Tag Archives: Advocacy

Adding your preferred pronouns to your email signature is one of many ways to advocate for and with transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. (Image source: DaveBleasdale on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Signing on for Acceptance: Can Adding Your Gender Pronouns to Your Email Signature Make a Difference?

Adding your preferred pronouns to your email signature is one of many ways to advocate for and with transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. (Image source: DaveBleasdale on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Adding your preferred pronouns to your email signature is one of many ways to advocate for and with transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. (Image source: Dave Bleasdale on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

For many of us, especially those of us who hold more privileged identities, a trip to the doctor might not be enjoyable but we can at least assume we will receive relatively respectful service. However, for individuals who identify as transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC), seeking healthcare can be challenging and at times even dangerous.

According to a study conducted by Lambda Legal:

  • Over one quarter (27%) of TGNC individuals have reported being refused healthcare due to their gender identity.
  • 70% of TGNC people report having experienced explicit discrimination from healthcare professionals, including providers refusing to touch them or using excessive precautions, or blaming the individual for their health status.
  • More than one in five people who identify as TGNC reported experiencing harsh or abusive language from healthcare providers.
  • Nearly 8% of TGNC individuals stated they have experienced physically rough or abusive treatment.
  • TGNC people of color and people who are low-income reporting higher rates of these forms of mistreatment.

These negative interactions with the healthcare system serve as a barrier that prevents TGNC people from receiving sufficient medical treatment, leading to higher rates of preventable illnesses. (For a more personal look at the importance of inclusivity and acceptance in the healthcare setting, check out this video by NYC Health and Hospitals.)

It is clear that there is an urgent need to improve inclusivity for transgender and gender nonconforming people, not only in society at large, but also specifically in the healthcare contexts where we may be working. However, sometimes it can feel daunting to take on something as big as the healthcare system, not to mention society’s attitudes toward gender identity in general.

So what can we do about that as students?

This year healthcare professionals, including psychology students, have worked together to lead several initiatives to address these disparities. For example, Washington, DC recently passed the LGBTQ Cultural Competency Continuing Education Amendment Act that will require cultural competency training for all healthcare providers practicing in Washington DC on topics of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is believed to be the first bill of its kind in the nation to pass, but similar bills have been proposed in other states. Does your state have a bill like this in the works? Connect with your local government and LGBT advocacy organizations to find out!

In another effort that we all can directly participate in, Medical students at the University of Vermont and the Northeast Medical Student Queer Alliance are leading the charge on a simple but powerful way to promote greater awareness and inclusion for TGNC individuals. In honor of LGBTQ Health Awareness Week (Mar. 28-Apr. 1, 2016), they created the hashtag “#pushforpronouns” and are encouraging everyone to add their preferred pronouns into their email signature. (See what kind of traction #pushforpronouns is getting on Twitter.)

My email signature now reads:

“University of Wisconsin – Madison

Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program

APAGS Subcommittee Chair:

Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity


Pronouns: She/her”

By including our preferred pronouns in email signatures, we normalize asking about the pronouns of others and volunteering our own pronouns. This can help create a more inclusive atmosphere for individuals who do identify as TGNC by indicating we are accepting of all gender identities and aware of the importance of using preferred pronouns. The direct presentation of pronouns may help challenge assumptions about the gender binary by encouraging email recipients in our communities and workplaces to think and talk about gender pronouns. In this way a small action, like adding our preferred pronouns to our email signature, may be one step along the pathway to creating a more inclusive and accepting society and healthcare system for all people.

Join us in the #pushforpronouns!

Dr. Anatasia S. Kim is the 2015 recipient of the APAGS Guardian of Psychology Award.

Developing Professional Identities in Legislative Advocacy and Leadership


Dr. Anatasia S. Kim is the 2015 recipient of the APAGS Guardian of Psychology Award.

Dr. Anatasia S. Kim, PhD is the 2015 recipient of the APAGS Guardian of Psychology Award.

By Anatasia S. Kim, PhD

What is the role of legislative advocacy and policy in my capacity as a clinical psychologist? The answer is found in my years of community-based work with children, adolescents, and families. As a graduate student at UCLA some 15 years ago, I never imagined one day lobbying in the Capitol on behalf of the profession and my clients. But this is exactly what brings tremendous excitement, passion, and hope for me today.

I started my clinical career working with at-risk youth in East Los Angeles using brief intervention models to treat behavioral, emotional, and academic problems. Back then I naively believed that therapy alone would be enough. I continued my work with this population and expanded to working with incarcerated youth and immigrant communities. While involved in research efforts in these areas, it became undeniably apparent that a significant, if not majority, of the psychological problems that challenged my clients were in fact a result not of some intrapsychic forces, but rather, a system  failure.

As a graduate student at UCLA some 15 years ago, I never imagined one day lobbying in the Capitol on behalf of the profession and my clients. But this is exactly what brings tremendous excitement, passion, and hope for me today.

The disparities in mental health, access to and quality of care, and other resources ultimately reflect a broken system of socially unjust policies that impair the wellbeing of the communities we serve. Just as one cannot separate the mind from the body, we cannot separate people from their environment, which includes the social system in which they are inextricably embedded. The solution then rests in large part to our capacity and willingness to be personally and professionally accountable to the world around us.  Ultimately, this means that we have to take responsibility for and develop solutions to social problems that plague our communities, particularly those that have and continue to be the most marginalized and oppressed.

As socially conscious and morally responsible professionals, we cannot simply spew out diagnoses and “fix” broken psyches. We can and must do much more. Indeed, we must fully acknowledge that social injustice, cultural apathy, and moral irresponsibility lead to and cause mental illness. We must acknowledge that mental illness is birthed from community violence, broken educational system, intergenerational poverty, and proliferating prisons. Mental illness is also perpetuated in our silence, when we don’t speak up or use our privilege to challenge the status quo.

My responsibilities as a legislative advocate are not only to the profession of psychology, but more importantly, to the clients I serve. The few letters that follow my name give me access and authority to places that my clients don’t have, including a seat at the table where discussions and ultimately decisions about policies can be influenced. In fact then, legislative advocacy is our ethical responsibility and a moral imperative not only as psychologists, but also as citizens who vote and can demand just polices that promote instead of inhibit mental health.

Psychologists have something critical to offer in the social and public policy discourse. Beyond the therapy and classrooms, our commitment to social justice must be earnest and unwavering. As such, we must get involved in our local, state, and national professional organizations and their growing efforts in governmental affairs including the California Psychological Association’s Leadership and Advocacy Conference.

What then is the role of legislative advocacy and leadership for psychologists? For me, it is ultimately about the courage to use my power and privilege to give voice to those without.


Editor’s note: Anatasia S. Kim, Ph.D., Associate Professor at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA, is the 2015 winner of the “Guardian of Psychology” award from the APAGS Advocacy Coordinating Team.  She was nominated by Eric Samuels, a doctoral student from Wright currently interning at Indiana University, and the 2016 APAGS liaison to APA’s Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology.  An earlier version of this article appeared in the newsletter of the Alameda County Psychological Association.

Author bio: Dr. Kim received her B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from UCLA. She is a National Ronald McNair Scholar, recipient of American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship as well as the Okura Mental Health Fellowship. In addition to teaching, she has a private practice in Berkeley specializing in treating adolescents/young adults with anxiety disorders, depression, and neurocognitive deficits using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In recent years, she served as President of the Alameda County Psychological Association (ACPA), member of California Psychological Association’s (CPA) Governmental Affairs Steering Committee, Chair of CPA’s Immigration Task Force, and CPA’s state Diversity Delegate. In addition, she has served on various local boards including Ethnic Health Institute and Berkeley Alliance aimed at addressing educational and health disparities in Alameda County. Finally, recent her research and clinical projects include: program evaluation for school-based interventions; recruitment and retention of ethnic minority students in graduate training; pipeline for advanced degrees in psychology for historically underrepresented students; and cross-disciplinary approaches to working with systems-involved youth and families.



National Die-In Recap

Fellow Advocates for Social Justice,

First, I want to apologize for the interval between the National Die-In and this post. I had two weeks of finals immediately after our Die-In and was focused on that. It is the challenge of being both a student and an advocate for social justice, something I know may of you are familiar with. I also needed some time and distance to reflect on what was a very powerful experience.


That said, the National Die-In was a great success! Our event in Chicago had approximately 50 participants, mostly students and faculty from schools throughout the Chicago region, who attended despite frigid temperatures and snow. The fact that so many attended despite the weather was inspiring. We lay on the pavement in front of City Hall for 16 minutes, representing the 16 bullets shot at Laquan McDonald, while a student read 16 key points from the APA’s Resolution Against Racism and Racial Discrimination. Folks who just happened to be walking by lay down next to us on the cold pavement in support of our cause. One of these individuals, a high school senior, even helped us carry signs back to the school afterward. Others were not as supportive, with one passerby expressing his opinion that we should leave the United States and form our own country. We were also filmed by two local news crews, and I hope to be able to retrieve the footage so that we can share it on social media. Please check out pictures from the Chicago Die-In on our Facebook event page.

Die1 - Chicago

Students participating in the Die-In in front of City Hall in Chicago.

D1 - ChicagoThis has been an inspiring journey for me and I thank you all for your collective efforts in making this happen. We staged a coordinated event at 20 schools, across 12 states, with hundreds of student and faculty participants. You should all be proud of your efforts! Of course, this is just the first step in the #psychologists4blacklives movement and I hope that together we can keep the momentum going. We are planning to be at the APA Convention in August. An even bigger event next year would be awesome. There are so many possibilities. We just need to connect those willing and able to do the hard work that it takes to stage events, with those with the courage to attend them.

Die-In, U of Denver

Students at University of Denver, participating in the Die-In in their school library.

Die In, U of DenverSchools throughout the country uploaded their pictures as well! Die-In participants at Virginia Commonwealth University, Boston College, University of Denver, and the University of North Texas also uploaded their pictures, and these schools were joined by Auburn University with multiple tweets about their Die-Ins. I also received pictures from the University of Oregon’s Die-In. I thought we had it rough with the weather but compared to Boston College we had it easy. The BC Die-In took place on what looked to be at least 6 inches of snow. Thank you so much for those who have already used social media to disseminate news about their events. For those of you who haven’t yet, please upload your pictures to our Facebook event page, Twitter, and any other sites that you use so that we can get maximum exposure for our #psychologists4blacklives Die-Ins. Also, please share this information with your school and local news sources.

Die In, Boston College

Students at Boston College, braving the snow to support the Die-In.

Boston College Die InParticipating Schools:

  • Illinois School of Profession Psychology at Argosy, Chicago
  • Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago
  • University of North Texas
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Chicago Campus
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Washington, DC Campus
  • Chicago Art Institute
  • University of Illinois School of Social Work
  • Adler University
  • Boston College
  • Auburn University
  • Adelphi University
  • Howard University
  • Roosevelt University
  • University of New Haven
  • The New School for Social Research
  • Georgetown University
  • University of Denver
  • University of Hartford
  • University of Oregon
  • National Louis University

In Solidarity,


United Nations Event

Ninth Annual Psychology Day at the United Nations: From Vulnerability to Resilience: Using Psychology to Address the Global Migration Crisis

From the deserts of Syria to the mountains of Central America to the coast of Thailand, the United Nations High Commission estimates that there are more refuges and internally displaced people today than at any time since World War II.  Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has described this not as a crisis of migration, but as a crisis of solidarity.  On April 29th, hundreds of psychologists, crisis workers and planners from academia, nongovernmental organizations, and transnational organizations from around the globe gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to discuss psychology’s contribution to the migration crisis.

Social justice and human rights were at the heart of this meeting, the latest in an annual series of U.N. Psychology Days.  This series has served to highlight the relevance of our field to the world’s most pressing problems, a relevance that was highlighted in opening and closing speeches by the co-hosts, the Ambassadors to the U.N. from El Salvador and Palau, two nations facing very different types of migration-related crises.  In a series of panels in between these speakers, the presenters focused on increasing attention to, and awareness of, the impact of forced migration on youth and children, and the importance of cultural context in understanding and ameliorating the impact of the migration crisis.

United Nations Event

  • The first panel focused on the role of cultural integration in the process of resettlement. Refugees and migrants find themselves in new and often very different cultures from the ones they left, and obstacles to integration may deprive them of opportunities to succeed – while depriving the welcoming nations from the opportunity to gain advantage from the skills, knowledge, and diversity of immigrants.  The panelists pointed to various models and approaches for the cultural integration of migrants, ranging from settlement houses to various modes of psychological crisis integration that can help ease the process of cultural integration.
  • The experiences, and unique challenges for migrant children and youth were the focus of the second panel, which highlighted the importance of supporting the needs, rights and well-being of minors who have rarely made a choice, themselves, to enter the process of migration. A resilience-focused approach was described by the panel as being paramount to understanding the impact of the process on this survivor population.  Other presenters focused on the impacts to mental health of the refugee journey, and highlighted the lack of mental health services available to minors, the obstacles to their accessing the services that do exist, and the role of language, culture, separation, and resilience in these young survivors.

Following the presentations, participants gathered for a less formal reception, where panelists, aid workers, psychologists – and students – could discuss the issues of the day, and form new relationships based on common interest and a dedication to advancing the role of psychology and mental health in addressing one of the world’s most pressing problems.

As a student, and a member of APAGS, UN Psychology Day was an uplifting experience: though the issues we discussed were challenging, seeing the body that represents the world’s nations put psychology at the heart of its discussion of those issues was inspiring, as was the opportunity to meet so many people who are working passionately to address and resolve the migration crisis.  Next year, the UN will host its tenth annual psychology day – I hope to see you there!

Samira PaulSamira Paul is completing her second year as a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy, Washington DC.  She is the Diversity Chair for the District of Columbia’s Psychological Association, and the Advocacy Chair for the Maryland Psychological Association Graduate Students.

It’s Time to Tell Congress We Need Fairer Graduate Student Loans

Once the thrill of being accepted into a graduate program wears off, the reality of how to finance graduate school sets in. Right now we have an opportunity to make our voices heard and cut unnecessary costs quite a bit.


What’s the issue? For nearly 50 years, both undergraduate and graduate students were eligible for the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan Program with the goal of making all levels of post-secondary education accessible to students with financial need. In 2012, however, changes in the Budget Control Act eliminated eligibility for graduate students. In other words, graduate student borrowers could no longer get subsidized loans, like Stafford loans. As a student taking out these loans, your interest is now accruing from day 1.

This change has increased the cost of borrowing significantly and may be putting graduate study out of reach for many students with financial need, especially underrepresented groups. We’ve reported elsewhere on our latest data about psychology graduate student debt. As a result of increased costs, 75% of graduates delay saving for the future, 67% delay saving for retirement, and 57% delay purchasing a home (Stamm et al, 2015). Similarly, graduates may delay starting small businesses like independent practices as a result of their debt burdens. (Additional background is here.)

At the same time, the United States faces numerous health shortages and research voids, and so our choice is often to meet these national needs is to attend graduate school, despite the costs.

What’s our opportunity to act?  In December 2015, Representative Judy Chu, Democrat from the 27th District of California, introduced legislation that would restore the eligibility of graduate students for the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan Program.

Representative Chu’s legislation would amend the Higher Education Act to restore the eligibility of graduate students to the Subsidized Loan Program, and lessen the significant debt burden that many students incur while pursuing advanced degrees.

APA is calling upon graduate students, educators, psychologists, and supporters to take immediate action.

What can I do? 

  1. Click here to tell Congress to support graduate students by asking your representative to cosponsor H.R. 4223.
  2. Fill out your contact information and our system will generate an email to your Representative today, asking them to cosponsor H.R. 4223, “the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act,” (POST GRAD Act).
  3. Add a personal note or story to the letter. If you need to overcome writer’s block, read this veteran’s story about his advocacy for bringing back the subsidy.
  4. When you’re done, post about your advocacy efforts on social media and share the link to this blog post with at least five people.

This legislation is an important step toward ensuring students have access to graduate level study, so take action now! Send a message to your Representative and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4223.  

Editor’s note: APAGS is extremely grateful to the Education Advocacy Team at APA for their efforts in getting this bill on Congress’s radar, drafting our support language, and mobilizing people in person and electronically.  Now it’s your turn!