Not Goodbye, Just ‘See You Next Year’

It is hard to believe that it is already the final day of convention. This week has been filled with opportunities to learn new information, to grow personally and professionally, and to connect with friends old and new. Yes, the Girl Scout in me wants to break out into song. “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”

One of the reasons I come to the conference is for the opportunity to connect with others in the profession — this year did not disappoint. I enjoyed the chance to catch up with other early career professionals during a number of events. The Committee on Early Career Professionals hosted a social hour on Friday night and a coffee hour Saturday morning. ECP coffee hourI also attended an ECP social hour that was a collaboration of Divs. 17, 35 and 51.  All of these events provided fun opportunities to chat with other ECPs and share stories about getting licensed, starting new jobs, applying for tenure, and striving to find some work/life balance.

I was happy to see so many events for ECPs. When I first graduated, I had never heard of the term “early career professional.” Thanks to Katharine Hahn Oh’s hard work restarting the Div. 17 ECP committee, I soon learned what it meant. I had the honor of serving on the committee for four years and helped to bring more awareness to this career stage during convention. Seeing the great attendance at all of these events makes me confident that there will continue to be supports for ECPs for years to come.

I was especially delighted to connect with one my mentees who recently graduated. It was wonderful to spend time with her at her first convention as “Dr.” I am so proud and happy to welcome her as a colleague. I got some much needed Vitamin F from my dear friends at the Div. 35 award ceremony and was inspired,as always, by the authentic interactions I had during Div. 51’s social hour.

So, it is somewhat bittersweet to part ways on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Sometimes a few days just doesn’t seem long enough to say everything we want to say. I reassured friends that we would stay in touch over Facebook and keep each other posted about important life updates. I try to avoid thinking too much about how long a year can be.

So as I get ready to begin the re-immersion process into my day-to-day life, I don’t say goodbye. Just, see you next year in Denver.

‘But How Do I do It?’ Application of Theory to be Focus of Revised Mulitucultural Guidelines

Only 20 percent of doctoral degrees in psychology go to students of color, despite the fact that 40 percent of Americans are people of color, according to Nayeli Chavez-Duenas, PhD. Even with the shifting demographics in the United States, studies have demonstrated low levels of cultural competency among psychologists. The proposed revisions to APA’s multicultural guidelines are designed to address this problem by offering concrete suggestions for preparing psychologists to become multiculturally competent.

 The current guidelines were approved in 2002 and have been studied in most psychology training programs, providing important direction about preparation of psychologists for working in a diverse world,

“Addressing culture within psychology requires complex thinking,” said Patricia Arredondo, EdD, one of the lead scholars working on the proposed revisions. This comment reflects the spirit of the revisions, which will seek to build on the current guidelines by maintaining the core principles, while emphasizing ways to operationalize and apply the values. revised multicultural guidelines

I regularly teach our required diversity/ multicultural competence course to master’s students and one of the questions they often as me is, “But how do I do it?” Getting buy-in for the importance of multicultural competence is a needed first step for some students but even those who fully embrace the idea in theory struggle to learn how to put it into practice. The proposed revisions offer strategies for just that.

The new guidelines would offer ways to deconstruct and increase self-awareness about one’s own ethnic identity, said Hector Adames, PsyD. They provide specific recommendations about developing awareness about various aspects of identity (such as one’s identity as a white person), while encouraging psychologists to “use multiple lenses to understand complex processes, especially complex human experiences and identities, ” according to Adames.

I am especially enthusiastic about the proposed recommendations for skill development, including how to engage in dialogue and behavioral change.

Although the revisions are not yet available (they are undergoing the approval process within APA), I am excited to take what I have learned back home with me. I will certainly be integrating some new ideas as I prepare my fall syllabi in the coming weeks.

Identity-Based Bullying Is a Social Justice Issue

Most psychologists are likely familiar with bullying and its detrimental effects. However, they may not be familiar with the term “identity-based bullying,” which includes any form of bullying related to the characteristics considered particular to a child’s actual or perceived social identity. Identity-based bullying is one form of discrimination, and it is also a
method through which children learn prejudicial attitudes and stereotypes.

Identity-based bullying can include:

  • Ostracizing a student with a disability
  • Teasing a black student by saying he or she is “acting white”
  • Calling a girl a “slut” or shaming her about sexual activity or her body
  • Teasing an overweight teen about her/his body
  • Using anti-gay terms or teasing adolescents who identify as LGB

Participants had the opportunity to learn about these types of bullying during a session organized by Mindy J. Erchull, PhD, and Michelle M. Perfect, PhD. I had the privilege of opening the session with a presentation describing why psychologists should address identity-based bullying as a social justice issue.

anti- bullying

Identity-based bullying includes behaviors that are rooted in discrimination. Unfortunately, most discourse within schools about bullying minimizes power relations based on social identities. Some schools intentionally avoid discussing issues of identity out of fear that the conversations will be too controversial. In these cases, the term bullying may be used in place of terms such as sexism, racism and homophobia to minimize discussions about systemic problems rooted in cultural stereotypes and oppression.

During my presentation, I asserted that psychologists should address identity-based bullying as a social justice issue–examining systemic causes so as to change not only the outcomes for individuals, but to transform the processes that lead to identity-based bullying. Identity-based bullying is both reflected in and influenced by cultural factors including legal and political battles, media messages and social movements. Many societal structures (including schools) often serve to reinforce and reproduce messages about inequality.
However, schools can be sites for intervention. At this session, Susan Swearer, PhD, described school-based approaches for identifying, preventing and intervening in bullying, sharing the promising research findings for a number of programs. She discussed how she has engaged multiple stakeholders, such as school nurses, to be involved in the battle against bullying.

Identity-based bullying is a societal problem and the most effective prevention and intervention strategies extend beyond changing any one individual (or a series of individuals). As scholars and mental health professionals, we have a responsibility to embrace such possibilities because all children deserve to attend schools that provide safe, supportive environments that reinforce equality and teach respect for all people.

The Raging Grannies: Bucking the Stereotypes about Older Women

Most images of older women in the U.S. media are based on stereotypes about older adults. The “Raging Grannies” are shattering those stereotypes.

The Raging Grannies

The Raging Grannies are activists who promote peace, justice, social and economic equality through song and humor.  Attendees at the convention session Aging and Raging Well   Women, Art, and Activism were lucky to see them in action, singing on such topics as double standards for women and men related to aging and climate change.

These women are not alone in their efforts to fight stereotypes about older women. Mary Gergen described her research, which finds that older women feel invisible as they age, disappearing at work and in public. “The irony,” Gergen said, “is that at the same time one becomes invisible, she is also experiencing her most wise and self-fulfilled time of life.”

Gergen commented on the many ways that ageism affects older women, sharing her own experiences being called “honey” by shopkeepers. Ageism can also include jokes about older adults and assumptions that one is no longer interested in (or capable of) being actively engaged in work or hobbies. Stereotypes about older adults are so pervasive that many older women have internalized ageism — some are reluctant to visit community centers or move into assisted living facilities because they don’t want to spend time with people who are “old.”

Just like other forms of bias, it is important for psychologists to speak out against ageism and resist stereotypes about older adults. “Let’s be celebratory and joyful while we attack barriers related to ageism,” said Maureen McHugh of APA’s Div. 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women).

Psychologists Address Police Interactions with Boys and Men of Color

Do you know that feeling when you hear something really meaningful? For me it often involves a pit in my stomach and the chills. It is not an entirely pleasant feeling, but it is a helpful reminder that something important is happening that I don’t want to miss.

Long exposure to capture the full array of police car lights. 12MP camera.

That’s the feeling I got at the beginning of the session “Working with Critical Gate Keepers to Ensure Safety and Justice for Boys and Men of Color.” I was moved right away by Dr. Christopher Liang’s passionate opening in which he described why he and Dr. Helen Neville decided to co-chair the symposium. He shared his reactions to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, (and other similar incidents) and called on psychologists to do more to address the epidemic of police violence against boys and men of color.

The speakers covered a range of important topics. Warren Spielberg, PhD, discussed the experiences of boys of color in school, including the fact that many are accused of cheating if they do well, are blamed for fights, and are generally described in negative ways. Many boys cope with this treatment through academic dis-identification, where they decide it is better not to care about school than to experience the emotional pain that could accompany these interactions.

Most of the panelists discussed the fact that psychologists can play a larger role in screening and training police officers to reduce bias against boys and men of color. They can work with community members to develop guidelines and use the research on prejudice reduction to train police officers. This work is often challenging and it may take years to develop relationships with police departments. Lorraine Greene, PhD, noted that “strong partnerships between police and males of color require trust and confidence to have legitimacy and justice.”

Nevertheless, the success stories shared during the symposium were inspirational and provided the audience with practical suggestions about how to do this work in our home communities. The symposium ended with a call to action—audience members were given notecards to write down our plans to put what we learned into practice in their own lives.

Change can start with us.

What’s Next for the Multicultural Competence Movement?

“Psychologists should do more than address the downstream consequences of racism, but also work to tackle racism itself,” said Brian Smedley, PhD, during a session examining the past, present, and future of the multicultural competence movement. Smedley spoke about his work addressing health inequities in communities of color by examining structural causes, especially segregated communities.

In addition to providing an in-depth review of the important achievements of the multicultural competence movement, Lillian Comas-Diaz, PhD, offered her suggestions for future areas of focus. She called upon psychologists to consider ways to integrate folk healing into our work, to explore psychospirituality, to examine intersectionality, and to develop transnational and international competence.

The role of psychologists in doing advocacy work to dismantle systems of oppression was identified as one of the key areas for the future of the multicultural competence movement. Rebecca Toporek, PhD, described how the multicultural competence movement and social justice movement have worked together (and indeed need each other). She invited audience members to reflect on their own experience of the interaction of the two, asking participants to consider the reason they decided to study multicultural competence and what keeps them going in the face of obstacles. She surmised that for many in the room, the drive to work for social justice sustained individuals when they met roadblocks in their work in multicultural education.

However, very few psychologists receive direct training about how to blend social justice work into their roles, often feeling constrained to focus solely on work with individuals (and families/couples). Toporek suggested that many feel hesitant to take the next step toward action, believing there should be separation among science, practice and activism. Training programs can address this reluctance and find ways to educate graduate students about social justice advocacy and activism, provide training about policy and acknowledge the structural causes of inequity.

I teach the diversity/ multicultural counseling course in our master’s program and have begun to integrate advocacy training into the curriculum. Students learn about the many ways counselors and psychologists engage in advocacy and activism and develop proposals for advocacy projects. Some of the students have actually gone on to implement the projects at the university and within the community. Although students are often surprised that the course includes discussions of advocacy, many embrace this aspect of the course and ask for additional resources. Their enthusiasm makes me hopeful about the future of the multicultural competence movement and the profession.

Welcome to APA 2015!

welcome photoThe time has arrived for the 2015 APA convention! I look forward to the convention and have attended most years since I started graduate school. A lot of time, energy and excitement goes into my preparation for the conference. In 2013, I had the brilliant idea that I should stay up really late all week before the convention, thinking I could get my body on Hawaii time. I was hoping to avoid melting into a puddle of exhaustion during the Division 17 EC meeting the first night of the convention. I am not sure how well my plan succeeded, because I recall walking deliriously along the beach back to my hotel late that night. Despite being tired, it was a pretty amazing view.

I look forward to the convention, even though I know I will be busy with meetings, attending sessions, and catching up with colleagues during social hours. I usually come home from the convention exhausted and drained. But after a day or two of rest, I find that I am energized and reinvigorated. I have fresh ideas that I want to bring into my teaching, new research projects to plan, and am filled with the joy of renewed friendships.

I am always a bit nervous before convention. I wonder how my presentation(s) will go. I wonder if I will get lost in a new city. I always worry that I will forget something crucial and end up over-packing. This year, I found myself worrying what the tone of the conference will be like, given the recent release of the Hoffman report. Will all other topics be drowned out by conversations about the report and its implications? Or will the convention center echo with emptiness reminiscent of the convention in New Orleans the year after Hurricane Katrina?

Colleagues and students sometimes ask me why I attend so many conferences. One of the reasons is that I cherish the opportunity to connect with the profession and my colleagues. It reminds me that my work is bigger than any one job. It is my career. I grew up in a working class family, with parents who pushed my brothers and me to get as much education as we could. I know what a blessing it is to do work that I find meaningful–to get paid to fulfill my calling.

So here I am– anxious and excited, but ready to learn and grow. I am not sure what the next few days have in store for me, but I can’t wait to take it all in.

Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.