Aligned with his presidential theme, “The Future of Counseling Psychology Campaign”, SCP President Y. Barry Chung commissioned the inaugural SCP Leadership Academy to “inspire, recruit, and train future leaders in counseling psychology”. Five early career psychologists and five doctoral students were selected to participate in the Leadership Academy. Over the course of a weekend, “The Dream Team” comprised of Rosie Bingham, Linda Forrest, Candice Crowell, Katharine Hahn, Sandy Shullman, and John Westefeld led Academy participants through a variety of activities intended to encourage leadership development and inspire leadership attainment. Below we share our experiences from the academy.
Cirleen DeBlaere, PhD
As an early career psychologist passionate about diversity and social justice issues, I feel that I am developing and finding my identity as a researcher, teacher, and mentor. I am pleased (and somewhat relieved) to be able to say that I believe that I am beginning to find my footing in these domains. With that recognition came a desire to extend my diversity and social justice interests to service initiatives that have the potential to have a broad and systemic impact on the field of counseling psychology and our greater society. Participation and leadership in SCP and APA seemed like an ideal way to do exactly that. The problem for me was this “ I did not know how to get started. It was during this period of wanting to be more involved and not knowing how to go about achieving this goal that a colleague forwarded the SCP Leadership Academy call for applications. It felt serendipitous and I was honored to be selected for the program. Over the course of the long weekend, I learned about leadership styles, SCP governance, participated in a strategic planning meeting with the Executive Board, and co-developed a Leadership Academy project. Those were the tangibles of the weekend. The intangibles included the friendships I cultivated with my fellow Leadership Academy participants and the feeling of absolute welcome I experienced in my interactions with not only the Leadership Academy faculty members and Barry Y. Chung, but the entire Executive Board. Everyone seemed to make a point of connecting with the Academy participants. Sitting with my professional heroes, individuals I have cited copiously and admired from afar at all those APA social events, and learning that they are not so different from me with regard to interests and professional passions was a powerful recognition. Although it may sound like a rather mundane realization, and perhaps one I could have assumed to be true, to make those connections on a personal level made me feel a part of, included, in SCP. I realized that I have a professional home. A home where my opinion matters, my identities and experience are affirmed, and where people appreciate sharing a good laugh. That is my kind of place.
On our final day, we were asked what SCP governance positions we envision holding in future. I could not exactly answer that question but I did know this much “no matter what positions I hold or in whatever ways I am fortunate to serve, I will pay this feeling of inclusion and affirmation forward. I will endeavor to create similar opportunities for connection and fit. I will endeavor to welcome others home.
The Leadership Academy was a career-expanding experience. It was incredible to be in conversation with other counseling psychologists with a range of passions and interests. I felt as though my non-traditional path into counseling psychology was validated by my interactions with the leaders of the field. I earnestly felt as though I was connected to a community of scholars, faculty, practitioners, and administrators who are on a journey to enhancing the future of our field. It was such an honor to be included. I will never forget the experience of being included in this inaugural group of leaders.
Kimber Shelton, PhD
There are many wonderful things I take away from my weekend at the Leadership Academy including better recognition of my leadership style, strategic planning procedures, and increased understanding of SCP and APA governance. However, what made the weekend truly meaningful and most inspired my leadership development was connecting with SCP members who are invested in being agents of social justice and creating progressive systemic change. I was so impressed by the diversity within the SCP Executive Board. As a woman of color, internalized oppression and societal marginalization can at times challenge my capacity to fully utilize my leadership capabilities and leave me perplexed as to how to best represent myself as a leader. It was refreshing and encouraging to converse with women and leaders of color in SCP. It reminded me that my leadership capacity is maximized when I am genuine, authentic and confident about what I have to contribute. Surprisingly, it was fun getting an informal history lesson on SCP; and as I received my history lesson and participated in other activities, I recognized that I am not so far removed from the psychologists that I have looked up to from afar and I could actually envision myself participating more fully within SCP. One of my (many) goals as a Counseling Psychologist is to provide scholarly activity and clinical services aimed at addressing and improving the societal and counseling environments of oppressed and marginalized groups. With my identity as a LGBTQ ally, I am frequently asked, “Why?”; “Why do you care?”; “Why do you do what you do?” I never heard this question during the leadership academy as no one questioned my intrinsic motivation of not wanting to oppress another group and advocate against injustice. I am so grateful to have attended the inaugural SCP Leadership Academy as it has provided me with greater direction as to how to use my social justice leadership and advocacy abilities to educate, challenge oppression, and support others. Additionally, I am appreciative of the friendships developed and excited to be a part of the future of counseling psychology! Thank you so much President Chung, the Dream Team, the Executive Board, and fellow Academy participants!!!
There are two things that stand out about my experience with the Leadership Academy. First, it was a delight connecting with fellow Academy participants, members of the Executive Board, and our Academy faculty mentors. These connections are exactly what drew me to counseling psychology in the first place, and make me excited about increasing my involvement in the Society. Second, participating in the strategic planning session helped me see where I can join with other members to contribute to the continued growth of the Society and our field. I hope many other student and ECP members have the privilege of participating in this Academy in the future.