APA Participates in CRCP 2011: A Catalyzing Meeting for Psychology in the Caribbean Region

The Caribbean Regional Conference of Psychology was well attended by APA governance leaders and staff, who commented on the event and the future of psychology in the region.

By Merry Bullock, PhD, APA Office of International Affairs

CRCP 2011This November around 350 people met in Nassau, Bahamas for the 2011 Caribbean Regional Conference of Psychology. Hosted by the Bahamas Psychological Association and sponsored by three international psychology organizations (IUPsyS, IAAP, IACCP), CRCP 2011 brought together psychologists from throughout the Caribbean region (over half the participants, from 18 Caribbean countries and territories), from the Caribbean diaspora outside the region, and from the international community. The meeting was organized by a conference organizing committee, with the assistance of a regional advisory group, a scientific programme committee, local organizers, student committee and student volunteers, reviewers, and local, regional and international sponsors.

Ava Thompson at the CRCP 2011 Town Hall Meeting after signing the Nassau Declaration to create a regional organization.Ava Thompson, Professor at the College of the Bahamas and the Conference Organizing Committee Chair captured the essence of the conference by noting:

"CRCP 2011 was truly an historic event for Caribbean psychology! The opportunities to share our vision for the discipline in the region and beyond, present research, plan the way forward and network were unparalleled. Colleagues in the region, those in the Diaspora and our students responded enthusiastically to the idea of the conference and worked together to ensure the conference's success. It was clearly the realization of a dream for many Caribbeanists and established a strong foundation for moving forward collectively. The support and participation of our international colleagues and organization were also critical and very encouraging. Many participants have commented on the energy, sense of unity and the extraordinary commitment to affect change in our region. We have a wonderful journey ahead!"

Rita Dudley-Grant (center) with Merry Bullock (APA Office of International Affairs) and Greg Neimeyer (APA Office of Continuing Education).G. Rita Dudley-Grant, past APA Council Member, served as Co-Chair of the CRCP Scientific Committee and Liaison with the APA Continuing Education office. She said:

"In my over thirty years of membership and leadership within APA, I have never been more proud of APA than in its support of our movement to build Caribbean psychology! We are confident that with our continued efforts and the support of our partners, we will meet our main conference goals, particularly in creating a vibrant regional psychology organization."

Throughout the meeting, two threads were apparent: a scientific program, including discussion of research, models, and issues relevant to psychology in the region, in lively plenary, symposium, panel and poster sessions; and a capacity building focus – with discussion on how to support the growth of psychology in the region in ways that fostered local leadership, local content and local needs and issues. The conference ended with a declaration, signed by conference attendees, to form a regional psychology association.

APA at the table: Gwen Keita, Melba Vasquez, Gary Vandenbos, Kurt Geisinger, and Lindsay Childress-Beatty at the opening reception.APA was one of the conference sponsors, and a number of APA staff and governance leaders attended. Collectively, the APA presence included workshops presentations, invited talks, roundtables, networking sessions, Continuing Education support, and exhibition and demonstration of APA books and databases. Here is a summary of some of the APA presentations and comments from those APA governance leaders and staff who attended:

Melba Vasquez, APA 2011 President, gave an invited talk, "The unique experiences of leadership among persons of color: Enriching the discipline of psychology." She commented:

"It was exciting to be at an historic event that laid the groundwork for collaboration of psychologists in the Caribbean. The themes were inspiring, including overcoming inequalities; identifying capacity building opportunities; and the importance of promoting the notion that 'there is no health without mental health'. I had new insights about the importance of understanding the complexity of behavior change for people from 17 regional countries and territories in the Caribbean."

Kurt Geisinger in a Pre-Conference Workshop on MethodologyKurt Geisinger, APA Board of Directors, presented a session at a preconference workshop on Research methodology titled "The scholarly and fair evaluation of tests and assessments: English language and adapted tests." He noted:

"The excitement of the participants in this first ever whole Caribbean psychology conference was palpable. It was a privilege to be there. The quality of the work was quite high and many of the speakers addressed important issues such as developing a Caribbean psychology that is related to but unique from a more American psychology. Clearly, methodology is both qualitative and quantitative and the orientation is to address issues related broadly to the history, economics, political and social lives of the Caribbean community. It was exhilarating to be at a meeting where the communication of cultural and linguistic differences was possible — while the conference was primarily in English, some talks were also given in Spanish and French and other attendees spoke Dutch as well."

Norman Anderson, APA CEO (right) with Sean Stephens (President, Trinidad & Tobago Psychological Association); Peter Weller, plenary speaker and member of the Regional Advisory Committee (from Jamaica); Ishtar Govia, Co-Chair CRCP Scientific Committee (from Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago); and Guerda Nicolas, former APA CIRP Co-Chair and CRCP Organizing Committee member (from the USA and Haiti)Norman Anderson, APA CEO, spearheaded APA staff representation and gave an invited talk on the first morning in a panel on Health Disparities: US and Caribbean Perspectives. This talk was titled "Building bridges to address health disparities in the US and Caribbean region."

Gary R. VandenBos, APA publisher and Executive Director, Publications and Databases, and Peter Gaviorno, Senior Director, Sales, Licensing, Marketing and Exhibits, brought an APA exhibit with books, journals and databases, and actively engaged with conference attendees. Gary noted:

"The CRCP meeting was an outstanding meeting. APA Books, Journals and Databases exhibited, and the interest and response of the conference participants were high. APA demonstrated the two recently launched new databases – PsycTESTS and PsycTHERAPY. The meeting also provided an opportunity to recruit potential new authors for APA journals and APA Books, as well as inform APA publication staff of research and practices interests in the Caribbean region that will prove useful in future content acquisition decisions. It was rewarding to meet and chat with this impressive audience of students, researchers, and practitioners."

Gary Vandenbos at the APA Books table.Peter Gaviorno added that book sales at the CRCP meeting were quite strong (nearly $3,000) and attendees purchased a broad array of titles in cultural psychology, methodology, clinical psychology, and child and adolescent psychology as well as APA Style and Magination Press (children’s) books.

Gwen Keita, Executive Director of APA’s Public Interest Directorate, participated in a panel on Organizational contexts and well being, with a paper titled "Addressing work, stress, and health in a global economy." She said:

"Psychologists across the different Caribbean countries are dealing with numerous issues in common, many of the same ones facing us in the United States. My talk was on Work, Stress, and Health which included attention to the negative impact of workplace stress, organization of work, and unemployment--all issues of important across countries. I look forward to working with many of the conference participants in the future."

Greg Neimeyer, Associate ED for Continuing Education, and Marcia Segura, Assistant Director for Continuing Education, advised the CRCP Organizing Committee on the development of CE offerings (all workshops and plenary sessions were available for CE credit to all conference registrants) and were avid participants in the conference presentations. Greg said:

Ishtar Govia, Organizing Committee, and Marcia Segura, APA Continuing Education."In many ways the CRCP2011 Conference for Psychology was an historic event, a milestone moment in the development of a collective identity and a psychology that cuts across diverse Caribbean nations. As a capacity--building event, it surely laid the ground work for sustained cross-Caribbean collaboration, building upon the distinctive foundations already in place across a range different national and language groups, including nearly a dozen different countries with Dutch, English, French, and Spanish-speaking peoples. As a watershed event, the conference was equal part capacity-building and consciousness-raising, at least for me, and I felt a distinctive privilege to have been a part of it."

Nabil El-Ghoroury, Associate ED for APAGS, co-hosted a networking and information session for graduate students. He noted:

Nabil El-Ghoroury, APA, and Anna Wheatley, University of Miami and the U.S. Virgin Islands."At the evening event for graduate and undergraduate students, the discussion focused on providing information about APAGS and why they might want to join; how to advocate and get involved in their program, campus, or community, and suggestions on how to network at a conference. The most interesting dialogue was a question about whether or not to train in the US or in the Caribbean. A faculty person from the University of the West Indies reported that she trained in the US for access to learning about science and evidence based practice, but did not get the cultural training or understanding of the specific experiences of Caribbean communities. We discussed how this was ultimately a personal decision for an individual student, and that there might be better understanding and inclusion of Caribbean experiences in local universities.

Overall, I felt the conference was a huge success. Students were warmly greeted at the meeting. Student volunteers were critical for the meeting’s success. At the table where APAGS materials were placed, student materials such as copies of gradPSYCH magazine and the APAGS Resource Guide for Ethnic Minority Graduate Students ran out nearly instantly. I was very impressed by the depth and breadth of posters presented by many graduate and undergraduate students. Many graduate students of the Caribbean diaspora training in the US attended this meeting; I met APAGS members from the University of Miami, Purdue, University of Michigan, and other institutions. I look forward to seeing continued student representation at future Caribbean regional conferences!"

The CRCP Organizing Committee with Bahamas Minister of Health, The Honorable Hubert A. Minnis, and Chairperson of Public Hospitals Authority, Veta Brown. From left: Guillermo Bernal (Puerto Rico), Rochelle Basden (Bahamas), Merry Bullock (USA), Rita Dudley-Grant (US Virgin Islands), Ava Thompson (Bahamas), The Honorable Hubert A. Minnis, Veta Brown, Ishtar Govia (Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica), Richard Adderley (Bahamas), Guerda Nicolas (USA and Haiti).Merry Bullock, Senior Director of APA’s Office of International Affairs, had served as liaison to the Conference organizing committee from the international organizational co-sponsors of the conference. In addition, she gave an invited talk, "Going global, listening locally: Opportunities for psychology," and chaired a plenary session on Capacity Building. She also assisted with the web site and database development. She noted:

"This conference was amazing from start to end – the organizing committee managed to coordinate a smashing scientific programme, capacity building efforts for individuals and organizations (in collaboration with IUPsyS), and to lay the groundwork for strong regional development. These developments are just what the global community of psychology needs – development of strong, autonomous programmes and organizations that can address local needs and realities, and attention to the balance of local and global perspectives in nurturing psychology as a discipline. The vision, dedication and sheer accomplishments of the conference will be a good model for psychology to come."

Information on the Regional Conference, conference goals, outcomes and future directions may be seen on the CRCP2011 website.