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The following history is an excerpt (condensed with minor edits by Keith Humphreys) from a chapter authored by Ray Hanbury Jr., Jalie Tucker and Rudy Vuchinich entitled “A History of Division 50 (Addictions)”. The chapter appeared in 2000 in a book edited by D.A. Dewsbury called Unification through division: Histories of the divisions of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association.

Formation and Early History Of SoAp

In 1975, a small group of like-minded psychologists formed the Society of Psychologists in Substance Abuse “to promote human welfare through encouragement of scientific and professional activities and communication among psychologists and others working in any capacity in the areas of substance abuse or dependence, and/or other addictive behaviors.” In the early 1980s, the name was changed to the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors (SPAB). The name change reflected the expanded conception of addictive behaviors as encompassing, but as not limited to, behaviors that involve psychoactive substance use, and it opened the organization to psychologists with interests in obesity, eating disorders, gambling, sexual addiction, and other behaviors of excess. The SPAB had six officers: president, secretary/treasurer, membership committee chair, journal editor, elections supervisor and chair of the Bylaws and Constitution Review Committee (see Table 1). By the mid-1980s, the society had more than 600 psychologists as members.

Presidents of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behavior

Years President
1979-1980 Faye J. Girsch
1980-1981 Oakley S. Ray
1981-1982 William R. Miller
1982-1983 Chad D. Emrick
1983-1984 G. Alan Marlatt
1984-1985 Robert J. Pandina
1985-1987 James L. Sorenson (2 terms)
1987-1988 Curtis L. Barrett
1988-1989 George DeLeon
1989-1991 Raymond F. Hanbury Jr. (2 terms)
1991-1992 Dennis M. Donovan
1992-1993 W. Miles Cox*

*SoAP was approved in February 1993 as a candidate division of the APA during Miles Cox’s term as SPAB president. He provided leadership for the new division until August 1993 APA Convention, when Jalie Tucker became president of Division 50 through the APA election process.

The maturation of the SPAB was evident in the development of its publications. In the late 1970s, Brenna Bry of Rutgers University edited an informal communication that was mailed to society members. This effort later evolved into a quarterly scientific journal under the able editorship of W. Miles Cox (1981-1994), who greatly enhanced the publication’s scope and quality. Originally titled The Bulletin of the SPAB, the journal was retitled Psychology of Addictive Behaviors in 1987. In 1992 the journal began publication and distribution under the auspices of the APA’s special press, the Educational Publishing Foundation (In 2005, PAB became an official APA journal). To improve communication among the SPAB members, in 1990 a newsletter was initiated under the editorship of Raymond F. Hanbury, Jr., who continued in this role until 1994.

From 1988 through 1993, SPAB held a symposium in conjunction with the APA annual convention. These day-long, preconvention meetings served as a forum for psychologists to disseminate their knowledge to other psychologists who shared similar interests. Examples of presentation topics were “Motivational Model of Alcohol Use”; “Clinical and Legal Hazards of Failing to Address Substance Abuse Appropriately”; “Eating Disorders”; and “Relapse to Substance Abuse.” The 1993 symposium papers on relapse were jointly contributed by members of the nascent Division on Addictions and by members of Division 28 (Psychopharmacology & Substance Abuse) and were published as a special section of Division 28’s APA journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology (1996), an effort coordinated by Maxine Stitzer and Cox.

Developing Support For an APA Division On Addictions

Beginning in the late 1980s, members of the SPAB began laying the groundwork to establish a new division on addictions as part of the APA. The bases of need for such a division were several. First, psychologist members of the APA with interests in addictive behaviors did not have a “home” division within which their specialized interests could be expressed, developed, and promoted. Although Division 28 may have seemed to be an appropriate organization with which SPAB members could affiliate—and some of them did—Division 28’s mission and identity were largely scientific in nature. Division 28 thus was not in a position to support vigorously the practice-oriented issues that were important to many SPAB members and to members of Division 42, who also were actively promoting the development of a division on addictions.

The rapid changes that occurred during the 1980s and 1990s as the United States moved from a “fee for service” to a “managed care” model of health care delivery provided a second, powerful impetus for developing a division on addictions. Mental health and substance abuse services, collectively know as “behavioral health” services, were particularly affected by the cost-containment strategies used by managed care plans. Independently practicing doctoral psychologists were particularly hurt economically by these changes. Therefore, it was no accident that these psychologists spearheaded the initiative to develop a division on addictions from within the APA, while the SPAB pursued the initiative from outside the APA. Jack G. Wiggins, Jr., a former APA president and a leader in Division 42, appointed Herbert J. Freudenberger, an independent practitioner in New York City, to chair the Ad Hoc Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse of Division 42 –Independent Practice—which later was instrumental in gaining approval from the APA Council of Representatives for a division on addictions. Other committee members lived in the New York City area and included George De Leon, R. Hanbury, Jr., Edward Schwab, Barbara C. Wallace, and Harry Wexler.

The committee met monthly form 1989-1993 and addressed a number of issues. First, a series of regional conferences were being held throughout the country, known as the Primary Care/Substance Abuse Linkage Initiative—Office of Treatment Improvement (Department of Health and Human Services—Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration). Psychologists were the only professional group in attendance who did not have a position paper on substance abuse from their primary national professional organization. The ad hoc committee developed a statement on alcohol and other drug abuse that was adopted as APA policy by the Council of Representatives on February 29, 1992.

Second, the committee developed a strategy and a rationale for the creation of a division of addictions that was presented to the APA Council of Representatives on February 26, 1993, by Freudenberger, who then was a Division 42 Council representative. The presentation, titled “Why a Division on Addictions?” articulated the need for a “home base within APA” for psychologist experts on addiction. Along with the presentation, the Council received a petition to establish a new division on addictions that had been signed by more than 700 APA members, which exceeded the requisite 1% of the APA members and fellows required to establish a new division. Daniel L. Yalisove had coordinated the collection of signatures for several years. The majority of signatories were members of the SPAB, which then had a membership of about 700 who formed the nucleus of the new division. The Council of Representatives unanimously approved the petition, and SoAP became a “candidate division” of the APA. Division 28 did not oppose the formation of SoAP, which was viewed as a practice division that would complement Division 28’s scientific focus.

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