Winter 2021 Presidential Address

19 Mar 2021 11:45 AM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

Presidential Address 

Cindy McGeary, Ph.D.

University of Texas health San Antonio

  • It is with much excitement (and some anxiety) that I begin my Presidency for the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology (SSCP). In my first Presidential Column, I would like to thank our Past-President, Joanne Davila. Joanne was President during a difficult year for SSCP with the COVID pandemic, police brutality highlighting continued structural and systemic racism, the War on Science, political unrest, and the passing of Scott Lilienfeld. Throughout this all, Joanne was an admirable leader and mentor. I believe she took harsh criticism with grace and continued to steer SSCP in the right direction. I look forward to her continued guidance throughout the upcoming year. I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank those individuals who served on the Board over the last year. The Board was faced with making challenging decisions. Nevertheless, everyone worked well together, communicated often, and showed one another kindness and respect. I’m very lucky to have gotten to work with these professionals. Our out-going Board members include Carolyn Becker, Past-President, Bob Klepac, Division 12 Representative, Katie Baucom, Member-at-Large, Joya Hampton-Anderson, Diversity Committee Representative, and Ana Rabasco, Student Representative. I would also like to formally welcome our new Board members. Our newest Board members include, Marisol Perez, President-Elect, Shari Steinman, Division 12 Representative, Sarah Hope Lincoln, Member-at-Large, Lauren Khazem, Diversity Committee Representative, and Rachel Walsh, Student Representative. Thank you all so much for volunteering your time and service! It is through your commitment that SSCP will continue to work toward shared goals.

    I’d like to use this opportunity to outline some of my goals for this upcoming year.  I am hoping for a relatively uneventful year compared to last year, a year full of progress with much needed healing and growth.

    One goal that I have for the upcoming year is to continue to move SSCP toward greater inclusion and diversity. Under the leadership of Joanne, the Board and SSCP made tremendous gains toward this goal. The Diversity Committee played a huge role in making suggestions and providing invaluable guidance. Over the last few months, by working closely with our Diversity Committee, SSCP implemented the following to address racial bias, elevate diverse voices, and promote anti-racism in clinical science and practice:


    • The permanent addition of a Diversity Liaison position on the SSCP Board.
    • The Diversity Committee developed twitter content for the SSCP Twitter account.
    • The Diversity Committee is hosting a SSCP Psychology Blog to explore systematic inequality in clinical psychology.
    • The Virtual Clinical Lunch (VCL) Series continues with a focus to promote diverse speakers and diversity-related content. A committee of SSCP members was organized to review and approve content for future VCL Series.
    • Through our recent fundraising campaign, the addition of SSCP poster awards, dissertation awards, and a fourth Varda Shoham Clinical Scientist Training Initiative award to encourage research focusing on diversity topics or conducted by BIPOC scholars.
    • The posting of reflection questions on the listserv to assist SSCP members in developing strategies to become anti-racist in the areas of teaching, supervision, research, and clinical care.
    • The addition of readings on racism and anti-racism to our website.

On January 6th, a demographic survey went out to all SSCP members. This survey is similar in content to a survey that was sent to our members in 2016. It will allow SSCP to gauge the representation of our membership by allowing us to compare past and current membership to ensure that we, as an organization, are recruiting and retaining BIPOC scholar membership. The survey is a starting point for SSCP to examine the makeup of its membership. Based upon the results of this study, the Board will work with the Diversity Committee and SSCP members more broadly to brainstorm ways to increase BIPOC membership.

SSCP continues to work with the leaders of the Academy, Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology (CUDCP), the Council of Training Councils (CCTC), Association for Psychological Science (APS), and the Coalition for the Advancement and Application of Psychological Science (CAAPS) to explore ways our individual organizations can work together to promote science in psychology including anti-racism efforts. As one of the SSCP CAAPS Committee Liaison, I am participating in CAAPS Anti-Racism meetings. These meetings will likely occur on a monthly basis and focus on ways our organizations can share resources and work together on anti-racism efforts. Additionally, SSCP has partnered with APS to develop the Psychological Science Career Mentorship Match. This is a directory to help match students with professionals working in a variety of settings.

Another goal for the upcoming year is to promote more civility on the listserv. Some of the communications over this last summer were unproductive as I am sure many of you would agree. It was unfortunate to see needed conversations about psychological science and diversity and inclusion turn personal. Further, the admission that some members did not feel safe to express their own opinions was more than a little concerning. This is particularly true for our student and early career members. Porath and Pearson report (2013) that individuals who have experienced professional incivility report decreased commitment to an organization. Additionally, incivility can lead to decreases in engagement, creativity, teamwork, sharing of ideas, and innovation (Porath, 2016).  I know that civility on this listserv is not a new debate (although this term may not have been used); however, it needs to continue to be a topic of importance. The purpose of the listserv is to share thoughts and ideas in a safe community of scholars…all scholars. I am not naïve. That certainly does not mean that all need to agree or get along 100% of the time. In fact, our discourse (including our disagreements) moves science forward and allows for perspective-taking and the sharing of new ideas. It is vital to SSCP! However, there should be some rules for respectful behavior. According to Price-Mitchell (2012), “the psychological elements of civility include self-awareness, self-control, empathy, and respect.” I believe these four elements are needed on the listserv to promote safety for all members to share their thoughts and opinions. We are better as an organization when all feel that their voices will be heard. After this summer, the Board decided to examine our listserv policies. Katie Baucom and Tom Olino sent an email to the listserv asking for member volunteers to serve on a Listserv Policies Committee. The charge of this committee will be to help develop a survey that all members will be asked to take anonymously, review and summarize the results, and make recommendations to the Board for changes/additions to the policy. We are still looking for volunteers to collaborate on this important project. If you feel strongly about improving listserv policy, please consider volunteering!

Finally, my last goal includes the overarching goal of SSCP, to promote clinical science. The purpose of SSCP as stated on our webpage “is to affirm and continue to promote the integration of the scientist and the practitioner in training, research, and applied endeavors.” There have been a lot of discussions over the course of the year about how that might be best accomplished, and many thoughts on how individuals might tackle the promotion of clinical science while also including the communities most impacted and who have not previously been included in that research. Indeed, promotion of clinical science is a never-ending goal, the importance of which self-evident to anyone who has watched our government address the COVID pandemic. We truly are experiencing a War on Science. Morris (2020) appropriately notes that the best way to address misinformation and growing disdain for science is through development of scientific policy, honesty, transparency in communication and scientific cooperation. There is an abundance of misinformation and conspiracy theories fueling an attack on evidence-based science. Even if we have very different opinions about how the science should be conducted, we as researchers and clinical scientists should be able to agree on one thing… that the science itself is important. We should be able to agree that the scientific method of answering our questions is undeniably crucial especially during a time when some are more willing to believe in conspiracies and information gathered through Facebook. It becomes very important that we are consuming and disseminating the science in ways that are understandable and digestible to the public. It is also important that we don’t give into “pseudoscience” and that the treatments available to those in need of mental health services are evidence-based and grounded in scientific inquiry. This has always been a central focus of SSCP and will continue to be so under my presidency.

I would like to end this column just by stating what an honor it is to serve in the role of President. Even though these seem like scary times with growing uncertainty, what a wonderful time to get involved to improve the lives of others. The SSCP membership is filled with brilliance and passion. This makes me look forward to the upcoming year and what it has in store. I am so appreciative to Joanne Davila and Carolyn Becker as well as the entire SSCP Board. Their guidance, passion, and thoughtfulness has led SSCP toward greater inclusion and diversity. And, while there is always more that can be done, a foundation has been laid that will help future presidents to do the same. 

References:

Morris, R.D. (2020). The two trillion dollar barn: science, prevention, and the lessons of disaster. Journal of Public Health Policy, 45, 245-251.

Porath, C. (2016). The hidden toll of workplace incivility. McKinsey Quarterly (December 14, 2016). www.mckinsey.com.

Porath, C., & Pearson, C. (2013). The price of incivility. Harvard Business Review91(1-2), 114-121.

Price-Mitchell, M. (2012). Teaching civility in an F-word society. Psychology Today (June 23, 2012). www.psychologytoday.com.