My Legs Don’t Work, but my Mind Does

yomex-owo-634531-unsplashBy: Taylor Roth

I am disabled. Not “handicapable” or “differently abled,” but disabled. Don’t worry, it’s not a bad word. I use a wheelchair or walker at all times, and am not ashamed or embarrassed by this. However, I live in a world that is not friendly to the disabled which can sometimes include academia.

Don’t get me wrong: I am very fortunate to attend a school with the resources to help students like me. All I have to do is ask for elevator access or more time for an automatic door button, and my concerns are immediately addressed. My department is the same. Overall, it is very supportive of me and provides me with the resources I need to succeed. I’m able to attend class, see clients, teach, and have a relatively “normal” grad school experience (if there is such a thing). I have to work harder sometimes and consider logistics such as conference accessibility and physical needs, but I see these as necessary annoyances to deal with in order to achieve my goals. I haven’t succeeded in spite of my disability, but rather with it.

I’m really happy with where I am. I have no doubt that I’m pursuing the (wheelchair-accessible) path I’m meant to. Still, I sometimes feel that I’m alone in this intersection of disability and academia. Graduate school is difficult enough without the feeling of being alone and isolated.

As both a disabled student and aspiring clinician, I believe it’s so important to emphasize that diversity is not just about race and ethnicity, though those are valuable to discuss. True diversity is recognizing and addressing the full range of human experiences and allowing all voices to be heard.

The disabled population is often overlooked. Almost 13% of Americans identify as disabled (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017). In this population there are higher rates of depression, anxiety, and victimization (NICE Clinical Guidelines, 2010; Hughes et al., 2012). Despite these statistics, fewer than 50% of social science graduate students receive disability training (Bogart, Rosa, Estill, Colton, & Bonnett, n.d.), and even fewer (10%) identify as disabled (National Science Foundation, 2017). An APA-conducted survey of disabled graduate students, the main barriers that face disabled students are stigma, lack of awareness, and accessibility concerns (APA, 2018).

I am confident the playing field can be levelled. At a practical level, institutions should provide accommodations, whether that is ensuring that a building is ADA compliant or offering a reduced course load. Second, programs can increase their recruitment of disabled students. This involves disseminating information to local organizations and ensuring websites are easily accessible. These students can later become mentors to guide a new generation. Finally, the burden of advocacy should not fall on just those with personal experience of disability. Students have the responsibility of speaking up for their needs, but mentors and departments should also be advocates.

I believe the discipline of psychology should do more in encouraging the growth and potential of students with disabilities. Often the world is dismissive of those who are disabled. It’s not up to students to prove they are more than a stereotype. Instead, those in charge should take it upon themselves to ensure that non-traditional students are given the chance to flourish. I have found my niche in psychology graduate school and want nothing more than for all students to have this opportunity. I believe that with awareness and acceptance, any talented student can survive – and thrive – in grad school.


References

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Students with Disabilities in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Retrieved October 14, 2018, from http://www.apa.org/pi/disability/dart/toolkit-one.aspx

Bogart, K. R., Rosa, N. M., Estill, M. C., Colton, C. E., & Bonnett, A. K. (n.d.). Teaching about disability in psychology: An analysis of disability curricula in U.S. undergraduate psychology programs.

Bureau, U. S. C. (2017). American FactFinder – Results. Retrieved October 14, 2018, from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_15_1YR_S1810&prodType=table

National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2017. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017. Special Report NSF 17-310. Arlington, VA. Available at www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/

NICE Clinical Guidelines, N. C. C. for M. H. (2010). Depression in Adults with a Chronic Physical Health Problem: Treatment and Management. (Vol. 91). Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK82930/

 

CARED Perspectives – Imposter Syndrome as a Minority: The Struggle is Real

This blog post is a part of the series, “CARED Perspectives,” developed by the APAGS Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity. This series will discuss current events and how these events relate to graduate students in psychology. If you are interested in contributing to the CARED Perspectives series, please contact Lincoln Hill.

Imposter Syndrome as a Minority: The Struggle is Real

By Fiona C. Thomas

Years ago, I successfully competed, and was selected for a federal government position, a training spot reserved for few undergraduate students. Following a phone interview, I accepted the position, moved to a new city, and was eager to start. On day one my supervisor greeted me with these words, “I wasn’t expecting someone who looked like you based on your name!” His comment was not intended to be malicious. He was being truthful about his thoughts. Yet, this was the first time I felt like an imposter. My name implied a White candidate, not someone who looked like me. Did I need to work harder to make up for this? What were my supervisor’s expectations of me now versus when he interviewed me? And wait a minute, why did I immediately doubt that my experiences and credentials – all of which got me the job – were suddenly insufficient? What did my name or the color of my skin matter?

As a graduate student, I have come to understand this experience as imposter syndrome. The term was coined four decades ago by psychologists, Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes based on their work with high-achieving women. It connotes an internal feeling of intellectual phoniness despite ample objective evidence to the contrary (Clance & Imes, 1978). Indeed, graduate students, academics, and many successful individuals (men included) will not only be familiar with this term, but will have experienced that powerful fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Recent research shows that members of minority groups feel this phenomenon even more profoundly. For instance, the work of Dr. Kevin Cokley and colleagues has pointed to the strong association between discrimination and feelings of impostorism. His research additionally suggests that for ethnic minority college students, impostorism is a greater predictor of negative mental health outcomes than discrimination. These findings have powerful implications. In addition to labeling it and recognizing the moments we feel it most potently, what can underrepresented minority graduate students do to tackle imposter syndrome?

Dr. Sindhumathi Revuluri, associate dean of undergraduate education at Harvard University, recently wrote an insightful piece on overcoming imposter syndrome. A few months ago, the New York Times published an article on this topic as well, particularly with regards to the experiences of minority groups. I pull from the words of wisdom outlined in these articles and have peppered my own learnings below regarding strategies that I have found helpful for tackling impostorism:

  • Surround yourself with mentors who simultaneously uplift and challenge you: This does not necessarily mean finding mentors who resemble you and have had similar experiences as you. I have come to learn that this is not easy to do. Instead, surround yourself with individuals who encourage you to not only find your space but to feel confident to own that space with integrity.
  • Take pride in Slay being the forerunner: Underrepresented populations bring a particularly powerful perspective in academic settings. These voices are not always heard. If you are doing research that no one in your department is doing, or if you’re working clinically with a population that rarely gets access to mental health services, these are major accomplishments. It takes significantly more time, energy, and effort to enter a space that has traditionally not belonged to underrepresented communities, and to then be the advocate for underrepresented areas of research. Once you get there, trust that it is because of your merit, hard-work, and persistence.
  • It is okay to say no and set boundaries: Feeling the need to prove oneself can result in the urge to say ‘yes’ – yes to every new project that may improve your skills as a researcher or clinician, yes to speaking on diversity issues in your department, or yes to committee service simply to bring a diverse voice to the table. Indeed, there is extra emotional, physical, psychological, and intellectual labor involved when you try to enter a homogenous field. However, trying to be everything to everyone can ultimately dilute the quality of your work and do more harm than good.
  • Genuine humility is different than feeling like an imposter: Even with certain lived experiences, there are limitations to our knowledge. Acknowledge this, own it, and ask for help when needed.
  • Pay it forward: When I decided to pursue clinical psychology as a career, I did not personally know any South Asian women in this field. This initially amplified my feelings of imposter syndrome. Who was I supposed to look to as a role model? Given these experiences, I find it deeply rewarding to connect with others who are in the early stages of their graduate degree. I may not  have had mentors who looked like me, but I had mentors who challenged me to find my voice. It is not always possible to repay such acts, but you can pay it forward. An honest conversation about the trials and tribulations of impostorism as an ethnic or racial minority can be quite powerful for others struggling with these feelings.

We want to hear from you!

  • What have your experiences been with imposter syndrome?
  • Are there strategies you have found particularly helpful for coping?
  • What are your thoughts on this topic?

Please share your thoughts below in the comments section!

References

Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241-247. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0086006

Cokley, K., McClain, S., Enciso, A.. & Martinez, M. (2013). An Examination of the Impact of Minority Status Stress and Impostor Feelings on the Mental Health of Diverse Ethnic Minority College Students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 41(2), 82-95. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1912.2013.00029.x

Cokley, K., Smith, L., Bernard, D., Hurst, A., Jackson, S., Stone, S., . . . Roberts, D. (2017). Impostor feelings as a moderator and mediator of the relationship between perceived discrimination and mental health among racial/ethnic minority college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(2), 141-154. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cou0000198

Revuluri. S. (2018, October 4). How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Overcome-Impostor/244700.

Wong, K. (2018, June 12). Dealing With Impostor Syndrome When You’re Treated as an Impostor. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/12/smarter-living/dealing-with-impostor-syndrome-when-youre-treated-as-an-impostor.html.

Resources

Below, are some podcasts that may be of interest. We hope you enjoy these and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the topic!

Mentoring Hour for Students of Color Applying to Doctoral Programs
Joy Zelinski Marquez and Farzana Saleem help prospective students think through program considerations that are salient to students of color (e.g., geography, culture and climate) and increase awareness about different types of psychology programs, admissions criteria and opportunities to study multicultural issues. (Web chat recorded May 2016)

Mental Health of High-Achieving Students of Color
Kevin Cokley, PhD, describes his new research on perceived discrimination, impostor feelings, and the mental health of high-achieving students of color. Cokley is director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis, a professor of counseling psychology and African and African diaspora studies and a faculty affiliate of the Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas-Austin. (Recorded December 2014)

Additional podcasts on graduate school, careers and additional hot topics can be found here.


We  hope that you have enjoyed reading the latest ‘CARED Perspectives’ post. Check out these other articles in the series:

Bureaucratic Therapy: The Impact of Doctoral Training on Our Clients

By Kimberly L. Rust, LCSW and Joshua B. Rust, PhD

Otherwise thoughtful policies can sometimes have a detrimental impact on the client-therapist relationship. Prescribed practicums and internships give doctoral students invaluable experience and help standardize an education in psychology across the country. But clients are not organizational roles, and they can suffer when a training period terminates.

I have had a private practice as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 2010, but in 2016 I began a doctoral program in psychology with the hopes of better serving the small town where I live, particularly families with children on the autism spectrum. I have found myself reflecting on the impact that short-term training sites have on clients. In my private practice there are children that I met at the age of five, struggling with kindergarten, who have returned to work through the transition to middle school. These families have told me that they wanted to come back because they knew me.

But things changed when I took up a short-term practicum as a prescribed part of my doctoral program. Such assignments artificially curtail therapeutic relationships. Some safeguards may be put in place, such as not assigning new clients in the last month or so of the student’s time at a site. However, even this is not always enough. For example, while I started seeing a client in December, by the time sufficient trust had been established I was only a month out from having to pass her on to someone else. Although such transitions are handled as carefully as possible, they are still a significant disruption in the client’s therapy, and a side effect of the bureaucratic nature of doctoral student training.

The sociologist, Max Weber, described modern bureaucracy in a way that resonates with my experience as a student clinician moving through a series of temporary roles (1978). Weber described modern bureaucracy as an “impersonal order” that can standardize and increase the efficacy of our institutions (1978, pp.215-16). Such organizations proceed “without regard for persons” in the sense that roles become modular or interchangeable, requiring us to become more responsive to offices than the individuals who happen to occupy them (Weber, 1978, p.975).

Doctoral students move through a series of such interchangeable roles. While this serves the needs of both the student and the site, the difficulty is, of course, that the psychotherapeutic relationship itself resists substitutions of this kind. Psychotherapy is inherently personal and irreducible to the logic of bureaucratic organization. In my private practice, clients have returned years later because they knew me. I had formed a unique relationship with these clients. In medical settings, bureaucracy is less concerning. You do not need to have strong rapport with your doctor to get accurately diagnosed with a physical health problem. However, psychotherapy requires a special type of connection, and therapeutic alliance has been robustly linked with outcomes (Flückiger, Del Re, Wampold, & Horvath, 2018). Although the structure of doctoral training is unlikely to change anytime soon, our field needs to think carefully about how to mitigate the effects of short-term training on the clients we serve.

References
Flückiger, C., Del Re, A. C., Wampold, B. E., & Horvath, A. O. (2018). The alliance in adult
psychotherapy: A meta-analytic synthesis. Psychotherapy relationships that work, 3.
Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. University of
California Press.

Graduate Student Voting Rights: What Do Our Presidential Candidates Think?

The APAGS Committee has proposed an APA Bylaws and Rules change that will allow  for graduate student affiliate members of APA to vote in elections for the President-elect and Members of the Board of Directors, along with bylaws amendments and the distribution of seats on the APA Council of Representatives.

The APAGS Committee is bringing this proposal to Boards and Committees of APA this fall, and to the Board of Directors and the Council of Representatives next year. If the change is approved by Council, and then by the current voting members of APA, approximately 21,000 graduate student members of APA could be eligible to vote in 2020 and beyond.

We asked the five members currently running for APA President-elect the following question:

 “Should APA Graduate Student members be given the privilege to vote on all association matters within APA after one year of membership?”

 Here’s how they responded. You can learn more about the candidates here.

cerbone-armand_tcm7-234790 Armand R. Cerbone, PhD

“I strongly support APAGS in seeking voting privileges.  Having organized graduate representation within my department, I know the importance of enfranchising graduate voices.  As a faculty member introducing a course on homosexuality in 1983, I recruited at my expense a lesbian student to co-teach because we both understood I could not appropriately represent the experience of queer women.  While the future affects all psychologists, it affects psychology students most.  My campaign is about the future of psychology even more than our past.  I will seek the critical input of APAGS in developing a 25/50-year vision plan for psychology.”

chin-jean-lau_tcm7-234777 Jean Lau Chin, EdD

“Graduate students make up a significant portion of our APA membership.  They should have a voice because they are the future of our profession.  As APAGS, they have already demonstrated that their participation in governance has been meaningful and relevant, and that they have been responsible in providing important input on association matters. We need to view the vibrancy of our profession and association as one where we seek and value the perspectives of members along the entire spectrum of their career.  Hence, I support giving graduate students the privilege to vote on association matters including elections after one year of membership.”

hollon-steven_tcm7-234780Steven D. Hollon, PhD

“APA is getting older and has trouble getting students to join and early career professionals to convert. The best way to excite new professionals entering the field is to give them the vote while they are still students and I would not make them wait the year. You join you vote. If we want students to invest in the discipline then we need to invest in them. We secure our future as an organization if we trust our future generations.”

board-shullman_tcm7-211998Sandra L. Shullman, PhD

“Graduate students have an important voice to contribute to APA.  I value their contributions and support their voting and representation.  Voting is an opening invitation that can lead to greater engagement in APA, but we must couple voting with opportunities for leadership training/development; meaningful ways to give feedback to our discipline/profession; and encouragement to support/engage in advocacy, public policy and social justice initiatives.  These experiences, along with the opportunity to vote, can build career-long engagement and commitment to APA’s future.  As APA President, I would look forward to working with APAGS to turn this goal into successful action. www.SandyShullmanForAPAPresident.com  #sandys4apaprez #sandy2020”

whitbourne-susan_tcm7-234784Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD

“As a long-time supporter of the work of APAGS, I am in favor of the proposal to grant voting privileges to graduate students in APA-wide elections. This step would represent an important way to ensure that APA reflects the concerns of those who are entering our discipline and also to provide graduate students with a voice in the future of the association. One of the key components of my presidential platform is that APA needs to reflect the interests of early career psychologists, and therefore this proposal is consistent with my own priorities to keep the association vital and flourishing.”

We thank all candidates for their openness to this proposed seismic shift in APA.

CARED perspectives: So what is this psychology diversity committee all about?

This blog post is a part of the series, “CARED Perspectives,” developed by the APAGS Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity. This series will discuss current events and how these events relate to graduate students in psychology. If you are interested in contributing to the CARED Perspectives series, please contact Lincoln Hill.

Engagement with diversity, cultural, and individual differences has become a core aspect of clinical training, supervision, and research in psychology (American Psychological Association, 2006). In this spirit of proactively interacting with diversity in its varied forms, many psychology departments have created dedicated “diversity committees.” While a name and general scope may be shared, diversity committees take many forms: from a student led forum to address graduate program concerns, to a faculty committee working towards recruiting diverse staff and students (Rogers & Molina, 2006). Diversity committees can be a positive vehicle of change, but also a burden on faculty and students with diverse identities who take on the invisible labor of serving on many such committees, and face greater expectations to do so than are placed on their majority group peers (Vasquez et al., 2006)

To better understand the inner-workings of diversity committees, I gathered the perspectives of four psychology graduate students who served on a diversity committee at their respective institutions. In particular, I asked these students to: reflect on the value in having a departmental diversity committee; to identify what was achieved through their committee’s work; and to share the extent to which student voices guided, were heard, or were marginalized by the fellow committee members. Below I offer a summary of their varied perspectives and some considerations for students and faculty considering developing a diversity committee within their department.

What is the value in having a diversity committee?

  • Dedicated space conducive to making change – a key prerequisite to undertaking any further work
  • Having an avenue for dialogue that doesn’t naturally occur between students, faculty, and staff
  • Ensuring accountability at the department level to operating in a manner consistent with principles of equity and diversity
  • Providing a sense of safety for students who have reservations about coming forward with their concerns
  • Addressing qualitative inclusion of diverse perspectives, experiences, and identities

What was achieved on the committee during your tenure?

  • Making faculty more aware of student concerns
  • Creating professional development opportunities
  • Developing workshops/brown bag lunches in response to current events
  • Inviting speakers with expertise in diversity topics
  • Developing events (e.g., diversity recruitment weekend) and tools (e.g., website re-design) to recruit more students from diverse backgrounds
  • Creating a survey to assess climate, student experiences and needs

How were student voices engaged on the committee?

        Diversity committee formats varied greatly – from student led efforts to faculty committees with one designated student representative. Students on faculty committees indicated varied experiences. One reported receiving respect and useful professional guidance, while another reported not being “truly heard” by faculty. Perhaps as a result of these dynamics, some students reported that creating departmental change through the work of a diversity committee is a slow moving process, which may involve only surface level changes in the beginning. Several students commented on the value of models where they were able to hold separate meetings with their peers to amass a list of students’ perspectives and concerns, which they could report back to the faculty-led diversity committee. One student in particular indicated that this mode is effective because students often feel more comfortable bringing concerns forward to other students, as opposed to faculty.

        While diversity committees are diverse in their form, tasks, operation, and membership, all students acknowledged the value in their existence and several expressed gratitude in being able to advocate for diversity at a higher level. As one student said, “diversity efforts take some trial and error to evolve for the better, but these programs are most valuable when we learn from and correct our mistakes.”

What do you think? We want to hear from you in the comments!

  • Have you been involved in a diversity committee? What the impetus was for establishing this committee? Was your committee initiated by students? Or staff/faculty? Has your committee filled a gap that was there prior to the committee starting up?
  • Have you found that individuals of color and those with other diverse identities have disproportionately taken on this work?
  • What’s your take on this topic?

Acknowledgments:  A huge thank you to the students who shared their experiences for the purpose of this post!

References

American Psychological Association. 2006. Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology (G&P). Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/about/policies/guiding-principles.pdf

Rogers, M. R., & Molina, L. E. (2006). Exemplary efforts in psychology to recruit and retain graduate students of color. American Psychologist, 61(2), 143.

Vasquez, M. J., Lott, B., García-Vázquez, E., Grant, S. K., Iwamasa, G. Y., Molina, L. E., … & Vestal-Dowdy, E. (2006). Personal reflections: Barriers and strategies in increasing diversity in psychology. American Psychologist, 61(2), 157.

Check out previous CARED Perspective posts: