Categories
Awards

Diversity Award

Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.
Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.

This year we recognized Dr. Chun-Chung Choi as our Diversity Award recipient. Dr. Choi was nominated by his colleagues for making significant contributions to both scholarship and practice, resulting in the advancement of diversity issues, particularly in the realm of group counseling and advocacy for international students. Some of his many contributions in this area include: creating innovative group programming for International Students at the University of Florida, which evolved into a specialty training program for Counseling and Wellness Center psychology interns; creating two groups that run each semester and that address limited campus resources related to supporting Mandarin speaking International Students; and providing supervision, training, and mentorship to interns in order to assist them in increasing their multicultural competency related to working with diverse populations in group therapy. Dr. Chung has also taught group counseling courses and has published five peer reviewed articles, two book chapters, and a film production aimed at empathy training for ethnic and cultural awareness. In addition he has presented over 49 refereed national publications (including two Division 49 sponsored symposiums at APA in 2014 related to multiculturalism in groups), one international, nine regional, and numerous local presentations. Dr. Choi’s professional contributions in the area of multicultural group counseling and psychotherapy practice, research, service, and training clearly add to our profession and promote further understanding and clinical effectiveness in working with diverse populations. Thank you, Dr. Choi, for your contributions to our profession and to our communities!

Chun-Chung Choi, Ph.D.
Chun-Chung Choi, Ph.D.
Categories
Columns

Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Diversity Column

Brave Space Dialogues in Multicultural Group Therapy: Emic Approaches

Jeanne Bulgin Steffen, Ph.D.
Jeanne Bulgin Steffen, Ph.D.

Reviewing the development and shift from “safe” space to “brave” space dialogues as an important way to frame diversity and social justice explorations was the focus of the column from the last issue of The Group Psychologist. In that issue I focused on an etic or culturally universal group intervention as an example of integrating a brave space dialogue into group processes. The specific intervention involved the process of introducing group members to their responsibilities within group by letting them know that, although it is a universal human drive to prioritize interpersonal safety, change rarely occurs when one is comfortable or “safe”. The introduction of the brave space concept (explaining that group members’ role is to become more comfortable being uncomfortable in order to learn and grow in group) is a culturally universal intervention that assists members in processing the meaning of brave space and supporting each other to approach challenging and controversial topics in a genuine manner. In this column, my goal is to shift focus from culturally universal interventions and describe two culturally specific (emic) brave space interventions.

One of the processes that is heavily influenced by culture in group work is one of the very first activities that group leaders ask group members to engage in: the development of ground rules. Although we may think of ground rules like honesty, respect, responsibility, and listening to others as universal cultural concepts, how we define these concepts actually differ (sometimes quite significantly) across cultures. In their article entitled From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces, Arao and Clemens (2013) discussed the process of developing ground rules for groups focusing on diversity and social justice conversations. The article features the formulation of ground rules as part of learning about social justice and diversity and identifies five common ground rules that may not consider differences between cultures, as well as how these ground rules might be understood from a non-dominant cultural perspective. One of the primary dangers of not considering the embeddedness of dominant cultural perspectives in ground rules is that the group leader may inadvertently support continued oppression of non-dominant cultural groups. The five common ground rules identified and discussed by the authors include: Agree to disagree, Don’t take things personally, Challenge by choice, Respect, and No attacks. Although the column doesn’t allow me the space to review the reframe of each of the ground rules, I will review the emic or culturally specific aspects of two of the five identified by the authors: Don’t take things personally and Respect.

The ground rule Don’t take things personally is commonly used in groups with the intent of encouraging group members to be open and non-defensive in response to feedback from others and with the intent of encouraging individuals in the group to speak more genuinely. Arao and Clemens indicate that this ground rule validates the inevitability of making mistakes as part of the process of intimate communication; however, the authors go on to argue that if person is affected negatively by a particular comment or discussion, this ground rule is likely to silence that person and tends to inadvertently protect members from dominant social groups. In addition, regarding issues of diversity and social justice, reprieve from emotional reaction tends to be specific to cultures valuing the masculine trait of control over emotions. Reframing the rule Don’t take things personally then becomes a culturally specific intervention in the process of forming ground rules. The particular ground rule suggested by the authors that is more aligned with a brave space dialogue, as well as more aligned with non-dominant cultural groups, is Owning your intentions and your impact. This ground rule allows for honest and open cultural exploration and increases accountability of group members by acknowledging that intentions and impact matter and that our intent is not always in line with our impact.

The ground rule of treating others with Respect is also a seemingly culturally universal rule that supports open conversation and healthy group dynamics; however, the definition of this ground rule also tends to be culturally specific. For instance, demonstrating respect differs in different cultures—both nonverbal behaviors such as maintaining eye contact while listening versus speaking and verbal behaviors such as interrupting and practicing emotional restraint are described by Arao and Clemens to be normatively masculine and patriarchal cultural practices. Therefore, the objective of exploring cultural definitions of Respect is a culturally specific intervention designed to increase mindfulness regarding cultural differences. The authors note that by unpacking comments not intended to be oppressive, but are, group members can better explore with each other ways to challenge and change social and cultural scripts related to privilege and cultural constructs such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, ability, and age.

By the titles, one may ascertain that the common ground rules identified by Arao and Clemens align with the concept of safety in groups and may be challenged and reframed by a brave space dialogue as a culturally universal intervention. In addition, it was my intention to call attention to the fact that many of the ground rules we take for granted as culturally universal may actually be inadvertently oppressive to those from non-dominant cultural groups, and I reviewed two culturally specific interventions related to reevaluating and redefining the ground rules, which included Don’t take things personally and Respect. Thank you to Laurie (Lali) McCubbin for her suggestion that I discuss the concepts of safe versus brave space in my columns. I think this discussion integrated well with prior columns related to etic and emic interventions in group practice and I hope added to readers’ multicultural awareness and knowledge, as well as added to ideas for increasing multicultural skill competency. In the next column, I look forward to discussing our committee’s activities at the 2015 convention of the American Psychological Association—I hope you can join us in Toronto in August!

As always, I welcome questions, concerns and ideas for future columns. Please email me at: jsteffen2013@gmail.com

References:

Arao, B., & Clemens, K. (2013). From safe spaces to brave spaces: A new way to frame dialogue around diversity and social justice. In L. Landreman (Ed.), The art of effective facilitation: Reflections from social justice educators (1st ed., pp. 135-150). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Rom R.B. (1998). ‘Safe spaces’: Reflections on an educational metaphor. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 30(4), 397-408.

Singleton, G., & Hays, C. (2008). Beginning courageous conversations about race. In M. Pollock (Ed.), Everyday antiracism: Getting real bout race in school (pp. 18-23). New York, NY: The New Press.

Singleton, G., & Linton, C. (2006). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Sparks, D. (2002). Conversations about race need to be fearless. Journal of Staff Development, 23(4), 60-64.

Categories
Announcements

Diversity Award

Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.

Chair of the Diversity Committee

Chun-Chung Choi, Ph.D.
Chun-Chung Choi, Ph.D.

We are very pleased to present Dr. Chun-Chung Choi the 2015 Diversity Award! Dr. Choi has clearly made contributions to both scholarship and practice in advancing diversity issues, particularly in the area of group counseling and advocacy for international students.  Some of his many contributions in this area include: creating innovative group programming for International Student Services, which has become a specialty training program for University of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness Center psychology interns; creating two groups that run each semester to address limited campus resources related to supporting Mandarin speaking International students; and providing supervision and training for interns related to working with diverse populations in group therapy.  Dr. Chung has also taught group therapy in the Counseling Department at UF as an adjunct professor.  Regarding research and scholarship, he has published five peer reviewed articles, two book chapters, and a film production aimed at empathy training for ethnic and cultural awareness. In addition, he has presented over 49 refereed national presentations (including two Division 49 sponsored symposiums at APA in 2014 related to multiculturalism in groups), one international, nine regional, and numerous local presentations. Several recent presentations relate to his work with international students in group therapy, including a manuscript he is completing related to a qualitative study he completed with students in his Mandarin group.

 

Categories
Columns

Diversity Column: A Paradigm Shift from Safe Space to Brave Space Dialogues in Multicultural Group Therapy

A Paradigm Shift from Safe Space to Brave Space Dialogues in Multicultural Group Therapy

Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.
Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.

The focus of the last column was balancing etic (culturally universal) and emic (culturally specific) approaches in group psychotherapy and I suggested group interventions that highlighted both approaches, as well as included theoretical support for both approaches. Hopefully, the practitioner found the review and suggested interventions helpful in some way, if even to validate current practices. To continue the plan to focus my columns on building multicultural competency in group therapy practices, with an emphasis on providing something useful to the practitioner, I’d like to highlight some emergent theory regarding facilitating multicultural and social justice dialogues in group work. Specifically, I’d like to review the development of moving from “safe” space dialogues to “brave” space dialogues and then suggest a culturally universal example of integrating a brave space intervention into your current group process.

If you are a counseling psychologist of my generation and you were interested in social justice and diversity, you probably first heard of the term “safe space/place” sometime in the 1990s when you signed up to receive training in sexual orientation and gender identity, probably from your community or university LGBT center. During the training, you learned a whole lot more about sexual orientation, heterosexual privilege and power, and gender identity (regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity) and became a proud ally, as well as the proud owner of a sticker with an upside down pink triangle surrounded by a green circle. The intent of the triangle symbolism was to communicate that your office/room was a safe space for others to express themselves without fear of rejection or discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Therefore, displaying your triangle communicated to those with invisible and non-dominant identities that “you are not alone!” (Sexual orientation and transgender identity can be successfully hidden in a way that race, ability, age, and other aspects of identity cannot, which can add to the isolation one feels if they identify into one of these non-dominant groups).

It’s not a large jump to then suppose that the pink inverted triangle enclosed by the green circle symbol began to generalize and become a symbol of safety and educational awareness related to diversity and social justice in general. From there, it is again not a large jump for us to imagine diversity educators working with groups and describing their group space as a “safe space” for exploring social justice issues. And from there, we can imagine a group practitioner somewhere receiving diversity education and then adopting the safe space concept as multicultural group therapy intervention that was intended to facilitate discussions about diversity. This is at least what I imagine happened when I try to connect the dots, since I was there experiencing the concept of safe space twenty years ago and last year suddenly found myself being introduced to the concept in a new way–of creating safe space dialogues versus brave space dialogues in group. When I tried to do a literature search last year to prepare for this column, I came up with a lot of “safe space” references, and it wasn’t until recently that I found explicit references to the concept of “brave space”. Thank you Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens for publishing a chapter on the topic!

Arao and Clemens (2013) began to notice that when they used the framework of safe space in group, it didn’t really do much to facilitate discussions about diversity, in fact quite the opposite. After much reflection, they surmised that group members’ expectations interfered with any sort of spirited exploration of social justice because conversations regarding privilege, power, and other aspects of group dynamics related to diversity and social justice are not without some discomfort. This was then definitely counter to group participants’ expectations about safety, defined as “…security from danger, risk or difficulty…”, and it was no wonder that group members were observed to withdraw rather than engage from difficult discussions based on their expectations (Arao & Clemens, 2013). Through their exploration, Arao and Clemens were introduced to Robert Boost Rom’s 1998 paper which discussed the unintentional consequences of the safe space concept in undermining critical thinking (he had suggested that learners “have to be brave”). They were also influenced by the concept of “courageous conversations about race” (Singleton & Hays, 2008; Singleton & Linton, 2006; Sparks, 2002). Consequently, Arao and Clemens are credited with introducing the concept of “brave space” and the presentation of the brave space framework in groups.

I can’t help but reflect upon the agreement between ACT theory and research and the use of the brave space framework as an intervention. ACT really began to take off in the late 1990s and it emphasizes the problems that occur when human beings focus on avoiding discomfort and how this avoidance relates to the learning process (Harris, 2007, 2008). For example, what I tell my patients and students: when avoiding that which is scary or uncomfortable, one accidently teaches the midbrain that the thing being avoided is dangerous, and this results in fight or flight. It takes exposure, or becoming more comfortable being uncomfortable, to reteach the midbrain. Despite my mini-lectures on anxiety and avoidance, I admit that I am guilty of referring to the group as a “safe space” to explore vulnerability. I would like to say this is a habit from my past training; however, I am newly aware that the use of a safe space frame may set up an expectation that keeps group members from exploring difficult dialogues. Needless to say, this topic really got me thinking of both etic and emic implications of safe versus brave space interventions and how I’m framing group work. For instance, I want to be more intentional regarding how I introduce members to their responsibilities in group. Specifically, this means letting group members know that it is a universal human drive and inherent in our DNA that safety comes first; however, also introduce group members to the dialectical that change rarely occurs when one is comfortable and that’s where the brave space concept comes in—an adjective that assists members in approaching uncomfortable explorations. This then becomes the culturally universal “brave space” intervention: to use the brave space framework to explain that the group members’ role is to become more comfortable being uncomfortable in order to learn and grow in group.

In this column, I described how the concept of safe space may have developed over the past 20 years so that it was eventually used in group therapy interventions. I also reviewed the concept of brave space as a more accurate and helpful framework for a universal (etic) group intervention because the term brave, and associated cognitive brave space frame, helps group members approach uncomfortable discussions. This approach behavior is essential to growth and change, as well as to critical thinking in general. In my next column, my goal is to focus on reviewing culturally specific (emic) brave space interventions. Many emic interventions are suggested by Arao and Clemens (2013) related to the process of developing ground rules for groups focusing on diversity and social justice issues. You are more than welcome to read ahead and look up the reference article!

As always, I welcome questions, concerns and ideas for future columns. Please email me at: jsteffen2013@gmail.com

References:

Arao, B., & Clemens, K. (2013). From safe spaces to brave spaces: A new way to frame dialogue around diversity and social justice. In L. Landreman (Ed.), The art of effective facilitation: Reflections from social justice educators (1st ed., pp. 135-150). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Fischer, A.R., Jome, L.M., & Atkinson, D.R. (1998). Reconceptualizing Multicultural Counseling: Universal Healing Conditions in a Culturally Specific Context. The Counseling Psychologist, 26, 525-588.

Harris, R. (2007, 2008). The happiness trap: How to stop struggling and start living. Boston, MA: Trumpeter Books.

Rom R.B. (1998). ‘Safe spaces’: Reflections on an educational metaphor. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 30(4), 397-408.

Singleton, G., & Hays, C. (2008). Beginning courageous conversations about race. In M. Pollock (Ed.), Everyday antiracism: Getting real bout race in school (pp. 18-23). New York, NY: The New Press.

Singleton, G., & Linton, C. (2006). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Sparks, D. (2002). Conversations about race need to be fearless. Journal of Staff Development, 23(4), 60-64.

Categories
Committee Reports

Diversity Committee Report

Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.
Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.

January 2015 Diversity Committee Report

Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.

Members of Committee:

Eric Chen

Maria Riva

Cheri Marmarosh

Joe Miles

Lee Gillis

Brittany White

Joel Miller

Jennilee Fuertes

 

Brief Summary of Activities Undertaken:

Last January, we identified tasks for the year, which included:

1)  Identify at least one new method to attract underrepresented members to the Division/Committee.

2) Create a formal process to engage people to nominate Diversity Award candidates.

3)  Create diversity programming to help in diversity education for the division.

Our activities since the summer report have included:

August: Eric arranged a diversity programming event at APA (Aug. 7-10 in Washington DC) entitled Evidence-Based Practice and Multicultural Competencies in Group Therapy: Multiple Perspectives. This four-paper symposium aimed to highlight the complex intersection between evidence-based practice and multicultural competence perspectives within the group therapy context from the perspectives of researcher, educator, trainee, and practitioner.

September-November: the diversity committee focused on getting our student members more involved in diversity programming. We worked together to put together a proposal for the 2015 APA Conference in Toronto entitled: Multicultural Skill Development in Group Psychology.

December-January: The committee reviewed the two candidates nominated for the 2015 Diversity Award and selected the finalist in January 2015.