Carolyn Allard, Ph.D.
As I sit here in my dining room to write, it strikes me that everything is very different than I had imagined it would be when I stepped into my role just a few months ago (which sometimes feels like an eternity). By “everything,” I mean everything. For one, instead of my office at the university, I am writing this from my dining room at home because: 1) pandemic, and 2) I needed a change of scenery from my bedroom desk. A more substantial departure from what I expected in writing this piece, however, is how I am feeling. I had imagined myself excitedly writing about the stimulating APA 2020 program we prepared for you, thanks to all the wonderful submissions and speakers, and about how much I was looking forward to seeing so many of you in DC. However, not knowing how things will play out is causing some chronic low-level unease that has somewhat dampened my excitement. While the convention is still technically on schedule to take place August 6-9, 2020, in Washington, DC, due to the everchanging nature of things, registration has been delayed until at least May 15 (for up to date information about APA 2020, visit the convention website: https://convention.apa.org/).
I am still very enthusiastic about our program and am hopeful that it will be offered in some form or other, even if not in August, in person, or live. The theme for our APA 2020 Program and for my presidential year overall is Advancing Trauma Research, Practice and Policy through Reciprocal Collaborations. One of the primary aims is to increase cohesion and collaboration within our Division and within the larger trauma psychology community. Unfortunately, over the past few years we have been experiencing increasingly polarizing discourses between different groups within trauma psychology, paralleling in some ways the increasing divisiveness we have been witnessing in our other communities and the greater sociopolitical state of affairs – indeed, the current pandemic has put a bright spotlight on how extreme the polarization has become. Therefore, in partnership with several other Divisions, we planned two keynote activities geared toward depolarization and increasing effective reciprocal collaborations.
The first of these consists of a panel of leaders involved in the development of treatment guidelines and policies and in public discourses about the benefits and drawbacks of such guidelines. They will engage in a depolarizing conversation moderated by Mpho Tutu van Furth (co-author of The Book of Forgiving with her father, Reverend Desmond Tutu) and Venerable Thubten Jigme (psychiatric nurse turned ordained Buddhist nun), using international best practices like those used in the Truth and Reconciliation model and compassion engendering exercises. This conversation will not only assist us as a Division in being more effective in applying psychology to address the problems we are facing in the world today, but it will also provide a role modeling example of how we might transform divisive conversations in our other communities and settings.
The second planned keynote is a thinktank session with the aim of producing practical recommendations for decision making entities, such as research funding agencies, journal editorial boards, and policy change advocates, to develop policies and procedures that increase inclusive multidirectional collaboration between practice, research, education and policy advocacy. A panel of experts, whose work has effectively bridged across two or more of these sectors, beyond the more typical unidirectional research-informs-practice type of collaboration, will engage audience members in town hall style discussions.
Beyond the uncertainties about APA 2020 caused by the pandemic, I am also experiencing a more generalized emotional effect. This compels me to remind us all to be compassionate and patient with ourselves and those around us, and I hope that the interdivisional COVID-19 Taskforce we spearheaded will provide you with resources to be effective in your work and facilitate your self-care during these challenging times. The Taskforce is charged with developing resources that capitalize on our Division members’ unique expertise, are specifically geared to our members’ needs, and are not redundant to those already provided by APA and other organizations. Resources related to working with elderly populations, hospital workers, and secondary trauma, and working remotely with complex trauma, for example, are being added to the COVID-19 Resources page on our Division website as they are developed. Please also be reminded that we are here for one another. Take good care of yourself and let us know what you need.