Multicultural Education in Professional Psychology
The faculty of the California School of Professional Psychology, Alameda campus (CSPP-A) were concerned that students in their graduate programs in clinical psychology did not have the training necessary to work with a culturally diverse population. This project sought to augment the content of required courses and introduce new requirements that would better prepare graduates to interact with ethnic minority clients.
The eleven faculty teaching the "Introduction to Professional Issues" course required of first- year students began to change the curriculum by including a focus on the student's own ethnic identity as a major element of that course. Faculty responsible for the second year's "Seminar in Clinical and Ethical Issues" revised the course reader and developed clinical vignettes that would center class discussion on ethical and treatment issues that arise in working with minority group members.
Additional curricular offerings designed to address these needs included a required "Racism Awareness Workshop," a first semester experience in which students are asked to consider their own ethnic identities and race-based attitudes. For the second semester, CSPP added an "Intercultural Communications Laboratory," a term-long, team-taught course about the psychology of prejudice. The "Clinical Proficiency Progress Review," which students undergo in their third year, was augmented to include assessment of student sensitivity in working with an ethnically diverse clientele.
The new and revised offerings were based on a set of carefully stated clinical competencies for practitioners with a multi-racial clientele. These competencies are arranged in appropriate order over the entire course of the student's program.
The faculty training for the revised curriculum included presentations by a series of outside experts, discussions of clinical case studies that involve issues of ethnicity, and a conference of core faculty from each of CSPP's four campuses to share ideas about the new initiative. The campus library assembled a large collection of materials on the practice of psychology with diverse populations, based in good measure on topical bibliographies prepared by project staff. These materials were augmented by a number of relevant videotapes, including the expert presentations that were part of the faculty training activities.
In short, having determined to make certain that students preparing as clinicians would be able to deal sensitively and knowledgeably with a diverse clientele, CSPP made a systematic effort to introduce curriculum and instructional modifications great enough to make a difference.
Evaluation of both process and outcomes was conducted by an outside consultant. The process review consisted of interviews with key participants and examination of project documents. The central element of the outcomes review was a comparison of course descriptions and syllabi that predated the project with those that were being produced at the end of the project. The reviewer also examined the bibliographic materials and assessed the nature and extent of dissemination activities. A recent survey of students conducted by project staff also asked their opinions about the adequacy and effectiveness of the cultural diversity elements of the curriculum.
The comparison of course syllabi revealed major changes in content. By the end of the project, 81 percent of syllabi contained multicultural goals for the course, as opposed to only half in the pre-project period. Where earlier the goals had been stated very generally, goal statements in later syllabi are more specific and often stated operationally, e.g., "Conceptual models used in test development and normative test standardization will be examined for cultural bias." Reading lists contain a great deal more material on cultural diversity in clinical practice.
The project-end survey showed students about in the middle of a seven-point scale in their sense of the adequacy of attention to diversity issues. First-year students, who had benefitted more from the faculty's work on the project, were more satisfied than those in their third year. The "Intercultural Communications Laboratory" seemed to students the most effective effort. Experiences in the first year "Observation and Interviewing" and the second-year "Seminar in Clinical and Ethical Issues" were also highly regarded. In other words, students were well aware of the faculty's efforts to improve their ability to work with a multicultural clientele.
Project personnel were particularly conscious of the need to have faculty commit to the direction of change and to introduce program modifications with which they were comfortable. Thus the project was carried out using regular faculty channels and providing appropriate support.
The breadth of the definition of diversity to be employed produced the project s major controversy. Some faculty wanted to confine the definition to the legally established racial and ethnic minorities, and even here there was disagreement about emphas is. This group was concerned that to introduce issues of age, gender, sexual orientation, etc. would result in inadequate attention to any central matter. Others wanted to deal with the full range of individual differences. One compromise solution was the introduction of the rather narrowly focused "Racism Awareness" workshop and the more broadly inclusive "Intercultural Communication Laboratory."
The curricular elements and instructional modifications, as well as the substantial additions to reading lists and library holdings, are now a permanent part of the School's program. The project appears to have made a quantum difference in level of pro grammatic attention to the issues on which it focused, and has been the subject of a number of conference presentations, regional and national as well as local.
Copies of bibliographies and course materials are available from:
California School of Professional Psychology - Alameda
1005 Atlantic Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501
510-523-2300 ext. 117