The psychology that I practice is action-oriented. I was trained as a professional psychologist and have had experiences in clinical, school, and community psychology. These experiences inform and are interrelated with my teaching and research.
While I was an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois, I had the opportunity to work in two clinical settings, one dealing with youth who were in trouble with the law and a residential program for children with serious mental health problems. As a graduate student at the University of Manitoba, I took four supervised clinical practica at the Psychological Services Centre on the university campus. I learned clinical assessment and a variety of theoretical approaches to therapy with individuals, couples, and families. From 1976-1977, I completed a one-year pre-doctoral internship at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. This was a very innovative setting that emphasized research, community treatment, and behaviourally-oriented programs. The programs with which I was involved included the Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT - one of the first community-based programs for people with serious mental illness), the crisis unit of the Dane County Mental Health Center, Home and Community Treatment (HCT - a home and school-based program for families with children with serious behavioural and emotional problems), and Training for Adolescents in Community Living (TACL - an inpatient program for youth with multiple problems). What I learned from these experiences is that people who experience mental health problems need a lot more and something a lot different than the medical model.
My first experiences working with children was in preschools. For an undergraduate course in Community Psychology at the University of Illinois, I volunteered in a Head Start program in Danville, Illinois. I also worked for one summer at a Montessori school in Champaign, Illinois. From 1977-1979, I worked as a School Psychologist at the Child Guidance Clinic of Winnipeg in Manitoba. As part of an exchange program between Wilfrid Laurier University and the Waterloo Region District School Board, I worked one and one-half days a week as a School Psychologist at Coronation School and William G. Davis School in Cambridge, Ontario from 1979 to 1985. I was responsible for psychological assessment and consultation with teachers and parents regarding children with special needs, and I led social skills training groups for children and parenting classes for the parents of children attending these two schools. With the two schools in Cambridge, I also worked with colleagues, students, and local residents in addressing the broader concerns of the community. With all the current rhetoric about accountability, standardized testing, and the dismal job that schooIs are doing, I believe that the larger issues facing public education are cutbacks in funding, corporate encroachment, and privatization.
As a graduate student at the University of Manitoba, I did a placement with Resident Advisory Groups to Winnipeg City Council, in which I learned about citizen participation. I also worked with the provincial government when it was establishing community mental health programs in rural areas in the southern part of the province.
Much of my professional work in community psychology has involved community development and program evaluation. As part of the exchange program between the school board and Laurier described in the previous section, colleagues, students, residents, and I started the Langs Farm Village Association, a neighbourhood organization that has expanded over the years and now includes a community health centre. More recently, I have been involved with colleagues from the Centre for Research and Education in Human Services in an evaluation of a project called Safe and Sound. This three-year demonstration project was funded by the federal Ministry of Justice and was managed by the Crime Prevention Council of Waterloo Region. There were three project sites, and I worked as the site researcher and evaluator for one of the sites, the Kingsdale community in Kitchener. All of the project sites used a community development approach to crime prevention.
I have been very active in community mental health programs in Waterloo Region beginning in the early 1980s. I served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)/Grand River Branch for 10 years, was President for 3 years, and continue to consult or do research with this organization from time to time. In 1999, the CMHA/Waterloo Region Branch and I were honoured with the McNeill award for Innovation in Community Mental Health from the American Psychological Foundation and the Society for Community Research and Action. I have also been involved with Waterloo Regional Homes for Mental Health, Inc. as a program evaluator and researcher. During the 1980s, I was actively involved with CMHA and Waterloo Regional Homes in the formation of a mental health coalition to advocate with the provincial government for more housing and community mental health programs in our region.
Community psychology is very important to me because of its focus on larger social change - community development and social justice.
"We'll soon shake your windows and rattles your walls for the times they are a changin'."