March 2020 Statement from the MPA Board of Directors
On February 17, 2020, the American Psychological Association issued a statement expressing “shock and outrage that the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement has been sharing confidential psychotherapy notes with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deny asylum to some immigrant youths.”
The Maryland Psychological Association echoes these sentiments. Not only do we stand with our fellow professional organizations and the mental health professionals they represent, but more importantly we stand with those youth whose openness to truth, growth, and healing was violated in a way we believe to be unethical given the code of conduct of our profession. For further information please reference the links below:
The American Psychological Association https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/02/sharing-therapy-notes
American Group Psychotherapy Association https://www.agpa.org/home/media/social-issue-policy-resolutions/agpa-public-statement-on-rights-of-immigrant-and-refugee-youth-in-treatment
MPA Board Statement on the Passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings
The passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings is a huge loss for our country and particularly the state of Maryland. Beyond his work as a civil rights leader and public servant, Rep. Cummings was a fierce advocate for mental health especially in the area of Trauma. In August, he hosted a forum in Baltimore to explore solutions to childhood trauma. We hope that the foundation he created in addressing trauma will continue with our local, state and federal legislators. We at MPA extend our condolences to his wife Maya, their family, friends and colleagues.
MPA Board Statement on the El Paso and Dayton Mass Shootings
This weekend, we witnessed two mass shootings within a 24-hour period targeting families shopping for back to school items and young people enjoying a Saturday night out with friends. What happened in El Paso and Dayton was nothing short of appalling.
We’re encouraged by the robust dialogue on the listserv. We can all play a role in finding solutions from speaking out against racism and bias, to encouraging more support for mental health services to contacting our elected officials about access to assault weapons. Regardless of the exact cause of this weekend’s mass shootings, we as mental health professionals can no longer deny that something must be done to help our communities feel safe and supported.
Below is a list of resources from APA. Please share them with family, friends and colleagues.
- Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting.
- Helping children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting.
- Warning signs of youth violence.
- Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention and Policy(an expert panel report).
- APA’s Gun Violence Prevention Efforts.
MPA Board Statement on the tragedy at Tree of Life Synagogue
This weekend’s tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh marked another mass shooting in our country, this time targeting the Jewish Community. Saturday’s shooting in Pittsburgh was an atrocious act of violence.
Jewish Americans carry a longstanding burden of genocide and trauma. The impact of this event can be profound. As our neighbors and nation mourn, MPA offers its support, thoughts and condolences with those impacted.
As psychologists, we also want to continue to be a resource for support and information. We thank MPA member Barbara Wood for sharing the following resources.
In the aftermath of a shooting, help your children manage distress
MPA Statement on the Definition of Transgender
On October 21, 2018, the New York Times released a story entitled, ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration.” The Maryland Psychological Association (MPA) is drawing attention to the concerning behavior highlighted in this article, summarized as, “The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a government wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.”
Gender identity based on sex assigned at birth, and the genitals that a doctor can observe when a child is born, has been shown to be both an inadequate and a narrow understanding of gender identity. Research done in the fields of psychology, medicine, and sociology indicates that being transgender or gender non-binary is a well-known social phenomenon in many countries and cultures throughout the world. Steps to limit this understanding of gender identity to binary terms (i.e., male or female) or to discredit that sex assigned at birth is not always in concordance with gender identity would be a significant stepping back in time and looking past years of research evidence.
Furthermore, if policies were formed using these narrow definitions, transgender and gender diverse individuals would be subject to discriminatory care in medical, school, employment and other settings. MPA recognizes that research has long-established that gender-identity-based discrimination detrimentally affects well-being across life domains (e.g., Bauer et al., 2009; Clements-Nolle, 2006; Kenagy & Bostwick, 2005; Sperber et al., 2005).
We echo statements put out by many other professional organizations condemning these movements. For additional information, please see statements issued by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the National Center for Transgender Equality. MPA members have expressed interest in the topic of working with transgender clients. Our Educational Affairs Committee is working on developing such programming for 2019.
MPA Statement on Sexual Assault and Trauma
Conservative estimates of sexual assault prevalence suggest that 25 percent of American women have experienced sexual assault, including rape. Approximately one-half of those cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both. Alcohol contributes to sexual assault through multiple pathways, often exacerbating existing risk factors. Beliefs about alcohol’s effects on sexual and aggressive behavior, stereotypes about drinking women, and alcohol’s effects on cognitive and motor skills contribute to alcohol-involved sexual assault.
For victims of sexual assault, the confusion of who is to blame, i.e., “culpability”, is indeed tortuous. Shame and humiliation can follow these women for life and significantly impact the individual’s sense of self-worth. To be sure, given the known statistics, it is likely that many who read this statement have a one degree separation from a victim of sexual assault. These victims are mothers, daughters, sisters, spouses, and friends. They are people we encounter every day.
In the search for the truth, the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee need to apply great deference to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during any interview or examination. She should be treated not as an “accuser” but rather as a victim of an alleged assault. Care should be given to avoid shaming or unnecessary mortification towards Dr. Ford during her testimony and their examination, particularly by unskilled committee members or court personnel. The committee should consider that due to under-reporting of assault, many survivors of sexual assault will be watching and wondering if it is safe to tell their story. Furthermore, we caution that many women and men, will be subject to what is known as “secondary trauma.”
We hope that the members of the committee and all of the members of the U.S. Senate will be fully educated and understand the psychological impact on victims of assault prior to their proposed examination of the facts in this case.
Now is the time to show care and compassion and to honor the courage of Dr. Ford and any survivor of sexual assault willing to tell their truth.
MPA’s Commitment to Justice and Advocacy
The Maryland Psychological Association Board of Directors acknowledges the many colleagues who have been and/or have encountered clients, students, or colleagues who have been profoundly affected by the divisive events of the last several months in this country. The APA Code of Ethics states that we should work to, “minimize harm wherever it is unforeseeable and unavoidable”. As psychologists, we not only advocate for the use of psychological science for the creation of policies that promote public good – particularly for those who, due to their identities, are disenfranchised and marginalized – but we do not stand idly by while science is misused or ignored to further marginalize disenfranchised groups.
It is in this vein that MPA and the MPA Board recommit to our value of increasing knowledge, professional competence, and appreciation of all people, those of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, education levels, languages, religions, nationalities, sexual orientations, levels of physical ability, and socio-economic statuses. We remain steadfast in our mission to advance psychology as a means of “…promoting human welfare,” and are bound by professional ethics of integrity and justice.
We are here to support you, our members, in your efforts to engage and address the stressors that have arisen. Coming together as a community and using our skills as clinicians and scholars to work towards engaging in constructive and respectful dialogue is essential at this time. In whatever way that you are participating in this mission, we thank you and we ask that you stay engaged with MPA in helping you further these values. Please let us know if there is anything that you need, and how we may best reaffirm our commitments to you and our community.