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Published November 21, 2023


A call for transformation: GSE researcher illustrates need for change in counseling psychology

A University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education researcher highlighted the critical need for transformation within the discipline of counseling psychology in a recent publication.

The journal article, “Grasping at the Root: Transforming Counseling Psychology,” describes the need for radical change and action, which the author, Amy L. Reynolds, suggests is needed to interrupt harm, center liberation and dismantle unexamined whiteness, white supremacy and a pervasive colonial mentality within psychology. Though counseling psychology, a specialty within psychology, is known for its emphasis on multiculturalism and social justice, Reynolds reports that there is still much work to be done.

Published in The Counseling Psychologist in November 2022, the article proposes using reparations and accountability as critical frameworks for the field of counseling psychology, with a focus on transforming the profession through retooling curriculum, centering Indigenous people and their perspectives, and disrupting anti-Black racism and white supremacy in the discipline’s policies, structures and practices.

Reynolds, GSE professor and chair of the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology, penned the article as her 2022 Presidential Address for the Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP) to describe her presidential initiatives and vision for the field.

“One of the reasons why I decided to run for president is because I am strongly driven to change our curriculum and to ensure that our students are exposed to critical literature and research that challenges the status quo and examines the role of counseling psychology in dismantling racism and other forms of oppression—because those are systemic problems,” she said.

“Even if we, as counseling psychologists, were able to provide therapy to all the individuals who are harmed by racism or homophobia, that would not be enough,” Reynolds continued. “It’s not an individual problem. It’s a collective problem. It’s a structural problem. And so, we have to have structural and systemic solutions, and one of the primary ways to do that is to train our students differently. When our students receive more critical and liberatory training, they can help to transform the profession.”

The transformation Reynolds wrote and spoke about is already underway at GSE. She cites actions, such as developing GSE’s strategic goals and the 2025 Comprehensive Plan for EDJI, which highlight equity, diversity, justice and inclusion (EDJI) initiatives, as playing a critical role in bringing this vision to reality for GSE and individual departments.

She also notes significant changes in GSE’s classrooms.

“A lot of the work that we are doing is starting to have an effect. For example, I’ve taught multicultural counseling since arriving in 2005. As a result of our efforts to admit more racially diverse cohorts, there are increasing numbers of students of color in our department. This past spring, for the first time ever when I taught it, my class was equal or maybe slightly more students of color than white students. It made for a completely different class,” said Reynolds. “The kinds of conversations we could have minimized the harm that sometimes students of color feel when they’re one of a few students in a class, and they’re discussing multicultural issues. That sometimes can be a harmful experience for them and one where they report feeling that they have to show up in ways that are not beneficial to them but are for the benefit of the white students. Because my class was more diverse overall, I felt like it was such an amazing opportunity for all of us to be in community and to grow.”

Reynolds, who served as SCP’s president from 2021-22 and currently serves on the organization’s executive board as past-president, hopes to see the curricular, reparational and organizational transformation that she described in her address continue to come to life within the fields of counseling psychology and higher education and in her own department.

“If we don’t transform our organizations and figure out how we embody whiteness and create environments that are not welcoming to people of color, or queer or trans people, then our EDJI goals will not be achieved. … Until and unless we build EDJI into basic expectations in how higher education is designed, we will continue to have incomplete, inadequate and unsustained EDJI efforts in the Graduate School of Education, or any higher education department or unit,” she said.

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