Anneliese Singh and lore dickey: On Trans-Affirmative Counseling and Psychological Practice

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this interview, David Becker, an APA Books Development Editor, talked with Anneliese Singh of the University of Georgia and lore dickey of Northern Arizona University.

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.

Anneliese Singh

Anneliese A. Singh, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia and co-founder of the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition and Trans Resilience Project. Her work is centered on studying and strengthening the resilience of TGNC people, particularly TGNC youth and people of color.

 

lore dickey

lore m. dickey, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Doctoral Training Director in the Department of Educational Psychology at Northern Arizona University. His research focuses on understanding the transgender experience, which includes studying sexual identity development and nonsuicidal self-injury.

 

Together, Drs. Singh and dickey cochaired the APA task force that developed the Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People. The goal of these guidelines is to enhance psychologists’ cultural competence and help them provide trans-affirmative care, which is characterized by awareness, respect, and support of TGNC people’s identities and life experiences. Their latest book, Affirmative Counseling and Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients, expands on those guidelines, offering helpful advice and strategies for providing trans-affirmative care to TGNC clients.

 

What is affirmative counseling and psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) clients? How does it differ from other common approaches with these populations?

Anneliese: This is a great question that often comes up for mental health practitioners. They may want to do the “right thing” when working with trans people, but are not quite sure how to do that—so lore and I defined affirming transgender counseling and psychological practice in the Introduction to our book as practice that is culturally relevant and responsive to TGNC clients and their multiple social identities, addresses the influence of social inequities on the lives of TGNC clients, enhances TGNC client resilience and coping, advocates to reduce systemic barriers to TGNC mental and physical health, and leverages TGNC client strengths. (Singh & dickey, 2017, p. 4)

We wanted to define it so that the roles of psychologists involve being social change agents who make sure the settings and societies in which they work are trans-affirmative, as well as emphasizing the importance of supporting the development of trans resilience and affirming all the social identities that trans people have (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, disability, spirituality/religion).

What are the most common errors that mental health practitioners make, or misconceptions they might have, when working with TGNC clients?

lore: There are several errors that a mental health provider might make. The first is assuming that a person has a binary gender identity. The second is making the assumption that a person wants medical treatment, especially gender affirmation surgeries. Another mistake is using the wrong name or pronoun. When this happens, the provider should admit the mistake. This signals to the client that the provider realizes they used the wrong name or pronoun, and takes the pressure off of the client as they do not need to correct the provider.

Some TGNC people might be reluctant to enter into therapy for fear of being pathologized or misunderstood. What can a mental health practitioner do to create a safe and welcoming environment for an anxious TGNC client in the first session?

Anneliese: Yes—this is a very common experience trans people have due to the history that the counseling and psychological field has had of pathologizing trans identities. From diagnosis and gatekeeping (e.g., writing referral letters for hormones and requiring excessive control over the transition process) to experiencing discrimination within counseling sessions and the challenges of accessing mental healthcare (e.g., lack of insurance, finding a trans-affirmative provider), many trans people are anxious about what they may experience with a provider. Trans communities are very strong and connected, so there are often also stories of bad experiences with mental health providers that may be known within the community as well. The best thing a mental health practitioner can do is to get out into the community, participate in community events, learn from trans community organizers and activists about what is most needed in their communities and the common issues they face. The key here is to learn much as you can about how to create safe and welcoming environments.

Next, during the first client contact, explain the approach to trans-affirmative counseling you use and any other considerations a client should be aware of that you require (e.g., number of sessions). During my first contact with clients who need a letter of referral for hormones, I emphasize that my counseling approach is to assist them in accessing the care that they want, and one session is usually enough for just a letter; however, they may want to engage in more sessions to support them during their medical and social transition, and that is something we can talk about along the way. I also emphasize that my role is to advocate for them along the way, and that exploring internalized trans-negativity and multiple identities from an empowerment perspective are important aspects of how I work with clients. It is also important for me to tell clients why I am asking certain questions, instead of just gathering typical assessment data. Because the community has experienced so much trauma, this approach is critical to developing an atmosphere of trust and to build rapport. From the first contact, I also share my own

gender pronouns and name that I want people to use when referring to me. I do this with cisgender clients too.

You chose the photos that are featured on the book’s cover because they are TGNC affirming, and you have noted that media portrayals of TGNC people can often be inaccurate or pathologizing. What portrayals did you want to avoid, and why are they problematic? Are there any particularly prevalent tropes or stereotypes that you have noticed?

lore: As with most anything the media uses to tell a story, they prefer the most sensational images—that is what sells papers. The images that don’t tell the sensational stories are ones that show trans people who have ordinary lives. When the only images you see of trans people are those of White people—this is a problem. When trans woman are hypersexualized—this is a problem. When nonbinary individuals are reported to be confused about their identity—this a problem. When the only news you see about trans men are images of a pregnant person—this is a problem. We worked with a renowned photographer to find images that portray “everyday” trans people.

Both of you cochaired the task force that developed APA’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People. What was that experience like, and how did it influence your book?

Anneliese: Cochairing the APA trans guidelines was an interesting experience! It was important to make sure we added racial/ethnic and gender diversity amongst our 10-person task force, as well as having a variety of disciplines represented within counseling and psychology (e.g., practitioners, researchers). We consulted with a wonderful team of trans community organizers and activists along the way in the development of the text as well. All of these things had an influence on the text, as we wanted it to have a very intersectional and practice-based approach.

In terms of how the text differs from the guidelines, we were restricted in the guidelines development process from highlighting social justice and advocacy as much as we would have liked to do based on our own personal ways of practicing and engaging in research. Therefore, the book is very much informed by research, but it is also informed by the calls to our field that trans community organizers and activists have issued. The role of psychologists as social change agents is much more centralized in the book. We also had a wonderful group of authors—including public health and community perspectives on trans-affirmative counseling.

We hope this book de-mythologizes trans mental healthcare and makes it more accessible for mental health practitioners to get training and see how they can change the world for the better by doing trans-affirmative care.

What still needs to change in the field of psychology in order to fully address the needs of TGNC people?

 lore: This is such an important question. In no particular order: Gender Dysphoria needs to be removed from the DSM and placed in the ICD codes as a medical condition so it is not listed as a mental health diagnosis implying that gender diversity or that gender dysphoria is a disorder. Providers must be sanctioned when they engage in reparative therapy with gender nonconforming clients, and providers must be trained to work with gender diverse people.

References

Singh, A. A., & dickey, l. m. (2017). Introduction. In A. A. Singh & l. m. dickey (Eds.). Affirmative counseling and psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming clients (pp. 3–18). http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/14957-001

On Caribbean Psychology

David BeckerBy David Becker

As psychology continues to grow and develop as a field, the importance of considering cultural factors when studying the behaviors and the mental well-being of individuals and communities becomes more and more apparent. To some degree or another, we are all influenced by our cultural heritage. I know for sure that my French Caribbean heritage has had an impact on who I am today.

My mother’s parents emigrated from Martinique to Washington, DC in the 1940s and brought with them elements of French Caribbean culture that have influenced my identity since childhood. However, because my heritage was so prevalent and normalized in my youth, I didn’t begin to fully grasp its uniqueness until I graduated from French immersion school and found myself among non-French-speaking classmates for the first time in the seventh grade. Suddenly I became “exotic,” a curiosity, especially in my high school French classes where I was the only one who spoke with a proper accent, aside from my teacher.

Unlike some, I wasn’t ostracized or treated unfairly because of my cultural roots, but it wasn’t always easy to appreciate my cultural heritage and its origins within the history of the French Caribbean. Some of my early ancestors were people of privilege who killed indigenous Caribs, owned slaves, and committed other acts that have impacted the lives of modern day Caribbean peoples who continue to struggle against the legacies of colonialism, slavery, indentured servitude, and centuries of warfare between rival European powers. Among these ancestors was Guillaume d’Orange, who arrived at Saint-Christophe (now better known as St. Kitts) in 1628. Saint-Christophe was the first Caribbean region settled by the French in 1625, and it was from here that Guillaume made forays to other islands, such as Guadaloupe where he lived for 12 years as an explorer, a warrior, and a planter. Afterwards, he moved to Martinique where he lived until he was killed in the Dutch invasion of Fort-Royal (now Fort-de-France) in 1674. Guillaume d’Orange was one of the pioneers who helped shape the modern French Caribbean, which included the genocide of the indigenous Caribs.

countryside-1200Other ancestors of mine owned sugarcane plantations and slaves, such as Guillaume d’Orange’s more famous descendant, Empress Joséphine, who was born into a plantation family in Martinique. During the transatlantic slave trade, France imported approximately 1,381,000 African slaves to the West Indies, and many of the 217,200 slaves who arrived in Martinique worked on sugar plantations. Although the French revolutionaries abolished slavery in 1794, it was reestablished by Napoleon in 1802 to help fund his campaigns in Europe, and it wasn’t until 1848 that France abolished slavery for good. The freed slaves in Martinique were offered the chance to continue working on the sugarcane plantations for money, which they understandably refused. In response, indentured servants from India started migrating to the French islands and performing this arduous labor. These immigrants brought Indian spices that influenced the local cuisine and resulted in the Colombo spice blend that my family still uses in recipes today. One such recipe is féroce (“ferocious” in English), an avocado dish that is similar to guacamole except that it includes fish and Scotch bonnets—Caribbean peppers so spicy that you dare not touch them with your bare hands. Even sugarcane remains an important part of my family’s cuisine, especially in ti’ ponche (meaning “small punch”), a mixture of Martinican rum, lime, and cane syrup.

During the French Caribbean’s postcolonial period, my ancestors continued to immigrate to Martinique from Europe. As the times changed, so did their reasons for migrating: Many of them were educators. Likewise, other people from across Europe, Africa, India, and elsewhere have come to the Caribbean—whether voluntarily or not—for myriad reasons over the centuries, and communities of indigenous peoples still live on the islands today. And just as my family tree intertwines with the history the French Caribbean and influences living generations, so do other individuals, families, and communities find their own identities tied with one or more Caribbean islands.

Understanding the diverse and unique experiences of Caribbean peoples along with the common themes that bind the islands’ histories together is a key goal of Caribbean psychology. But this is no simple task. In their book, Caribbean Psychology: Indigenous Contributions to a Global Discipline, editors Jaipaul Roopnarine and Derek Chadee (2016) argue that “the psychological stories of Caribbean peoples have been missing from the broader intellectual discourses in the psychological sciences” (p. 4). They acknowledge that this lack of cultural representation is a worldwide problem not isolated to just the Caribbean, and they further argue that “psychological principles that are not inclusive of other cultural groups around the world are inherently limited and fail to utilize the two-way flow and integrations of scientific information from the majority to the developed world” (Roopnarine & Chadee, 2016, p. 4). Yet, viewing contemporary Caribbean peoples through a historical lens is not enough. While understanding the impact of slavery, colonialism, etc. is important, Roopnarine and Chadee (2016) note that psychologists must consider “lived experiences and realities” (p. 7). To fully comprehend contemporary Caribbean individuals and communities, psychological theories and practices must therefore emanate from those individuals and communities. This indigenous knowledge will then feed into the bidirectional flow of scientific information, thus benefiting psychology as a whole.

Why do we need a localized Caribbean psychology? The answer is that Caribbean psychology—along with American psychology, French psychology, Chinese psychology, Turkish psychology, Nigerian psychology, etc.—are all pieces of the same, grand puzzle. Each of these pieces is itself a large and complex puzzle made up of many smaller components. Studying the psychology of African Americans, for instance, is crucial to American psychology as a whole. As we strive to put all of these innumerable pieces together, the hope is that we will come closer and closer to understanding ourselves.

Reference

Roopnarine, J. L., & Chadee, D. (2016). Introduction: Caribbean psychology—More than a regional discipline. In J. L. Roopnarine & D. Chadee (Eds.), Caribbean psychology: Indigenous contributions to a global discipline (pp. 3–11). http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/14753-001

Roberta Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek: On Becoming Brilliant

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors and editors. For this interview, Susan Herman, Development Editor Consultant for APA Books, talked with Roberta Golinkoff of University of Delaware and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University and the Brookings Institution.

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.

golinkoffRoberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD, obtained her bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College, her PhD at Cornell University, and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the Learning Research and Development Center of the University of Pittsburgh. She is the Unidel H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Education and professor of psychology and of linguistics and cognitive science at the University of Delaware.

hirsch-pasekKathryn Hirsh-Pasek, PhD, is the Stanley and Debra Lefkowitz Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Temple University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her research examines the development of early language and literacy, as well as the role of play in learning. With her long-term collaborator, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, she is the author of 12 books and hundreds of publications.

“I enjoyed working with this dynamic author team on their APA LifeTools book, Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children.  (The book has been widely discussed in academic circles and national media, and is already an Amazon bestseller.)  One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is that I felt like the book was actually for me: a mom to two school-age kids! Also, I loved getting emails like this: “We’ll get back to you soon about the edits. We’re away at a conference now and Kathy is filming her flash mob this afternoon.” –Susan Herman

How long have the two of you been collaborating?

KHP: Roberta and I have been working together 37 years. We have lasted longer than most marriages. We would have each been good as solo scientists, but when you have a wonderful working relationship it actually feeds creativity. And I think it also feeds the product.

How did you come from developmental science, primarily working with young children, into looking at school-age children and what’s happening in K-12 education?

KHP: The book isn’t only about K-12. It really is about 0-99. If we want to prepare an educated citizenry of the future, we need to think not only about what’s going on in the schools but also what’s going on outside the schools, in the communities in which children live. If we think of education as only taking place inside the school walls, then we’re missing literally 80 percent of the waking time of children.

This book is really more about redefining education for the 21st century. It poses this central question: what counts as success? When our children grow up, what do we want of them as a society?

What I believe the 21st century answer ought to be is: we want happy, healthy, social, caring, and thinking children today, who are going to grow up to be compassionate, collaborative, critically thinking, creatively innovative, and responsible citizens of tomorrow.

What skills do you need to achieve that? You have to work backwards, reverse engineer it. The business community has been screaming for this for the better part of a decade. We want to reduce inequities and we want [education] to dovetail with the skills you need in the workplace.

Do we want to let [standardized] tests tell society what we can and cannot value? Or do we want to figure out what we value and find ways to see how children learn?

 

I saw an ad for an online learning company that says, “Each child is uniquely brilliant.” Is brilliant a buzzword now? What does it mean to be brilliant?

RG: We’re not about making people exceptional. We want to call attention to the fact that children have a vast range of capabilities, and while we’re mostly teaching content in the schools—and content is great, it’s got to be there—we must broaden what we do.

Because in this new world, it isn’t enough to be brilliant in the classic sense of getting straight A’s. Those people don’t necessarily get the jobs now. What matters for kids is to develop all the skills that will help them be better people.

For me, that’s number one—I want to create menschen. I want to create citizens who are members of their community and who play well together, who will function at a high level in their society. We want to help children get the jobs of the future.

For example, if we’re talking about how manufacturing plants are shutting down and the jobs are moving overseas, we’re not getting it—the nature of the workforce needs to change! The jobs that are going overseas are factory jobs. The jobs that are taking over in America are the high-level jobs.

We need to help our children find the jobs of the future, many of which haven’t been invented yet. We need to educate for the higher-level jobs that we are presently importing people to do because we don’t have enough people who can do them.

In your book, you conceptualize learning as consisting of six skills, the “Six C’s”: Collaboration, Communication, Content, Critical Thinking, Creative Innovation, and Confidence. How do you measure the Six Cs?

KHP: Roberta and I suggest that we can give you a profile of skills, using our Six C Grid [shown below]. What’s cool about the grid is that every one of us can look at ourselves and create a profile for ourselves on the six skills.

 

6 Cs6 Cs

Collaboration is how we learn to communicate. Content builds on communication, our ability to listen, to talk, to have a vocabulary. You’re never going to be a great reader if you don’t have good language skills. And yet we’re starting our tests with reading, not with language. You can do letter-sound correspondence until you’re blue in the face but if you can’t translate sounds into a word that you know, then all of it is moot.

We have too much information—everybody’s talking about big data. But if you can’t sift your way through, then you’re not going to be able to use the content effectively.

Creative innovation teaches you how to use that content that you just critically thought about. So you can use that information to change tomorrow.

Kids need confidence to give it a whirl. We have beaten children into just giving us right answers. The creators of the world—the Edisons, the Steve Jobs—they failed many times before they succeeded.

None of these exists in a vacuum. They build on one another to create a profile of learning.

RG: We’re not arguing that we need a new curriculum for the Six Cs. We’re taking the position that, once you’re aware of these skill sets, you can think about how the assignments you’re creating for your class are building collaboration, confidence, creativity.

Let’s talk about Confidence. One recurring conversation I have with friends who are parents starts with, “Do you let your kid…?” Ride his bike to the park alone? Set up her own YouTube account? That kind of thing. How can parents leverage risk to help their kids build confidence?

RG: The New Albany, Ohio chief of police is now advising parents not to let kids go outside on their own until they’re 16. This is crazy, but not uncommon. This sort of thing happens nowadays for two reasons. One, no one goes on the news and says, “Sally had a good day today. She walked to the library by herself!” The media focuses on the bad stuff and this is the kind of stuff that goes around [on social media].

Two, parents are more fearful. Economic shifts have been profound in recent years and have made people worry that their children will have lesser lifestyles than they did. And this makes them focus more on stuffing that content in the kid, over developing the other skills that kids need.

The way it should work is that little by little, children are given more responsibility for taking care of themselves. Doing errands is the first kind of responsibility, and your kid will want to do it because it’s a way of showing that they’re growing up. Of course, you first have to have a conversation with your kids about how to not go with strangers, and about how to use other adults to help you if someone’s bugging you.

KHP: What do you do when your kid comes home [from the errand]? He has an essay for homework. Do you allow your child to have his own voice, as long as he backs it up? Or does he stick pretty close to the book review he’s supposed to do, “This is what A says, this is what B says…” Push him a little further and say, “what’s your take?”

You encourage him to try that experiment. As long as it’s safe. I remember something my kids wanted to do—they wanted to put water in the sink and add electricity to make a lightning bolt! Other than that one, I was OK with [their experiments].

When your child comes home from soccer and says, I don’t want to do that anymore, are you the kind of person who says, “OK well we’re not going back there anymore!” The lesson, when you stay with it, is confidence.

Everything’s a risk-benefit. Some things you may not want them to take apart, like the television. But you can say “We have this old blender—why not take apart that and see how that works?” Or you can say, “there’s this guy who’s been repairing watches forever. Why not go see what he does?”

How can parents advocate for their schools to teach the Six Cs?

KHP: You can evaluate your child’s classroom based on the Six C grid. The grid becomes almost like a map for us to ask, how are we doing as parents? What do we want from our children? How are we providing opportunities to allow them to get to that goal?

RG: Each chapter in the book has a section called Taking Action where we talk about how to create environments that foster each skill, and we give very concrete suggestions. [We want] to awaken parents’ consciousness to what they need to do to help their children be good, productive people.

And we don’t need to keep it a secret from our kids. We often don’t even talk to our kids about the kinds of things we hope they will get out of school. We can tell them why we want them to do x, y, z. We need to let the kids in on it, have this pervade the culture. It would be so much better than just emphasizing the content, which is giving kids stomachaches when they take these high stakes tests. It’s a culture shift that we’re going for.

 

Introducing APA Style CENTRAL

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is perhaps our most well-known book, though it is often referred to as “APA format” or as the “APA Style guide.” APA Books is proud to announce the launch of APA Style CENTRAL, a revolutionary new electronic resource for APA Style. Free trials are available today for institutions. If you are a student or faculty member interested in this resource, please contact your institutional library.

To learn more, see http://apastyle.org/asc!

What is Psycholinguistics?

RKelaher

by Chris Kelaher

 

Psycholinguistics is the scientific combination of psychology and linguistics. According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology 2ed (Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2015):

 

Psycholinguistics n. a branch of psychology that employs formal linguistic models to investigate language use and the cognitive processes that accompany it. Developmental psycholinguistics is the formal term for the branch that investigates LANGUAGE ACQUISITION in children. In particular, various models of GENERATIVE GRAMMAR have been used to explain and predict language acquisition in children and the production and comprehension of speech by adults. To this extent, psycholinguistics is a specific discipline, distinguishable from the more general area of psychology of language, which encompasses many other fields and approaches.

Other sources frame the term more broadly, however, locating it within the wider scope of cognitive science. Dictionary.com defines psycholinguistics as “the study of the relationship between language and the cognitive or behavioral characteristics of those who use it.” And in the APA Encyclopedia of Psychology (2000), Maria D. Sera tells us that:

Psycholinguistics is the study of human language processing, involving a range of abilities, from cognition to sensorimotor activity, that are recruited to the service of a complex set of communicative functions. It is related to the traditional academic disciplines of linguistics, psychology, education, anthropology, and philosophy, and particularly the cross-disciplinary areas of speech science, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, neurolinguistics, and language learning, teaching, and rehabilitation.

speech-bubblesIn his book Psycholinguistics 101 (Springer Publishing Co., 2011), H. Wind Cowles writes: “Psycholinguistics asks the question: How is it that people are able, moment-by-moment, to produce and understand language? …. How do children come to have this ability? How and why is it sometimes impaired after brain damage?”

How widely used is the term “psycholinguistics”? Well, typing the word into the Google search engine produces about 500,000 results. To give you some context, the term “psychotherapy” produces 35.5 million results while “neuroscience” produces over 41 million. So while the term is certainly not a state secret, it does not have the broad currency of many more established concepts within psychology. But it is a field growing in interest and significance, and we are excited to increase our offerings in the field of psycholinguistics.

To that effect, APA Books is collaborating with De Gruyter Mouton, a leading international publisher of linguistics and communication science, on a new book series. Language and the Human Lifespan will feature the best contemporary research in psycholinguistics. This month marks the release of the first title in the series, Bilingualism across the Lifespan: Factors Moderating Language Proficiency, co-edited by University of Alberta psychologist Elena Nicoladis and Simona Montanari, a linguist at Cal State, Los Angeles.

The Language and the Human Lifespan Series will be essential for all who work in or are interested in the porous disciplinary boundaries of psychology and linguistics, drawing on top-flight researchers from both fields. Future titles in the series will cover such topics as autism and language, research methods for studying language acquisition, and the concept of entrenchment—the ongoing reorganization and adaptation of communicative knowledge.