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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
April 23, 2014
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Richard Walsh

Dr. R. Walsh-Bowers Personal Webpage

R. Walsh Bowers

published: 2007 | Research publication | Personal Data


OFFICE LOCATION: 2017 Science Building

OFFICE HOURS: By appointment

TELEPHONE: 519-884-0710, ext. 3630

FAX: 519-746-7605


Synopsis of Scholarly Interests

My principal interests are in the critical history, ethics, and philosophy of scientific and professional psychology. In my approach to psychology I include spirituality and religion. Given that community psychology is a branch of psychology, I apply my critical historical and philosophical framework to the theory and practice of community psychology. Three areas of community application in which I have deep interest and some experience are spiritual and religious development, collective drama and popular theatre, and electoral politics.  


I approach my work as a professor, first and foremost, as a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, and friend. My personal relationships are the heart of all aspects of my life. I am also sustained and nurtured by participation in a faith community and by spiritual practices; by my involvement in theatre and music; by organic gardening and physical fitness; and by my immersion in political action and electoral politics.

Professionally, I began my career as a clinical psychologist. After a year's internship I coordinated a community support programme for psychiatric survivors in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, for 18 months. Then I worked for seven years at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, as a clinical psychologist on a multidisciplinary team providing mental health services on an outpatient basis to children and their families.

In 1986, I joined the psychology department at Wilfrid Laurier, where I have contributed as an instructor and thesis supervisor to the undergraduate programme and to the graduate programme in community psychology. Presently, my main scholarly interests are in the history, philosophy, ethics, and politics of scientific and professional psychology. My principal community involvement is electoral politics.

As an experienced actor and director in university, community theatre, and church productions, I have been able to integrate my avocation with my professional life. For example, when I worked with children and adolescents in groups, my clinical colleagues and I developed a short-term treatment approach rooted in creative drama. Subsequently, as an academic, I explored how participation in creative drama groups can facilitate the social-emotional development of children and youth. Then I became involved with a community project demonstrating how participatory theatre with young people can aid the cause of preventing violence against women. Most recently, in collaboration with Dr. Leslie O'Dell of Laurier's Department of English I have investigated the psychology of theatre acting and theatre directing.

Finally, as a political activist, I have a life-long concern with advancing environmental, economic, and social justice in society. From 1997 to 2006, I was a political candidate in local municipal, provincial, and federal elections. I have served as an executive member for my political party locally, in the Fall 2008 election I managed the campaign for Oz Cole-Arnal in Kitchener Centre, and presently I am an independent federal candidate for the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo.

Below you will find more elaborate statements on my Teaching , Service , and Scholarly activities. You will find relevant abstracts of publications at the end.


Teaching Philosophy

I take the act of teaching very seriously, although I use humour and theatrical skills in the classroom. I believe that, if professors nurture a respectful, supportive, and intellectually challenging relationship with their students, they partly fulfill their ethical mandate as responsible and responsive educators. I endeavour to live this set of values in thesis supervision, consultations with individual students, and instruction in all classes regardless of enrollment size.

Fostering androgogical relationships of this sort is personally challenging for me as an older White man for several reasons. Universities are notoriously patriarchal institutions, and academic psychology has been a male-dominated discipline since its inception. Laurier's psychology faculty members, until recently, have been overwhelmingly men, while its psychology students are predominantly women. Consequently, in the classroom and in thesis consultation there is a historical and immediate power imbalance, saturated with gendered expectations, that is intrinsic to faculty-student relations. I try to be mindful of the sensitive nature of this relationship, especially when students are women.

Particularly at the graduate level, supervisory relations are crucial to students' development as scholars. Consequently, it is important for ethically sensitive educators to systematically evaluate the quality of their programmes to ascertain to what degree we are actualizing our educational intentions. Toward this end, Judit Alcalde, who completed her MA here, and I published an article in the American Journal of Community Psychology (1996) in which we described our community psychology programme's attempt to understand from multiple perspectives the interpersonal aspects of graduate education in our sub-discipline.

Alcalde, Judit, & Walsh-Bowers, Richard. (1996). Community psychology values and the culture of graduate training: A self-study. American Journal of Community Psychology, 24 , 389-411. [Abstract 1]

I am an advocate of qualitative systematic evaluation of educational programmes, including education in community psychology. I believe that, because of our position of power and privilege, we faculty can delude ourselves about the quality of our teaching and thesis supervision. Consequently, for me, student perspectives are essential dimensions in any genuine attempt to evaluate the content and processes of undergraduate and graduate education.

Another key aspect of my approach to teaching is the learning that I experienced when I taught introductory psychology to Native students at the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, which is south of Brantford, Ontario. For six consecutive years (1993-1999), I struggled to convey the standard concepts and "facts" of scientific psychology to students for whom the content was often culturally alien. Even the cognitively-focused teaching method that I took for granted became problematic in the Native classroom. Needless to say, this experience has changed the way that I approach all the courses that I teach at Laurier, particularly the history of psychology. Pam Johnson, who was my co-instructor at Six Nations, and I described some of the salient features of this introductory course and their implications in the following article.

Walsh-Bowers, Richard, & Johnson, Pam. (2002). Introducing mainstream psychology to Native students whose feet are in two vessels. Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 22 , 121-135.  [Abstract 2]

Teaching Practices

In the undergraduate psychology programme I teach the History of Psychology [PS 390] and Introduction to Clinical Psychology [PS 381]. When departmental circumstances permit, I also teach a course I created, called Drama and Human Development [PS 288]. [See links to course outlines .] In addition, I supervise fourth-year Honours thesis students.

In the community psychology graduate programme I serve as supervisor and committee member for MA and PhD students. In previous years I also taught MA and PhD theory courses in the programme.

In 1999 I received my university's Outstanding Teacher Award .


I have been coordinator of the community psychology programme on five occasions.

At the university level, I served on the employment equity committee for faculty and librarians for many years, and in 2001-2002 I was the university's Faculty Colleague for Employment Equity.

Nationally, from 1993 to 1997 I was the chair of the community psychology section of the Canadian Psychological Association . During my tenure I attempted to foster the development of the sub-discipline in Canada by surveying the status of graduate education in this field.

Sample publication :

Walsh-Bowers, Richard. (1998). Community psychology in the Canadian psychological family.  Canadian Psychology, 37 , 281-287.


History, Philosophy, Ethics, and Politics of Psychology

[1] My main interest in psychology has been the research relationship , which is the term I use to refer to the socially constructed relationship between investigators and their assistants on the one hand and research participants ("human subjects") on the other hand. This relationship has three interrelated aspects: the social roles and functions in the investigative situation (designing, administering, providing data, analysing data, and writing), ethical guidelines for investigative conduct, and report-writing norms for journal publication (i.e., “APA style”). My efforts in this domain are an extension of the seminal work of Kurt Danziger, professor emeritus, York University, on the history of psychological investigation; Kurt was my dissertation supervisor.

Initially I examined the evolution of the research relationship in community and clinical psychology and then in most other interpersonal areas of psychology. I am planning a book on how graduate student and faculty researchers conceive and practice this relationship in their conduct with participants and in their composing research reports for journal publication. My present focus is on the influence of rhetoric on psychologists' constructions of the research relationship. The two titles below capture the essence of my approach:

Walsh-Bowers, Richard. (1999). Fundamentalism in psychological science: The Publication Manual as Bible. Psychology of Women Quarterly , 23 , 375-393. [Abstract 3]

Walsh-Bowers, Richard. (2002). Constructing qualitative research: Students and faculty situate psychological knowledge-making. Canadian Psychology, 43 , 163-178. [Abstract 4]

[2] From 1994 to 1998 as principal investigator with two colleagues, Amy Rossiter and Isaac Prilleltensky, and funded by a Strategic Grant in Applied Ethics from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, I explored the social context of clinical ethics in the mental health professions. We interviewed psychologists and other mental health workers in diverse service units in Canada. We also interviewed Cuban clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals in that nation.

This research showed how organizational and bureaucratic structures and processes affect the quality of ethical discourse in the workaday world of ordinary helping professionals. Basically, the clinicians from all professional groups tended to treat ethical principles as abstract notions removed from their everyday clinical practice and to regard ethical guidelines as rules for compliance with codes of correct professional conduct under the surveillance of their supervisors. In their workplaces clinicians did not have the time to ethically reflect on their clinical practice, but they earnestly desired a safe place with colleagues in which to do so. Conceptually, this project led to proposing a communicative ethics approach to psychologists' notions of ethical relations.

Sample publications :

Walsh-Bowers, Richard, Rossiter, Amy, & Prilleltensky, Isaac. (1996). The personal is the organizational in the ethics of hospital social workers. Ethics & Behavior, 6 , 307-320. [Abstract 5]

Rossiter, Amy, Walsh-Bowers, Richard, & Prilleltensky, Isaac. (2002). Ethics as a located story: A comparison of North American and Cuban clinical ethics. Theory & Psychology, 12 , 533-556. [Abstract 6]

[3] More recently, I explored pastoral ethics with a multidisciplinary team that included a professor of pastoral counselling at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary (affiliated with this university), a clinical psychologist specializing in the psychology of religion, and a sociologist of religion. Our focus was on the ethical relationship between congregants and clergy, and we investigated Lutheran pastors' experience of a mandatory educational programme on maintaining appropriate boundaries in relations with congregants. This project led to two publications:

O'Connor, Thomas St. James, Walsh-Bowers, Richard , Ross, Christopher, Sawchuk, Dana, & Hatzipantelis, Maria. (2006). “In the storminess”: Multi-disciplinary approaches to

Scriptural images representing ethical challenges in the pastor-congregant relationship.  Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling , 60 , 43-58.

Sawchuk, Dana, O'Connor, Thomas St. James, Walsh-Bowers, Richard, Ross, Christopher, & Hatzipantelis, Maria. (2007). Exploring power and gender issues emergent in an institutional workshop on preventing clergy sexual misconduct. Pastoral Psychology , 55, 499-511.

With a somewhat different and larger team of multi-disciplinary scholars, I plan to submit an application for external funding of a larger project on pastoral relations. Our vision is to take into account pastoral, congregational, and institutional perspectives in studying the ethics of relations between pastors and congregants in several, major Christian denominations in Ontario.

[4] I have a strong theoretical and practical interest in the history of the relationship between scientific and professional psychology on the one hand and religion and spirituality on the other hand. One conceptual piece I completed recently that spans sub-disciplines was published in 2000 in a special issue of the Journal of Community Psychology on religion and spirituality. My experiences teaching the history of psychology at Laurier and introductory psychology to Native students helped to inform my reflections on some fundamental epistemological problems in the discipline related to the dialectical tension between objectivity and subjectivity.

Walsh-Bowers, Richard. (2000). A personal sojourn to spiritualize community psychology. Journal of Community Psychology, 28 , 221-236. [Abstract 7]

In 2006, I published in Critical Social Work an extended version of an invited address that I gave at the annual Canadian Conference on Spirituality and Social Work:

Walsh-Bowers, R. (2006). Psychology's potential for reconciliation with spiritual and religious traditions: Caveats and recommendations for social workers. Critical Social Work, 7 . Retrievable from /.

[5] Another current interest is the interface among scientific and professional psychology, social responsibility, and psychologists' political engagement . My political activism and recent experience in electoral politics, as much as my historical-theoretical work in psychology, has paved the way for this exploration.

In June 2007, I gave an invited address at the meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association (Ottawa), entitled, Taking the Ethical Principle of Social Responsibility Seriously:A Socio-Political Perspective on Psychologists' Social Practices . [Abstract 8]

Sample papers :

Walsh-Bowers, Richard. (2002, May). Community psychology and social justice in historical perspective . Paper presented in a symposium at the meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association, Vancouver, R. Walsh-Bowers (Chair), The science-politics dialectic in psychology .

Walsh-Bowers, Richard. (2002, June). In dubious battle: Scientific psychologists' historical struggles for political relevancy. Paper presented at the meeting of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Toronto.

[6] Under contract with Cambridge University Press (UK) and in conjunction with colleagues Thomas Teo of York University and Angelina Baydala of the University of Regina, I am composing an innovative history of psychology textbook . The title is, Toward A Critical History and Philosophy of Psychology: Diversity of Context, Thought, and Practice .

In our critical-historical approach we stress the historical distinction between natural-science and human-science Psychology, rely on the new historical scholarship, and place respect for human diversity at the centre of our interpretations. We cover Western philosophical and scientific traditions from the Ancients to current Psychology, and we incorporate an international perspective on the discipline. We expect the textbook will be available in late 2010.

B. The Psychology of Drama and Theatre

[1] Much of my community involvement in the past consisted of the development and evaluation of various drama-based group interventions in the schools. The following reference is the most recent paper in a series of community programmes designed to promote social-emotional growth in students, especially those at risk of peer conflict:

Walsh-Bowers, Richard, & Basso, Robert. (1998). Improving early adolescents' peer relations through classroom creative drama: An integrated approach. Social Work in Education, 21 , 23-32. [Abstract 9]

[2] From 1993 to 1998 I coordinated a team who implemented and evaluated two different drama programmes in Waterloo Region to prevent violence against women . The Community Education Team for the Prevention of Violence against Women implemented and evaluated collective theatre pieces created by students to raise the awareness of their peers about violence in intimate relationships. We tailored one project to meet the needs of marginalized young women who have dropped out of the secondary school system, providing a support group. The other project entailed drama facilitators collaborating with high school and junior high school students in creating student skits on topics related to relationship violence for performance and discussion in schools. The following reference is the article that we published describing the theoretical underpinnings for these community projects. This paper, which we authored collectively, appeared in a special issue on innovative feminist methodology: Community Education Team. (1999). Fostering relationality when implementing and evaluating a collective-drama approach to preventing violence against women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23 , 95-109. [Abstract 10]

[3] In conjunction with Leslie O'Dell, Professor of English at Laurier, I have explored the psychology of theatre acting and directing . Leslie directed a number of theatre productions at Laurier in which I performed. We conducted qualitative studies of actors' development of their characters, such as an “actors' lab experiment” in which we did studied a rehearsal process from multiple perspectives. This work led to a conference paper: Walsh-Bowers, Richard, O'Dell, Leslie, Wiltshire, Colleen, & Fong, Josephine (1994, July). Selves in relation: Actors' views on the psychology of acting . Paper presented at the meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association, Pentiction, BC.

More recently, Leslie and I completed a chapter for an edited book on the legendary stage director, Constantin Stanislavsky: O'Dell, Leslie, & Walsh-Bowers, R. (2008). Stanislavsky's problematic legacy and the ethics of theatre practice. In Anna Migliarisi (Ed.), Stanislavski and directing: Theory, practice and influence (pp. 129-150). Toronto: LEGAS.

[4] I also published a critical analysis of Erving Goffman's dramaturgical metaphor for explaining the presentation of self in social situations and explored the implications of this critique for current conceptions of the self. This work enabled me to integrate various aspects of my personal and professional life.

Walsh-Bowers, R. (2006). A theatre acting perspective on the dramaturgical metaphor and the postmodern self. Theory & Psychology, 16 , 661-690. [Abstract 11]


Abstract 1 (Alcalde & Walsh-Bowers, 1996)

Community Psychology Values and The Culture of Graduate Training: A Self-Study

In this self-study of an M.A. program in community psychology, the authors focus on evaluation of training goals related to the values of collaboration, empowerment, and diversity. Employing quantitative and qualitative methods, the evaluator, a thesis student in the program, cooperated with a stakeholder committee and other student, staff, and faculty members of the program to construct the methods and interpret the findings. Although the converging sources of data showed that the program was meeting its process goals to some extent, several key issues in the culture of training, such as the status of women, the psychological sense of community, and a supportive learning environment, needed improvement. The authors interpret the findings in terms of the impact of the university system and patriarchal norms on training in community psychology.

Abstract 2 (Walsh-Bowers & Johnson, 2002)

Introducing Mainstream Psychology to Native Students Whose Feet Are in Two Vessels

Many Native students taking mainstream psychology courses find themselves caught in a cultural conflict between their own traditions, core values, and beliefs on the one hand and scientific psychology on the other. We describe our experience of adapting introductory psychology to a Native institution of higher learning. We discuss the clashes in basic assumptions distinguishing the two cultural traditions. Given the centrality of the students' sense of place, we provide some examples of modifications in instructional processes and course content that we made to bridge the cultural gaps between the students and White psychology. We conclude by noting some implications for teaching the discipline to Native students.

Abstract 3 (Walsh-Bowers, 1999)

Fundamentalism in Psychological Science: The Publication Manual as Bible

Drawing from social historical studies and critical feminist perspectives on psychological method and report-writing, I analyze the content of the Publication Manual's fourth edition as if it were a Biblical text. I focus on the correspondence between the espoused intention of sensitivity toward participants and the codes of investigative conduct made explicit and implicit in the manual. Specifically, I examine definitions of research, research roles, ethical standards, writing style, and gender issues. Then I discuss the manual's function as a fundamentalist Bible in relation to psychologists' culture, including socialization of psychology students and the production of research papers. I conclude with recommendations for investigative and compositional alternatives.

Abstract 4 (Walsh-Bowers, 2002)

Constructing Qualitative Knowledge in Psychology: Students and Faculty Negotiate the Social Context of Inquiry

Based on interviews with 13 graduate students and 21 faculty from diverse areas of Canadian departments of psychology, I report researchers' views on qualitative methods in terms of social historical, systemic influences on constructing psychological knowledge. These ideological and structural systems include the historical place of qualitative research in scientific psychology, education in alternative research methods, the socioeconomic reward system for faculty, and the potential for changes in the discipline that could facilitate the legitimation of qualitative methods. The major finding was the desire for methodological pluralism, even among mainstream faculty. In light of the researchers' textured commentaries, I discuss the fate of attempts by some psychologists to expand traditional investigative boundaries, the potential for a shift in the discipline to methodological pluralism, and the implications for the education of undergraduate and graduate students in psychological research.

Abstract 5 (Walsh-Bowers, Rossiter, & Prilleltensky, 1996)

The Personal is the Organizational in the Ethics of Hospital Social Workers

Understanding the social context of clinical ethics is vital for making ethical discourse central in professional practice and for preventing harm. In this paper we present findings about clinical ethics from in-depth interviews and consultation with seven members of a hospital social work department. Workers gave different accounts of ethical dilemmas and resources for ethical decision-making than did their managers, whereas workers and managers agreed on core guiding ethical principles and on ideal situations for ethical discourse. We discuss the research team's initial interpretations, the relevance of the extant ethics literature to organizational structures and dynamics, and alternative perspectives on clinical ethics.

Abstract 6 (Rossiter, Walsh-Bowers, & Prilleltensky, 2002)

Ethics as a Located Story: A Comparison of North American and Cuban Professional Ethics

This paper provides a comparative perspective on applied professional ethics. As part of a multi-site research project, findings from a qualitative interview study of Cuban psychologists were compared to findings from a similar study of psychologists and social workers in three Canadian human service settings. The comparison generates insights into the contingent nature of conceptions and applications of ethics: That is, the authors found that different stories about the meaning of professional ethics derived from the different historical, political and economic relations of Cuba and North America. Such differences were manifested in the relation of the professional to the political, in collectivist versus individualist orientations to ethics, and in relationships between the personal and the professional. The authors contend that the importance of a comparative approach is that it encourages a reflexive attitude to ethics by unsettling the notion that there are universal prescriptions for ethics. As well, the comparison opens space for including the dynamics of privilege, marginalization, power and resistance as crucial elements of the social construction of professional ethics.

Abstract 7 (Walsh-Bowers, 2000)

A Personal Sojourn to Spiritualize Community Psychology

From a personal perspective on the tensions experienced in my career as a community psychologist, I advocate spiritualizing community psychology. I draw heavily from my teaching and researching the history of the discipline and from teaching introductory psychology to Native students. Using the critical concept of scientism to examine the historical dialectic between objectivity and subjectivity, I show how a quasi-religion of psychology has prevailed, while excluding soul, spirit, and spirituality. Radical developments in Christianity (i.e., liberation theology, the historical Jesus scholarship, and feminist theology) further challenge community psychologists seeking rapprochement with religion and spirituality. I conclude by discussing the implications of a conversion to spirituality for community psychology.

Abstract 8 (Walsh-Bowers, 2007)

Taking the Ethical Principle of Social Responsibility Seriously: A Socio-Political Perspective on Psychologists' Social Practices

As both a scholar and political activist, my standpoint is that psychologists' investigative, writing, teaching, and professional practices require continuous social ethical examination. Historically, psychologists have tended to describe their social practices in intellectualized terms that create an idealized object of scientific and professional detachment, who is virtually abstracted from concrete, social historical conditions. I discuss the culture of psychology as a societal institution by focusing on specific disciplinary practices that exemplify intersections of social and political power with scientific knowledge. These enculturated practices include p sychologists' relationships with research participants; professional psychologists' ethical practice or malpractice in relations with patients, clients, and service recipients; psychologists' resistance to s tudent assessment of the quality of undergraduate and graduate education in psychology; psychologists' neglect of employment equity for women in academic psychology; and justification of psychologists' contributions to abusive interrogation and torture. These sites of power/knowledge suggest that p sychology as a culture, science, and profession is a social problem for which remedial action is a moral imperative. In reflecting on these social practices through the lens of historical critiques, I discuss the potential of attempts to transform psychologists' ethical vision for understanding and engaging in their social responsibilities as scholars, educators, and professionals.

Abstract 9 (Walsh-Bowers & Basso, 1998)

Improving Early Adolescents' Peer Relations through Classroom Creative Drama: An Integrated Approach

Described here are two creative drama programs that we designed to improve the peer relations skills of early adolescents in classrooms. Additional goals of the interventions were to train staff in the creative drama approach and to evaluate the programs with multiple qualitative and quantitative methods. In a rural school, all students in the one Grade 7 class participated in weekly creative drama sessions in small groups and made some documented gains in peer relations in comparison to students from another rural school. In an urban school, all students from one Grade 7 class, who participated in a similar drama format, also made gains in comparison to their peers in other classes. We discuss the utility of creative drama programs in relation to the original goals of improved peer relations, staff training, and practical program evaluation. School social workers might find that the creative drama approach to developing peer relations, although demanding professionally and administratively, can be an effective modality for interpersonal learning in the classroom.

Abstract 10 (Community Education Team, 1999)

Fostering Relationality when Implementing and Evaluating a Collective Drama Approach to Preventing Violence against Women

The authors, the Community Education Team, implemented an intervention in schools in southwestern Ontario to prevent violence against women. Using collective drama as the medium to effect social change, we engaged students in high school and grades 7 and 8 in critical dialogue about issues of violence in their lives. We discuss how we fostered the feminist principle of relationality in our relationships with the students, their educators, and ourselves as a team, when we practiced collective drama and evaluated its impact. We illustrate our reflections on doing feminist work with selected portions of our evaluation findings and excerpts from a formal dialogue among the authors.

Abstract 11 (Walsh-Bowers, 2006)

A theatre acting perspective on the dramaturgical metaphor and the postmodern self.

Based on the premise that a psychology of theatre acting can teach psychologists about social acting, I evaluate Goffman's (1959) influential dramaturgical metaphor and discuss what theatre acting reveals about conceptions of the self. Within Goffman's model differences between the quotidian and theatre worlds are accidental and daily life is like theatre actors' life on stage. First I assess how well this version of the dramaturgical metaphor accounts for both theatre acting and social interaction. The complexly layered, psychological aspects of theatre acting reveal the limitations of Goffman's model. The second critical issue pertains to the implications of a psychology of theatre acting for conceptions of the self. The flexible, relational nature of theatre actors' multiple “selves” challenges psychologists' literalist applications of dramaturgy to social actors as well as essentialist conceptions of a core self, while complementing postmodern notions of relational selves.

revised Apr 29/10

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