Building multiculturalism into psychology starts with making it a staple of education and training, said panelists at a 2004 APA Annual Convention session. Yet educators often encounter difficulties attracting minorities, defining cultural competence and galvanizing uninterested or resistant faculty and students, noted speakers at the session, chaired by Patricia Arredondo, EdD, also chair of APA's Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI).

But, they said, programs can overcome such obstacles with help from the Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists, adopted as APA policy in 2002.

The guidelines recommend ways to infuse multicultural understanding across psychology--a process that starts with psychologists examining their own views and actions regarding other groups.

Applying them in psychology training has grown more pressing as accreditation bodies increasingly require multiculturalism; moreover it's ethically "everyone's responsibility, at all levels," said panelist Jaquelyn Resnick, PhD, director of the University of Florida counseling center.

Unfortunately, "that's not what the majority of white folks [currently working] in this profession believe," noted panelist Michael D'Andrea, EdD, of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

In an effort to change the status quo, he, Resnick and other panelists--Nadya Fouad, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin­Milwaukee (UWM), Gregory Hinrichsen, PhD, of Zucker Hillside Hospital, in Glen Oaks, N.Y., and Louise B. Silverstein, PhD, of Yeshiva University--shared ways the guidelines can help graduate and undergraduate programs enlighten students about racism, ethnicity and cultural differences and prepare them to serve the nation's mushrooming minority and aging populations.

The guidelines in action

A program's first step toward multiculturalism is explicitly stating--in its mission statement and elsewhere--its commitment to diversity, said panelist and guideline developer Fouad. To continue building diversity from there, she suggested programs:

  • Actively recruit students from diverse populations. Visit minority communities for example, or publicize the program in minority media, such as listservs.

  • Recruit and retain diverse faculty. Include minorities on search committees, look beyond academe for minority recruits and work to make them comfortable in the department.

  • Examine all courses for multicultural infusion. "Audit" a range of courses for multicultural content.

  • Evaluate students regularly for multicultural learning. Test students on diversity knowledge and weigh it when grading papers and other assignments. Survey students on course inclusion of multicultural content.

  • Ensure multiculturalism in clinical training. Expose students to clinical work with diverse populations and evaluate them on multicultural competence. UWM's program, for example, requires a practicum in a multicultural, urban setting.

Diversity challenges

Taking such steps has significantly bolstered UWM's adherence to the multicultural guidelines, said Fouad. For example, its faculty study a range of diversity issues, from disabilities to women to sexual orientation to race and ethnicity. Yet, she said, the program faces ongoing challenges in the areas of:

  • Student and faculty recruiting. Faculty continue to be mostly white and male, and students are mostly white too.

  • Minority-focused coursework. While race and culture are infused throughout the curriculum, faculty still seek a dedicated course to address racial identity and racism.

  • Student competency evaluation. Formal evaluations mostly don't consider student impairment in work with multicultural groups.

  • Supervisor competence evaluation. The program lacks evaluation of supervisors on multicultural competence.

Fellow panelist Resnick advised programs to tackle such challenges head on. Lead by example, she suggested, consider power-structure shifts, encourage group cooperation and set goals for diversifying your program. "But be patient," said Resnick. "No one gives up privilege willingly or with ease."

Resnick also recommended programs evaluate their own progress and hire multicultural consultants to gain an outside perspective.

Most importantly, she advised, realize that multicultural infusion is ongoing. "This is not something you get to do in a workshop or in a week or even in a year," she explained. "It requires continuous attention and awareness-raising."

Further Reading

For a copy of APA's multicultural guidelines, go to Multicultural Guidelines or read the May American Psychologist (Vol. 58, No. 5).