Presidential Voice – Fall 2020

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Carolyn Allard, PhD

THIS YEAR… Some days it has felt like it has been going by slower than dial-up, but mostly it has gone by faster than a rolling “O,” or even like I blinked some time back in March and suddenly found myself in October. Collectively, we have spent and foresee continuing to spend countless hours and energy managing, juggling, troubleshooting, creating, re-creating, listening, reflecting, learning, helping, with no clear end in sight. Our hearts have been broken by so much loss, betrayal, and violence, and buoyed by so much courage, compassion and beauty. Let us each keep being the source of the latter for each other. Please continue to reach out to me or anyone on your Executive Committee with your suggestions of how we can do so at the Division leadership level.

In this, my last newsletter entry as Division President, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge and thank everyone who substantially contributed to keeping our regular Division activities going and to new initiatives involving collaborations bridging different arenas of trauma psychology. This includes the entire Executive Committee, of course, as well as all the Chairs and working members of our Committees and Task Forces, who continued volunteering their time to keep the show running during very challenging times. I would like to highlight the efforts of a few specific individuals who truly went above and beyond to ensure that we, as a Division, did all we could to support our members and to use our collective expertise to address current events.

Our Executive Director, Katesha Phillips, came on board just as the pandemic did, hit the ground running, and has been invaluable to me and to the Division, supporting the Division through these turbulent times in countless ways. In addition, Katesha was instrumental, along with Webinar Chair, George Rhoades, and the Webinar Committee, in getting our on-demand Webinar platform up and running. Thanks to them, CEUs are now available for many of the APA 2020 convention presentations on the Division Webinar platform. Our convention Program Co-Chairs, Lynsey Miron and Susan Hannan, did an amazing job planning and coordinating essentially two conventions (an in-person and then a virtual one). Jessica Punzo put together some great virtual Hospitality Suite events and Yo Jackson coordinated the Awards Committee’s selection and recognition of an inspiring bunch of trauma psychologists during our virtual Awards Ceremony). Our first attempt at celebrating the award winners was sadly impeded by a group of individuals attempting to spread hate and divisiveness. Their attack was hurtful and provided more evidence of how much work we still need to do to eliminate racism (as if we needed more), but it was not successful in stopping us from celebrating these brilliant and compassionate human beings whose work has greatly contributed to our field.

A loud shoutout goes to our fearless and tireless Student and Early Career Representatives, Ayli Carrero Pinedo and Katharine Lacefield. They led the launch of our inaugural Cultivating Healing, Advocacy, Nonviolence, Growth, and Equity (CHANGE) Grantand are coordinating the review process for the over 50 submissions we received. Ayli and Katy have been active members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce (led by Bryann DeBeer), which is continuing to develop a strategic plan for the Division to engage in program evaluation and improvement efforts aimed at identifying and addressing systemic racism and discrimination within our policies and practices, and to implement reparative practices to redress the balance. Besides the grant, other initiatives already under way include the launching of a Webinar series focused on racism and discrimination related stress and trauma, and paying BIPOC presenters providing trainings on issues related to racism, discrimination, and justice. The first presentation in the Webinar series was focused on Understanding and Addressing Race-Related Stress and Trauma for African American Youth and Adults (presented by Drs. Carter and Dr. Saleem) and is available on-demand (and for CEUs) from our Webinar platform.

The Interdivisional Covid-19 Taskforce (led by Charles Figley, Melissa Wasserman, and Ann Chu) has not stopped developing and disseminating resources focused on crisis intervention, international whole person approaches, hospital and other essential workers, infected individuals and their families, students, support for mental health providers, and intersecting factors (e.g., for immigrants and refugees, interpersonal violence survivors, older adults). In addition, the Division 56 Journal Editorial team led by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett published an immense collection of papers on the effects of the COVID-10 pandemic in the form of studies, literature reviews, clinician reports, and first-person accounts. Articles were written by authors from 28 countries and covered a broad array of topics intersecting with the pandemic, including racial trauma, inequity, health disparities in communities of color, culturally competent emergency management, and collective trauma and community support. The special issue and supplement are available via online open access through the end of the year.

Bryann DeBeer, Social Media Chair, and Kenneth Thompson, Web Editor, helped ensure the Division has a solid and growing presence on the internet and social media, including keeping all of us informed about convention and other Division activities. And last but not least, I want to thank Division Secretary, Loren Post, and Treasurer, Barbara Niles, who made themselves available to work with the Presidential Trio (Elect, Current, Past) to discuss and vote on initiatives needing quick turnaround several more times during the year than what is typical.

I look forward to sharing more information about these and other Division updates at the Membership Town Hall (which will occur before this newsletter goes to press) but I hope you know you are invited and encouraged to contact me or any other member of your Executive Committee any time to ask questions, offer feedback, and provide suggestions for moving the Division and our field forward. I also trust that you are engaging in whatever way(s) you are able to contribute to the eradication of trauma and posttraumatic distress in all its forms, including racism, discrimination, and injustice – and of course this includes taking very good care of yourself. Thanks for doing all you can to ensure next year is a better, brighter, healthier, fairer, and freer one than this year!