NPI was founded to provide a forum for continuing education for licensed mental health clinicians. NPI also provides a forum for local mental health providers to experience community with one another and encourage one another in all aspects relevant to our common scope of practice. The Social Justice Committee supports both of these aspects of NPI. We do this with events we create and host, as well as Meetups with other organizations in Middle Tennessee.
As therapists we need to be mindful that social injustice, climate change, income inequality, and other cultural factors and institutions may have significant burdensome impacts on our clients, and those impacts might not be explicitly named by our clients. We too are affected by these larger forces, and may cope by limiting our awareness of their impact on us. If we are not aware of the role of these forces, we inevitably collude with the powers that oppress and limit our clients’ expression of their souls’ voices.
Learning about the perspectives of other cultures is an important activity for developing cultural competence as a psychotherapist. This increases our sensitivity to social justice issues that affect people of marginalized cultures. One definition of social justice is provided by the National Association of Social Workers as: “the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.”1 Examples of social justice topics that are relevant for NPI members include challenges faced by immigrants, GLBT rights, homelessness, voters’ rights, racism, ageism, economic and environmental justice, and violence against marginalized people, including minorities, women and children, and people with disabilities. Also, the SJC understands social justice to entail actively engaging systems of prejudice for the purpose of eliciting positive change, in the therapeutic setting as well as in the community.
One function of the SJC is to offer and inform members about educational activities related to social justice. Examples include a movie night and panel discussion addressing the perspective of individuals with disabilities, and a meeting to discuss an essay by Vanderbilt professor Bruce Rogers-Vaughn related to economic disparity. Through the NPI listserve the Committee publicizes current events celebrating cultural diversity.
A second function of the SJC is to inform members of opportunities to participate in action and advocacy for social change to address social injustice. In the forward to Advancing Social Justice Through Clinical Practice (2007)2 American Psychological Association President George Albee wrote:
“Those of us who believe in the importance of the bond between mental health and human rights must come together in alliance with groups everywhere who share this belief. We must come together to help students in our field learn the importance of this connection and find the courage to oppose the mainstream that stresses adjustment to the status quo.”
To that end, SJC members offer encouragement and support for NPI member participation in letter-writing campaigns, public rallies and protests to address unjust activities and barriers to equal opportunities and rights for all. NPI members may not always agree on what actions or goals represent social justice. This committee will endeavor to create safe places for conversations among NPI members reflecting diversity of thinking and feeling about social justice topics.
Third, the SJC also supports NPI members in identifying opportunities to use their professional skills to promote social justice. This includes offering clinical services at no or reduced cost, and providing expertise and assistance to organizations that seek to reduce barriers to justice for specific groups or communities.
A fourth function of the SJC is to recommend honorees for the annual Movimiento Guerrilla de Diversidad Award. This award goes to an NPI member who makes considerable effort to serve diverse and marginalized populations in our community.
Any member of NPI is welcome to attend a SJC meeting or to be added to the SJC email listserv for this committee. Membership in the SJC is open to any NPI member. Please contact [email protected] if you would like to discuss a topic for future events. Thank you.
2 Aldarondo, E. (Ed.). (2007). Advancing social justice through clinical practice. Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.