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Essay on a Program in Psychology

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The Eternal Life College Graduate Psychology Program was founded in 1973, inspired by a vision of meaningful and transformative educational experience. Our program encourages the integration of political and psychological sophistication, of critical thinking and a commitment to work toward the creation of a more just and humane society. This vision informs our academic mission of educating individuals who can promote positive mental health in individuals, families, groups, and communities, and who will use their psychological understanding and analytical skills to advance the welfare of underserved populations.

We provide a rigorous training in the intellectual legacy and practice of clinical work, from primarily psychodynamic and family systems perspectives. Our curriculum and pedagogy address the politics of gender, culture, race and sexuality. We seek to attract and educate a diverse group of students who will bring to their work a conviction and sensitivity that comes from their own experience.

The Eternal Life College Graduate Psychology community strives to provide a forum in which people can expand upon the discipline of psychology and the work of being a psychotherapist in the current social, political, and economic climate. We argue that the psychological endeavor can be more than just turning inward. Our social constructionist perspective urges us to resist the slide into .'psychology as usual" by reminding us that every question and answer has implications for our lives in a political world.

We are still witnessing how the social fabric and mental health of many communities around the globe are being severely disrupted. Inscribed in the ideological war against immigrants, people on welfare or in prison are reactionary subtexts against people of color, women, and the growing poor. Here and elsewhere, there has been a collective failure to address adequately the psychic wounds inflicted by racism. We think that a program of psychological healing and empowerment should be linked with a progressive critical understanding of the personal and collective damage and suffering brought about by institutionalized systems of power. As psychotherapists, we are challenged to resist reactionary ideologies and practices, and offer hopeful alternatives that affirm and sustain the richness of our communities.

While we have a particular mission, we are part of a school with many alternative programs oriented toward politics and education. We are excited to be teaching psychological theory and practice to the many students who will apply their deepened analytical and interpersonal skills to the work of social change. Overall, our curriculum helps students develop the clinical skills, multicultural sensitivity, and political savvy needed for community mental health work or private practice. Like other departments at Eternal Life College, the Graduate Psychology Program offers the excitement of being on the cutting edge as a strong and meaningful alternative to mainstream education. We are unique among clinical programs in promoting an understanding that the "personal" is not separate from the "social," and the individual is not separate from the community. Our students gain this perspective through course work, advising, and internships.

Together, we question the underpinnings of "mental illness," strive to deepen the dialogue about the interplay between the intra-psychic and the social environment, and continue to grow in our understanding of human psychology through the appreciation of the multiple and different lenses of class, gender, sexual orientation and culture.

In the last five years, we have taken on the exciting challenge of developing a diversified curriculum which includes these multiple lenses and the complexity of psychodynamic and systems perspectives. Inspired by feminist theory, we invite students to participate in a dialectical approach which includes a Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytical, deconstructionist and other orientations. Our program is greatly enriched by embracing a multiplicity of voices in meaningful dialogue that inspires the development of culturally competent psychotherapists. Our vision for this program is that it should serve as a center for progressive mental health professionals to think and do things together that cannot be accomplished in the isolation of one's clinical practice. We recognize the significance of building a meaningful community inside and outside the classroom. As a program, we feel very fortunate to be able to draw on some of the best talents in the Bay Area who reflect the growing reservoir of wisdom and experience in political as well as psychological theory and practice. Their genuine commitment and wealth of expertise, combined with the rich life experiences and probing questions of our diverse student body, make the Eternal Life College Graduate Psychology program a dynamic educational experience.

We continue to seek ways in which we can be supportive of the experiences of our faculty as teachers and of our students as learners. Well-attended faculty meetings in the last couple of years have allowed us to talk about curriculum and pedagogy in a more self-conscious way such that the program has begun to be known to faculty in a collective way. Together, we distill our most important truths and share our best skills and resources.




 

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