Counselling Psychology Social Justice Statement

The Counselling Psychology programs at the University of Calgary are guided by a common mission, values, program goals, and principles. The programs follow a scientist practitioner model of training and is committed to social justice efforts in all areas of scholarship.

The mission of the Counselling Psychology program the University of Calgary (hereafter the Program) is to prepare the next generation of Counselling Psychologists to be reflexive, critical, and culturally responsive researchers, educators, and practitioners. Taking on a generalist approach, the Program provides students with broad preparation for careers in a wide range of settings, including education (schools, colleges, and universities), government, social services, health units and hospitals, community agencies, business and industry, and private practice. Both the MSc and PhD programs are grounded on a scientist-practitioner model, emphasizing: the integration of science and practice; critical evaluation of theory, research, and practice within the profession; and the generation and dissemination of cutting-edge knowledge. Furthermore, the Program upholds an active commitment to social justice, highlighting the importance of infusing advocacy in both the science and practice of psychology. As such, we aim to use the power and privilege obtained as Counselling Psychologists to aid in the understanding, healing, and advocating for the wellbeing and justice within and outside of our communities.

The Program values center on social justice, with a shared understanding that people’s suffering and psychological distress often arise out of interlocking systems of oppression, social injustices, coloniality, and human rights violation. As such, the Program has jointly authored and endorsed a statement on Social Justice[1] which informs the work we undertake:

Social justice can be understood as a professional commitment, an action-oriented process, and a desired goal. The process entails investigating and dismantling ideologies and structures of inequities related to age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual / affectional orientation, language, (dis)ability, religion, spirituality, Indigenous ancestry, nationality, status in country, social class, accessibility, physicality, and their intersections. We move beyond fixed and binary understandings of identities and experiences. Rather, an intersectional approach we take allows us to consider meanings and consequences of multiple categories, which are fluid and contextually situated. We embrace diversity within the faculty and student body that reflects the pluralistic society in which we live, and that of among those we work with; this requires active self-reflection and critical engagement, and our interactions are to be guided by the principles of respect, reciprocity, reverence, and responsibility.  

Furthermore, we understand that decolonialization and anti-colonialism is inseparable from, and integral to, the realization of social justice and is in fact ethical responsibility in our work as Counselling Psychologists. Responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Calls to Action (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2015), Psychology’s Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Report (Canadian Psychological Association & Psychology Foundation of Canada, 2018), and ii’ taa’poh’to’p, University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, the members of the Program enact their ethical responsibility to respectfully walk alongside Indigenous Peoples and dismantle colonial logic, policies, and systems that obstruct Indigenous self-determination and governance. Through the Indigenous and Indigenist ways of knowing, the goal then is the full and equitable engagement of all groups within society to decolonize ourselves and the disciplinary knowledge and practices in meaningful ways to set the necessary foundation for reconciliation.

Social justice is action-oriented process that requires critical, reflective, ongoing, community-driven multidisciplinary research and practice, which addresses issues of equity, human rights, power and privilege, and oppression. Social justice efforts can be demonstrated in several ways, including a focus on (a) specific topics of study that have not traditionally been prioritized in counselling psychology (e.g., ableism, ageism, heterosexism, racism, sexism, weightism, environmental justice, etc.); (b) research approaches that prioritize the voices and experiences of underrepresented communities (e.g., feminist epistemologies, queer and transgender theories, Indigenous research paradigms, critical disability studies, etc.); (c) community work and advocacy with specific groups who are systemically oppressed  (e.g., those living in conditions of poverty and precarity); (d) scholarly work that contributes to social and systemic change (e.g., discriminatory practices, organizational policies, etc.); to name but a few examples.

To enact on the above social justice value statement, we are committed to critical exploration, application, and advancement of psychological knowledge and practice in local, national, and global contexts. We promote integration of theory, research, practice, and advocacy to prepare students to thrive in their professional roles and practices. We value critical, innovative, and community-engaged knowledge creation and mobilization that serves our discipline and the public. We embrace diversity and inclusivity, and value Indigenous and intercultural perspectives in all our endeavors.

Additionally, we believe in the importance of supporting full human potential and enhancing quality of life within the context of life-long learning. We hold accountable to each other in creating an equitable learning and working space where students, staff, and faculty members in different identities and social locations feel safe, accepted, and respected. As such, we seek excellence that builds upon­­––not at the expense of––collegiality, wellbeing, and mutual growth that we collectively foster among us.

[1] This definition of social justice was co-created by faculty members (Domene, Fellner, Jin, Lacerda-Vandenborn, Maroney, Russell-Mayhew, Wada, Zamudio, and Zhao) and students during the 2021-2022 academic year. The current version builds on earlier statement developed by Arthur, Cairns, Fellner, Kassan, Mendaglio, Robertson, Russell-Mayhew, Strong, and Wada.