Presidential Column

How Can Clinical Psychology Help Bridge the Gap in a Divided Nation

By Elizabeth A. Yeater, Ph.D.


Greetings

I am truly honored to serve as the President of the Society of Clinical Psychology (SCP).  For those of you who do not yet know me, I am a Fellow of SCP and a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at the University of Miami, where I also serve as the Director of Clinical Training.  Broadly speaking, my career has focused on risk and resilience factors that contribute to youths’ and families’ reactions to stressors and on the development of evidence-based interventions to prevent or reduce mental health problems.

Welcome to the New Year!

As I write this column, we’ve recently closed the door on 2020 (what a year!) and look forward to a better and brighter 2021.  For many of us, the past year has been one of the most stressful and challenging years ever.  Among other things, a worldwide pandemic, extreme political divides, and a reckoning with systemic racism and inequity had a tremendous impact on our daily functioning as clinicians, scientists, educators—and people.  We are still in the process of addressing key issues that came to the forefront last year, and these issues will continue to shape our lives and work well into 2021 and beyond.

As we enter 2021, the Society of Clinical Psychology (SCP) remains committed to working to improve the field of clinical psychology. We have a long year ahead of us, with many tasks to accomplish and new challenges to greet us.  So, as I begin my presidential year, let me offer several themes and goals for 2021—new year’s resolutions, if you will.

One goal for SCP is to foster greater coordination and collaboration within the society and among the multiple Sections of SCP.  The structure of SCP, with eight diverse Sections (e.g., assessment, women, and so on), enables psychologists with shared interests to work together on mutual goals in a focused manner, but it can also create silos that could limit the productivity and visibility of clinical psychology. 

As an example, SCP has a Diversity Committee and also a Section on the Clinical Psychology of Ethnic Minorities (SCP, Section 6).  It becomes challenging to keep track of each group’s activities, and important efforts to promote greater diversity, equity, and inclusion could be splintered and duplicated, rather than coordinated and strong.  We are examining ways to address diversity and equity issues in a more coordinated manner.  The SCP Diversity Committee, together with the Section on the Clinical Psychology of Ethnic Minorities, is working to create a coordinating hub of diversity-related activities, with involvement and representation from each of the SCP Sections.  Greater coordination and co-sponsoring of diversity-related activities within SCP and the Sections would be an important goal.  If you are interested in working on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within SCP, please let me know as we are in the process of recruiting SCPmembers to participate in this overall effort.

Another goal for SCP is to increase the voice and involvement of diverse and early career members.  SCP is a large division of APA, with about 3,000 members, many with established careers. Yet we are greatly underrepresented among early career psychologists (ECPs) and student members, many of whom also come from diverse backgrounds.  ECPs and students are the future of clinical psychology!  So, I’m asking the SCP Section on Students and Early Career Psychologists (Section 10) to help identify students and ECPs to actively serve on SCP committees and to encourage ECPs to become members of SCP as well (via financial incentives, such as free or reduced dues).  SCP can also work with the Section on Students and Early Career Psychology to promote mentorship and other relevant activities more directly.  If you are a student or early career psychologist reading this column and want to become more involved in SCP please let me know!

A third goal is to increase the visibility of SCP and its Sections – and what they have to offer — among the psychology community (and beyond).  I have been a member of SCP for my entire career, yet I only recently became aware of the extensive program of continuing education activities that SCP hosts (with free CEs to members!).  The Society for the Science of Clinical Psychology (Section 3) also hosts an impressive Virtual Clinical Lunch series, with a concerted effort to put forth more diversity-related content from BIPOC scholars.  Now that we are more comfortable with the transition to virtual learning platforms (a bright spot of the pandemic) these webinar resources should be of great value to clinical psychologists, as they are accessible, evidence-based, high quality, and timely.  Also stay tuned for the SCP programming at the upcoming APA convention in August.  It will be offered virtually, and with a very modest registration fee.  And there’s more… Are you aware of all the awards (student, early career, and senior career awards) that SCP sponsors?  Take a few minutes to check our website (see: https://div12.org).  Thus, we need to get the word out about the valuable activities that SCP and its Sections provide – and partner with our Sections to extend our reach.

It will also be useful for SCP to build on and expand the technology and telehealth movement in the science and practice of clinical psychology that was spurred by the COVID pandemic.  Telehealth is one of the silver linings of the pandemic, as it has greatly expanded the reach of mental health services.  We’ve come a long way in a short time, but there is still much to learn and develop – for example, how best to conduct assessments remotely.  Expect to see some programming for the SCP portion of the 2021 APA convention related to technology in clinical practice – both from SCPand its Sections.

Finally, in looking to the future (and on a personal note), I would like to see SCP play a greater role in understanding the impact of disasters on the mental health and well-being of children, youth, and adults, and in efforts to prevent or ameliorate chronic distress that develops in a significant minority of those exposed to such events.  As a clinical psychologist and prevention scientist who works in this area, I am struck by the relative lack of attention given to this important area of mental health need and services.  Yet, 2020 was a banner year for destructive weather-related disasters, with 20 billion-dollar-plus disasters in the U.S. alone.  In addition, 2020 witnessed a record-breaking hurricane season, with 30 named storms (6 of them major hurricanes).  In particular, residents of Louisiana and parts of the US Gulf Coast endured 6 storms this year – in addition to all else that was going on.  These events are occurring more often due to climate change, and this is an important area for clinical psychology to make its mark.  Stay tuned for more on this topic in another column later this year.

In Closing…..

As we begin the new year, I would like to give a big “shout out” to Dr. Jon Comer, who just completed his year as Past President, for all his hard work on behalf of SCP.  I’d also like to thank Dr. Elizabeth Yeater who – as our fearless SCPPresident – let us through the “Pandemic Year” admirably! 

 So, as 2021 unfolds, we have many tasks to accomplish and new challenges to greet us.  But we also have hope. I see a light at the end of the tunnel – and I choose to see that light as sunlight.

Annette M. La Greca, PhD, ABPP

alagreca@miami.edu