Stance and Belief in Diversity - Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center
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Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center

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Stance and Belief in Diversity

The Department of Veterans Affairs is a cabinet level agency in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. As such its facilities and operations are subject to explicit policies and procedures prohibiting discriminatory practices. The policies are strictly enforced.  The Psychology Internship program’s policies and operating conditions conform to those of its sponsor agency. We recruit our interns nationally. Our program’s efforts at recruiting for interns from broadly diverse backgrounds have been rewarded with intern classes that clearly reflect those efforts. On the average our intern classes are composed of equal numbers of traditional (Ph.D.) program students and professional school (Psy.D.)  and students from different geographic areas. Gender is roughly balanced and diversity is represented in various ways in every one of our intern classes in proportions exceeding those present in the national applicant pool.

We believe that diversity is most clearly evident in the individual, and that no program of studies can ever hope to provide comprehensive and exhaustive knowledge about every possible origin, cause of, and influence on individual differences. Our program therefore endeavors to teach interns an attitude of openness to and respect for individual differences, awareness of their knowledge and skill limitations in this area, and ways of continually expanding their knowledge and skills about the influence of biological, social and cultural factors on individual differences. Diversity issues are addressed during formal clinical supervision, during non-formal day-to-day supervisor-intern interactions, in bi-weekly case conferences as well as in formal professional didactic seminars. Additionally the Medical Center conducts regularly scheduled mandatory Diversity Training sessions for all employees and trainees.

Interns are provided access (emailed links to) and given copies of the APA publications, “Guidelines for Providers of Psychological Services to Ethnic, Linguistic, and Culturally Diverse Populations,” and “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Clients,” at the beginning of the internship year.   In September, the first month on internship, didactics on an Overview of Military and Veteran Culture presented to interns which include discussion of women, GLBT, and people of color’s experiences in the military.  The Psychology Training Committee decided to focus the first group of cultural and individual diversity didactics on Veteran and Military Culture topics as some of our interns have never worked in a VA or Department Of Defense (DoD) setting and may be unfamiliar with individual and cultural diversity topics as they relate to the individuals they will be providing services to on internship. 

The military culture didactics are then followed by a didactic on Culturally Informed Evidence Based Practice.  This didactic was chosen to be next as the VA has made a big push towards the utilization of Evidence Based Psychotherapies (EBPs) and as such the Psychology Training Committee believes it to be crucial for our interns to understand the role culture and individual diversity can have on EBPs and the effectiveness of EBPs.  After presenting on military culture and diversity within and culturally informed EBPs the Training Committee moves the didactic series into more specific cultural and diversity topics.  These topics include, but are not limited to, treating clients from the GLBTQ community, religion and spirituality in mental health, how racism and classism influence psychotherapy, stigma and mental health – simulated experience of hearing voices that are distressing, and chronic disease, disability, and sexuality.  

The Psychology Training Committee works to pair particular cultural and diversity didactics with cultural and diversity monthly topics being offered by the hospital.  Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center has a Command Diversity Officer and Command Diversity Department.  This department works on increasing the hospitals awareness and understanding of cultural and diversity issues.  As such the Command Diversity Department holds events each month in which they have speakers, entertainment (e.g. cultural dance or cultural music), and have refreshments that may hold cultural meaning to the identified ethnic/cultural group.  Examples of some of the offerings from The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Centers Command Diversity Department are a celebration of Black History Month, a celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a celebration of Women’s History Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, Holocaust Days of Remembrance, etc.  By pairing didactic topics to the Command Diversity Department’s monthly topic we are hoping to reinforce the educational experience for our interns.  As such, we also strongly encourage our interns to attend the Command Diversity Department’s presentations/celebrations.

While there are multiple specific didactic topics through the year dedicated to issues related to diversity, the psychology internship program maintains the philosophy that diversity should not be viewed as isolated topics of discussion.  As such, in all didactic presentations with the psychology internship program, presenters make a significant effort to address diversity issues related to their identified topic.  In addition to the didactic series/presentations the Psychology Training Program receives monthly articles from the Multicultural Diversity Committee (MDC) of the VA Psychology Training Council (VAPTC) and requires these to be read by the interns and then discussed monthly with the Training Director and Assistant Training Director upon completion of a didactic, this is known as our Diversity Journal Club.  Interns are also required to complete formal diversity projects on each of their rotations and participate in the Diversity Discussions group (detailed earlier).  

Finally, we will provide the interns with the schedule of didactics and diversity trainings at the beginning of each month so they may be better prepared for each training and subsequent discussion.  Feedback is also solicited at the beginning of the training year to assess if certain topics need to be moved to the beginning or near beginning of the training year based on intern’s knowledge base or if certain topics can be pushed towards the middle to end of the training year based on intern’s knowledge base.