The Psychology of Black Lives

February is Black History Month in the United States. This important celebration commemorates the history, culture, and evolving status of African Americans.  Struggles for justice continue to define that world.  Tragic events in Ferguson, Cleveland, and elsewhere have shown that equal treatment under the law is far from guaranteed.   The daily stresses—and dangers—of growing up Black in America have become part of the national conversation, as we look for solutions to bridge the growing racial divide in our country.

This spring, APA Books publishes two books that contribute to the dialogue.

Helen A. Neville, Miguel E. Gallardo, and Derald Wing Sue question the assertion that we truly live in a “post-racial” society in The Myth of Racial Color Blindness: Manifestations, Dynamics, and Impact.

color blindness

Some might point to the election and re-election of a Black president as conclusive evidence of the progress made in race relations, but others are not so sanguine.

In this volume, top scholars in psychology, education, sociology, and related fields dissect the concept of color-blind racial ideology (CBRI), the widely-held belief that skin color does not affect interpersonal interactions, and that interpersonal and institutional racism therefore no longer exists in American society.

Alvin N. Alvarez, Christopher T.H. Liang, and Helen A. Neville look closely at what it means to experience racism in The Cost of Racism for People of Color: Contextualizing Experiences of Discrimination.

cost of racism

(forthcoming Spring 2016)

Social psychologists have long been interested in the perpetrators — historical, ideological, and individual — of racist beliefs and behaviors. But researchers have spent far less time investigating the experiences of the targets of racism.

In this book, leading scholars examine the felt experience of being the target of racism, with a focus on mental and physical health — as the result of particular racist encounters as well as across the lifespan — in addition to group contexts such as education and the workforce.

February Releases From APA Books!

APA Books will publish the following titles in February:


intro consulting psychAn Introduction to Consulting Psychology

Working With Individuals, Groups, and Organizations

by Rodney L. Lowman

Consulting psychology is rapidly growing yet sometimes underappreciated discipline whose goal is to apply psychological science to consultation at three levels: individual, group, and organizational. This foundational volume of the Fundamentals of Consulting Psychology series translates theory and research into a concise, easy-to-read introduction to the field. Case examples help to illustrate the rewarding and important work of consulting psychologists, which includes coaching individuals, assessing and improving work group dynamics, and enhancing organizational systems and processes.



ethnic minority childrenPsychoeducational Assessment and Intervention for Ethnic Minority Children

Evidence-Based Approaches

Edited by Scott L. Graves, Jr., and Jamilia J. Blake

This invaluable book is a comprehensive resource for psychologists and counselors who assess and intervene with ethnic minority children. Beginning with an historical tour of psychoeducational assessment related to ethnic minorities, the book situates basic areas of assessment—such as neuropsychology, social/emotional assessment, and early childhood development assessment—within an ethnic minority context. It then offers evidenced-based strategies for improving the educational performance and well-being of ethnically diverse students.



supervision feministSupervision Essentials for the Feminist Psychotherapy Model of Supervision

by Laura S. Brown

This book offers a theoretically-grounded yet practical approach to supervision based on the principles of feminist psychotherapy. Feminist therapy supervision challenges trainees and supervisors alike to engage with difficult questions about bias, and ways in which power distributes itself in the contexts of education, psychotherapy, and supervision itself.  Chapters examine the impact of systemic hierarchies, and stress the importance of thinking critically about dominant cultural norms in psychotherapy and elsewhere.  Includes a synthesis of the literature on feminist therapy and theory, as well as case examples and practical advice for common supervision problems.




human-animal interactionThe Social Neuroscience of Human–Animal Interaction

Edited by Lisa S. Freund, Sandra McCune, Layla Esposito, Nancy R. Gee, and Peggy McCardle

In this wide-ranging and fascinating volume, an international and cross-disciplinary group of authors seek to understand human–animal interaction (HAI) by applying research in the neurobiology and genetics that underlie human social functioning.  Chapters examine HAI from evolutionary and developmental perspectives, and weigh the implications of HAI research for animal welfare. Clinical applications include animal-assisted therapies for people with disabilities, acute or chronic health conditions, and social or emotional difficulties.

Being Your Own Valentine: On Self-Satisfaction and Well-Being

me4by Katie ten Hagen

This time of year tends to be a time of conflicting messages. Just last week, the Washington Post ran an article about how loneliness is a health hazard that puts people at “greater risk for heart attacks, metastatic cancer, Alzheimer’s and other ills” (Nutt, 2016). A great lead-in to Valentine’s Day, that. But also this year, several surveys have shown that most single people are not dreading Valentine’s Day—in fact, some are even looking forward to it. One survey, conducted by OpenTable (a restaurant reservation service), found that 42% of singles are not only not dreading Valentine’s Day but plan to dine out, either on their own or with platonic friends or family, on the big day.

To me, the idea that this news is so surprising that it merited a study is almost more depressing than the thought of spending Valentine’s Day alone.  But I shouldn’t be surprised. Our culture, for better or worse, stresses social relationships to an extreme. For those not celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic partner, society has coined terms like Galentine’s Day, to celebrate platonic love between friends, and to emphasize that we are not, in fact, alone.

Humans are, by and large, social creatures. But being alone does not have to mean being lonely, as the singles from these studies seem to know and the Washington Post makes sure to point out. They focus instead on the idea of self-satisfaction, and creating well-being within oneself.

It’s no secret that if we can feel fulfilled on our own, without needing the approval of others, we will almost certainly be more at peace with ourselves and our lives. What’s a little more mysterious is how to get there. A currently popular approach to this is mindfulness.

well-beingIn her book Creating Well-Being: Four Steps to a Healthier, Happier Life (2013), Dr. Pamela Hays identifies the components of well-being as “positive emotions, mental and physical health, healthy relationships, and a sense of purpose,” and the “well-being path as one that involves healthy, helpful ways of thinking and behaving” (p. 77). Of course, that’s easier said than done; we are all prone to “thinking traps,” and Valentine’s Day can be an especial trigger for these. “I’ll never find someone,” “No one will ever love me,” “I should be skinnier/healthier/better-looking,” etc.  Mindfulness would call this your “inner critic,” and of course it gets in the way of all of those components to well-being, because it’s not a healthy, helpful way of thinking.

There is of course more to creating well-being than simply recognizing your thinking traps. And mindfulness does not necessitate being alone—you can be mindful in and about a relationship, as well. But it is about being attuned to yourself and your emotions, and accepting them without judgment. It’s about communication, with a partner or with yourself and your own emotions. It attempts to allow us to make peace with our feelings rather than let them overwhelm us. It can be about noticing and taking joy from the small things; it is stopping to smell the roses. It is about creating well-being and satisfaction within yourself, despite whatever outside circumstances you can’t control—like whether you have a date for Valentine’s Day.

Perhaps a greater sense of personal well-being is part of why single people are not dreading Valentine’s Day this year. Or perhaps they’re just sick of pink hearts and commercialization.


Nutt, A. E. (2016). Loneliness grows from individual ache to public health hazard. Retrieved from:

OpenTable. (2016). OpenTable Survey Finds Singles Aren’t Dreading Valentine’s Day [Press Release]. Retrieved from

Hays, P. (2013). Creating Well-Being: Four Steps to a Happier, Healthier Life. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Exciting News at APA Books!

dictionaryWe are pleased to announce that in January, the APA Dictionary of Psychology, Second Edition, was named the Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2015!

A review of the dictionary was previously published in Choice’s October issue, in which it said, “Thorough but concise definitions remain the norm in this update, and the challenge of encompassing the diverse fields of psychology in a single volume makes this a triumph of cooperative composition and outstanding editing.”

Choice’s January 2016 issue highlighted the list of winners and best in scholarly titles.

Ron Miller: On Abnormal Psychology

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with APA Books authors and editors. For this interview, Mary Lynn Skutley, the Editorial Director of APA Books, interviewed Dr. Ron Miller, of Saint Michael’s College.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.


Ronald B. Miller, PhD, is professor of psychology at Saint Michael’s College where he has also directed the master’s program in clinical psychology for 30 years.

He is the author of Not So Abnormal Psychology (2015), Facing Human Suffering: Psychology and Psychotherapy as Moral Engagement (2004), an associate editor for the Encyclopedia of Psychology (2000), and the editor of The Restoration of Dialogue: Readings in the Philosophy of Clinical Psychology (1992). He is a founding associate editor of the journal Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy and the former editor of the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology.

A fellow of APA, Dr. Miller is currently the chair of the Vermont Board of Psychological Examiners.

It was just announced that your book, Not So Abnormal Psychology, won Honorable Mention in the Textbook/Social Sciences category of the 2016 PROSE Awards. Congratulations!

In the opening pages of this book, you describe personal struggles that ultimately lead you to reject mainstream diagnostic models. Personal revelation is unusual in scholarly scientific writing.  Why did you feel it was important to include?

I think the real challenge in psychology and many aspects of life is to integrate our subjective experiences, which are very personal and unique, with the world of other people—each having their own unique experiences. Sometimes when we do this we find a common or objective truth, and many times we don’t. Experimental psychology can only pay attention to the former, but the latter is as or more important in our lives. I always understood as a psychotherapist that this was a critical aspect of my work—honoring the client’s own experience while also looking for shared experiences that build a sense of relationship. The longer I taught college students, the more I realized they needed to understand that process too.

How do students react to that narrative?

Students always respond well to narrative accounts that illustrate psychological principles and theories. Every instructor knows that. That is why case studies are such powerful pedagogical tools. While this is generally acknowledged by authors of traditional textbooks in abnormal psychology, the justification given is usually that cases pique the students’ interest and sustains them for the “real (much more important) work” of studying the subject matter through quantitative or experimental methods.

My view is that there is a strong epistemological argument that can be made for the role of case studies in validating and communicating clinical practice knowledge. As Dan McAdams has argued more broadly, the creation of narrative is central to our very Being. When the case study is the professor’s own life, the power of the narrative is even greater. My students spontaneously will offer their appreciation for sharing with them the struggles I had as a young adult and graduate student. They say it makes them feel less alone with their own life struggles.

 You’ve said that students are often drawn to psychology by a desire to help others.  How can we teach them about the profession in a way that will kindle that desire?

I think students want to know that there are concepts and methods in psychology that can be applied in the real world that can make a transformational difference in their own and other people’s lives. They want to know how to turn their own lives around or help others they care about or work with to do the same. They have a vision of wanting to do good in the world, and they don’t want to have to give up their values of being a decent human being in order to practice experimentally validated procedures where everyone is following the same therapeutic script regardless of the differences among clients. Nor do they wish to practice techniques that produce statistically significant effects unless those differences are meaningful in the lives of those receiving services.

Why did you title your book, Not So Abnormal?

I was reviewing a number of undergraduate abnormal psychology textbooks at the beginning of the process, and as I read and summarized the descriptions and explanations for the causes and treatments of various diagnoses I found myself repeatedly writing after most of the summary statements, “Not So.” Eventually it occurred to me to simply insert the words “Not So” at the beginning of the title.

“Not so abnormal” makes a broader statement about mental health. What will readers of your textbook take away that they would not take away from a traditional textbook? 

I see the abnormal psychology course as both an opportunity for students to learn about an academic discipline and to contribute to the improvement in the mental health of the millions of students who will enroll in this course during the college years.  It is a rare opportunity to offer intensive mental health education, and this is badly needed in our society today.

I have attempted to provide a coherent integrated framework for understanding human psychological suffering (“psychopathology”) that is informed by pragmatic humanistic values, an awareness of the importance of unconscious developmental mental processes, and an understanding of the power of the family and social-political environment. The goal of this framework is to produce greater self-understanding in the reader, and to lay out a path for transformational psychological change. After reading the traditional abnormal psychology textbook, the student comes away with a knowledge of hundreds of terms and disparate facts that seem to have no coherent relationship to one another. It as though anxiety and psychosis are unrelated phenomena as opposed to the framework I propose where psychosis is the absolute extreme of the anxiety state we all experience from time to time.

Although this may sound like a self-help book, it is also a textbook that covers the philosophical, historical, and social/political context of the development of the sub-discipline of abnormal psychology and the field of mental health as a whole. Rather than ignore the theoretical models that do not fit into my integrated framework (viz., the biomedical and cognitive-behavioral approaches), I discuss their pros and cons, and cite evidence for where I think these models are or are not helpful.

What books do you recommend for students and therapists?

I was heavily influenced by philosophy and literature prior to entering the field of psychology. Some classics that stand out are The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus, War and Peace by Tolstoy, J.L. Austen’s, How to Do Things with Words and Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis And I urge all my students to read Yalom’s  works on existential psychotherapy and Love’s Executioner, which is a great book of case studies.