Diversity

The Clinical Science Area at MSU is committed to understanding and promoting mental health in an increasingly diverse society. To train our students as culturally responsive clinical scientists, we have integrated a Cultural Responsivity approach (defined below) into our coursework, research, and clinical training. 

While we have been attuned to issues of diversity for many years, in the past five years, we have made important progress in modifying our curriculum and research and clinical training to facilitate the growth of our students in this area. Most recently, in May 2019, we held a retreat to discuss and modify our coursework in order to heavily emphasize cultural responsivity throughout our curriculum. This followed two, multi-day consultations with Dr. Karen Suyemoto (UMass, Boston) in 2014 and 2018 to evaluate and make suggestions for changes in our curriculum and training in order to improve our cultural responsivity approach.

Through these experiences, we have developed and adopted a definition of Cultural Responsivity for our program comprised of the following elements:

  1. Active integration of ethnocultural, racial, and intersectional responsiveness
  2. Attention to issues of systemic power and privilege
  3. Attention to distributive justice
  4. Attention to procedural and relational justice

Our specific goals for our students are for them to develop the following skills: (1) recognition of cultural variation in causes and expression of mental illness and psychopathology, and (2) the ability to interact successfully as a professional with individuals from diverse backgrounds; as well as the elements articulated above (i.e., a-d) in research and clinical training.

Below, we highlight some of our faculty research on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, as well as relevant area activities. Please note, however, that this list is not exhaustive, as many didactics and training activities are included in our coursework and practica as well. We also include below program policy and position statements on important justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. All of our program position statements are reviewed regularly by Clinical Science Area program members to ensure that they reflect current state-of-the-science and clinical and ethical practice.

  • Policies Related to Training Clinical Scientists to Serve a Diverse Public

    Our program faculty, students, and staff are united in our commitment to uphold the aspirations articulated in the APA Multicultural Guidelines: “To recognize and understand that as cultural beings, psychologists hold attitudes and beliefs that can influence their perceptions of and interactions with others as well as their clinical and empirical conceptualizations. As such, psychologists strive to move beyond conceptualizations rooted in categorical assumptions, biases, and/or formulations based on limited knowledge about individuals and communities” (APA, 2017). We further recognize that psychological science, including clinical science, has historically excluded the perspectives of those with less power, privilege, and status, which may create personal and professional “blind spots” for working with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Therefore, our training ensures that graduate students are provided the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to work effectively with members of the public who embody intersecting demographics, attitudes, beliefs, and values. We believe the provision of an equitable, supportive, and inclusive environment for all clients, faculty, students, and staff is foundational to our training mission.

    In support of our mission, our program provides opportunities for students to examine how their own attitudes, beliefs, and values may affect their professional competencies in treating members of the public. In recognition of the fact that integrating personal beliefs and values with professional competence is a developmental process, supervisors work together with students to identify instances when it may not be in the client’s and student’s best interest to work together. Ultimately, however, students cannot choose to avoid working with specific client populations or refuse to develop professional competencies solely on the basis of the students’ attitudes, beliefs, or values and students may be assigned to treat clients who challenge their perspectives, experiences, or beliefs. In these instances, we support students in finding a belief- or value-congruent path that allows them to work in a professionally competent manner with such clients. Failure to meet levels of competence set forth for serving a diverse public are addressed like other instances in which professional core competencies are not met.

    Adapted, with permission, from the statement written by Pennsylvania State University's Clinical Area Equity Committee.

     

  • Position Statement on Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD)

    Authored by Members of the Clinical Science Area Program

    8/25/2021

    The opinions expressed here are the views of the faculty of the Clinical Science Area and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Michigan State University.

    The MSU Clinical Science Area, as a program, commits to respecting the individuality, autonomy, and authenticity of all transgender and gender diverse people. We acknowledge the ways that psychology contributes to harm in the lives of transgender and gender diverse people, such as the historical ways that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association has upheld stigmatizing views that conflate gender identity with mental illness.1,2 This influence still lingers today as the DSM is used by some as a reason to deny rights and protections to transgender and gender diverse people.1-4  We recognize that our field and individuals within it continue to actively and passively contribute to the harm and oppression of transgender and gender diverse people.

    Our program intends to make clear our views on Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) and gender identity change psychological therapies - two efforts disguised as science which have been used to stigmatize and harm trans communities.

    We join the Coalition for the Advancement and Application of Psychological Science (CAAPS) in standing against the use of ROGD (see https://drive.google.com/file/d/124WFEKjeDSRggi4-5mxgQle7SWXUoybs/view?usp=sharing), and we thank Dr. NiCole Buchanan (steward and author of the position statement) and CAAPS for their outstanding leadership in developing this important statement. Our program recognizes that ROGD has no scientific legitimacy and is harmful to transgender and gender diverse people. ROGD is not a diagnosis in the DSM 5th Edition or the International Classification of Disease 11th Revision, and there is no reputable scientific evidence supporting the concept.5,6 Thus, promoting ROGD is directly counter to clinical psychological science and its foundations in empiricism. The promotion of ROGD also supports discrimination and oppression, as mental health professionals have misused their positions and used ROGD to perpetuate misinformation about transgender and gender diverse people and promote anti-trans policies and legislation (see Texas 2021 legislative hearing6) that have direct and dire consequences for the lives, health, and wellbeing of transgender and gender diverse people, their families, and their communities. The lives, experiences, and identities of transgender and gender diverse people should never be subjected to debate.

    Regarding gender identity change therapies, attempts to enforce someone’s sex assigned at birth (aka conversion or gender identity change efforts) have been denounced by major mental health organizations (see American Psychological Association statement7).  Psychological treatments predicated on ROGD or gender identity change therapies are harmful to clients, counter to affirming and ethical psychological practice, and contribute to minority stress that has highly detrimental effects on mental health.8-11

    Moving forward, the MSU Clinical Science Area will not support training that promotes ROGD principles and will strive to be mindful of the real-world implications of our research and training. We will educate students on the lack of scientific evidence for ROGD and its implications for the psychological health and wellbeing of transgender and gender diverse persons. We commit to teaching and disseminating the ways in which its use harms transgender and gender diverse people, as well as our ethical responsibilities to protect the public from harm, such as that caused by individuals promoting this concept. We encourage our faculty and students to use this information to combat anti-trans rhetoric, policies, and harmful practices and to promote trans-affirming psychological practice across clinical psychological science.

    References

    1. Ashley, F. (2019). The misuse of gender dysphoria: Toward greater conceptual clarity in transgender health. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 1-6. DOI:10.1177/174569161987298.
    2. dickey, l. m. (2020). History of gender identity and mental health. In E. Rothblum (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Sexual and Gender Minority Mental Health (pp. 25-32). Oxford University Press.
    3. Puckett, J. (2019). An ecological approach to therapy with gender minorities: Special issue commentary. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 26, 254-269. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpra.2019.08.002
    4. Winters, K., & Ehrbar, R. D. (2010). Beyond conundrum: Strategies for diagnostic harm reduction. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 14, 130-138. DOI: 10.1080/19359701003609922
    5. Restar, A. J. (2020). Methodological critique of Littman’s (2018) parental-respondents accounts of “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49, 61-66. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-1453-2
    6. Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs (2021). https://tlcsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=49&clip_id=15693
    7. American Psychological Association (2021). APA Resolution on Gender Identity Change Efforts. https://www.apa.org/about/policy/resolution-gender-identity-change-efforts.pdf
    8. Rider, G. N., & Tebbe, E. A. (2021) Anti-trans theories. In A. E. Goldberg & G. Beemyn (Eds.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Trans Studies (Vol. 1, pp. 39-43).
    9. James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality. https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS-Full-Report-Dec17.pdf
    10. Testa, R. J., Habarth, J., Peta, J., Balsam, K., & Bockting, W. (2015). Development of the Gender Minority Stress and Resilience Measure. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 2(1), 65-77. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000081
    11. White Hughto, J. M., Reisner, S. L., & Pachankis, J. E. (2015). Transgender stigma and health: A critical review of stigma determinants, mechanisms, and interventions. Social Science & Medicine, 147, 222-231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.11.010
  • Diversity Committee

    The Diversity Committee, chaired by two graduate students and one faculty member, holds monthly meetings for students and faculty in the program who wish to engage in structured discussions and projects related to diversity and social justice. Each year the committee invites outside speakers to present to the program on advocacy and diversity-related research topics. The Diversity Committee is also responsible for conducting regular climate surveys and presenting findings and recommendations to the program for how to promote an inclusive climate and grow in the areas of diversity, cultural responsivity and social justice.

    In the past few years, we have focused on issues of race and racism, socioeconomic status, health disparities, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities as they relate to the training of clinical scientists and the research, treatment, and assessment of psychological disorders. Discussions of relevant articles on diversity topics, invited lectures, and workshops on cultural sensitivity are used to address these topics.

    Some example activities over the last several years include:

    • Organized a semester-long series of presentations and workshops on anti-Black racism, including presentations by each research lab on the history of anti-Black racism in their field. Outside speakers included:
      • Richla Davis, M.Ed., LCPC who gave a workshop on using an anti-racist lens as a therapist
      • Kim Case, Ph.D. who gave a talk on social justice pedagogy
      • Jennifer Gomez, Ph.D., who gave a research presentation on cultural betrayal trauma among Black young adults
    • Presentation by the APA Advocacy Office about ways psychologists can become involved in advocacy on a state and national level
    • Engaged in outreach to advertise our clinical services to local organizations and agencies serving diverse populations within the greater Lansing community.
    • Presentation about key diversity and social justice-related terminology and core principles, the role of psychology in social justice, costs of privilege for privileged group members, and leveraging privilege in social justice. In-depth discussion about how clinical science and social justice can coexist, and the relevance of social justice for clients, therapists, and researchers.
    • A "Privilege Walk" activity to identify both obstacles and benefits one might experience and recognize how power and privilege can affect our lives even when we are not aware that they are happening.
    • Group discussions among research labs to identify ways of conducting culturally responsive research with existing datasets or resources within each lab.
  • Research Highlights

    The Clinical Science Area at MSU is committed to understanding and promoting mental health in an increasingly diverse society. Our faculty and students believe that an enhanced understanding of all types of diversity is critical for the development of our individual students and faculty as clinical scientists and professionals in the field and have made significant strides integrating cultural responsivity into our coursework, research, and clinical training. Our program subscribes to an inclusive definition of diversity which includes race, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, disability, geographic region, and other important identities (e.g., weight status).

    Alytia Levendosky and Anne Bogat study intimate partner violence (IPV) and its effects on women and young children. Their interests in diversity include understanding how social class affects IPV, whether there are ethnic/racial differences in IPV experiences, and how ethnic/racial discrimination may affect a woman’s medical care both pre- and postnatally. 

    Alex Burt studies the effect of genotype-environment interactions in response to risky and protective environmental experiences. She has a particular interest in the ways which impoverished and disadvantaged neighborhood contexts (built, social, and toxicant) moderate the etiology of youth psychopathology. Most recently, she is also examining the ways that historical structural racism shaped these neighborhood conditions.

    Brooke Ingersoll studies the development, dissemination, and implementation of community-viable interventions for children on the autism spectrum, with a focus on underserved families.

    Amy Drahota conducts mental and behavioral health services and dissemination and implementation science research focusing on the development and testing of organizational interventions that promote the adoption, implementation, and sustainment of evidence-based practices for individuals on the autism spectrum, especially for individuals on the autism spectrum who are underrepresented within laboratory-based autism research. The ultimate goal of these research activities is to help improve the quality of life for autistic individuals and their families.

    Kelly Klump's laboratory focuses on understanding the etiology of eating disorders, with a special focus on sex (assigned at birth) differences and the ways in which genes, hormones, and contextual (e.g., disadvantage, food insecurity) and social (e.g., parenting) factors contribute to eating disorders.

    Lee June studies factors affecting graduation and retention rates among college students (graduation gaps), religion and spirituality with a special focus on African Americans and the African American church, and how to design programs and services to effectively serve students of color.

    Jason Moser's recent research focuses on understanding the impact of anxiety on cognitive function with a special focus on sex differences and the role of ovarian hormones across development.

    Katy Thakkar studies the mechanisms of symptoms of schizophrenia and related illnesses and, in recent studies, has been working to understand how cultural and contextual factors (e.g., discrimination, economic and social disadvantage, etc.) bear on these mechanistic interpretations. In a newer line of work, she is exploring multi-systemic factors that provide a buffer against distressing psychotic-like experiences in at-risk individuals.

  • Admissions Interview Day Diversity and Student Life Panel

    Our program hosts a Diversity and Student Life panel discussion during our Graduate Admissions Interview Day.

    Graduate students organize and facilitate the panel discussion about diversity in our clinical program, at MSU, and in the surrounding community. Applicants are encouraged to ask questions about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion issues (e.g., “What is the climate for Asian students in this program?”, “Are there sufficient numbers of Black students to conduct my research on depression with this population?”, “Are there opportunities to conduct therapy with Spanish-speaking clients in the clinic?”). The panel also addresses general questions about life in graduate school (e.g., "What is a typical day for a graduate student in this program?", "What is the work-life balance like?", "What are some fun activities to do around the East Lansing area?"). Post-interview evaluations have shown that applicants appreciated the open forum to discuss these issues and learn about the high value our program places on diversity, diversity training, and student life issues.

  • MSU Project 60/50