Reflections on AGPS’ Journey Toward Greater Inclusion and Equity

On July 14, Stacy Nakell and I met to initiate the formation of the AGPS Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Our meeting was an outgrowth of our recent Friday Night Conversation (FNC) at the home of AGPS Board member Jason Sugg. This event was the beginning of what we hope will be an ongoing experience of growth and awareness for our membership around the broader issues of diversity, understanding, and the embracing of our individual identities as well as those aspects of our lives which bind us together as a community.

Our FNC was well-attended and offered a chance for attendees to share some of their experiences around issues of diversity and inclusion. We acknowledged feelings of safety vs. comfort, the limits of our individual realities in how we perceive others with whom we share space, and a collective desire to better understand ourselves and each other in the context of social reality while seeking growth, understanding, and appreciation of our respective journeys. 

This event was  the beginning of what we hope will be an ongoing experience of growth and awareness for our membership

The group decided on some next steps for the committee: to develop programs and opportunities with AGPS and the broader therapeutic community to engage in ongoing discussions related to diversity, inequity, prejudice, understanding and addressing privilege, and developing a greater capacity for empathy.

Friday Night Conversation in June 2017: “White Privilege, Reaching Out, Diversity and AGPS”, Led by John Cooper at the home of Jason Sugg

During our organizational committee meeting, we debriefed the FNC, established an initial calendar for follow up meetings, and discussed some of the many ways we conceptualize diversity. We agreed that racial diversity is an important initial point of discussion, and current events such the rise of white supremacists remind us of the depth of historical oppression of people of color in our society. We also want to attend to the multiple ways to conceptualize the breadth of our experiences, such as age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, physical ability, cultural and religious background, theoretical orientation, and practice environments.

Two new tentative avenues for promoting increased membership and community engagement around diversity and inclusion were identified: 1)working with AGPS membership and program development committees to promote workshops and trainings targeting group development for local mental health agency environments; and 2)developing and implementing a reading/process group to provide an environment for continued growth for AGPS members who are interested in committing to this process.

This is an exciting time to be a part of AGPS.  Among AGPA affiliate organizations, we are taking a leadership role in facilitating greater communication and understanding around issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity. I feel invigorated as we work together as a membership to expand on the conversations many of us shared in our workshop last fall with Rudy Lucas and Christine Schmidt. It’s wonderful to be a part of a professional group that has committed itself to being “comfortable being uncomfortable”. I look forward to our journey towards greater understanding as we continue our efforts to welcome a diverse group of therapists into the fold.

John Cooper, MA, LPC

John Cooper, MA, LPC is in private practice in Central Austin.  He enjoys working with clients from a variety of backgrounds, and approaches psychotherapy from a combination of attachment, neurobiological, and contemporary psychoanalytic orientations. John currently leads a successful relational process group for high functioning survivors of traumatic brain injury.  He currently serves on the board of the Austin Group Psychotherapy Society, and leads the AGPS Diversity & Inclusion subcommittee.  

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2 replies
  1. Deborah Sharp
    Deborah Sharp says:

    I’m so happy about the direction that AGPS is going with John’s leadership on this committee and the committed involvement of a growing group of members. Looking forward to watching the Movie 13th on September 24th and the discussion afterwards.

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