Psychologist in Action: Outreach, advocacy and social justice in graduate clinical psychology programs


Psychologists’ engagement in social justice advocacy has evolved and is becoming increasingly more important. However, the operationalization of social justice within the field has been difficult to put into practice and few clinical psychology training programs offer tools on how to engage in outreach and advocacy. Our graduate-psychology program has been engaging in social justice initiatives through advocacy, outreach, and service-learning for several years, demonstrating that social justice advocacy in academia is possible. Through outreach in collaboration with community-based organizations, we remove barriers, and bring mental health services to Latinxs, reaching 30,000 people during 2020-2021. Similarly, faculty have been advocating at the State and Federal level for policies aimed at supporting migrant communities. This presentation will illustrate how our program integrates outreach and advocacy into our training through required courses, service learning experiences, and clinical practices and s the transformational impact that engaging in social justice and advocacy initiatives have for faculty and students alike.

Learning Objectives
At the end of this presentation, the participant will be able to:
1. Examine the role of graduate psychology students, psychologists, and mental health professionals in social justice work as a way to bring mental health to the people.
2. Illustrate the efforts of a graduate psychology program in the Pacific Northwest (Sabiduría: Latinx Psychology Emphasis at the School of Graduate Psychology) to use social justice advocacy to make mental health services accessible to the Latinx community.
3. List how psychology programs can move from social justice theory to action and liberation.

Program Type
Standard D.1.3.
Program content focuses on topics related to psychological practice, education or research other than application of psychological assessment and/or intervention methods that are supported by contemporary scholarship grounded in established research procedures.

Session organizer & Discussant
Ruth Zuniga, Pacific University

Psychologists and Educators in Action: Creating spaces for Social Justice and Community Action
Latinxs continue experiencing significant cultural, systemic and structural barriers to accessing and utilizing mental health services. Some of these barriers include mental health stigma, lack of trust of mental health providers and inadequate culturally responsive practices. Therefore, in order to train culturally responsive psychologists who can help remove barriers for mental health seeking behaviors for Latinxs, we created a Latinx psychology training program named Sabiduría. As this is a unique program, community outreach, service learning, and collaboration with the community is paramount. The outreach and service learning experiences not only focus on removing barriers to accessing mental health, but also, on providing students the opportunity to engage in social justice. Additionally, the outreach activities are focused on increasing knowledge and awareness in the Latinx community about mental health and supporting the community in accessing treatment. Most importantly, the program goals are demystifying misconceptions about mental health, making mental health accessible to the Latinx community and “bringing mental health to our people”. Many outreach activities are done in collaboration with promotores de salud and community-based organizations. In order to sustain our work, the program has integrated social justice and outreach through required courses, service learning experiences, and clinical practices. Since the creation of our program we have had an increase of mental health services utilization within our internal training clinics, in addition referrals have increased and requests for community presentations and trainings have been in great demand. Additionally, graduate students have reported improved culturally responsive practices, clinical skills and social justice engagement. This presentation will discuss experiences related to providing mental health education and awareness to Latinxs through outreach and advocacy. Additionally, it will illustrate ways to integrate outreach and service learning as a component of social justice into graduate training programs.

Ruth Zuniga, Pacific University

Graduate Students in Action: The Influence of outreach, service learning and training of graduate students
The integration of outreach and service learning into graduate education allows for students to apply social justice and advocacy practices into action, which has a transformational impact on the students and the communities they serve. Outreach has been demonstrated to be a powerful and effective first step to learning social justice and it also serves as an educational tool allowing students to learn to advocate for clients, navigate systems, and recognize inequities ingrained in policies and practices. The author of this presentation is a graduate student who is a member of a Latinx psychology emphasis program that provides students with the opportunity to gain specialized training to work with Latinx individuals. This program, applies social justice and advocacy theories into practice through service learning and outreach with the Latinx community. The outreach and service learning opportunities provided through emphasis have increased student’s awareness regarding signs and symptoms of common mental disorders in the Latinx community, opportunities to disseminate information about available treatments, and opportunities to demystify misconceptions about mental health and available treatments. These experiences allow students to become better health care professionals by learning more about the communities they are serving through direct engagement. Specific example of outreach engagement includes: community presentations, “pláticas y charlas”, trainings community partners, and culturally-focused psychoeducation presentations on mental health topics for Latinx immigrant farm workers. Through these opportunities, students develop relationships with health care providers and organizations, further strengthening interprofessional experiences and enhancing relationships with the communities being served. Students in this program report feeling empowered by outreach and more connected to the communities they serve. This presentation will illustrate how graduate students describe their professional development and understanding of culturally responsive skills to work with the Latinx community as a result of service learning and outreach experiences.

Marisol Beaulac, Pacific University

Psychologists in action: Bringing psychology to advocacy and elevating voices of the community
Psychologists have been involved in legislative advocacy and public policy development for many years (Glassgold & Wolff, 2020). In this role, psychologists use their skills as scientists and practitioners to advocate for legislation and inform public policy related to a wide range of topics. Historically, the model of integrating psychology into legislative advocacy and policy making has been used to address the HIV/AIDS crisis, to inform the Affordable Care Act legislation, to advocate for mental health parity, to address access to care obstacles with Medicare legislation, and to address health disparities. Currently, it is also being used to inform COVID-19 legislation. The strength of the pairing of psychologists and legislative advocacy and public policy is the ability of psychologists to use their evidenced based practice skills in the legislative context. This evidenced based practice model allows psychologists to integrate knowledge on the best science in the context of specific community factors and voices. This in turn, contributes to policies that are more culturally relevant and effective in meeting their desired goals. Due to the valuable role psychologists play in legislative advocacy and policy making, legislative advocacy is an important component of effective social justice work. Specifically, psychologists can use their knowledge of people’s lived experiences to inform public policy development. In this presentation, the authors will share her experiences working with congressional leaders to shed light on the mental health impact of immigration on the Latinx community at the local and national levels. It is hoped this presentation will help prepare psychologists to use their knowledge and skills to work with local, state, and national leaders to advocate for social justice initiatives.

Glassgold, J.M. & Wolff, J.R. (2020). Expanding psychology training pathways for public policy
preparedness across the professional lifespan. American Psychologist. Advance online

Shahana Koslofsky, Pacific University

Continuing Education
1.5 CE

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