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  • 19 Jul 2022 12:13 PM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

    Student Perspective

    Less (Paper) Talk, More Podcasts: A Call to Action to Improve Public Communication Efforts in Clinical Science

    Kathryn Coniglio, MS

    Rutgers University

    In his Invited Address at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) 2021 Convention, Dr. Kelly Brownell used the largest platform of the conference sponsored by one of the leading professional organizations in clinical psychology to implore us to be better at communicating science. Clinical scientists, he admitted, are not often trained to communicate their findings to anyone other than fellow scientists, but the importance of collaborating with non-scientist change agents to increase the impact of our field cannot be overstated (Brownell & Roberto, 2015). 

    Over the past few years, the importance of communication has become increasingly recognized by the scientific field broadly. Universities offer curricula, and even minors, in science communication; several peer-reviewed journals exist devoted solely to science communication; and social media savvy scientists can become “#scicomm” influencers in their own right. Specific strategies for communicating science may differ slightly across fields, but there are several common principles at the core of any successful science communication effort: remove the jargon, turn your science into a story, and explain how that story impacts your audience. 

    Clinical science, however, requires a more detailed approach. For one, clinical science has two different target audiences. We need to capture the attention not only of prospective change agents but also of prospective healthcare consumers. 

    But clinical scientists have more experience with science communication than we may realize. We communicate science every day to our patients in the therapy room when we provide psychoeducation. We may not receive formal training in science communication, but we do possess the skill of presenting science in an accessible way that motivates someone to make an exceedingly difficult behavior change (e.g., begin exposure therapy to their fears).

    Despite that we may have a head start with our communication skill, there are also barriers to science communication that are unique to clinical science that require more creative solutions:

    • Clinical science is a relatively new science. Academic communications departments are always in search of press release-worthy findings. But, in light of the credibility revolution (Lewis & Wai, 2021), does every empirical article in our field really deserve news coverage? Our field has fewer facts and far more unknowns compared to other scientific disciplines. Instead of rushing to feature “cutting edge” science, perhaps a wiser endeavor is to highlight the findings that percolate to the surface of our empirical investigations time and again. 
    • Clinical science is sometimes at odds with clinical psychology. Many psychologists believe that our field is not a science at all, but an art. When we are not aligned on what is considered high quality, dissemination-worthy science, the overall message suffers. Clinical scientists are doubly tasked not only with spreading information but also correcting beliefs about psychotherapy based on cringe-worthy TV and film portrayals. 

    • Mental health is highly personal. As clinical scientists, we have developed a necessary thick skin around investigating topics that are upsetting, traumatic, and emotionally exhausting. It’s easy to forget that not everyone spends their days thinking about, and treating, individuals who are experiencing intense distress. In addition to using plain language, we have the added burden of taking the sting out of the emotionally charged topics while still relaying our message.

    • Telling a story raises ethical considerations. A few words can be worth a thousand pictures. Yes, you read that right! For most of the public, an impactful patient story is worth all the complex figures that rigorous data can generate. Moreover, in the absence of robust findings, products based on pseudoscience rely on emotional testimonials to inspire consumers to open their wallets. But, in clinical psychology, patient narratives pose an ethical gray area. Even if stories are de-identified, what worked for one person may not work for several others. These caveats, coupled with a faceless first name, may make the story less impactful. 

    As conscientious behavior therapists know, identifying prospective barriers to implementing behavior change is a necessary step to overcoming them. Perseverance in the face of these science communication challenges is especially critical right now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has unearthed the magnitude of the mental health crisis in the U.S. Public interest in mental health is high right now. Yet, because very little is known about evidence-based mental health treatments, clinical science has an opportunity, and a duty, to empower consumers to be better equipped to evaluate the quality of mental health services. 

    Despite that the conditions are ripe right now, science communication should still be a marathon, not a sprint. Likely, the most effective strategy in increasing public visibility of clinical science will be to incorporate science communication at multiple touchpoints (e.g., graduate curriculum, professional societies). To this end, several ongoing initiatives are worth highlighting:

    • ABCT Briefing Books. The ABCT Public Education and Media Dissemination Committee has created a series of briefing books signed specifically for journalists on common mental health topics in the news (e.g., suicide, gun violence). These books are freely available, and journalists are directed to them upon contacting the ABCT media representative for comments from an area expert. 
    • RU Communicating Clinical Science? Program. At Rutgers University, Dr. Jessica Hamilton developed a science communication curriculum that features speakers with a wide range of expertise (i.e., from individuals involved in advocating for science policy in government to faculty members in the Department of Performing Arts) to provide graduate students with additional tools to be better science communicators. 

    But smaller scale science communication should not be overlooked. The benefits to our field would be immeasurable if more clinical scientists chose to incorporate relatively low time burden communication activities more consistently in their work. Scientists interested in ramping up their communication to the public should ask themselves two questions: Who is the ideal audience for my message? And why should this audience care about my message? The answers to these questions will direct you to the appropriate tone, outlet, and medium for your message. If you wish to enact change in your community, for example, an op-ed to your local paper would be a much more effective dissemination tool than an incendiary thread on Twitter.

    For those looking to incorporate science communication in a more systematic way, prioritize opportunities that involve a conversation instead of a platformed speaker proselytizing to a silent audience. After all, communication is, by definition, bidirectional. Consider strategies to increase political engagement. One-on-one conversations with potential voters are more effective than large-scale direct mail campaigns. Many of the venues we seek already exist, we just have to populate them: 

    • Podcasts. Creating consistent content is exhausting, and hosts are always looking for new guests. We have expertise that we often take for granted. And, when we don’t pursue these media outlets, guest slots are filled with people who claim to have expertise but may not. Rather than waiting for a podcast host to reach out to you, sites like matchmaker.fm make it easy for guests to contact podcasts directly. 
    • News. Nearly all academic institutions have a media relations department that can help facilitate contact with local or national media. These departments can also connect you to reporters looking for an area expert on an issue in your professional wheelhouse. 
    • Lobbying. Perhaps you wish to inspire larger scale policy changes. Join an advocacy group related to your specific field (e.g., I am a member of the Eating Disorders Coalition, eatingdisorderscoalition.org)and keep an eye out for when they release calls to action to their membership. 

    Consistent pursuit of science communication may certainly require a slight reconfiguration of your time and effort. If this sounds unappealing, I encourage you to think for a moment about why you joined this field and what you hope to say you’ve accomplished when you leave it. Even if you tell just one other person today about your research and why it matters, then you are a science communicator, and you have helped increase visibility of the clinical science field in service of improving access to empirically tested mental health treatment.


    Brownell, K. D., & Roberto, C. A. (2015). Strategic science with policy impact. The Lancet, 9986(385), 2445-2446.

    Lewis Jr, N. A., & Wai, J. (2021). Communicating what we know and what isn’t so: Science communication in psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 16(6), 1242-1254.

  • 19 Jul 2022 12:10 PM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

    Early Career Perspective

    Thinking Through the Next Steps in Your Career: Clinical Internship

    Keanan J. Joyner, PhD 

    University of California, Berkeley

    During the pandemic, there has been widespread re-consideration of the structure of work, both inside and outside of the academy. In 2021, there were unprecedented numbers of workers voluntarily leaving or changing jobs, reaching a 20-year high¹, coining the phrase “the Great Resignation.”² Academia was not immune to this movement; however, some have argued that it has manifested somewhat differently, in what they term “the Great Faculty Disengagement,” as academics reconsider the ways in which they engage with their jobs.³ Call it whatever you like – the fact of the matter is that there is a transformation brewing in the way that academics approach our jobs. In the midst of this backdrop, one of the things clinical psychology trainees are reconsidering about their careers is the clinical internship period, and I was asked to write about my experience and decision process for opting out of it for this column.

    I was finishing my fifth year of my clinical psychology PhD program at Florida State when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. I had begun worrying about exactly how many clinical hours I had and had started leading a dialectical behavior therapy group to make sure I would have enough diversity of clinical experiences to match for internship, which I dreaded. As I sat inside my house with all the time in the world to think, I realized something important for me – that I really didn’t want to do my clinical internship. I had joked about not looking forward to it before, but this feeling intensified during the pandemic, and I really, actually, didn’t want to do it anymore. Moreover, I realized that the last time I truly considered whether or not I would do this was when I was an undergrad deciding I wanted to do my PhD in clinical psychology, and accepting that clinical internship was a normal part of that process. I also realized how young I was at that point, and then it dawned on me – why would I trust my undergrad self with this important career decision now? As everyone is trying to determine the ways to engage in their careers in a fulfilling way, it’s important to evaluate what your current values and goals are. Just because you had a specific idea of how your career would go several years ago doesn’t mean that you must continue down that path. Your time earning your degree has given you an incredible number of skills and opportunities for how to make an impact in reducing the burden of mental illness on our society, and continuing through the traditional clinical internship

    There are many pros and cons to completing a clinical internship, and before making the decision, it’s important to consider which pros are most important to you, and which cons you can tolerate. Saliently, completing an accredited internship is often a requirement for graduation from most clinical psychology PhD programs. However, one can approach their faculty and request this requirement be waived, or to graduate with a more general psychology PhD degree (the latter of which is what happened in my case). Despite widespread belief, however, it is not true that there is no path to licensure without an internship in all cases – while there are certainly requirements about number of pre- and postdoctoral supervised hours, state licensing boards vary in whether they specify a unique clinical internship period, and in what form. Check out the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board’s (ASPPB) “Handbook of Licensure and Certification Requirements” to find out more about state-level licensure requirements as a starting point. On the other hand, the financial cost simply to apply and interview for a clinical internship is extremely high, not to mention typically having to move twice in as many years. For individuals with significant others and families, or from low-income backgrounds, or with disabilities, these financial costs and logistical challenges alone may prove untenable and may not be worth the potential benefits of an internship.

    Another thing to consider is what your intended career path looks like. If your intention is to go into academia, it is worth reading current job ads at the types of institutions you would like to work for one day; do they specify ‘license eligibility’ as a requirement? This will also vary as a function of whether clinical faculty routinely supervise students at an in-house clinic. Do you want to be in a clinical area, or are you open to other areas of psychology? Lastly, the advice of not letting your younger self make decisions for your current self also translates to you currently making decisions for your future self. It’s important to consider how the choice of whether to do an internship impacts flexibility in other jobs you’d like to do if the first doesn’t work out – do you need the flexibility in relation to clinical work? Data science and industry jobs seemed much more attractive to me than something that involved practicing, so I was comfortable with this potential reduced flexibility.

    In my case, it was a difficult decision to forego internship, but in the end, it was the right one for me given my personal and professional goals. If I had been in a different program, at a different time in my life, I might have chosen a different path, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t. I don’t think that it’s always the solution to go on internship, or to always opt out of internship, but what I do know is that each person has to balance their individual priorities and goals with the reality of a clinical internship system that has remained largely unchanged for the last 50 years. Clinical scientists at all levels are raising significant concerns about the clinical internship system as it stands, and hopefully improvements will be implemented soon. But until that happens, each of us should consider if the current clinical internship model helps us individually achieve our career goals. I hope the topics highlighted in this column help encourage trainees to consider talking about their current goals with their mentors, and if clinical internship still serves a function in achieving those goal 

  • 19 Jul 2022 12:07 PM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

    Presidential Column

    Marsiol Perez, PhD

    Arizona State University

    Welcome to our 2022 Newsletter, I am honored and humbled to have been elected President of SSCP and want to share my vision for the coming year so that we may partner together to promote excellence in research, training and dissemination of clinical psychological science.

    My leadership philosophy aims to further add to the mountain so that those that come after me are able to look out farther when they reach the top. In 2021, SSCP focused on moving towards greater inclusion and diversity, strengthening our partnerships with other organizations, and promoting clinical science. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some goals for the upcoming year that build upon the accomplishments of last year and focus on the success of the organization and our members creating an environment that fosters opportunity and fulfilling potential.

    First, at the organizational level, we continue to strive towards greater diversity and inclusivity. We had very successful membership drives the past two years including more individuals who are actively engaged in diversity, equity, and inclusion activities within psychology. Our Diversity Committee is regularly producing blog posts exploring issues and solutions related to diversity and inclusion in clinical science. We have expanded our awards to better showcase clinical scientists particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds who are making meaningful contributions to research, teaching, clinical practice and community engagement related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Through our Spotlight series, we showcase SSCP members and leaders in the field whose diverse and inclusive actions are making a difference in psychology. In addition, the diversity-related syllabi are regularly updated and provide a wealth of knowledge for those seeking more information or needing materials for their own courses. The aim of all of these endeavors is to keep diversity, equity, and inclusivity at the forefront of our thinking and decision-making.

    To maintain this momentum and increase reach, my first goal is to strive in the upcoming year to better disseminate information. For example, the Diversity Committee will be developing podcasts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in clinical science. If you are interested in contributing to a podcast, please contact me. The successful increase in the diversity of our student members has driven the need for more connection, engagement, and mentorship with faculty representing diverse demographics. Thus, we seek to increase the diversity of our early- and mid-career faculty members.  

    The second goal will be to increase the benefits of SSCP membership. SSCP membership is inexpensive relative to other organizations in our field (i.e., full membership is only $50/year). We provide a menu of resources that make SSCP membership a good value relative to cost, including:

    • Resources for students and post-docs such as mental health resources, internship directory of training opportunities for Clinical Psychology Interns, post-doc job opportunities, internship and post-doc resource guides, and a directory of mentorship programs for a career in psychological science.
    • Resources for clinical psychologists such as:
      • Virtual Clinical Lunches which are talks posted online that can be used in graduate courses, seminars, or brown bag series by SSCP members. These can also assist clinical scientists in disseminating their research.
      • Translating Science to Practice series which is designed to help clinicians’ access and use findings in basic science to guide their clinical work.
      • Continuing Education Initiative, developed to facilitate the science-base of APA Continuing Education (CE) programs whereby members can report CE programs that fail to fully meet APA’s criteria of continuing education for psychologists.
      • SSCP listserv - an area where we can share ideas, thoughts on current trends in clinical psychology, and directions for the future.
      • Awards for all stages - through the many awards we give at all stages of training and careers, we acknowledge our members for their contributions to clinical science.

    SSCP strives to be a resource for clinical scientists across their entire career. Thus, the Board is considering adding additional opportunities for development such as a summer grant writing workgroup, review mechanisms so that individuals can submit their promotion materials or job talk and receive constructive feedback, and we hope to expand our awards even further. Please contact me if you have other ideas or suggestions. As we roll out these new resources we will announce it on the listserv.

    I joined SSCP many years ago to be part of a community that shared similar values of science being the bedrock of teaching, research, and clinical practice. Thus, my third goal is to continue to promote clinical science. One main mechanism through which we promote clinical science is through our partnerships. We have and will continue to work closely with the Coalition for the Advancement and Application of Psychological Science (CAAPS), Association for Psychological Science, Division 12 Society of Clinical Psychology of American Psychological Association, Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Clinical Psychological Science SIG, and others. Collaboratively working with other organizations, we can make a significant impact in the support and promotion of clinical science. A great example of this is when SSCP supported CAAPS position statement for the elimination of Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria due to the lack of rigorous empirical support for its existence. Working together we will elevate the voices of clinical scientists in the national conversation. Not only does SSCP work with other organizations to create space and dialogue related to clinical science, we also routinely promote our members into leadership positions at other organizations. Over the course of the year we will continue to strengthen our relationships with other organizations and promote clinical science.

    Last, I want to highlight that leadership development of clinical scientists is another way to ensure science is front and center when decisions are being made for our field, local communities, and society. SSCP provides an excellent environment for individuals to practice and develop their leadership skills. This organization is a wonderful way for individuals to network and get their name known without committing to a huge service burden. Please contact me Marisol.Perez00@gmail.com if you would like to serve in our organization.

    And finally, building this mountain is made possible by our Board members whose volunteer service is vital to the health of SSCP. We have several out-going Board members who led SSCP through unprecedented times: Drs. Joanne Davila (Past-President), Matthew Lerner (Treasurer), Michael Wheaton (Member-at-Large), Alexandra Klein (Student Representative), and Amy Stewart (Post-doc Representative). I want to acknowledge our continuing Board members whose creativity, leadership, and organization keep SSCP running: Drs. Rosanna Breaux (Membership and Convention Coordinator), Shari Steinman (Division 12 Representative), Sarah Hope Lincoln (Member-at-Large), Lauren Khazem (Diversity Committee Representative), and Rachel Walsh (Student Representative). A big welcome to our newest Board members: Drs. Susan White (President-Elect), Sara Bufferd (Treasurer), Nancy Liu (Member-at-Large), Jessica Hamilton (Media Editor), Nora Barnes-Horowitz (Student Representative), and Kaitlin Sheerin (Post-doc Representative). I can’t thank these individuals enough for all they do for SSCP!

    I want to give a big acknowledgement and thank you to our Past-President, Dr. Cindy McGeary. Cindy’s steadfast leadership in 2021 assisted SSCP in healing and finding its equilibrium after enduring a difficult period due to the pandemic and the socio-political unrest due to racism. I have valued Cindy’s mentorship in the transition of the presidency and appreciate her continued guidance throughout the upcoming year.

    It is a privilege and an honor to serve our SSCP community this year. I am confident 2022 holds promise for all of us!

    About Marisol Perez

    Dr. Marisol Perez is an Associate Dean of Graduate Initiatives at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University. She was the former co-Director of Clinical Training for the Department of Psychology.  Her program of research encompasses both theoretical and applied studies in the area of body image and eating behaviors, often using a focus on Hispanic populations. Her research is funded by National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and private foundations. Dr. Perez is committed to the training of future ethnic minority clinical scientists.  She currently serves as Editor for Clinician's Research Digest, and on the Board of Scientific Affairs Task force on Inequities in Academic Tenure and Promotion for the American Psychological Association.

  • 15 Jan 2022 12:02 PM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

    Presidential Column

    Cindy McGeary, Ph.D.

    University of Texas Health San Antonio

    With this being my final Presidential Column, I’d like to spend a little bit of time reviewing the year and my time as SSCP President. Overall, my experience working with SSCP has been wonderful. Individuals have been helpful and kind. I have appreciated hearing from the membership regarding thoughts for future endeavors and witnessing their passion for clinical science. The SSCP Board is made up of bright clinical scientists who work extremely hard and are dedicated to SSCP’s mission. It has really been an honor to be SSCP President.

    I think it would be helpful to look back on my initial goals for the organization as I began my tenure as SSCP President. My goals for SSCP while I was President included the following:

    1. Move SSCP toward greater inclusion and diversity.
    • The Diversity Committee sought to examine the demographics of the SSCP membership. To this end, a survey was sent to our membership (similar in content to surveys sent to our membership in 2014 and 2016). As the Diversity Committee published in our last newsletter, the survey showed that a majority of SSCP members identify as White and that Black and Hispanic or Latinx are underrepresented. There has been modest change from the previous surveys (2021= 73.5% White; 2016= 81% White; 2014= 88% White). SSCP needs to encourage more diversity within its membership and board. This data will allow SSCP and the Diversity Committee to develop and implement new initiatives to diversify clinical science. This is a great time to get involved with the Diversity Committee to support underrepresented minorities. Please reach out if you are interested in being part of the SSCP Diversity Committee.
    • The SSCP board initiated two SSCP diversity awards. This included the Lifetime Achievement Diversity Award as well as the Outstanding Impact Diversity Award. These awards are meant to honor individuals who have made contributions in the areas of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Applications were due in July for these awards. Unfortunately, we did not receive any nominations even after extending the deadline. Our hope is to re-evaluate the timing of the awards since the summer is often a busy time for everyone and to receive nominations in 2022
    • We awarded our first Varda Shoham Clinical Scientist Training Initiative within the Diversity Track through donations from our membership. We hope to continue to offer this award in the future. Interested members will be able to donate to this worthwhile initiative when renewing their membership.
    • The Diversity Committee has posted timely reflection questions, readings, blogs, and twitter content while also contributing to the newsletter through the Diversity Corner.
    • The Virtual Clinical Lunch (VCL) Series continues to promote diverse speakers through diversity-related content.

    2. Promotion of civility on the SSCP listserv.

    • I have to say that I have been pleased to see more civility on the SSCP listserv over the last year. The listserv continues to have lively debates but in a respectful manner. This does not mean that our listserv policies should not be examined. It still very much needs to be done. I am hoping that Marisol as the incoming SSCP President will help to further this project along during her tenure. However, the scope of the project could expand. The Listserv Committee led by Tom Olino and Katie Baucom hope to send out a listserv survey to our membership. This survey will entail questions that directly relate to civility and how safe members feel posting to our SSCP listserv but will also include items related to what our community values about the listserv and improvements that could be made. With increasing social media (blogs, twitter, etc.) it may be that our listserv does not play the same role it once did. To determine the needs of our membership and how the listserv plays into those needs is important to examine.

    3.   To promote clinical science

    • As I think about promoting clinical science, I think of the many great partnerships that SSCP has fostered and promoted across psychology to meet shared goals. Our Clinical Psychological Science Special Interest Group at ABCT is an opportunity to meet and share ideas. The Clinical Psychological Science SIG is run in collaboration with APS and the organizations work in tandem to promote clinical science and help to develop conference planning directed toward clinical scientists. The ABCT CPS SIG is open to feedback about future endeavors. Contact Nick Perry (Nicholas_perry@brown.edu) or Diana Bennett (diana.bennett2@va.gov).  
    • SSCP continues to work closely with Division 12. Division 12 hosted a Science Advocacy Summit and Jessica Hamilton from SSCP was in attendance. Our SSCP Diversity Committee has also been working with Division 12 as part of their DEI efforts. In the future, Division 12 would like to collaborate with SSCP to co-sponsor future events at the annual APA conference.
    • CAAPS has been active this year developing two new sub-committees in which our membership has graciously volunteered to contribute. CAAPS is organizing a Scientific Impact Committee with the mission of using available science to decrease the burden of mental illness. SSCP members Michael Wheaton and Eugene Botanov have volunteered to be part of this committee. The second committee is the Scientific Quality Committee with the mission of improving science and clinical practices to reduce the burden of mental health. Kristy Benoit Allen is our SSCP member who will be joining this CAAPS committee. Additionally, Allison Meyer has agreed to join me as one of the overall SSCP CAAPS representative.
    • SSCP’s collaboration with APS remains strong particularly through the annual SSCP student poster awards and the Global Mental Health Poster Challenge. In the future when we are able to physically attend APS, the dissemination of awards, SSCP’s Presidential Address, the Distinguished Scientist talk, and SSCP symposium will resume.

    I would be completely remiss if I did not thank all the current SSCP board members for an outstanding year. The board is an incredibly welcoming group of professionals that I have been lucky to work with and hope to collaborate with in the future. I want to offer my gratitude for the SSCP board members who will no longer be on the board as of the beginning of the New Year. I want to express a hearty thanks to the following out-going SSCP board members:

    • Joanne Davila, Past-President
    •  Matthew Lerner, Treasurer
    • Michael Wheaton, Member-at-Large
    • Amy Sewart, Postdoctoral Representative
    • Alexandra Klein, Student Representative
    I would also like to acknowledge our new SSCP board members who will begin their terms in January 2022:
    • President-Elect: Susan Williams White, Professor and Endowed Chair in Psychology, University of Alabama
    • President: Marisol Perez, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University
    • Treasurer: Sara Bufferd, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville
    • Member-at-Large: Nancy Liu, Associate Clinical Professor, University of California, Berkeley
    • Postdoctoral Representative: Kaitlin Sheerin, Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital
    • Student Representative: Nora Barnes-Horowitz, Graduate Student, University of California, Los Angeles
    I look forward to continuing my time on the board as the Past-President where I will be given an opportunity to mentor and guide Marisol, much like Joanne Davila and Carolyn Becker did for me. I can only hope I am as creative and wise in the process. Thank you all for your support. It has been a great adventure!
  • 15 Jan 2022 11:59 AM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

    Student Perspective

    Reflections on the role of graduate training in suicide prevention efforts within clinical psychological science

    Ilana Gratch, M.A.

    Columbia University

    As a graduate student in a lab focused on youth suicide, I spend a great deal of time thinking about the fact that it is the second leading cause of death among young people in the United States and the tenth leading cause of death overall (Hedegaard et al., 2018). Many may be familiar with the recent discovery that 50 years of research has not markedly improved our ability to predict suicide (Franklin et al., 2017), nor have we managed to meaningfully improve the efficacy of our treatments over time (Fox et al., 2020). There is, of course, no silver bullet, and likely no one-size-fits-all approach that will resolve what has become such an intractable problem in our field.

    But in my view as a trainee, one possible piece of the puzzle lies in graduate training. A shift in our training approach may have potential to yield strong clinical and empirical effects.

    First, with regards to clinical care: those who die by suicide are three times more likely to have had a hard time accessing healthcare than those who died another way (Miller & Druss, 2001). Why might this be? A recent examination of psychologists in private practice in the United States found practitioners to be less receptive to providing care to suicidal patients than patients with no explicit suicidal ideation (Groth & Boccio, 2019). The authors then explored the psychologists’ beliefs about the sources of this ambivalence; chief among them was concern about the adequacy of their own skills and training in the assessment and treatment of suicidal patients. Another study similarly found mental health professionals less likely to demonstrate willingness to treat suicidal adolescents than depressed non-suicidal adolescents (Gvion, Rozett, & Stern, 2021).

    First, with regards to clinical care: those who die by suicide are three times more likely to have had a hard time accessing healthcare than those who died another way (Miller & Druss, 2001). Why might this be? A recent examination of psychologists in private practice in the United States found practitioners to be less receptive to providing care to suicidal patients than patients with no explicit suicidal ideation (Groth & Boccio, 2019). The authors then explored the psychologists’ beliefs about the sources of this ambivalence; chief among them was concern about the adequacy of their own skills and training in the assessment and treatment of suicidal patients. Another study similarly found mental health professionals less likely to demonstrate willingness to treat suicidal adolescents than depressed non-suicidal adolescents (Gvion, Rozett, & Stern, 2021).

    While troubling, these findings are not especially surprising. Research suggests that psychotherapists consistently consider treating patients with suicidal ideation to be one of the most stressful aspects of their work (e.g., Deutsch et al., 1984; Farber, 1983). This may be due, in part, to a lack of perceived self-competency as well. Indeed, graduate training does not seem to provide a robust education in working with suicidal patients. A study published earlier this year found that clinical psychology doctoral students report spending just 11 hours on average learning about suicide risk assessment throughout their graduate training (Monahan & Karver, 2021), and only 51% of students from PhD programs report that their graduate program provided formal suicide training (Dexter-Mazza & Freeman, 2003).  Moreover, applied and informal training opportunities (i.e., through clinical supervision of cases) appears to be lacking as well; one study found that only 20% of students received direct supervision on their work with suicidal patients, despite the fact that 50% reported treating them (Mackelprang et al., 2014).  

    In my own experience, my most extensive training opportunities thus far have come somewhat indirectly and through experiences I explicitly sought out: volunteering on a suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth for 4 years, working as a research coordinator on a randomized controlled trial of the safety planning intervention for suicidal patients in a psychiatric emergency room, and joining a lab that focuses on youth suicide. These experiences, for which I am immensely grateful, are still qualitatively different from, and do not make up for the lack of, the accumulation of many hours of supervised clinical experience, including in an outpatient treatment setting.

    Finally, with regards to research: I cannot help but wonder whether providing trainees more direct and in-depth experience working with suicidal patients may have downstream effects on our research efforts as well. Indeed, if direct observation is a fruitful pathway towards the development of ideas and hypotheses – in this instance, perhaps, as it relates to what might be effective from a treatment standpoint – then it stands to reason that the more experience trainees have, the more promising ideas they might generate; and we are very much so in need of promising ideas and research.

    It is true that there are some important factors to weigh in the consideration of implementing the shift for which I am advocating – ranging from concerns about trainees’ clinical and psychological readiness, to concerns about supervisors’ and training directors’ tolerance for certain risks. However, it is also true that we have an ethical obligation as a field to produce clinicians and researchers who are equipped to work with all kinds of patients, including, perhaps especially, those who are in enough pain to consider ending their lives.

    Ultimately, any “solution” is of course likely to be multi-pronged and beyond the scope of graduate training programs. But it is my hope that graduate training is not overlooked as one of the many possible avenues of change worthy of pursuit.



    Deutsch, C. J. (1984). Self-reported sources of stress among psychotherapists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice15(6), 833.

    Dexter-Mazza, E. T., & Freeman, K. A. (2003). Graduate training and the treatment of suicidal clients: The students’ perspective. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior33(2), 211-218.

    Farber, B. A. (1983). The effects of psychotherapeutic practice upon psychotherapists. Psychotherapy: Theory, research & practice20(2), 174.

    Fox, K. R., Huang, X., Guzmán, E. M., Funsch, K. M., Cha, C. B., Ribeiro, J. D., & Franklin, J. C. (2020). Interventions for suicide and self-injury: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials across nearly 50 years of research. Psychological bulletin.

    Franklin, J. C., Ribeiro, J. D., Fox, K. R., Bentley, K. H., Kleiman, E. M., Huang, X., ... & Nock, M. K. (2017). Risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors: A meta-analysis of 50 years of research. Psychological bulletin143(2), 187-232.

    Groth, T., & Boccio, D. E. (2019). Psychologists’ willingness to provide services to individuals at risk of suicide. Suicide and Life‐threatening Behavior49(5), 1241-1254.

    Gvion, Y., Rozett, H., & Stern, T. (2021). Will you agree to treat a suicidal adolescent? A comparative study among mental health professionals. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry30(4), 671-680.

    Hedegaard, H., Curtin, S. C., & Warner, M. (2018). Suicide rates in the United States continue to increase (pp. 1-8). Hyattsville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.

    Mackelprang, J. L., Karle, J., Reihl, K. M., & Cash, R. E. (2014). Suicide intervention skills: Graduate training and exposure to suicide among psychology trainees. Training and education in professional psychology8(2), 136.

    Miller, C. L., & Druss, B. (2001). Datapoints: suicide and access to care. Psychiatric Services52(12), 1566-1566.

    Monahan, M. F., & Karver, M. S. (2021). Are they ready yet?: A theory‐driven evaluation of suicide risk assessment trainings in psychology graduate programs. Journal of clinical psychology, 77(7), 1614-1628.


  • 15 Jan 2022 11:55 AM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

    Clinician Perspective

    Seeking Licensure in Academic Settings:
    Questions to Ask & Tips to Consider

    Amy Sewart, PhD

    California State University, Dominguez Hills

    Nearly all states require postdoctoral hours for licensure, with the number of hours required varying by state. Gaining these postdoctoral hours can be particularly challenging for individuals who choose to go into academic settings. For example, those going into an academic postdoctoral position may not be advised by a licensed psychologist who can supervise these hours. Similarly challenging, individuals going straight into faculty positions from predoctoral internships do not – in general – have opportunities to gain hours for licensure built into their role and may find a lack of available colleagues to provide supervisory experiences. Roadblocks like these can make the process of gaining necessary supervised hours particularly difficult for those choosing these career paths. If you are applying to academic positions and have a goal of gaining licensure, or perhaps find yourself in one of these settings already and struggling to get your necessary hours, my hope is that this brief article can provide some guidance. Below are some questions to consider during your journey of becoming licensed, along with some related tips.

    What counts as hours for postdoctoral licensure in your state/province? Does this position provide opportunities to gain postdoctoral hours for licensure?

    Most states require 1,500 – 2,000 hours of postdoctoral “supervised professional experience” (SPE) for licensure. One thing to keep in mind is that the activities that count as SPE are defined state-by-state. In some jurisdictions, your clinical research may count as SPE – which is great if you plan to go into an academic setting – in others, it may not. If you intend to become licensed in a specific state, see how they define SPE so you can get a better sense of what activities you need to be engaged in to make getting your license achievable.

    If you are applying to academic postdoctoral fellowships, is your potential advisor licensed, and are they willing to supervise you? If you are applying directly to faculty positions, can someone else in the Department or University supervise your hours?

    Ideally, your postdoc advisor or a senior faculty member will be able to serve as your supervisor for your postdoctoral hours. If your academic advisor or another department member cannot serve as your supervisor, see if anyone at your institution – even someone outside of your department – meets your state’s supervisory requirements. After you’ve located this person, inquire if they would be willing to serve as your supervisor for your SPE. Ideally, this supervision experience will provide professional development opportunities, like learning a new intervention, and not solely serve as a means to accrue hours. Pitch this arrangement as a mutually beneficial experience and share what skills and strengths you can offer to your potential supervisor.

    If your potential advisor is not licensed or no one is available to supervise you, are you able to gain hours as a Psychological Assistant/Associate in a private practice setting?

    If you can’t locate anyone at your institution to supervise your clinical hours, consider private practice as a potential pathway to licensure. Under the supervision of a licensed professional, it’s possible to accrue supervised professional experience as a psychological assistant/associate on a part-time basis (title varies by state). Rather than cold-emailing local practitioners, you may want to reach out to mentors or former supervisors to inquire if they have any colleagues in your area they can connect you with that may be willing to take you on as a supervisee.  

    Can you use professional development funds towards licensure costs?

    If you are on a training grant or have faculty start-up funds, you may be eligible to use these funds to pay for elements of your licensing process. If you are in the process of negotiating your start-up costs, include the costs associated with licensure during your negotiation process. When negotiating my start-up costs, I included EPPP and state-specific law preparation packages, the cost of taking each examination, and fees paid to the licensing board.

    Do you have licensed colleagues employed in similar settings you can consult with? 

    If you are not part of a formal postdoctoral training program, it’s possible those in your position may not be provided with guidance on how to gain licensure. Consulting with licensed colleagues employed in similar settings as yours and receiving support through the licensing process can be invaluable.

    If you have any further questions about gaining hours, please feel free to reach out to me at asewart@csudh.edu. I am happy to share my personal experience of accruing hours while at a teaching-focused institution.

  • 15 Jan 2022 11:53 AM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

    Early Career Perspective

    Making It Matter: Lessons Learned as a New Professor in the Pandemic

    Jessica L. Hamilton, Ph.D. 

    Rutgers University

    I started my first faculty job in the pandemic. It has been a roller coaster of new and unforeseen challenges and opportunities filled with both excitement and uncertainty. In some ways, this past year likely had similar challenges to being a new faculty member in the ‘before’ times. Yet, faculty who started entirely remote during an ongoing pandemic have had unique challenges. We faced budgetary cuts, staff and faculty furloughs, hiring freezes, remote teaching and research, and the isolation of moving to a new job and state amidst ongoing pandemics of COVID-19 and racism. This past year also helped me to develop new strategies, perspectives, and connections that have made this transition easier and position even more rewarding.

    Create your own support network and ask for help. New professors must learn, navigate, and transition into new systems, places, people, and roles all at once. You are simultaneously building a lab, teaching classes, launching your research, writing grants, mentoring students, hiring and managing staff, balancing budgets, and so much more! It is near impossible to figure everything out on your own or even from just one source. Creating a support network to help you is critical. Reach out and ask for help from mentors, other faculty at your institution (especially newer hires), administrators in your department, and even other new faculty! In my first week, I reached out to my graduate mentor for advice on graduate admissions. I reached out to my close friend (who was 4 years into faculty position) for an example lab manual. I reached out to multiple colleagues for example class syllabi. I regularly reach out to our administrators for navigating our online systems (which are always so complicated!). I am a big believer in not recreating the wheel and sharing resources, which has helped me tremendously and even generated some ideas in which I can support others (e.g., see here for F31 examples). As new faculty, I had so many questions, and I quickly realized that I was not the only one. One of the best sources of support that I have in navigating this transition are other new faculty who also started their positions in the pandemic. Starting from a tweet, I created a ‘COVID profs” Slack channel to build a network of support for myself and other new faculty in psychology and psychiatry departments starting remote. It has been integral for navigating this new role, sharing resources and suggestions, and normalizing the anxieties and uncertainties of being a new professor. While being remote had its challenges with traditional methods of building support, it also had made platforms like Slack and Zoom more accessible for building these new support networks and friendships.


    Make your own celebrations and markers of success. I had dreamed of being a tenure-track professor at an R1 university since I started towards this path as a college junior. The first day I imagined looked very different from the reality of sitting at my home office. Very anti-climactic, to say the least. However, it was still my first day as an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University and it was important to me that I celebrate the moment. So, with the encouragement of a friend, I sent myself an email that read: “Dear Professor Jess, You did it! Happy first day as a professor!” It may sound corny, but it made the moment feel more real. In our field, it can be hard to celebrate moments because reward is often delayed and sometimes uncertain (e.g., you have a great grant score, but may still not get funded; you get a paper accepted after months of resubmissions). It gets easier and easier to let these moments of success go unnoticed, if you let them. We need to make our own celebrations for ourselves and others! As the director of a new lab, I aim to actively promote a culture of support and celebration of these moments for every team member. This could be a celebratory lab lunch for my student’s first conference talk or lab kudos in recognition of my sophomores completing their first in-person college semester!


    Make your research matter. With COVID-19 and the continued social and political upheaval of these past few years, I’m sure many of us have experienced this existential crisis: does my work really matter? It can be challenging at times to see how one more manuscript will improve the mental health crisis and reduce suicide rates. The truth is that a single manuscript may not... if we just leave it there. We need to think critically as a field about what how we communicate clinical science to make it matter. How do we disseminate our research for the public and across stakeholders to impact systems of change (e.g., education, clinical care, policy)? Given that my research focuses on teen mental health, one way that we make our research matter is by working directly with teens to inform the research we do, disseminate our findings more broadly, and develop mental health resources for their schools and communities. This has helped us to make changes in our community and think creatively about new ways that we can make a difference with our research. This motto of ‘Make Research Matter’ also inspired me to launch the “RU Communicating Clinical Science” Training Program at Rutgers, funded by the 2021 SSCP Varda Shoham Award. The goal is to train clinical psychology doctoral students in science communication so that our future leaders can communicate with stakeholders and make even more meaningful change with their science. The training program and materials will be freely accessible online, so we hope that others will implement this program with their students! Stay tuned for more in the next year!


    Yes, You Though. A close friend sent me this meme (see below), and we laughed a little too loud at how much it resonated with us. I am more than understanding and validating when my students or collaborators need an extension or feel behind on papers, grant-writing, study recruitment, you name it. But how often do we apply this compassion to ourselves? Asking myself “What would you tell a colleague in this exact same scenario?” has been incredibly helpful in rethinking and restructuring my own anxieties and doubts. It also has given me the confidence and space to ask for what I need, such as an extension on a deadline or extra support from a collaborator. We are doing the best we can in an unfathomable scenario. That is enough. You are enough. And I am saying this to myself, just as much as I am saying it to you. Echoing Jasmine Mote’s beautiful article for SSCP, we need to do better as a field to move away from the ‘cult of productivity’ and basing our self-worth on productivity (link). We need to acknowledge the full humanity of our students, peers, and ourselves, which will help academia become a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable space and improve the impact of clinical science.

    In short, this year has been filled with a lot of firsts that often felt overwhelming, scary, and exciting. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that you are not alone! I have developed new and meaningful relationships and collaborations that make me a happier, healthier, and better scientist and person. I have surrounded myself with an outstanding team that further inspire me and cultivate these values (shoutout to my amazing graduate students Simone Boyd and Missy Dreier, my incredible research coordinator Saskia Jorgensen, and team of talented undergraduates)! I still have a lot to learn as I embark on Year 2 of being a faculty member, but I know that I have a support network of mentors, peers, students, family, and friends who will make this next stage even better! 

  • 19 Mar 2021 11:58 AM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)
    • A Student Perspective on Promoting Mental Health for Clinical Psychology Graduate Students Historically Excluded from Institutions of Higher Education 

      Alyssa R. Palmer, MA,
      University of Minnesota

      I am a fifth-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychopathology and Clinical Science program at the University of Minnesota. I am also White, from a low-income background, and the first member of my family to go to college. In fact, my father did not graduate from high school and my mother - pregnant with me -  graduated only to fulfill her mother’s dying wish that her daughter would earn a high school diploma. My demographic background and life experiences make it fairly improbable that I would have made it to a top tier clinical psychology Ph.D. program. As of 2015 only about 20% of Pell-Grant recipients going to public four-year institutions received a bachelor’s degree in four years, and only 40% did so in six years (Goldrick-Rab et al., 2016). Due to systemic racism, these prospects are even less likely for students of color, with one study reporting that 38% of Black students who entered a college or university in 2010 completed degrees in six years (Shapiro et al., 2017). However, too often the conversation about successful outcomes stops there because student’s that have earned bachelor’s degrees are viewed as the ones who have “made it”. Generally, I have found that the health and social costs that under-represented students pay to reach their academic and career goals are not acknowledged.

      Psychology graduate students are suffering from a mental health crisis (e.g. Rummell, 2015). Much of this crisis has been related to students’ experience of increased stress, lack of financial resources, and feeling a lack of belongingness in their programs. I would argue that all of these experiences, while valid across all graduate students, are even more pronounced among students who have been historically excluded from institutions of higher education. Underrepresented students often experience even higher levels of financial strain due to a lack of familial financial support and at times an obligation for them to provide financial support to family members. Many students are also experiencing guilt that they do not yet have substantial financial means to help their family. Additionally, it is strenuous for students to learn and navigate the cultural rules of upper-middle-class white America as well as the hidden curriculum of academia. This often results in additional social-emotional labor for students forced to learn the ins-and-outs of this new social sphere. Further, underrepresented students are experiencing multiple levels of separation from family and friends. Collectively, this often results in students feeling disconnected to their cultural heritage, practices, and community supports. Moreover, it is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally exacerbated these issues for underrepresented students (see the diversity corner article in the SSCP Winter 2020 Newsletter by Danielle McDuffie)

      Prioritizing and promoting mental health among underrepresented students should be a priority for clinical psychology programs. First and foremost, the psychology program governing board has exerted a commitment to diversity (American Psychological Association, 2017). Additionally, in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter Movement, many individual graduate programs released public statements about their commitment to diversity and fighting systemic racism. These efforts and commitment need to translate to not just recruiting diverse students but finding ways to support them in an institution that presents many challenges to student’s personal well-being.

      Below I offer my perspective on ways to promote social connection, belongingness, and ultimately mental health in the context of clinical psychology graduate education. Given my belief that institutions should play a central role in mitigating these difficulties, I make both recommendations for institutions and for students. I center these recommendations around experiences that have helped me and other students I have talked to, as well as knowledge about ways to promote mental health among individuals who have experienced adversity. I also make these recommendations with the caveat that there are many other avenues that I do not touch upon here, and not all of these recommendations will be beneficial for all students.

      Institution Recommendations

    1. Funding to assist students with the move to graduate school – there are many unexpected and very steep costs associated with relocating for school.
    2. Talk about the importance of student mental health at program orientations and in courses. Make it a value and priority of your programs. (see Zahniser et al., 2017)
    3. Clearly and prominently provide information about how to access mental health resources in your city and institution.
    4. Create emergency/crisis funding opportunities for students.
    5. Provide space and resources to promote student community building.
      a. Facilitate the creation of specific spaces for students of color and other underrepresented students to engage with each other.
    6. Hire diverse faculty. Encourage and facilitate cross-level mentorship.
    7. Provide talks and workshops for graduate students about the academic hidden curriculum (e.g., dress code, how/when to engage in scientific debate, how university funding works (and fellowships!), how the get involved with ongoing projects and network, etc.).
    Clinical Student Recommendations
    1. Find and engage with a therapist
    2. Prioritize your health and wellbeing – sleep, eat well, and move your body
    3. Find and/or make community
    • Prioritize spending time on a hobby or passion that is unrelated to graduate school
    • Create a book or journal club to explore issues of diversity in psychological science or just to kick back and read/discuss a good fiction book with a group.
    • Twitter/social media
      • APA List-Serves: https://www.apa.org/apags/resources/listservs
      • Many schools have programs and groups to reach out to, email with, and hang out with in person. You could even start your own!
      • Great Twitter Hash-Tags to Check Out: #AcademicMentalHealth, #FirstGen, #FirstGenAcademic, #BlackinStem, #BlackintheIvory, #ILookLikeAProfessor
    • Participate in mentorship programs (as a mentor and mentee!)
      • There are fantastic formal and informal structures for promoting mentoring for students and professors who have similar experiences. I have found it extraordinarily helpful to be a mentee in these sorts of programs. As a mentor, I have also found meaning and a sense of competence from sharing all of the information I had gathered. Some programs to consider:
    1. Ronald E. McNair Program: https://mcnairscholars.com/about/
    2. Next-Gen Psych Scholars Program: http://meriahdejoseph.com/grad-school/announcing-the-next-gen-psych-scholars-program-npsp/
    4.    Celebrate successes – big and small
    • Celebrations can look as simple as a “kudos-corner” email that goes around your graduate student list-serve and even real-life or zoom celebrations with drinks and food!

    5. Engage in meaning making –

    • Remind yourself the reason you pursued a clinical psychology degree, and prioritize work that addresses those reasons. Dr. Devin Banks, the winner of the Outstanding Student Diversity Research Award, suggested writing this down somewhere that you can come back and look at it to stay true to your priorities (see the Winter 2020 SCCP New Letter)
    6.    Develop an ethical narrative
    • I’ve recently read a book called “Moving Up without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility” by Jennifer Morten. She argues that students should spend time reflecting on their own ethical narratives. This process consists of identifying the real costs of upward mobility to the student and their community, and which things they are willing to choose to sacrifice within the context of their evolving identities and contexts. This idea allows students to have an honest story about their experiences without idealizing only the simple external and monetary indicators of success.


    American Psychological Association. (2017). Multicultural guidelines: An ecological approach to context, identity, and intersectionality. http://www.apa.org/about/policy/multicultural-guidelines.pdf

    Goldrick-Rab, S., Kelchen, R., Harris, D. N., & Benson, J. (2016). Reducing income inequality in educational attainment: Experimental evidence on the impact of financial aid on college completion. American Journal of Sociology121(6), 1762-1817. https://doi.org/10.1086/685442

    Rummell, C. M. (2015). An exploratory study of psychology graduate student workload, health, and program satisfaction. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 46(6), 391–399. doi:10.1037/pro0000056 

    Shapiro, D., Dundar, A., Huie, F., Wakhungu, P., Yuan, X., Nathan, A & Hwang, Y., A. (2017, April). Completing college: A national view of student attainment rates by race and ethnicity – Fall 2010 cohort. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. https://nscresearchcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/Signature12-RaceEthnicity.pdf

    Zahniser, E., Rupert, P. A., & Dorociak, K. E. (2017). Self-care in clinical psychology graduate training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 11(4), 283–289. https://doi.org/10.1037/tep0000172

    About the Author

    Alyssa Palmer is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development. She studies how protective systems across multiple levels (biological, behavioral, relational, and socioecological) promote early childhood mental health in the context of poverty. Follow her on Twitter (@A_R_Palmer) and check out her website: alyssarpalmer.com. 

  • 19 Mar 2021 11:55 AM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

    A Year of Transitions:

    Dealing with Liminal Spaces in Academia

     Jasmine Mote, Ph.D.

    Tufts University

    A liminal space is one relating to transition. It is a space where you have left something behind, but you are not yet fully something else. It can also represent a space that occupies both sides of a boundary or threshold at the same time. This past year has felt like my ultimate liminal space. I am living in the midst of a global pandemic, where things are slowly improving yet the end is still not fully in view. The United States is transitioning to a new presidential administration amidst turmoil and violence. I started my first tenure track faculty position completely remotely, meaning that my work and personal spaces are one. I am in the midst of multiple academic worlds as a clinical psychologist in an Occupational Therapy department. Finally, I’m pregnant, perhaps the ultimate of liminal spaces: I am simultaneously one person and two, straddling the line between “parent” and “nonparent.”

    Academic life can easily become perpetually liminal - for many, our work selves and our real selves blur and merge.It’s up to the individual to decide how much they are willing to have this type of experience. Here, I share my experiences and the values that I have tried to live during the most transitional year of my life (thus far).

    Know your limits, and acknowledge that they will change

    Prior to pregnancy, I could run a few miles (slowly, but steadily), clumsily fall down the stairs and just laugh it off, or eat a big plate of pasta with bolognese sauce. Now, eight months pregnant, I get winded after a 20 minute walk. A minor fall means a call to the doctor’s office. Tomato sauce gives me terrible, insomnia-inducing heartburn. My physical (and emotional) limits have changed, and I have had to adjust accordingly.

    The same can be said about my transition from postdoctoral researcher to faculty member. My responsibilities seem to have tripled, and full days where I can spend writing without a meeting in sight are few and far between. Additionally, working remotely means I am trying to get to know colleagues and a new work culture from the comfort of my home desk. My capacity for meetings and other responsibilities shift as I continue to figure out (and then re-figure out) what I should be working on at any given moment. There have been several days where I needed to take a break from work to refresh myself mentally and emotionally - either due to run-of-the-mill burnout or because of the stress I was experiencing from the news or in my personal life.

    Before this year, I would often find solace in immersing in work as a means to distract myself from difficult things happening in my life. I don’t think this is true for me anymore, and that’s okay - actually, more than okay, because I don’t think for me personally this was a healthy means of coping. My own capacity to do work has been different, due to the various stressors of the world as well as my fluctuating energy levels throughout my pregnancy, and it’s been a blessing in disguise to not be at 100% capacity during this formative year. I hope this is setting the stage for the future when, even if I have the capacity to do more work, I won’t automatically fill my time with every single opportunity that comes my way. It’s also been helpful for my own growth to positively reinforce students who tell me they need to take a break for their own well-being. I try my best to congratulate students on doing what they need to do to take care of themselves, which feels great to do when so much of academic life involves the opposite: complimenting someone who is able to work through their own struggles, something that is not bad by itself, but can reinforce unhealthy habits. Through trying to show compassion to students, I hope that I can get better at turning it around on myself.

    Ignore the mixed messages

    When so much of my life feels boundary-less I have found solace in maintaining what professional boundaries I can, such as how many articles reviews I will accept or committee duties I will engage in. People always give you the advice to “learn to say no,” which is really good advice, but it can be made more challenging when that same colleague or supervisor who gives you this advice is also the same person who constantly emails you different opportunities or service obligations. Often, a single “no” does not suffice, and there is always the worry that (especially as a woman) you will be viewed as hostile, aggressive, or difficult if you say no too many times. Academia can be filled with so many mixed messages like this, and it’s your responsibility to ignore those messages. The easiest way to do this is to know what your boundaries are and stick to them as much as you can.

    Being a woman of color in academia means that these mixed messages are perhaps more frequent for me than for others. As a graduate student, I was told to speak up and advocate for myself and my needs one moment, then the next a supervisor would tell me that I should “know my place” when they viewed me as too outspoken. Everyone says it’s important to prioritize having a family in one’s career (if one chooses to do so), but then will simultaneously tell you that it is never a good time to try to have a baby (literally, at some point in my career, someone has listed every single stage in one’s academic career as the worst time to have a baby, outside of being tenured). Now, pregnant, new mixed messages come up. A colleague talks to me about how important it is for me not to do anything during my maternity leave, but then emails, asking me to do something during my leave. Someone else says, “You know, if you want to work during your leave, that’s okay, too!” which can feel like implicit pressure. Finally, we all know we have to limit how much service we can do at any given time, but that can be difficult when you’re one of the only people of color in a department - expectations are different, as are your own motivations for wanting to do more. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s not my responsibility to try to enact structural changes during my first year on a job - that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and I will have plenty of opportunities to make a difference throughout my career in the ways that I choose to do so. Again, because I set firm boundaries for myself and am confident in my choices, it makes ignoring these mixed messages (somewhat) easier. As does complaining to a good friend when necessary!

    Say no to the cult of productivity

    Even during non-pandemic years, I know how lucky I am to have a faculty job. I fully acknowledge that having a job you love is a privilege and has so many wonderful benefits. At the same time, I also know that my job is just that: a job. Jobs that center passion as the main incentive are great, but they also allow one to be exploited more easily. Your job will never love you back. It’s so easy, particularly in a job like in academia, to get sucked into thinking that your self-worth is based on your productivity. Throughout the pandemic and various social justice and political upheavals, I’ve had numerous instances where I will log into Twitter and see all the publications and grants people are publicizing, and I’ll feel these simultaneous emotions of righteousness (“How can you work at a time like this?!”), resentfulness (“Must be nice…”), and jealousy (“I wish I could be productive right now”), all while recognizing that I live within a culture that positively reinforces productivity at all costs, to the detriment of everyone’s health and well-being.

    I’m constantly in the process of learning how to give up this cult of productivity. I take breaks from Twitter when I need to. I keep a running list of all the things I’ve accomplished, big and small, not to feel as if I’ve “earned” time off or to improve my feelings of self-worth, but to show myself evidence of the important work that I do that can easily go unacknowledged if it’s not a publication or grant. I chat with my husband and close friends outside of academia to gain perspective. I am intentional about when I decide to do work after-hours or on weekends - meaning I don’t thoughtlessly look at the clock and realize that it’s 9PM and I haven’t stopped working and I haven’t eaten dinner. It has taken time and lots of practice to get into these routines. Again, a spouse that does not subscribe to an academic schedule helps with this process, as does the anticipation of my entire world being turned upside down when I give birth to my first child. I have a lot of other things to do in my life that don’t revolve around my job, which helps.

    In conclusion

    My first year as a faculty member thus far has been a rollercoaster of liminality, and that probably won’t really change in the next few years. I will go from “nonparent” to “parent” in the next few months. If I’m lucky, I will also transition from being an early career faculty member to something more in the coming years. We are always undergoing transitions, big and small. The important thing to remember is that even during times of huge transitions, while your priorities and your values may shift, you will always be you. Be confident in your choices and in yourself, and sooner or later the ground will start to feel more stable.

    About the Author

     Jasmine Mote, Ph.D. is the director of the Mote Emotion and Social Health (MESH) Lab and an Assistant Professor in Occupational Therapy and Psychology at Tufts University. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Oberlin College and her M.A. in Psychology and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She studies the mechanisms of loneliness and the relationship between our emotions and social experiences, with a special focus on understanding these processes in people with serious mental illness.

    Twitter handle (@jdymote) and my lab website: http://sites.tufts.edu/meshlab/

  • 19 Mar 2021 11:50 AM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

    Engaging in Social Justice Activism in Clinical Science

    Jennifer Pearlstein, MA

    University of California - Berkeley

    Psychology has a longstanding history of human rights violations, including reinforcing and  providing credibility to discrimination against marginalized groups and contributing to social and healthcare inequities (Guthrie, 2004). Many psychological practices have given rise to the very mental health challenges our research and practice tries to address (Roberts et al., 2020). The harms caused to marginalized groups demonstrates an abuse of power and directly opposes the mission of the field. The American Psychology Association’s Ethics Code indicates psychologists “respect and protect civil and human rights” (American Psychological Association, 2017). Embracing each person’s value and worth is at the core to the practice of clinical psychology. Therefore, psychological science and practice is inherently political, and it is essential that we use our power to promote social justice (Buchanan & Wiklund, 2020). But how?

    Fortunately, many of the skills we teach from empirically supported therapies can help us fight social injustice effectively. Below, I will draw from strategies from interventions from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) as an example of how our skillset as psychologists and psychologists-in-training makes us well-positioned to engage in effective social justice activism aligned with individual strengths and values. Although empirically-supported intervention strategies are useful to draw from, it is critical to acknowledge that these empirically supported interventions are often designed from a Eurocentric approach that over-emphasizes individual-level methods (French et al., 2020) and may be mistrusted by marginalized groups (Thompson et al., 2004; Watson et al., 2016).

    Radical Acceptance

    To speak out and act against social injustice, we need to first acknowledge the presence and longstanding history of social injustice. Rather than ignoring or resisting, we must radically accept the existence of pervasive systemic inequalities, and how our field of psychology has contributed to these injustices. To be clear, radically accepting the existence of systemic inequality is not the same as tolerating that inequality; instead, it means that we are not denying or resisting the existence of social inequality. To this effect, the American Psychiatric Association recently issued an apology to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) for the psychiatric practices that have contributed to inequity in clinical treatment and limited access to care (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), evidence of the important first step of radical acceptance.

    We also need to radically accept that fighting for social justice will be a long fight that is at times unequal and unfair. Accepting the long fight means taking the time and space to replenish, restore, and recharge. We must also radically accept the imbalance in who is impacted by a lack of equity and who has historically been responsible for this fight in order to not burden or over rely on the oppressed to strive for social justice.

    Identify strengths and “do what works”

    Empirically supported therapies prioritize doing what works, which means not every skill will work for every client. Not every form of activism will work well for every psychologist or trainee, and it is important to assess personal strengths and domains of influence to target activism efforts accordingly.

    Activism can take many different forms. Is your strength in organizing or leading meetings or journal clubs? Do you publish papers that could cite more scholars from underrepresented communities? Are you a teacher who could increase representation of BIPOC in your syllabi? Do you excel at social media? Identify the skills and strengths you can rely on across various professional domains to engage in effective activism.

    To ensure you are doing what works, follow the lead of others who have already paved a path for effective activism. Listen to responses from diverse perspectives to determine whether your social justice activism efforts are effective. Despite good intentions, activism efforts can miss the mark (i.e. Maurantonio, 2017), highlighting that what works may not always be intuitive.

    Elevate and follow the lead of others

    Psychologists have been engaged in social justice activism long before the recent events that have motivated greater engagement from psychologists and trainees. For example, Dr. Na'im Akbar published his first critique of the Eurocentric nature of psychology and mental health in the 1970’s and since focused much of his work on the pathologizing of black experiences. Not only can we learn from leaders like Dr. Akbar, but we also need to honor, cite, and elevate them. Marginalized voices, especially Black voices, are often silenced and discounted. If you are non-Black, your goal must not be self-promotion, but instead to elevate Black voices by sharing their work and giving credit. 

    Communicate effectively

    Identify your goal and audience and cater your message accordingly. If your goal is to inform the public, avoid jargon. Choose outlets you are comfortable using and that effectively delivers your message to the intended audience. Online platforms like Twitter can help reach a wide audience, whereas blog posts like the SSCP Diversity Blog or Psychology Today will likely only reach other psychologists.  For longer-form discussions, you may want to also consider outlets like podcasts. 

    Pattern of behavior

    Combatting social injustice requires consistent and widespread action. Beyond speaking out, change requires engagement in and promotion of specific actions to fight social injustice (e.g., attend protests, donate to social justice causes, sign petitions, volunteer for anti-racism organizations). Outside of formal activism efforts, there are proximal opportunities to promote social justice in our science and clinical practice, such as diversifying recruitment efforts for trainees, clients, and participants; reducing costs for treatment or fundraising in order to provide reduced cost services; and expanding training in culturally competency and sensitivity. For more ideas, consider reviewing the SSCP diversity-related reflection questions. Again, identify which actions are well aligned with your strengths and values and do what works.

    Acknowledge and accept personal bias and mistakes

    Becoming self-aware of personal biases and noticing when mistakes are made requires mindfulness and emotion regulation. Mindfulness can improve self-awareness and a nonjudgmental stance, which can facilitate constructive conversations when mistakes are made. Use effective emotion regulation skills to reduce defensiveness and increase humility. If a client or research assistant informs you that they were offended by something you said, you may react with feelings of anger or defensiveness. Your emotional impulse may be to argue, “but I did not intend to offend!” Effective emotion regulation may involve acting opposite to this impulse to instead approach with a genuine curiosity to understand what was offensive and to apologize and repair the damage done.

    Use relational and objectivity effectiveness for accountability

    When calling out others or responding to being called out, remember to maintain compassion, be gentle, demonstrate interest, and validate – both with others and with ourselves. When we are called-out, we sometimes react defensively. This is particularly true for those with privilege who are unaccustomed to having our behavior challenged. When called-out, pause. Reflect on your behavior and listen to the people you have upset. Apologize and develop an action plan to do better in the future.

    Academics and clinicians are busy, and while we often have great intentions, sometimes we lose track of the hours in the day. How will you increase the likelihood of achieving your goals? To set intentions, consider making SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.  Are you spearheading diversity and inclusion initiatives at your institution? Altering your recruitment methods to improve representativeness? Planning to read two papers on diversity science by diverse scholars each week? After identifying specific goals, how do you intend to hold yourself accountable? Partner with others; you can join committees to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion, and there are additional opportunities through professional organizations like Society for the Science of Clinical Psychology (SSCP) Diversity Committee.

    Engaging in social justice activism as a clinical psychologist or trainee is aligned with the ethical principles guiding clinical psychological science and practice. Relying on the empirically-supported strategies we use in therapy, we can engage in social justice activism that is rewarding, effective, and aligned with the mission of our field.  


    American Psychological Association. (2017). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. American Psychologist, 57(12), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.57.12.1060

    APA’s Apology to Black, Indigenous and People of Color for Its Support of Structural Racism in Psychiatry. (2021). American Psychiatric Association.

    Buchanan, N. T., & Wiklund, L. O. (2020). Why Clinical Science Must Change or Die: Integrating Intersectionality and Social Justice. Women and Therapy, 43(3–4), 309–329. https://doi.org/10.1080/02703149.2020.1729470

    French, B. H., Lewis, J. A., Mosley, D. V., Adames, H. Y., Chavez-Dueñas, N. Y., Chen, G. A., & Neville, H. A. (2020). Toward a Psychological Framework of Radical Healing in Communities of Color. Counseling Psychologist, 48(1), 14–46. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000019843506

    Guthrie, R. V. (2004). Even the Rat was White: A Historical View of Psychology (2nd ed.). Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

    Maurantonio, N. (2017). “Reason to Hope?”: The White Savior Myth and Progress in “Post-Racial” America. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 94(4), 1130–1145. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077699017691248

    Roberts, S. O., Bareket-Shavit, C., Dollins, F. A., Goldie, P. D., & Mortenson, E. (2020). Racial Inequality in Psychological Research: Trends of the Past and Recommendations for the Future. Perspectives in Psychological Science ​. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

    Thompson, V. L. S., Bazile, A., & Akbar, M. (2004). African Americans’ Perceptions of Psychotherapy and Psychotherapists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35(1), 19–26. https://doi.org/10.1037/0735-7028.35.1.19

    Watson, N. N., Black, A. R., & Hunter, C. D. (2016). African American Women’s Perceptions of Mindfulness Meditation Training and Gendered Race-Related Stress. Mindfulness, 7(5), 1034–1043. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0539-3

    About the Author

    Jennifer Pearlstein, MA, is a sixth-year doctoral candidate in the Clinical Science area at the University of California, Berkeley mentored by Dr. Sheri Johnson. Prior to graduate school, Jen completed her undergraduate studies at Truman State University and coordinated research on interventions for pediatric bipolar disorder at Stanford University. Jen conducts research on emotions, cognitive control, stress, and psychopathology. Jen’s work aims to (a) understand the cognitive, affective, and biological effects of stress in relation to psychopathology; (b) apply basic stress science to improve treatment, and (c) investigate the effects of identity-related stress on mental health. Jen’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health. Next year, Jen will complete her clinical internship at the University of Washington - Psychiatry.

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