National Latina/o Psychological Association

The National Latina/o Psychological Association (NLPA) is a national professional psychological organization that represents Hispanic/Latino/a issues in psychology. NLPA was founded in 2002 under the leadership of Patricia Arredondo, who became the founding NLPA president. The mission of NLPA is to generate and advance psychological knowledge and foster its effective application for the benefit of the Hispanic/Latino/a population.

NLPA was a reinvigoration of the National Hispanic Psychological Association (NHPA), which had been founded in 1979 at a conference of Hispanic psychologists convened at Lake Arrowhead, California. The conference was jointly sponsored by the Spanish-Speaking Mental Health Research Center and the National Institute of Mental Health. By 2002 NHPA membership had declined, and it was not possible for the remaining members to sustain momentum for the organization. The last president of NHPA was Maryann Santos de Barona. Despite the decline of NHPA, there was still general interest in the profession in organizing around Latino/a psychology. For example, during the 1990s a series of conferences were held that focused on Latino/a psychology and were highly successful. The transformation of NHPA to NLPA parallels the growth of interest in ethnic/minority psychology and issues of multicultural competence in counseling and psychology during the late 1990s and the early 21st century, as well as the overall growth and migration of the U.S. Latino/a population. Events such as the 1999 and 2001 National Multicultural Summit and Conference, diversity-focused American Counseling Association (ACA) and American Psychological Association (APA) conventions, and the pioneering presidencies of key APA and ACA divisions by Arredondo and Melba Vasquez fueled interest in Latino/a psychology. Therefore the stage was set for the 2002 Rhode Island Latino Psychology Conference where Arredondo led the chartering of NLPA. NLPA membership was, and continues to be, open to individuals committed to the mission of NLPA; being of Latino/a heritage is not a requirement.

NLPA is one of the five groups that the APA recognizes as an Ethnic Minority Psychological Association under the auspices of the Council of National Psychological Associations for the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Interests (CNPAAEMI). The other members of CNPAAMEI are the Asian American Psychological Association, the Association of Black Psychologists, the Society of Indian Psychologists, and Division 45 of the APA—the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Psychology. Although affiliated with the APA, NLPA is an independent organization. In 2006 the Council of Representatives of the APA (the governing body of the APA) invited the presidents of the national Ethnic Minority Psychological Associations to speak to the Council and efforts began to establish a seat on the Council of Representatives for each of the organizations. Although there is a national structure for the organization, NLPA has also been successful in establishing and allying with independent state (e.g., California, Texas, New Jersey) and regional (e.g., Midwest Association of Latino/a Psychologists) Latino/a psychology organizations. While primarily located in the United States, NLPA membership also reflects an international perspective on Latino/a psychology in that NLPA members are found in Guatemala and Puerto Rico, and the president of the Sociedad Interamericana de Psicologia was one of the founding members of NLPA.

NLPA membership grew dramatically after the 2002 Latino Psychology Conference in Rhode Island. In October 2004 NLPA held the inaugural NLPA national conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. The president of NLPA at that time was Patricia Arredondo, and the theme for this conference was Advancement in Latino Psychology 2004: Strengthening Psychology Through Latino Family Values. More than 200 psychologists, academics, researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students were in attendance at this 3-day conference. NLPA conferences were held biannually, and the 2006 conference was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home to the second president of NLPA, Azara Rivera-Santiago. The conference theme was Latina/o Psychology in the 21st Century: New Trends and Challenges in Research and Practice. In 2005 Jose Cervantes was elected as the third president of NLPA followed by Edward Delgado-Romero who was elected in 2007 to be the fourth president.

In addition to the biannual conference, NLPA members meet annually at the APA and ACA conventions. NLPA also maintains a website with a database of resources relating to Latino/a psychology, recent research publications, announcements, and resources for student and professional development. NLPA manages an electronic listserv and a quarterly bilingual newsletter (El Boletin/The Bulletin) that highlights member activities and announcements. NLPA also sponsors several professional and student awards that are presented at the biannual NLPA conference, including the Distinguished Professional Career Award, the Distinguished Professional Early Career Award, the Star Vega Distinguished Service Award, the Cynthia de las Fuentes Dissertation Award, and the Distinguished Student Service Award.

The organizational structure of NLPA is similar to that of other ethnic minority associations. The elected positions are as follows: president, secretary, treasurer and membership chair, and student representative. There are also several additional positions and committees within the organization, including newsletter editor and assistant editors, APA liaison, historian, public relations, awards, and student and professional development coordinators. Finally, to facilitate the dissemination of information in both English and Spanish, a large Spanish translation team exists within NLPA. Graduate student involvement and mentorship are integral to NLPA. The graduate student representative is a member of the executive committee who works as an advocate for student issues and concerns an serves as a liaison between professionals and students.

The term Latina/o was chosen for two reasons: first, the term Latino was chosen over the term Hispanic, as the term Latino/a was considered more politically progressive and inclusive. Second, although it is grammatically incorrect to list the feminine form of a Spanish word first (Latina/o instead of Latino/a), the founders of NLPA felt that it was important to both embrace and challenge Latino traditions (e.g., using a Spanish term but challenging potentially sexist linguistic hierarchy).

The membership and visibility of NLPA continues to grow. Current members are professionals, students, institutions, and lifetime founding member contributors, and as of 2006 they totaled more than 500 members. NLPA continues to work toward advancing psychological knowledge and the application of research in the field of Latino/a psychology, promoting the educational and professional advancement of Latino/a psychologists, and fostering an awareness of issues faced by Latino/a mental health professionals in their work.

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