Laura Simonds, School of Psychology
Ways of conceptualising distress and intervening within clinical psychology are dominated by theories and techniques that are Eurocentric and which come from a ‘White as the norm’ position. This has resulted in the marginalisation and silencing of other ways of understanding and working with people in distress and an evidence-base derived from narrowly defined samples.
To us, decolonising means locating and including perspectives that have been marginalised theoretically and empirically. The clinical psychology programme was awarded funding by Health Education England in March 2021 to pump-prime work on decolonising the curriculum. We have developed several initiatives since beginning this work.
The first was to set up a working group, comprised of students, course staff, and external stakeholders, to advance curriculum EDI-related change. Early work also involved surveys of programme staff and visiting lecturers to gauge their understanding of decolonising, the extent to which they have engaged with this, and the perceived gains and barriers.
A significant curriculum-focussed innovation was the development of a new, three-day, decolonising-focussed induction for our new first year clinical psychology students in September 2021 which was designed with, and co-facilitated by, three clinical psychologists from ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the profession. Evidence from student feedback and social media activity suggests that this new induction was unexpected, inspiring, and set an important frame for the rest of the course. As one noted “representation really matters”.
We have only just started out and are learning all the time, but we realised early on that the process of developing an inclusive curriculum requires an openness to questioning disciplinary knowledge and practice fully. This involves scrutinising the history and current context of the discipline to locate silenced/marginalised perspectives. This requires building partnerships with people who are marginalised.
We also think, as has been noted by others, that the burden for this work should be on people from groups who have traditionally held dominance and power in a discipline. However, this work is likely to be most meaningful when project working groups reflect a diversity of views and positions.
We have also considered, through this work, how we signal value to students and how this gives us sites for change such as what comes first in the curriculum, what is assessed and how, and what is on our reading lists.
The new programme induction described above is a tangible way of underscoring our values and signalling their importance. Commitment at an organisational level is required to adequately resource decolonising work. If funding is not sufficient, any change is likely to lack depth, won’t be sustained, and may cause harm through seeming performative/tokenistic.
We organise and communicate our work through several channels including the Padlet illustrated below. We have a new blog site which is launching soon: https://blogs.surrey.ac.uk/equality-inclusion-clinical-psychology/
For more information please contact Laura Simonds at L.Simonds@surrey.ac.uk