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Eye on Psi Chi: Summer 2020

Eye on Psi Chi

Summer 2020 | Volume 24 | Number 4

Race and Ethnicity Guidelines to Expand Psychology’s Racial and Ethno-Cultural Responsiveness

Susanna Gallor, PhD
University of Massachusetts Boston

For future psychologists, educators, individuals pursuing a career in mental health, and a broad range of other occupational and career paths, the study and practice of psychology involves a deep and broad understanding of how psychology and mental health is shaped by individuals’ as well as groups’ racial and ethnocultural identities. The American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific and professional organization that represents psychology in the United States, including psychology researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. As such, the organization has a responsibility to represent all members of our society, including individuals with diverse racial and ethnocultural backgrounds. APA has established several aspirational guidelines that include suggested or recommended professional behavior, endeavor, or conduct for psychologists or for individuals or organizations that work with or train psychologists. There are guidelines for clinical practice, education, science, and others. Public interest guidelines provide the profession with the rationale and guidance for advancing multiculturalism, diversity, and social justice in psychological education, research, and practice.

In August 2019, APA published the Guidelines on Race and Ethnicity in Psychology: Promoting Responsiveness and Equity. Importantly, these guidelines are one of two sets of guidelines following the 2002 Guidelines for Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists (also known as the Multicultural Guidelines; APA, 2003). As noted in the Race and Ethnicity Guidelines, the meaning of multicultural has expanded beyond race and ethnicity, and over the past several years, scholarship and practice has certainly advanced the profession’s understanding and application of universal concepts of diversity, inclusivity, intersectionality, and social justice. Multicultural guidelines and understanding also have grown to encompass a broad cross section of identity groups such as age, disability, ethnicity, gender, religion/spirituality, sexual and gender diversity, social class, and others. A separate set of guidelines, Multicultural Guidelines: An Ecological Approach to Context, Identity, and Intersectionality, were published in 2017 and provide a broader overview of identities and their intersection. The Race and Ethnicity Guidelines, like other guidelines focusing on specific cultural or marginalized groups, were developed to provide guidance to psychologists in their specific understanding of and practice with racial and ethno-cultural groups.

The Race and Ethnicity Guidelines not only provide guidelines in the practice of psychology, but they also provide guidelines in education and training as well as in research. In addition, the Guidelines provide a comprehensive and critical foundation in terms of contextual information, conceptual issues, and terminology. As such, the Guidelines can be an important, if not critical, tool for students, educators, researchers, and practitioners alike. Fundamental guidelines provide a broader framework for striving to approach the process of building awareness, knowledge, and skills related to race and ethnicity as ongoing, interdisciplinary, intersectional, and systemic. It is important to recognize the influence of race and ethnicity in our own personal lives, in our professional experiences and spaces, and in structures that shape the field of psychology itself. Students of psychology, including students studying any of the many areas within the discipline (e.g., clinical, cognitive, developmental, social), can use the Guidelines to learn and reinforce many of the conceptual foundations and terms pertaining to how race and ethnicity relate to current psychological scholarship and research, the contexts and systems within and outside of psychology that shape social inequities and injustices, and individuals’ own positionality both personally and professionally. Students and faculty who are pursuing any kind of research can use these guidelines to help ensure they are attending to and integrating racial and ethnocultural concepts into every step of the research process. For example, one of the 17 guidelines discusses how to maintain racially and ethnoculturally ethical standards in conducting research. Another guideline discusses the importance of as well as process of centering ethnicity, race, and related constructs in research to further operationalize these constructs and promote practices that ensure racial and ethnic equity in the research process.

Faculty in both undergraduate and graduate training programs can benefit from the guidelines that discuss how to create an inclusive curriculum and educational environment as well as how to maintain and utilize updated and culturally relevant scholarship. The education and training guidelines also discuss how and why being racially and ethnoculturally responsive involves an ongoing and reflexive process of building one’s self-awareness, knowledge, and critical thinking skills. For students and psychologists focused on clinical work, the practice guidelines offer ways to consider racial and ethnic biases, diverse worldviews and perspectives, and Indigenous/ethnocultural strategies and resources in assessment, individual and group intervention, consultation and outreach, and other forms of professional practice. Engaging in self-awareness and reflective learning, again, is integral in working toward racially and ethnoculturally responsive practice.

Regardless of one’s role or level of training in the broad field of psychology, the process of building racial and ethnocultural responsiveness is both a professional as well as personal imperative. Over the past several decades, the United States has seen and will continue to see a significant growth in racial and ethnic diversity. Along with this growth, the United States also sees continued and pervasive experiences of discrimination and bias that contribute to large disparities in wealth, health, poverty, and incarceration among racial and ethnic groups. Large, continually growing bodies of research demonstrating the vast adverse consequences of oppression, inequality, and stigma for the health and well-being of racial and ethnic groups, as well as many other diverse groups, support that these guidelines and the issues they discuss are central to the field of psychology. Importantly, the Race and Ethnicity Guidelines present an opportunity for those studying and practicing in this field to also consider how their own backgrounds shape their behavior, their interests and goals, and their relationships both personally and professionally.


American Psychological Association. (2017). Multicultural guidelines: An ecological Approach to context, identity, and intersectionality. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association, APA Task Force on Race and Ethnicity Guidelines in Psychology. (2019). Race and ethnicity guidelines in psychology: Promoting responsiveness and equity. Retrieved from

Susy Gallor, PhD, joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts Boston Psychology Department in September 2014. Professor Gallor has a BS in psychology from the University of Florida and a PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Maryland College Park. Prior to working at UMass Boston, she worked for eight years as a staff psychologist at the University of New Hampshire Counseling Center and had a small private practice. She currently leads and supervises the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program’s outreach and consultation service UMB-UR-BEST (University Resources for Behavioral and Educational Skills Training). She teaches two graduate practica for advanced clinical psychology doctoral students in Outreach and Consultation Intervention as well as in Assessment. Professor Gallor teaches several undergraduate courses as well, including Personality Theories, Race, Culture and Relationships, and Principles of Psychotherapy.

Copyright 2020 (Vol. 24, Iss. 4) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology

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