Diversity Training at USDCC

As a staff, we are deeply committed to developing our own multicultural competencies and those of our interns. An understanding of the impact of culture is integrated into every aspect of the work we do in direct services, training, scholarly activity and research. We define culture and diversity broadly, allowing our definition to encompass racial and ethnic differences, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, nationality, acculturation, religious affiliation, and ability status. Comprehensive understanding of the impact of culture is seen by our staff as an integral ingredient of competent psychological practice. We ascribe to APA’s statement “Preparing Professional Psychologists to Serve a Diverse Public: A Core Requirement in Doctoral Education and Training” which can be found at http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/policy/diversity-preparation.aspx.  We train interns to be well-rounded professional psychologists with the competencies to serve clients representing different forms of diversity.  As such, we expect that both interns and staff will be open to working with clients representing different values, cultural experiences, and lifestyles that they have, and will work with supervision or consultation to confront and work through areas of bias and blind spots. We take as given that we have all been socialized with some areas of bias and blind spots, so emphasize cultural humility. We aim to foster a supportive and non-shaming environment that supports introspection and working through these issues in the service of providing a safer and more effective clinical experience for a broad array of clients.  In providing this training, we commit ourselves to create a supportive training environment that allows for self-exploration and the development of cognitive flexibility.

Our training in diversity has been structured in a very intentional and systematic manner. We consider it very important to train interns to think in a culturally competent way, rather than just learn certain facts about certain groups and apply them in a more stereotyped fashion. Though some supervisors are responsible for different aspects of diversity-related didactic training, we do not want those supervisors to be seen as the only “go-to” people in the realm of diversity. We all hold a commitment to diversity and to personal growth in this area. All supervisors are expected to attend to diversity factors and collaborate with one another in training interns in this realm, to assure clear feedback and a thoughtful training experience. While we consider supervisors as having important responsibilities in the area of diversity, we also believe that interns need to hold themselves accountable in this realm, to challenge themselves and one another as needed to ensure a meaningful learning experience.

One way of conceptualizing comprehensive training in diversity issues is by addressing knowledge, awareness, and skills. The structured elements of our training are listed below.

Knowledge: refers to obtaining information about various worldview orientations, histories of oppression endured by marginalized populations, and culture-specific values that influence the subjective and collaborative experience of marginalized populations. Various didactic seminars are presented throughout the year. Though some of these topics may vary by intern group, many are routinely offered. Given that interns come to us with some coursework in the diversity realm, our knowledge-based seminars generally focus on topics that are less commonly or less thoroughly addressed in graduate school based on our experience training interns. In addition, various supervisors may provide readings or suggest experiential methods to improve learning.

Skills: refers to skill development and implementation that allows one to draw from an existing fund of cultural knowledge to design mental health interventions that are relevant to marginalized populations. This dimension also focuses on clinical application through identifying how to be culturally sensitive with individual clients, explore issues of difference in the room, and open up discussions around cultural and other relevant areas of diversity. These are addressed in the Diversity Consultation group for interns, as well as in all other supervisory experiences.

Awareness: refers to being cognizant of one’s attitudes, beliefs, and values regarding race, ethnicity, and culture, along with one’s awareness of the sociopolitical relevance of cultural group membership in terms of cultural privilege, discrimination, and oppression. Self awareness skills are fostered in the biweekly Diversity Consultation experience, in various supervision experiences, and several experientially-based workshops, in which interns will be expected to reflect upon their own backgrounds and identities to further build self-awareness and cultural sensitivity.

Topics relevant to diversity are regular features of the in-services and intern seminars and include experiential exercises as well as more didactic information. In addition, cultural factors are discussed in individual and group supervision formats, and assessment consultation. Outreach presentations and consultations are frequently provided to the campus community on diversity issues. Interns interested in targeting diversity issues in their outreach efforts should contact the outreach supervisor.

Our university offers a reasonable amount of diversity, with approximately 35 percent of the student body identifying as people from diverse racial/ethnic background. More detailed and comprehensive information regarding diversity at USD is located at https://www.sandiego.edu/facts/statistics.php. Students seen at the Counseling Center tend to mirror the student body well, except that as at many settings, males tend to underutilize services. While in most cases interns naturally experience a reasonably diverse caseload without interventions, supervisors assist the interns in monitoring the diversity of their caseload, and case assignments are intentionally made when needed to balance caseloads.

External experiences with the diverse clientele: To supplement the diversity of our student population, previous interns have participated in training experiences with non-USD students (Barrio Logan College Institute, San Diego Center for Children), which are off-site. While we cannot guarantee these experiences on a yearly basis due to the fluctuations in those programs’ staffing and needs, the USDCC supports interns’ involvement and will continue to seek out diverse experiences to enhance the training they receive with us.