by Jen Sermoneta

Our community is warm, supportive, and growth-promoting in so many ways. The peers and mentors I’ve found here nurture, teach, and inspire me to do the difficult work of therapy. So when the last ICP+P retreat made it evident that we need to provide a maximally inviting atmosphere for our next generation of members, and the board created a new position, I volunteered. As Associate Director for Outreach and Communications, I’ve spent many months talking with a lot of wonderful people, asking questions, and trying to figure out what we need to do and how to start.

Prevailing themes among responses to the survey we conducted show a desire to focus on privilege; attitudes and beliefs about skin color; sexual orientation; gender identity; class/financial background; and religion. The survey communicates that, rather than trying to recruit new members, we need to start by being a place where new members will want to stay. As well, we have a responsibility to strive to recognize diversity in our patients. To do that, we need to increase our own awareness. Maybe for now it could best be called “in-reach” instead of “outreach.”

Luckily, our aims coincide perfectly with the new continuing education requirements from the American Psychological Association, which require increased attention to developing content that respects issues of diversity; promoting specific strategies and behaviors that enhance inclusion of diverse populations, including those from underserved and minority populations; and creating professional environments that promote diversity.

In order to pursue our goals, we are already launching initiatives. (More are yet to come, but these are the ones that have begun.) Two of them will be on our website, and a fourth is in-person:

  • Launching a series of articles that include diversity sensibility while sharing reflections that spring from our study groups and training programs;
  • Starting an annotated bibliography of diversity-focused articles, websites, and other media – especially those that are self or relationally oriented; and
  • Founding the Diversity Interest Group.

The Diversity Interest Group meets monthly, and you are welcome; just let me or Nancy Der know if you’d like to come. So far, we’ve identified many questions, and begun conversations. Examples are:

  • How and why am I personally invested in this?
  • What do I/we mean by diversity, inclusion, and awareness?
  • How do questions of awareness relate to my own vulnerabilities and privileges?
  • What will help me, and everyone else, come into the room feeling safe and ready to share and explore?
  • How can we build on what is already underway, or has already been done?
  • How can we best connect what people expressed in the survey with the initiatives we want to get involved in?
  • How can we best understand and be sensitive to our clients? Micro-aggressions, ruptures, institutional racism and the cultural biases of both our behavior in session and in our theories are all important areas to understand.
  • How can we structure our own working group and begin defining our scope and vision, taking into account matters of power?

One of our first conversations was about safety. We’re thinking about how we might attend to the inevitable injuries and ruptures that will occur as we begin to process the sensitive material of our own privilege and our own experiences of oppressing and being oppressed. We wonder how we can continue to grow in beautiful ways, even when some of that growth involves risk, discomfort, and perhaps even pain. Board and Interest Group member, Virginia Voigt, shared this poem:

Invitation to Brave Space
By Micky ScottBey Jones

Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
It will be our brave space together,
We will work on it side by side

What generous permission to mess up and still be allies! I hope that this spirit will be with us throughout our work.

Altogether, I hope the in-reach and out-reach initiatives will foster ICP+P’s continuing development as a vibrant and cohesive community. I hope our efforts will help us always strive to better recognize ourselves, each other, and our patients. Your collaboration in this work would be welcome.