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Diversity Committee activities at the 2012 APA Convention

The first diversity award, discussion of the scientist-practitioner-advocate model of doctoral training and a business meeting

By Eric C. Chen, PhD

As Chair of the Division 49 Diversity Committee, I am writing to share exciting news about our various activities at the 2012 American Psychological Association (APA) Convention in Orlando, Fla. First, an important goal for the Diversity Committee this year was to complete the selection of the first recipient of the Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Diversity Award. This award is meant to recognize the accomplishments of a group psychologist who has made outstanding contributions in group psychology practice, research, service, or mentoring that promote understanding and respect for diversity. After each of the Committee and student members reviewed the submitted vita and supportive materials, a summary of the Committee ratings and comments along with our recommendation were forwarded to the Board. At the business meeting of Division 49 on Aug. 3, 2012, Dr. Melba Vasquez was recognized as the 2012 recipient of this award.

Second, the Diversity Committee met at the Division 49 hospitality suite at the annual APA conference for a business meeting and information exchange. In attendance were Scott Conkright, Cheri Marmarosh, Joe Miles, as well as three student members—Joy Lere, a student in the PsyD Program at George Washington University, and Allyson Regis and Kourtney Bennett in the Counseling Psychology PhD Program at Fordham University. The first 45 minutes was a conversation hour with Joe Miles about social justice and implications for training and group therapy. Earlier this year, Joe Miles and his colleagues in the Counseling Psychology PhD program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) received the APA Board of Educational Affairs’ Innovation in Graduate Education Award for its scientist-practitioner-advocate model of doctoral training. This model is premised on the belief that not all problems presented by clients are intrapersonal in nature, and that external factors (e.g., societal oppression) also play an important role in the health and well-being of those with whom mental health professionals work. The scientist-practitioner-advocacy model includes two vital elements. First, students complete two semesters of Social Justice Practicum, connecting with a community-based agency engaged in social justice work, completing a needs assessment and developing and evaluating a systemic intervention aimed at promoting social justice for a specific target population. Second, the model infuses social justice into all aspects of training, including group training. Specifically, the students complete an advanced course in group work that focuses on multiculturalism and social justice in which they learn a model of “intergroup dialogue,” and then co-facilitate dialogues with undergraduate UTK students enrolled in a course on multicultural psychology. Intergroup dialogue brings together individuals from social identity groups that have had a history of tension or conflict (e.g., persons of color and whites; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and heterosexual adults) in a semi-structured small group setting over the course of about eight weeks. Its goals include raising of consciousness about issues related to social identities and social justice (e.g., privilege, oppression), building bridges across groups and developing capacities and a commitment to work toward social justice. Throughout the semester, the graduate students enrolled in the advanced group course participate in a didactic course requirement that involves learning the model of intergroup dialogue, exploring literature on multiculturalism and social justice in group work more broadly, and engaging in experiential components of the group designed to help the students continue to develop their own knowledge, skills and awareness related to multicultural issues. In addition, weekly group supervision is provided for the graduate student co-facilitators to receive support from the instructor and one another. For more information on this model of training, please feel free to email Joe.

The second portion of the meeting was the Committee business meeting, which focused on how the Committee could increase the participation of early career professionals as well as student members in the Committee’s activities. Among the suggestions and strategies were obtaining a list of student members in our division and reaching out to them; publishing a special issue of Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice about diversity in group work; reaching out to other Division 49 members who are faculty members and asking them to forward information to their students about joining the Division; developing a video series or webinars on topics related to diversity in small groups. We also discussed how we could incorporate diversity into group dynamics and group psychotherapy for the APA 2013 convention in Hawai'i. One suggestion was to develop a Division 49 Diversity Committee Symposium that could be sponsored by other APA Divisions (e.g., Divisions 17—Society of Counseling Psychology; 35—Society for the Psychology of Women; 44—Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues; 45—Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues) and involve many interested student members.

As always, if any members or student members have any suggestions regarding these activities, please contact me or Allyson Regis.