Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Social Justice and Counselling Psychology: Recommitment through Action/Justice Sociale et Psychologie Du Counseling : Engagement Renouvelé Dans L'action

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Social Justice and Counselling Psychology: Recommitment through Action/Justice Sociale et Psychologie Du Counseling : Engagement Renouvelé Dans L'action

Article excerpt

Social justice has been central to the identity of counselling psychology since the inception of the profession (Palmer & Parish, 2008). The recent call for counselling psychologists to reconnect to social justice (Arthur & Collins, 2010, in press; Hunsaker, 2011; Sinacore, 2011) has not been without controversy and debate. Advocates on one side of the argument position social justice as the most important emerging ethical issue in counselling psychology to be addressed during the next 5 years (Herlihy & Dufrene, 2011), especially since researchers have increasingly emphasized the connections between systemic environmental factors and mental health problems (Jackson, 2011). Opponents on the other side of the argument have raised concerns about whether social justice should be a central aspect of the professional identity and practices of psychologists (Arredondo, Tovar-Blank, & Parham, 2008). There are few models of practice to guide what social justice work should look like (Arthur & Collins, in press), there is debate about which models of pedagogy should be used to prepare counsellors and counselling psychologists for social justice (Collins & Arthur, 2007; Sinacore & Enns, 2005), and little research exists to substantiate how the practice of social justice actually makes a difference in the lives of clients (Arthur & Collins, 2010).

A key issue underpins some of the debates and tensions surrounding social justice: Do counselling psychologists actually consider social justice to be the foundation for their professional identity and practices? The authors advocate for the position that all helping professions have a responsibility to consider how their professional education, research, and practice improves the lives of the people they serve. Thus, psychology as a discipline has this responsibility as well. Social justice cannot be assigned to just one single helping profession (e.g., social work), but instead needs to be located centrally as a core value for all helping professions. Counselling psychology, with its focus on domains such as health and wellness-promotion, psychoeducation, illness prevention, and remediation of client concerns, is in a strong position to lead psychology toward taking a stance on social justice. Recognizing that it is impossible to address all aspects of social justice in psychology within this article, the authors have aimed their discussion at introducing selected ideas and questions to encourage debate and conversation about the positioning of social justice within counselling psychology.

The purpose of this article is to outline and discuss the rationale for a recommitment to social justice as a central pillar of counselling psychology. First, a brief review of the conceptualization of social justice and its relevance for counselling psychology is provided. The discussion then turns to some of the implications that a stronger integration of social justice could have for counselling practice, education, and research. Finally, some key barriers to social justice practice are identified, along with potential strategies for addressing these barriers and promoting an embracement of social justice as a core foundation of professional practices. It should be noted that many counselling psychology and/or social justice journals are based in the United States and, as such, many Canadian and international authors end up publishing in American journals, making it difficult to discern which articles pertain specifically to a Canadian context. Given this intertwined research literature, the authors have distinguished as thoroughly as possible between literature specific to Canadian counselling psychology and literature that combines counselling psychologists with other counselling professionals within a broader international context.

SOCIAL JUSTICE: MULTIPLE MEANINGS AND DIRECTIONS FOR PRACTICE

The term social justice has been increasingly used in the counselling psychology literature, in both Canada and the United States, although with multiple meanings and with reference to multiple practices. …

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