Presidential Voice – Spring 2021

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I FIND MYSELF EXPERIENCING A MIX OF EMOTIONS AS I WRITE THIS FIRST UPDATE. On one side, I am deeply honored and humbled to be the first early career psychologist to be the president of Division 56. On the other, I sit with sadness and loss as we continue to face the effects of the pandemic and violence in this country. In any given moment, I experience myself as rapidly bouncing back and forth between these two 

sets of emotions, which impacts the energy that I have to be in connection with others. I would love to be able to say that I consistently use my skills to navigate these experiences; however, I think I’m likely at about 40% most days. My goal in sharing these thoughts is to validate the experiences of all of the humans I know who find themselves in similar states, whether family, friend, colleague, or client. Through these experiences I have come to understand that resilience is just as much about being able to sit it and acknowledge the struggle as it is to make it through the other side. It is my sincere hope that we can spend this year creating and maintaining a trauma-informed community that can be of assistance to all of us as we continue to navigate the various challenges that we will face as individuals and as a collective whole.

As I reflect on the journey that has brought me to this point, I find my thoughts focused on the community of people who have been instrumental in nudging, guiding, and helping to pick me back up when I fall down. Without this amazing group of people, I’m certain that life would look very different for me at this point. As I consider my own story, particularly over the past year, it reminds me of the critical importance of our support network. Those individuals who will help us to co-regulate, in the words of Stephen Porges, and how this biological imperative is primarily fulfilled when vulnerability is present. As I reflect on these words, I think about how my privilege as a straight, white, cisgender male identified person frequently makes it easier to sit in a place of vulnerability because none of my intersecting identities are marginalized. Further, I did not have the realization about my level of privilege until beginning graduate school, as prior to that it was considered appropriate to “not see color” or not be -ist of any kind as long as you “made fun of everyone equally.” Throughout my journey of challenging implicit bias and prejudicial thoughts, I have fallen down frequently and not always been open to feedback. I have come to realize this is in part due to lessons I learned about what it meant to “be a man,” particularly one who has white skin in this culture. As Division 56 continues to stand against oppression and marginalization, it is critical that we all look internally for those areas where we can grow, but vulnerable, and challenge the messages that have been persistently reinforced across various systems in our country.

The primary focus of my presidential year will be on the effective assessment of psychological trauma, particularly more complex posttraumatic reactions. Unfortunately, there continues to be a dearth of training opportunities that focus on complex trauma and dissociation, which creates some difficulties in finding trauma-informed treatment and assessment services. We will have several discussions about treatment and assessment at the convention. Further, George Rhoades and I are in discussion about creating some home study courses on effective assessment of posttraumatic states. For those who were not able to attend, I recently did a brief overview on assessment practices that is currently available in our home study program.

Division 56’s publication groups continue to produce excellent content for our members. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and the amazing associate editors were able to handle a substantial increase in manuscripts over the past year and Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Policy, and Practice continues to be seen as a leader in the field. Please join me in sending everyone who helps the journal stand out in the field a huge thank you. I am also pleased that Viann Nguyen-Feng has taken over as newsletter editor and has already been making some important changes, including bringing the production of the PDF version in house. Viann and the newsletter team have a lot of work ahead of them, and I am excited to see the newsletter continue to grow in the coming years. George Rhoades has also put in an incredible amount of work to ensure our CE programs are of high quality and varied content. Division 56 is grateful for his leadership and guidance in bringing this program into reality.

Jessica Punzo is working hard to review the convention proposals for this year, which will be held virtually again. We are hoping by next year that we will return to our usual ability to share space and stories together as a group. In the meantime, we will keep you updated on changes to the platform and structure as APA provides them, which will hopefully include an easier way to obtain continuing education for attendance. We will also be hosting several social events during convention time, as a way to build community. I am thankful for all those who have submitted proposals and will work hard to ensure the field of trauma psychology is well represented at this year’s convention. And please don’t forget to nominate your Division 56 colleagues for one of our awards!

Major projects this year will be completing the Trauma Assessment Guidelines for Adults, which will be published as an APA guideline once completed. We will also be continuing the work of Sylvia Marotta-Walters’ work on developing trauma competencies and specialization. We are hopeful this work will increase access to trauma-informed curriculum, as well as the ability to obtain board certification in trauma psychology. Finally, Ayli Carrero Pinedo is continuing to move the I DARE (Inclusion, Diversity, Anti-Racism and Equity) forward, which will focus on how we as a group can ensure our policies, procedures, and actions challenge structural racism, white supremacy, and all forms of marginalization.

Division 56 has been my home since joining APA and I continue to be proud of the work that we do. Although there is not enough space to personally thank everyone who has been involved in the Division, I hold the deepest gratitude for ever human who has donated their time and helped to ensure trauma is effectively treatment and studied. Division 56 is here for our members. We encourage you to reach out, ask questions, and become involved in the various projects and committees that help our Division represent the voices of trauma psychologists.