When a plane gets delayed, passengers will feel less stressed if the airline personnel can stay calm, keep everyone informed, and help with problem solving. “These are basic psychology principles!” exclaims Dr. Nadine J. Kaslow. “So how do we, as psychologists, help organizations, corporations, and hospitals all function more effectively? Well, what does the research say about that? And how do you then teach people about it?” Different aspects of psychology must come together to create the strongest solutions.
Psychology depends on education, practice, research, scholarship, public policy, advocacy, and community engagement. But all too often, students and professionals see these aspects of psychology as separate and even as in conflict. Dr. Nadine Kaslow is a professor, psychologist, researcher, and vice chair for Faculty Development in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. Yet, even with her involvement in multiple parts of psychology, she says, “I often feel like they are different parts of myself. So not only do I think that the profession as a whole must develop a more integrated identity and sense of direction, but so do specific people like me who have a hard time applying our various competencies in a united way.”
Whether it’s at the airport, across fields, or even at a Psi Chi convention, Dr. Kaslow believes psychology benefits from unity. In today’s interview, she gives practical solutions for uniting psychology by improving communication and finding and following passions.
Psychology Is a Mirror for the World
According to Dr. Kaslow, “There is a long history of people within psychology, in my opinion, either having cold wars or hot wars with each other. They fight or don’t talk at all, and they’re sometimes not very respectful of disparate views and values.” She isn’t talking about real fights, though, more like misunderstandings and insufficient efforts at communication. “For example, sometimes the people who do research think the people who are involved in advocacy take positions before there is enough data to support their positions, and those who are engaged in advocacy sometimes believe that those who focus on research aren’t willing to ensure that their science is shared in ways that are meaningful or relevant.” Instead of working together, they judge each other. Despite such miscommunications and at times criticism across groups in the profession, Dr. Kaslow fervently believes in a future of shared leadership, more unity, and greater give and take relationships in psychology.
“Because we are struggling to unite as a nation and as a world, the theme of uniting is very timely,” she says. “This issue of divides and opposition slows progress in the world, and also in psychology. Rather than actively listening to different perspectives and trying to find common ground, the divides just get bigger. What’s going on in psychology is a mirror for the country and the world.” Dr. Kaslow believes that, if psychologists can come together in meaningful, respectful, and collaborative ways, their unity can serve as a model for unification on much bigger levels.
How can students be a part of this movement? Dr. Kaslow says classes are a great place to start! Capstone courses, for example, can easily focus on synthesizing the diverse parts of psychology. “These courses can include community projects where you creatively bring psychology to the public and the professor models scientifically informed community engagement by getting students involved as well,” she explains. Another space to implement community involvement and combine, in unique ways, the various aspects of psychology is at Psi Chi conventions. Dr. Kaslow urges students to ask, “How do we take what we know about psychology and share it with different communities through partnerships?” In this way, psychology is acting as that mirror—the more group unity and community involvement within psychology, and within Psi Chi, the more similar steps may be seen in the world.
Don’t Be Shy
For the future, Dr. Kaslow would like to see more active participation from psychologists. “I wish that we could be more invested in being scientists-practitioners-advocates-leaders. I want us to be more involved with legislative and advocacy efforts and have more of an impact on policy decisions at the local, state, national, and international levels.”
Dr. Kaslow believes psychologists have the knowledge, skills and abilities, attitudes and values to make great leaders, but they often shy away from leadership positions. She attributes this reluctance in part to psychology’s historically more individualistic rather than systematic, way of thinking. “But I think psychologists have the capacity and capability to be values-based, contextually oriented, passionate, respectful, and innovative leaders,” she says, “whether they’re university presidents, or CEOs, or congress people.”
Along with taking more leadership positions, Dr. Kaslow hopes the future of psychology includes more effective and ongoing translation of psychological science to the public. Whether through conveying the impact and relevance of all journal articles, providing scientific and practical updates in social media, or through more traditional media like television, psychologists have a responsibility to use what they know to benefit society. “Imagine,” she says, “Sitting at the doctor’s office, and the television is showing an ‘Ask the Psychologist' show, instead of what’s usually playing.”
Through leadership positions and expanding communication with multiple publics, Dr. Kaslow trusts that psychology can give a lot more to society. “I think that it’s really important not to see psychology as a bunch of disparate things—research, practice, advocacy, and volunteering—but rather to appreciate that all aspects of the discipline and profession are linked and mutually beneficial.”
Uniting for Policy
In a world grappling for unity, cooperation, and mutual respect, it is essential that psychology be conceptualized as a unified yet diverse discipline that can be invaluable in informing the national and international discourse. Dr. Kaslow uses the immigration issue as an example: “How can we use our science to inform the recommendations we make about immigration-related policies? How do we pay attention to the needs of students who are affected by DACA in our educational institutions and ensure they are receiving not just top-notch education, but also support, guidance, and recognition for their accomplishments? How do we understand from a psychological perspective the conflicts in this nation about solutions for Dreamers, and how can our understanding empower us to be helpful in resolving the national debate? What kind of research do we need to conduct to help make more informed arguments?” To have a central role in national policy-making, we must unify psychological research, education, practice, and advocacy activities in thought and action.
To ignite a movement toward a more unified, productive, and powerful psychology, we must harness our passion. According to Dr. Kaslow, “It helps each of us in our own lives if we pursue things we find meaningful and care deeply about—whether that’s what we study, what we teach, or the kind of practice or advocacy we do. If we pursue things that truly matter to us, we will be more effective and our lives will be more personally and professionally rewarding and meaningful.”
Passion is a cornerstone for advocacy, and advocacy is a key component of psychology—one that Dr. Kaslow finds incredibly valuable. She is particularly passionate about advocating for social justice-related causes and doing so in partnership with people with diverse voices. “Social justice can pertain to everything students get involved with—the classes they choose to take, or maybe the decisions they make to tutor other people or volunteer to help those in need or who are from oppressed groups,” Dr. Kaslow says. “Whether it’s addressing LGBT, class, race, gender issues or the impact of sexual harassment, there are a lot of ways for students to focus their advocacy efforts on public interest and social justice causes that are personally meaningful."
Finding something you are passionate about, connecting with others who share your passions yet have different voices, and advocating together to improve society is what Dr. Kaslow hopes that all students of psychology will do. “For me, students are psychology’s present and future. I recognize that not everyone in Psi Chi will become a psychologist, but everyone will be a consumer of psychology." So whether you are an active member of Psi Chi, pursuing a career in psychology, or a consumer of psychology, Dr. Kaslow trusts that you will pay it forward so that we have a more caring, just, inclusive, and psychologically informed society.
SIDEBAR: Give and Take
As chair of the Psi Chi Give Back campaign this year, Dr. Kaslow believes, “Life is so much more meaningful when we help others, are compassionate in what we do, and give in our time and resources.”
Psi Chi wasn’t as focused on service when Dr. Kaslow was a student. “Being a member meant graduate students and faculty came and talked with your chapter about how to get into graduate school. It was sort of selfish—we got in because we were smart and good academically, and then we used the society to move us forward in life.” Of course, Dr. Kaslow doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with that, she just loves that Psi Chi does more service work these days.
According to Dr. Kaslow, “Service is about giving more to help junior students, contributing to campus organizations, advocating for more accessible and culturally competent mental health services on campuses and in communities, and getting people the help and support they need.” So although giving back to Psi Chi with a donation is valuable, it isn’t the only way to get involved. Dr. Kaslow says, “It can be through your science, or your teaching, or your practice, or your service to or on behalf of the community. There isn’t one way to do it. I strongly encourage Psi Chi chapters to be a voice for giving back in diverse ways and to incorporate giving back as part of their mission.”
|Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, ABPP, is a professor at Emory University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Chief Psychologist, Grady Health System; and Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. In 2012, she received a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Pepperdine University. The 2014 President of the American Psychological Association (APA), she is President-Elect of the APA’s Division of Public Service (Division 18), the Psi Chi Annual Giving Campaign Chair, and the Chair of Psi Chi’s Summit on Help-Seeking. Dr. Kaslow is Past-President of APA’s Divisions of Clinical Psychology (12), Family Psychology (43), and Psychotherapy (29), as well as the American Board of Clinical Psychology and the American Board of Professional Psychology. She has published over 300 articles and three books. A member of Rosalynn Carter’s Mental Health Advisory Board, she is a nationally recognized expert in suicide, intimate partner violence and child maltreatment, depression in children and adolescents, posttraumatic stress disorder, and psychology education and training. Dr. Kaslow is the psychologist for the Atlanta Ballet and a frequent media guest.
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