965, the Chicago conference reaffirmed the scientist-practitioner model but loosened criteria for what constituted science in clinical psychology (Hoch, Ross, & Winder, 1966). The movement for professional schools was about to become a reality. Some universities were planning separate doctoral programs that would give the PsyD degree without a primary emphasis on research. In 1964, only one graduate training program identified itself primarily as a practitioner program. By the end of the decade the California School of Professional Psychology had opened its doors, and over the next ten years approximately 40 practitioner programs went into operation (Reisman, 1989).

Many of these controversial issues became focal points for discussion within APA's Division of Clinical Psychology (Division 12), which was the largest APA Division and had grown to a membership of approximately 3,000 clinical psychologists by 1964. The establishment of sections within the Division had begun to provide one way in which clinical psychologists could promote particular issues. For example, convention affairs (e.g., allocation of time for symposia at the annual APA meetings) had become an important focal point for dissension within the Division. Section I (Clinical Child Psychology) was founded in 1961 (Routh, 1991). Another group known as Psychologists Interested in the Advancement of Psychotherapy (PIAP) was originally organized at the APA meeting in 1960, and it joined Division 12 as Section II in 1963. Footnote 1

Many clinical psychologists, especially those in academic positions who were actively involved in research and training, believed that the scientific base of the profession should be represented more forcefully in the leadership of the Division. Some had begun to feel out of place because Division 12 was becoming more practice oriented. Others expressed concern about the new training models on the horizon. It was becoming apparent that these people would need a place from which they could maintain an active and consistent voice for the importance of psychological science in the field. Rather than separating clinical psychologists into two opposing groups who would engage in either research or practice, many people believed that they could bring these activities together. This growing sentiment was translated into an organizational scheme by Leonard Krasner and several colleagues, who together with a group of other scientists and clinicians, founded Section III.

In December 1964 Krasner wrote to several fellows and members of Division 12 expressing interest in an organization that would bring together people who identified themselves as both clinical psychologists and behavioral scientists. He argued that the best place for this new group would be within Division 12 of APA so that they could influence the direction of clinical psychology without creating further fragmentation. After receiving many enthusiastic responses, Krasner submitted a petition to the Executive Committee of Division 12 proposing the establishment of a new section, which was tentatively to be called the Section for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Science. The proposal was accompanied by a statement of purpose, which said in part:

This is a section for APA members who identify themselves as both clinical psychologists and behavioral scientists. That is, they see a single role; the clinical psychologist is a behavioral scientist, whether he (sic) is doing clinical work, research, teaching or consulting. His role is the development of principles of psychology and their application in the assessment and modification of human behavior. The validation of the former depends of the latter; the utility of the latter depends on the former. They cannot be separated.

Some members of the Executive Committee (which included Sol Garfield, the current president, Ivan Mensh, Starke Hathaway, Florence Halpern, George Albee, Norman Farberow, and Molly Harrower) apparently objected to the rationale for establishing this new group, and they also had reservations about what the new group might be called. Footnote 2 They wrote back to Krasner indicating that they did not see the need for a section that would advocate the importance of science since, by virtue of the scientist-practitioner model, all clinical psychologists are committed to the importance of empirical research. If that were true, the section would presumably not be unique, and its existence could not be justified. There was also disagreement about the selection of a name for Section III. The Executive Committee thought that the proposed name might apply to all clinical psychologists, again raising their concern that the group should be more narrowly defined.

There is an interesting paradox in the committee's objections. Several papers were published around this time arguing that psychological research was irrelevant to clinical practice. For example, George AlbeeFootnote 3 wrote about "the fundamental incompatibility of the roles of scientist and professional within one individual" (Albee, 1970). The Executive Committee's objection to the original statement of purpose seemed to suggest that although many clinical psychologists had disparaged the relevance of research, those people who were actively involved in scientific clinical psychology might not be allowed to form a group which drew attention to the fact that they constituted a minority within the profession.

Seventy-five people attended a meeting at APA in September 1965 to discuss formation of the new section. An organizing committee was appointed to deal with the controversies regarding the statement of purpose and the name. The organizing committee included the following people: Albert Bandura, Cyril Franks, Arnold Goldstein, Fred Kanfer, Len Krasner, Peter Lang, Robert Rosenthal, Kurt Salzinger, and Irwin Sarason. They decided to modify their statement of purpose by adding the following sentence: "APA members who are currently interested in this section are concerned with the clinical relevance and systematic application of the principles of behavior and social processes derived from experimental psychology (Krasner, Ullmann, Goldstein, Heller, & Kanfer, 1967)." An extended statement of purpose that Krasner mailed to several people near the end of 1965 explicitly addresses the Executive Committee's concern about breadth:

At first glance it would appear that we are saying that this section is arrogating to itself the role which has been the role model for all clinical psychologists. Going back to the post World War II reawakening of clinical psychology, the Shakow Report and the Boulder Conference clearly called for training the clinical psychologist in the scientist-practitioner model. This model was reiterated repeatedly at every clinical training conference, including the most recent one in Chicago. Yet despite this apparent wholesale agreement on all sides that only rarely has there been success in training for this goal and carrying it out in the real world outside the graduate school. There is no need to document the fact that there has been controversy between what is seen as the best interests of each side. Considerable bitterness has been engendered as to whether APA and Division 12 are too academically oriented or too professionally involved. The individual clinical psychologist has been caught in the middle of a sad controversy that is as wasteful as it is unnecessary. A myth has developed to the effect that there is real incompatibility of interests and behavior between the academic and clinical worlds...The creation of this section is an affirmation of the belief that the scientist and the practitioner not only can be reunited but must be in order to continue the profession of clinical psychology as a viable, useful, and unique one in society.

The members of the organizing committee also discussed alternative names for the new group. It appeared that the only way to make the new section acceptable to the Division's Executive Committee would be to suggest, in the selection of a name, that members of Section III constituted a relatively narrow interest group. Some people did favor a greater emphasis on the behavioral perspective and argued for using terms such as learning, reinforcement, and behavior modification in the name. On the other hand, most members were struggling hard to ensure that the group would not promote a specific philosophy or therapeutic agenda. The broader minded people eventually prevailed. The word experimental was inserted into the name as a compromise that might appear to narrow the group's focus, albeit in a somewhat ambiguous way. The word could be taken to mean either that the section was focused upon the experimental analysis of behavior (or radical behaviorism) or else primarily concerned with laboratory research (e.g., experimental psychopathology). Unfortunately, this change may have deflected attention from the group's broad commitment to the constantly expanding base of knowledge generated by scientific psychology, regardless of the specific theory or type of research design with which it might be associated. The Organizing Committee finally decided that the group would be called the Section for the Development of Clinical Psychology as an Experimental Behavioral Science.

The changes in the statement of purpose and the group's name were accepted by the Division's executive committee in 1966, and Section III was finally in business. The first executive committee of Section III was composed of Len Krasner, Len Ullmann, Arnold Goldstein, Ken Heller, and Fred Kanfer. Krazner was elected the first chairperson around the time of the annual APA meeting in 1966. Table 1 lists the membership of the new section as it appeared in September 1966. The first full set of Section III officers was elected in 1967, with Leonard Ullmann serving as chairperson. Footnote 4 There were 190 members (75% full members in Division 12 and 25% affiliated by membership in APA).

The size of the membership has remained relatively steady since the group's inception, never expanding much beyond 500 members. Footnote 5 It is still a relatively small group, in which academic psychologists are heavily represented. In August of 1992, there were 289 members of the Section (including 42 graduate student members). Table 2 updates the list of the Section's officers throughout the following years.

In 1991, the members of Section III voted to change the organization's name to the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology (SSCP). The original name had always been a burden. It was long and difficult to remember. Most people referred to the group as Section III, which described its place within APA but did not identify the values and purpose for which it was formed. Perhaps more importantly, the original dispute with the Division's executive committee had resulted in the use of a phrase (Experimental Behavioral Science) that was often construed in narrow terms and may therefore have detracted from the true spirit of the organization and its members. The group changed its name in order to clarify that the knowledge base upon which it is founded includes all of psychological science. The new name succinctly summarizes the reason for the existence of the society.

The members of SSCP have always been a diverse group, exploring various frontiers at the interface of science and practice. For better and for worse, they have tended to be scholars rather than activists. While other groups like Section I (Clinical Child Psychology) and Section II (psychotherapy) were organized by a topic, the members of Section III share an intellectual commitment to the importance of empirical research, its integration with clinical practice, and the central role that scientific principles should play in the training and future development of clinical psychologists. Many members of other sections also belong to SSCP. It is not a group that was intended to focus on a specific problem area, or a particular population, or a favorite form of intervention. Many of the earliest members of SSCP were leaders in various intellectual movements and special interest groups within clinical psychology, including: behavior therapy (and the experimental analysis of behavior), community psychology, experimental psychopathology, psychotherapy research, personality research, health psychology and behavioral medicine, and behavior genetics. The group's members include people who are particularly concerned with the problems of children as well as those who have focused on adult populations. As clinical psychology has continued to evolve and as its horizons have expanded, SSCP has continued to include within its membership a broad representation of these interests.

Over the past 25 years, SSCP has promoted the role of science in clinical psychology through four primary sets of activities. First, the members of SSCP have influenced the policies and programs of the Division of Clinical Psychology. Training and credentialing of clinical psychologists has continued to be one major concern of our membership. Footnote 6 We have a representative on the Executive Committee, suggest appointments to standing committees, and promote our members for fellowship status within Division 12. We maintain representatives on the program committee to encourage data-based presentations during APA annual meetings. Two former presidents of SSCP have recently chaired the Division's program committee, Karen Calhoun in 1990 and Lynn Rehm in 1991. In addition to its continued sponsorship of two annual symposia at the annual APA meetings, SSCP also holds a student poster session in conjunction with the social hour at APA. Several members of SSCP have served as officers of the Division, including David Barlow, who is currently president, and Martin Seligman, who will be president of the Division in 1994. During Barlow's presidency, SSCP will sponsor a divisional task force that will be concerned with the dissemination of information regarding effective psychological treatments (to be chaired by Dianne Chambless).

Second, SSCP has recognized outstanding achievements in scientific clinical psychology, including the annual distinguished scientist award and the distinguished dissertation award. Previous winners of the distinguished scientist award are listed in Table 3. The work of each of these individuals represents a major contribution to the field of clinical psychology, illustrating by example the fact that science and practice can and should remain integrated. Their work has had a dramatic impact on both psychological science and clinical practice. The careers of these leading clinical scientists exemplify the type of progress that was envisioned by the founders of SSCP. By recognizing outstanding accomplishments in scientific clinical psychology, the distinguished scientist award draws attention to the benefits of integrating science and practice.

Third, over the years, SSCP has facilitated communication among its members. This has become especially important since the proliferation of specialized societies. SSCP provides a diverse clearinghouse of information for people of many theoretical persuasions who are interested in various special topics and populations. The informal social hour hosted each year at the APA convention is one pleasant (though admittedly inefficient) forum for this exchange. The pages of the newsletter provide another important communication medium. In the early years, SSCP news appeared under the editorship of Stanley Feldstein as part of The Clinical Psychologist. The SSCP newsletter began to be distributed as a separate document in 1978, while Alan Marlatt was secretary/treasurer. The pages of the SSCP newsletter have provided a forum for lively debates on many topics. Reading these columns provides an interesting glimpse of the many important issues that have shaped the development of our field. Examples include papers regarding clinical psychology and the medical model (training issues, assessment procedures, conceptual models, professional turf), the development of professional schools, and various credentialing initiatives. Most recent perhaps is Dick McFall's "Manifesto for a Science of Clinical Psychology," based on his presidential address to SSCP in 1990.

SSCP has also sponsored other publications. The first edition of the Directory of Research Opportunities for Clinical Psychology Interns was published in 1976. It has been revised at various times over the years and was most recently published conjointly with the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy. A directory of graduate programs that promote research has also been produced and distributed to undergraduate students who are considering a career in clinical psychology. In the near future, SSCP hopes to establish a communications network using electronic mail, which will provide members with more frequent bits of information regarding current activities sponsored by the organization.

Fourth, at the same time that SSCP has continued to promote the interests of science within clinical psychology, it has also represented clinical psychology within the broader fields of psychological science and mental health services. SSCP has been actively involved in various issues over the past 25 years. Examples include efforts to encourage NIMH and other federal funding agencies to ensure that psychologists are represented on grant review committees, discussions of various versions of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, especially DSM-III, and federal regulations regarding the use of human subjects in research. Within psychological science, SSCP is represented in the Forum on Research Management, which is sponsored by the Federation of Psychological, Behavioral, and Cognitive Sciences, and it has also been involved in the Human Capital Initiative, an effort to develop a national behavioral science research agenda which has been sponsored by the American Psychological Society (APS).

SSCP is currently actively involved with several issues. One prominent example involves the accreditation of clinical psychology training programs, an issue which now extends well beyond the confines of Division 12 and APA. Dick Bootzin, who served as a member of the steering committee that organized last spring's APS summit meeting on accreditation, discussed this issue in his presidential address to SSCP at APA last August. Members of SSCP are actively concerned with the APA system as well as pursuing alternatives. Taken together, these efforts will clearly shape the future of accreditation for clinical psychology training programs. Ray Lorion is currently serving as a member of the new Committee on Accreditation. Dick McFall and Don Fowles are members of the APS summit's steering committee, which is considering alternative forms of accreditation.

Most of the difficult issues that faced the founders of Section III are still with us today (see Bickman & Ellis, 1990). There are, of course, other models of clinical psychology that have been established, and those alternatives have gained considerable influence in the field. But recent events suggest that the statement of purpose upon which SSCP was founded may have been quite prophetic. For example, many insurance companies are now moving in a direction which will require psychologists to document the efficacy of their interventions before third parties will provide reimbursement. Similarly, the consensus development conferences that are sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, such as the most recent conference on panic disorders (Treatment of Panic Disorder, 1991), emphasize empirical research as the criterion for their recommendations. Those practitioners who are unable to provide a scientific basis for their intervention programs may ultimately be left behind by those who have been more seriously concerned with these issues (McFall, 1991).

SSCP provides a home for those clinical psychologists who are committed in a variety of ways to the integration of science and practice. We all have special research interests, but SSCP is one organization that can serve as a common base for all clinical psychologists who see themselves as applied scientists, without regard to topic, or population, or orientation. We encourage all clinical psychologists who share the values that are promoted by SSCP to join the group. Most SSCP members also belong to APA, but it is not a requirement for membership. Those who belong to Division 12 of APA are called "Divisional Members" and those who do not belong to Division 12 are called "Members-at-Large." Only Divisional members can serve as (or vote for) Division 12 representative to APA. 

Author Notes

Thomas F. Oltmanns, University of Virginia; Leonard Krasner, Stanford University.

We are grateful to the following people, who provided copies of early correspondence, section newsletters, and many other section documents: Gordon Paul, Stan Feldstein, Ed Craighead, Ken Heller, Karen Bierman, Alan Ross, and Bert Cohen. We also thank the following people for information and opinions that they provided during telephone conversations: Arnold Goldstein, Len Ullmann, and Fred Kanfer.


(1) Section II had a somewhat confusing history. The original version of Section II, which had also been known as PIAP, separated from Division 12 to become Division 29 in 1967. The Corresponding Committee of Fifty (CCF), which had originally been organized in 1961, replaced PIAP as Section II in 1974 and was eventually abolished in 1986 (see Schroeder & Fish, 1987). Back to text .

(2) These reservations were expressed to Krasner in a letter from Florence Halpern, then secretary/treasurer and later president of the Division. Back to text .

(3) Albee served as president of Division 12 in 1967. Back to text .

(4) The title of this position was changed to President in the bylaws in 1991. Back to text .

(5) Minutes from the business meeting in 1981 indicate that there were 536 members, but only 190 had paid their dues. In that year, the section decided to drop from membership those people whose dues were more than two years overdue. Back to text .

(6) In some cases, SSCP has actively opposed certain initiatives within the Division, such as an attempt in the 1970s to impose the ABPP diploma as a requirement for all internship directors and directors of clinical training. Back to text .


Albee, G.W. (1970). The uncertain future of clinical psychology. American Psychologist, 25, 1071-1080.

Barlow, D.H., Hayes, S.C., & Nelson, R.O. (1984). The scientist-practitioner: Research and accountability in clinical and educational settings. New York: Pergamon.

Bickman, L. & Ellis, H. (1990). Preparing psychologists for the 21st century: Proceedings of the National Conference on Graduate Education in Psychology. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Hoch, E.L., Ross, A.O., & Winder, C.L. (Eds.). (1966). Professional preparation of clinical psychologists. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Kendall, P.C., & Norton-Ford, J.D. (1982). Clinical psychology: Scientific and professional dimensions. New York: Wiley.

Krasner, L., Ullmann, L. Goldstein, A., Heller, K., & Kanfer, F. (1967). Statement of purposes for section for the Advancement of Clinical Psychology as an Experimental-Behavioral Science (Section III). The Clinical Psychologist, summer, 163-164.

McFall, R.M. (1991). A manifesto for the science of clinical psychology. The Clinical Psychologist, 4, 75-88.

Reisman, J.M. (1989). A history of clinical psychology 2nd ed.). New York: Hemisphere Publishing.

Routh, D.K. (1991). The section of clinical child psychology: A 30-year retrospect and prospect. The Clinical Psychologist, 44, 33-36.

Schroeder, D.J., & Fish, J.E. (1987). A brief history of Section II: Continuing professional development. The Clinical Psychologist, 40, 16.

Strickland, B.R. (1988). Clinical psychology comes of age. American Psychologist, 43, 104-107.

Treatment of Panic Disorder. (1991). NIH Consensus Development Conference Consensus Statement, 9(2).