There is evidence of a growing interest in the topic of social justice among psychologists and counselors (e.g., Constantine, Hage, Kindaichi, & Bryant, 2007; Fouad, Gerstein, & Toporek, 2006; Miller & Sendrowitz, 2011), and social justice has even been described as the contemporary "fifth force" (Ratts, 2009, p. 160) in the history of counseling and psychotherapy. This fifth force represents a paradigm shift in the ultimate goal of the helping professions in contrast to the previous series of four prior paradigms, or forces, that have shaped the vision of counseling practice: psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, existential-humanistic, and multicultural. The first three paradigms focused primarily on the individual client (Ratts, 2009), and with the shift to a paradigm of multiculturalism came greater "appreciation of racial and cultural variables" (Pieterse, Evans, Risner-Butner, Collins, & Mason, 2009, pp. 93-94) as counselors began to view their clients in racial and sociocultural contexts. Vera and Speight (2003) argued that a mature multicultural competence cannot be obtained without a commitment to social justice on multiple systemic levels, and yet empirical research on social justice commitment has barely started. The present study tested a theoretical model of social justice commitment in a sample of graduate students in the helping professions in an effort to identify potential targets for training intervention.
Goodman et al. (2004) offered a definition of social justice for mental health professionals as "scholarship and professional action designed to change societal values, structures, policies, and practices, such that disadvantaged or marginalized groups gain access to these tools of self-determination" (p. 795). They also identified six principles that they believed are helpful in embarking on social justice work: (a) continually self-examining biases and positions of power, (b) sharing power through collaborative decision making, (c) giving voice to oppressed groups, (d) facilitating consciousness-raising around systemic forces contributing to oppression, (e) building on strengths of clients, and (f) leaving clients with the tools for social change. Clearly, there are many dimensions to social justice, including aspects of selfhood, social power, values, and relational style. However, an active concern and commitment to social justice and engaging in work to promote it is a central dimension repeatedly mentioned among those advocating for increased social justice work in the helping professions (Fouad et al., 2006; Goodman et al., 2004; Ivey & Collins, 2003; Miller & Sendrowitz, 2011; Singh et al., 2010; Toporek, Gerstein, Fouad, Roysicar, & Israel, 2006). In the present study, we used the framework of social justice as outlined by Goodman et al. and defined social justice commitment as active concerns and commitments related to social justice advocacy. We chose to investigate an active commitment to social justice because, theoretically, commitment is likely to be a more robust predictor of involvement in systemic change than a variable such as interest.
Social Justice Commitment and Graduate Training
In an effort to better understand students' understanding of social justice, Singh et al. (2010) conducted a qualitative survey of doctoral students in counseling psychology to learn of their perceptions of social justice in their doctoral programs. Respondents were asked to offer their definitions of social justice, discuss how they practiced social justice both professionally and personally, and talk about the ways they imagined weaving social justice into training programs. Although the respondents could provide examples for their own practice of social justice and found incorporating it into training programs important, the varied definitions of social justice suggested that the concept to which they demonstrated loyalty was neither consensually nor easily defined. …