Articles & Resources

Society for Health Psychology

By: Tamara Chavez-Strong, MA and Darryl Sweeper, Jr., MA

As chairs of the Society for Health Psychology (SfHP) Student Diversity Council, we plan to use this blog to bring awareness to the importance of diversity as it pertains to diversity in training, diversity on campus, and more specifically diverse experiences. Our vision is to empower graduate students by normalizing grad school experiences while building community; maximizing diverse connections across specializations, countries, and cultures to help break stigmas and barriers; and creating inclusiveness with the purpose of informing diverse communities of health psychologists. By raising awareness of these important topics, we hope to enhance ongoing conversations among trainees about diversity, discrimination, inclusiveness, and social justice.

A recent article by Wiggins-Romesburg and Githens (2018) indicated that despite the rise in diversity training, psychology graduate programs largely focus on preventing legal issues related to discrimination and often overlook the greater meaning of diversity programming. As trainees, this report can elicit various reactions, such as shame, anger, and frustration. We all have our motivations for acknowledging and learning about diversity – and that in itself reflects diversity.

DIVERSITY AND TRAINING. Some might ponder on why there is a great focus on working with diverse populations during our training years. The importance of diversity in psychology training can be overlooked at multiple systemic levels – especially when we, as trainees, are in the process of learning the field, practicing emerging skills, integrating into many clinic and training sites cultures, and balancing our internal stressors (e.g., grad school) with life stressors (again, mostly associated with grad school).

A meta-analysis by Kalinoski et al. (2013) was conducted to increase understanding of diversity training effects by also considering theory and research on training, attitudes, and attitude change with implicit and explicit processes while acknowledging prior attempts to integrate this research. A lack of in-depth evaluations of diversity training interventions by organizations was a factor included in this study. This meta-analysis concluded that diversity training can have beneficial effects and should be included in training curricula.

POWER AND PRIVILEGE. How can future clinical psychologists, researchers, and/or current student trainees make a difference in acknowledging diversity in practice or make a difference in promoting diversity in training programs? This reflective question can have various answers depending on one’s perspectives on diversity, biases, and individual experiences. Nonetheless, our shared identity of being psychology students resonates the common factor of duality we hold: The duality of perceived oppression and privilege.

As health psychologists, we work (or most likely will work) with diverse teams. These teams are inherently hierarchical, with unspoken power structures that differ by clinical culture and situation. Even if a trainee does not self-identify as part of a targeted group, they will experience diverseness and duality/intersectionality of identities when working in teams (e.g., supervisee-supervisor, client-therapist, therapist-multidisciplinary team, etc.).

COMPLEXITY OF IDENTITIES.  Understanding the complexity of our identities in social constructs is important, and understanding one’s own identity in these constructs is valuable. Diversity is defined as an array of identities from visible dimensions of difference to the full spectrum of human differences (Wiggins-Romesburg & Githens, 2018). Intersectionality acknowledges individual differences of diverseness with one’s identity. For example, a single health psychology trainee can hold multiple, diverse, interacting (and often fluid) identities of student, woman, wife, mother, heterosexual, Catholic, and Latina. Acknowledging the complexity of intersectionality brings forth the importance of being aware of diversity throughout our journey toward becoming clinical psychologists.

Below is a target/non-target chart – also known as a power/less power chart – to reflect on what areas do you hold more power or less power.  In training, how often do we reflect on these power differentials while delivering services to those in need?

Hay’s Addressing Model:

COMPETENCY. Practicing cultural competency is a term highly utilized in society. It implies that an individual can become competent with cultural understanding. However, culture is quite complex, and there is a continuum of learning. Cultural humility is another stance on understanding diversity, and it acknowledges that intercultural sensitivity (i.e., being mindful of cultural differences) is something toward which we must all continuously strive; we will never reach an endpoint of being fully “culturally competent” given the diversity of identities and experiences we encounter. Understanding one’s own biases, self-identity, and power dynamics is an example of practicing cultural self-awareness.

Reflection Question:

Who is responsible for promoting diversity and inclusion in training?


Please share your thoughts and suggestions for these blogs via Twitter or Facebook using the #SfhpDiversity. Thank you!

References and Suggested Readings:

Hays, P. A. (2001). Addressing Cultural Complexities in Practice: A Framework for Clinicians and Counselors. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Kalinoski, Z., Steele-Johnson, D., Peyton, E., Leas, K., Steinke, J., & Bowling, N. (2013). A meta-analytic evaluation of diversity training outcomes. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34(8), 1076-1104. doi:10.1002/job.1839

Wiggins-Romesburg, C. A., & Githens, R. P. (2018). The psychology of diversity resistance and integration. Human Resource Development Review, 17(2), 179-198. doi:10.1177/1534484318765843