Climate Change and Counseling Psychology

Climate change (i.e., “global warming”) is here, likely to stay, and will most likely get significantly worse within the next 30 years, according to a leading report released by a panel of United Nations (UN) experts (Allen et al., 2018).  This report’s essential take away is this: As the Earth warms, climate systems become unstable and ultimately cause adverse impacts to human health through a variety of natural and human mediated systems. Unfortunately, reports conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA; Clayton, Manning, Krygsman, & Speiser, 2017), United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP; Dodgen et al., 2016) and the UN (Allen et al., 2018) indicate that these adverse health outcomes are more likely to occur within marginalized communities.  Although counseling psychology’s commitment to social justice has often led the field to address other issues facing marginalized communities, counseling psychology’s capacity to contribute to the conversation on climate change as a social justice is ripe for development.  While public concern and awareness toward climate change has been substantially increasing over time (Jones & Saad, 2017), climate change has yet to be explicitly discussed in the counseling psychology literature. This begs the question: what does climate change have to do with counseling psychology? 

The turn of the decade (2009-2011) was a busy time for the APA in regard to understanding and addressing climate change.  In 2008, an APA task force on and global climate change released a report entitled, Psychology & global climate change: Addressing a multifaceted phenomenon and set of challenges (Swim, et al, 2009).  The American Psychologist ran a special issue in 2011 on psychologist’s contributions to global climate change efforts, which provided a strong foundation for better understanding the psychological principles present in climate change.  In tandem with the special issue, the APA released a Resolution on Affirming Psychologists Role in Addressing Global Climate Change that (re)affirmed psychology’s role in addressing behavioral contributions to climate change and recognized that global climate change affects those who are underprivileged and disenfranchised (American Psychological Association, 2011).  These publications, followed by the release of the updated UN climate change reports in 2018, provide a strong foundation for the importance of climate change within psychology and the relationship between health, climate change, and marginalized communities.

So, it turns out that climate change actually has a lot to do with counseling psychology, despite it being an issue that lives in the periphery of our awareness.  The reports named above (Allen et al., 2018; Clayton et al., 2017; Dodgen et al, 2016) provide strong support for the contention that marginalized communities experience negative outcomes in physical and mental health.  Specifically, they find that the impacts to physical health occur along three pathways:  extreme weather (e.g., natural disaster, heatwaves, floods, droughts, and fires), natural systems (e.g., vector-born disease, food and water infections, nutrition and demised air quality), and anthropogenic systems (e.g., occupational hazard, and violence and conflict). Adverse mental health outcomes can be direct such as trauma, shock, loss, and grief or indirect such as increases in aggression, violence, and mental health emergencies; solostalgia (i.e., loss of place attachment); loss of autonomy and control; helplessness; depression; fear; resignation; and eco-anxiety.  Although these physical and mental health impacts occur within non-marginalized communities, research suggests that they are more likely to have greater impact to marginalized communities.

Indeed, although climate change impacts everyone, an insidious characteristic is that the negative outcomes are more likely to be distributed among many different communities (Allen et al., 2018).  For example, longitudinal survey data following Hurricane Katrina found that adverse health outcomes were significantly greater among African Americans, older adults, women, single adults, those with fewer years of education, and with fewer social supports when compared to the general population (Adeolo & Picou, 2014; Picou & Hudson, 2010).  However, when considering the broad-spectrum of climate change, the list of marginalized communities commonly discussed in the literature grows significantly and often includes: children and older adults; women; African Americans; individuals in a lower socioeconomic group; those with developmental or acquired disability; individuals with pre-existing mental and physical health conditions; indigenous communities; immigrant communities; those with limited language proficiency for their current location; and communities in geographic regions prone to specific weather changes.  Clearly, climate change is an issue that places a greater burden among a large portion of (if not all) marginalized populations. 

Fortunately, counseling psychology has worked to balance the injustices found in many complex dilemmas facing marginalized communities.  One must simply recall our intro to counseling psychology course, peruse The Handbook of Social Justice in Counseling Psychology (Toperek, Gerstein, Fouad, & Roysicar, 2006), or grab coffee with a member of the field to learn about a plethora of examples, a discussion beyond the limit and scope of this article.  Despite counseling psychology’s historical commitment to addressing injustice within marginalized communities, we do not know how, or if, counseling psychology will work to address those issues posed by climate change. Further research is needed to better understand what counseling psychologist’s think about climate change and if they believe it should be addressed within the field. 

Currently, we are conducting a qualitative study to better understand the topic discussed in this article.  If you would like to lend your voice to this conversation, have any questions, or would like additional information, please feel free to email at Phil Schulte at pschulte@radford.edu.

Philip Schulte is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Radford University.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here:

Private Practice Viewpoints from the SCP Section on Professional Practice

I recently opened my passport to look at the growing number of stamps and was reminded, once again, of the many reasons I am thrilled to be in private practice! The private practice setting grants the flexibility in my schedule to maintain a full- or part-time practice seamlessly around my family, travel dreams and dog-walking responsibilities, among many others. As the designer of my own schedule, I am able to be responsive to my own needs (time-off) as well as the needs of my clients (adding appointments as needed or during less traditional hours). It is a unique opportunity to create the right amount of structure and flexibility to suit your lifestyle.

In addition to the personalized scheduling, private practice has allowed me to build a caseload of clients specific to my own personal and clinical strengths.  By doing my own phone-triage and screening, I am able to increase the likelihood that the clients I work with are a good match for my specialty. As a result, I feel I am able to maximize my therapeutic effectiveness and take on new clients as the mix of my current caseload allows. Working with adolescents, I can plan my schedule to avoid awkward waiting room interactions with peers from the same school and plan my continuing education topics to match the therapeutic issues of my community. 

Marcy Rowland, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Hollidaysburg, PA.

I find myself loving independent practice because it has really allowed me to tailor my practice to my passions, interests, and values. I control my schedule, and only have meetings with people I choose and topics I am passionate about. My clinical areas of focus have evolved over the years, and I am able to develop new skills and knowledge to serve clients most effectively. I also value working with a truly representative group of clients, and so I am able to choose to work with clients on a pro bono basis, or make other financial arrangements with them. My work with professional organizations and research are priorities for me, and with an independent practice I am able to flex my schedule to allow space for both research teams and working with colleagues on a national and state level.  I look forward to going to work every day and feel very fortunate to feel that way.

In my experience, students and ECPs are far too worried about the business aspect of independent practice. I say that if you can handle a university bureaucracy, then insurance companies and clinical software is super easy! Other students and ECPs I have spoken with say that they choose their employment site because they want to “do it all,” combining clinical work, research, outreach, supervision and professional activities. I have designed my independent practice so that I can “do it all,” but financially I am supported by my clinical work. It works, and I have created a wonderful community of colleagues with whom I collaborate.

Communities are different in terms of independent practice. Some areas are desperate for good clinicians (even more true in more rural and small communities) and some may not welcome new faces. This is important to check out prior to making the plunge. Sometimes people will start independent practice “on the side,” to get a feel for what it is like in a location. I have found in doing independent practice in three communities/states over the years, that both my professional network and my Counseling Psychology training have served me well. After all, even people with more significant psychological issues want to work with someone who views things from a strength-based approach based on non-institutionalized individuals with both cultural and clinical humility. Independent practice? I highly recommend!


Mary O’Leary Wiley, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Altoona, PA.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here:

Staying Informed: The Key to Effective Multicultural Counseling

In a time where the news bombards us with a seemingly endless stream of bad news, a desire to disengage from it all is the most tempting solution. One could argue that as budding clinicians we are exposed to enough heavy, and at times, draining stories that keeping up with the toxic news cycle can simply be too much to handle. While on one hand I agree that obsessing over the news and the state of our planet, society, government, etc. has the potential to exacerbate graduate student’s notoriously poor mental health, I argue that it is a necessary evil.

There are a multitude of reasons why it is important that graduate students actively seek to be informed about what is going on in the world outside of their programs. Firstly, though the light at the end of the graduate student tunnel seems far away, there will come a time when we are released back into the world outside. This mythical land has not stopped changing, adapting, struggling, etc. over the course of our programs, and if we have no idea of what has happened the last five years, it will be nearly impossible to be an active member of society. As clinicians it will be our role to advocate for our clients and understand how the world events are affecting their day to day lives, both of which will not be feasible without a working understanding of the bigger picture. In fact, our ability to disengage from the events happening around us during our programs is a reflection of privilege; our clients will not always have the option to ignore sweeping policy changes, events, and societal realities while focusing on their educations. Thus, our ability to provide real empathy and connect with our clients becomes compromised when we lose sight of what is affecting them in the global environment.

There will also come a time when we are the new leaders of psychology, APA, and beyond. We will be expected to continue the momentum of the field into social justice and advocacy for all members of society, regardless of identity. If we choose to ignore the events that have adverse effects on our clients, then we essentially ignore our ethical responsibility to improve their social conditions. Again, though it may seem far off to hold such positions of power, we must remain accountable on the day to day in both our professional and personal lives. At the end of the day we are citizens before we are clinicians, and it is our civic responsibility to care enough to be informed and to make our society a better place for all. We have the power to accomplish this goal through voting, advocacy, spreading awareness, and a variety of other pathways; we must accept such responsibility for the betterment of ourselves, our fellow citizens, and our clients.

That being said, engaging with the world events going outside of our programs does not need to be an “all or nothing” endeavor. It also does not need to be at the detriment to personal mental health. However, committing to a few articles a week, signing a petition here or there, a daily email highlighting the big news, and other attainable actions seems like a reasonable compromise. Personally, I enjoy getting my news from reliable, yet entertaining sources such as “the skimmm” or late night talk show hosts. When the news becomes too upsetting I allow myself the space to disengage for a week or two to re-center myself until I am ready to dive back in. I hope that you reading this will commit to something similar, no matter how seemingly “small”. I promise you it will improve your work as a clinician, and as an agent of change for society at large.

Eleanor McCabe is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: The Key to Effective Multicultural Counseling

Thinking Outside the Counseling Psychology Box: Letting Curiosity Lead You to Cross-Discipline Collaboration

I don’t quite fit into the typical box as a counseling psychology student in my program. I haven’t shared many of the experiences other students in my program have had. I am interested in youth mental health so my research experience has been mainly based in schools with school psychologists, and my practicum training has been more connected with the university’s clinical department. Many times in my practicum or on my research team, I am the only counseling psychology student in the room. Occasionally it has felt intimidating and I have felt out of place, not only in settings outside of counseling psych, but also within the program, given I have had different experiences. But reflecting on my training in graduate school thus far, I think these opportunities to work on interdisciplinary teams and collaborate with students, faculty, and professionals in clinical and school psychology as well as in fields outside of psychology have been invaluable to my experience. I am fortunate that my advisor has modelled a value for collaboration in his research as most of his work in prevention science and youth mental health is interdisciplinary with many departments within the university, like clinical psychology and social work, and practitioners in the community. I am grateful to my advisor’s support in exploring these opportunities and to the supervisors who have welcomed me onto their clinical and research teams.

In my experience there are many benefits to having practicum and research experiences with students and faculty outside of counseling psychology. First, it has challenged and expanded my ways of thinking about research and practice. I have had some cool experiences that I would’ve otherwise missed out on—like working in schools, getting exposure to different types of standardized assessment, and teacher consultation that relates to youth mental health at a more systems level. I have also been challenged to come to a better understanding of my own ideas by having the opportunity to discuss things formally and informally with students and faculty from other departments. Second, as a student in counseling psychology, my unique training and expertise brings a valuable perspective to collaborative teams. For example, I’ve found that students from clinical and school psychology look to counseling psychology students as experts in multicultural counseling, and it is beneficial to have the opportunity to share resources and this perspective with other students in psychology who may not have this emphasis as part of their programs. Third, the experience of working with others from different trainings and backgrounds is important preparation for work on internship and after graduation. In many ways there are more similarities than there are differences among the divisions in psychology in terms of the type of things psychologists can do after graduation.  Fourth, I’ve found that working in collaboration is especially helpful for specializing with a particular population or research area. In my experience, this has been the major benefit of seeking opportunities for practicum and research outside of my counseling psychology program. My interest with youth mental health aligns strongly with the work of school psychologists as well as clinical psychologist with a child focus, and in the end we can all do similar types of research and practice with the goal of supporting youth mental health.

My advice to counseling psychology students is to enrich your education with opportunities to develop an identity as a counseling psychologist, but don’t limit yourself to interactions with only those students and faculty in your program. Seek out research and practicum opportunities that involve collaboration and interdisciplinary teams. There may be many different opportunities for collaboration in both research and in practice. Clinical, school, and counseling psychology programs share the science-practitioner model and have unique strengths and perspectives that can provide opportunities for collaboration. There are also other disciplines within psychology like developmental, social, neuropsychology, etc. that could have overlapping areas of focus. Outside the field of psychology, having experience working with psychiatrists, social workers, school counselors, and even policy-makers can support coordination of clinical practice and advocacy, and it can enrich research by having multiple stakeholders involved.

I know in many ways this can be easier said than done. It can be intimidating and overwhelming to find a practicum or research team outside of the traditional avenues for counseling psychology students. My advice would be to just ask – the worse that can happen is someone says no. Not only can it be anxiety-provoking to seek out a new opportunity, but it may be hard to break into a new area as it can be easier to make connections through the counseling psychology department. One suggestion to make connections outside of your program is to attend presentations on campus from different programs and departments or even explore course opportunities and electives outside of your department. As graduate students, we all have a lot going on with courses, clinical work, research, and teaching, and it can be hard to add something else; however, thinking outside of the box can deepen your experience and can be great preparation for a career after graduation. There is not one right way to complete a counseling psychology program – find what works best for you!

Colleen Eddy is a fourth year doctoral candidate in counseling psychology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She is the SAS regional coordinator for Region 3.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: Thinking Outside the Counseling Psychology Box

The Trans Military Ban: Why Psychologists Can’t Turn a Blind Eye

Research suggests that nearly 0.6% of the US population, or 1 million people, identify as transgender. Every day, transgender people face societal stressors, called minority stress, that can be detrimental to their mental and physical health. In 2018 alone, 29 transgender identified people were murdered either as a direct result of transphobia or as an indirect result of societal bias and stigma. As a society, we should be working to decrease this statistic by dismantling prejudice ideas and increasing access to affirmative resources for transgender people. Instead, the trans military ban was recently deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court, and as a result, transgender identifying people will no longer be allowed to serve in the US military as of January 22nd, 2019. With few exceptions, this means that the near 9,000 transgender people currently serving in the military will no longer be allowed to serve.

The American Psychological Association’s (2018) multicultural guidelines state that a multicultural psychologist does “…aspire to recognize and understand historical and contemporary experiences with power, privilege and oppression. As such, they seek to address institutional barriers…” The guidelines call psychologists to become aware of systematic barriers that affect our clients, and invites us to take action to reduce those barriers and challenge those oppressive systems.

In opposition to the trans military ban, the APA released a statement acknowledging the negative effects that this ban may have on transgender individuals, and reinforced the idea that, according to psychological research, gender dysphoria is not a mental health condition that infringes a person’s ability to serve in uniform. As psychologists and social justice advocates who understand the detrimental effects of prejudice on mental and physical health, it is important that we not only speak up against this act of discrimination, but that we do something about it.

Here are some suggestions about what we as psychologist-activists can do to help fight against the trans military ban, discrimination, and transphobia:

 

  1. Get involved. Participate in lobbying efforts that are happening in your local communities. Call or write your local governors, senators, and mayors to let them know that you oppose this Supreme Court decision. Sign up for Resistbot, a free service that sends text messages notifications about political organizing, helps construct messages to send directly to politicians, and identifies the nearest polling location during elections. Text “congress” to 50409 to sign up.
  2. Conduct research. Historically, the diagnosis of gender dysphoria and cost of gender reassignment surgery have been used as tools against transgender people, claiming that those individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria are not fit to serve in the military and that gender reassignment surgery is unnecessary. If we can conduct research that acknowledges the resiliency and strength of transgender individuals and confirms that gender reassignment surgery is infact a necessary component of mental and physical health for trans people, we can provide the courts with empirical evidence against their decision.
  3. Protest. Attend pro-LGBTQ rallies and events. Show up to marches. Go to your community PRIDE parade and show your support. It is not enough to be verbally present in person or on social media. It is necessary that we physically show up to support. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.”
  4. Donate. In a money conscious society, sometimes we forget how imperative money is for those who are trying to make change. Non-For-Profit organizations such as the Trevor Project or The National Center for Transgender Equality use donated money to provide support services to trans folx and to lobby against bills that deny trans people rights.
  5. Speak up. If you can’t donate, attend a rally, call your local politician, or conduct research, I encourage you to speak up in any way you can. Post about it on Facebook. Tweet about it on Twitter. Tell the mailperson. Talk about it with your students. Acknowledge it with your trans clients. We cannot create change in a bubble. It is so important that we start talking about the things that matter, educating others, and refusing to stay silent in the face of oppression.

 

The decision to ignore this ban is unjust and dehumanizing. As psychologists, it is not enough for us to disagree with these court actions (or lack of action), we must also make waves and fight back. We can only do so much to help our clients when oppressing systems have already stigmatized them. We are doing a disservice to our clients if we only put a band-aid on the problems that they face in society. It is our job as multiculturally competent psychologists to take part in activism, and by doing so, standing up to try to fix these systems, rulings- injustices- so that we can get at the root of the problem instead of dealing with the consequences. 

Jaidelynn K. Rogers is a first-year student in the counseling psychology doctoral program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: The Trans Military Ban

SAS Official Statement on Transgender Military Ban

The Executive Board of the Student Affiliates of Seventeen (SAS) joins the American Psychological Association (APA) in standing against the current policy of the Trump Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense regarding the ban against transgender military service. In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the administration’s ban, we find it important to publicly oppose the ban on transgender troops and critically question the U.S. Department of Defense’s justification on banning transgender Americans from serving in the United States military. Put no better way than was previously shared by APA:

 

“No scientific evidence has shown that allowing transgender people to serve in the armed forces has an adverse impact on readiness or unit cohesion. What research does show is that discrimination and stigma undermine morale and readiness by creating a significant source of stress for sexual minorities that can harm their health and well-being.”

 

As such, the current administration and Department of Defense refuse to acknowledge the research contradictive to that which they utilize as the foundation of this policy. In enacting this ban they are intentionally failing to accept and feigning ignorance toward the negative consequences that are sure to follow for the mental and physical health of an already marginalized community. What is more, the Trump Administration further demonstrates oppression and incompetence with their overt disregard to differentiate between transgender identity from the experience of having gender dysphoria. The presence of one is not indicative of the other nor are the terms interchangeable. As professionals, we aspire to advocate for the demarcation of these labels and wish to remind all that there is no such thing as “transgender” in the DSM-5. It is with this statement that the SAS Executive Board extends our continued support for all persons afflicted by this abhorrent policy. Know that we stand with you and will continue to strive to advocate for equality for you and all persons who fall victim to the oppression of our society.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: SAS Statement_Trans Military Ban

American Board of Professional Psychology Certification

Once I get into a doctoral program everything will be fine… After I match on internship, then all will be right in the world…  Once I land that first position, then I can relax.  I wonder how many can identify with these thoughts?  As students, much of what drives our pursuit of the doctoral degree is for our own personal and professional goals.  As selfless as many of us can be, at some core place you entered this field for things that you want and that are important to you.  Just like me (and many of us). There is nothing wrong with that in my view.

 

As a recently board-certified counseling psychologist, I hope to share with you a path that not only may help you continue your journey for meeting your goal toward excelling at your vocational selection, but also a path that helps to preserve a specialty within a profession that is leading the way among psychology professionals in our communities locally, nationally, and globally.   You may or may not know that one of the ways that counseling psychologists continue to receive recognition for our specialty is by having a thriving and growing pool of board-certified psychologists. In other words, without more counseling psychologists motivated toward taking the plunge into board certification, our specialty (counseling psychology) is at risk of being lost.

 

Thankfully, the American Board of Professional Psychology and the American Board of Counseling Psychology have an option to help make it easier for ECPs to step into the board certification process.  You can find details of the early entry program here: https://legacy.abpp.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3558.

 

I participated in the early entry option applying as I finished my internship mainly due to my goal not to disappoint trusted mentors and supervisors whom I looked up to. That was still motivated by self-serving interests I think.  When it came time to follow through (when no one else was looking) several years after I was comfortable, licensed, employed, it was more about what counseling psychology needs from me.  While many employers will provide salary increases or certain states may recognize ABPP certification for licensing/portability purposes, those were not directly applicable to me.  When senior colleagues let me know that pursuing the early entry option was helpful to keep our specialty visible and viable to the public and to other professionals, I felt more drive to complete it.  I also, if I’m honest, still didn’t want to disappoint my mentors, former supervisors, and colleagues so I haven’t fought my way through that completely!

 

While ABPP and ACoP has made it more affordable to pursue board certification, this is still a financial cost so you are encouraged to talk with your academic departments, internship training directors, and mentors to see if institutional support might be available for you or your program to support your $25 early entry application fee which you can submit as a graduate student enrolled in an accredited doctoral program or are not yet licensed.  From there, you can seek out a mentor who can help guide you through the application process; ABPP has a google group where topics are discussed from other early entry applicants and there is a manual that outlines the steps you need to take.

 

Whether you plan to enter a clinical setting where board certification will be the norm (or expectation), you are looking for an edge to impress prospective employers, or you have just enough anxious thinking to invest in the protection of our specialty, I hope you will consider thinking of ways to at least ask questions of other board-certified counseling psychologists.  For other compelling reasons to pursue ABPP certification check out Mary O’Leary Wiley’s post on the division website: http://www.div17.org/scp-connect/general-anouncements/why-become-board-certified-in-counseling-psychology/

 

The American Academy of Counseling Psychology, an organization interested in increasing the visibility of board-certified counseling psychologists, has also partnered with Division 17 to provide reimbursement costs for division members who successfully complete the board certification application.  Advocate to your institution (assuming they appreciate our specialty) to create reimbursement options to pursue the highest credential we can pursue as a counseling psychologist to help the next group of ECPs.  Training directors, you too can benefit by having your application fee waived.

Dominick Scalise Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Avila University, Missouri. 

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: American Board of Professional Psychology Certification