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Diversity and Difference

Diversity and Difference

National Coming Out Day: October 11th
Disability Awareness Month: October

MSPP is committed to recognizing diversity and difference in our community through curriculum development, social activities, and community involvement and by continually working on ways to create dialogue. Making sure our students have the resources and support they need to feel like members of the MSPP community is of utmost importance. Here at MSPP, we believe multicultural education is requisite to deliver comprehensive mental health care to appropriately meet the needs of the diverse communities our students will ultimately serve.

This month, MSPP's Office of Multicultural Affairs recognizes National Coming Out Day on October 11, 2009 and Disability Awarness during the month of October.



What is National Coming Out Day?

National Coming Out Day is an internationally-observed civil awareness day for coming out and discussion about, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. It is observed on October 11 every year by members of the LGBT communities and their supporters, often referred to as "allies.”

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MSPP Recognizes National Coming Out Day...

Friday, October 16th from 3:00 - 5:30pm in classroom 9 we will be showing the Film “Anyone and Everyone” and hosting a discussion with Dr. Nilda Laboy

“Connected by having a son or daughter who is gay, parents across the country discuss their experiences in the documentary Anyone and Everyone. In it, filmmaker Susan Polis Schutz, depicts families from all walks of life. Individuals from such diverse backgrounds as Japanese, Bolivian, and Cherokee, as well as from various religious denominations such as Mormon, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Hindu, and Southern Baptist, share intimate accounts of how their children revealed their sexual orientation and discuss their responses.”

On Tuesday October 20th from 11:30-1:30 in classroom 6 we have an exciting panel of speakers who will discuss sexual orientation and identity from a variety of perspectives

  • Social constructionist framework for understanding sexual orientation
  • Working with internalized homophobia in therapy
  • Typical presenting concerns of LGBT clients, and using supervision to improve therapists’ work with LGBT clients

Sandy Dixon, Psy.D., is a 2005 graduate of Antioch University New England and a faculty member at MSPP. She also works in a private practice in Medford, Massachusetts. In graduate school she studied the motivations behind the work of “allies” and people who were vocal in their support of LGBT causes, particularly during the contentious anti-gay campaigns such as the 1992 Colorado Amendment 2 passage and the 1992 Oregon Measure 9. This work introduced her to social constructionism and an understanding of sexual orientation from this framework.

Jessica Stahl, Ph.D., earned her degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park and is a faculty member in the Counseling Psychology program at MSPP. In addition to her clinical interests in college student mental health, career counseling, LGBT concerns, and women, Dr. Stahl’s research has focused on therapist training/development and psychotherapy process/outcome, and she has published a number of articles on these topics.

Kevin McGann, M.A., is a fifth-year doctoral student in the counseling psychology program at University of Maryland. He is currently doing his internship at University of Massachusetts Amherst and maintains clinical and research interests in LGBT issues, training and supervision, and college counseling.

Sara Orozco, Ph.D., is a Core Faculty member in the Counseling Psychology Program at MSPP and a psychologist in private practice in Needham, MA.

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Disability Awareness Month: A Faculty Profile

Interview with Susan Powell, PhD
Dr. Susan PowellSusan Powell, Ph.D. is a core faculty member in and Associate Program Director of the Counseling Psychology and Forensic Counseling Psychology Program at MSPP. Dr. Powell earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She has taught extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels and has considerable experience in senior administrative leadership in professional psychology programs. Her teaching interests include diversity and difference, counseling theory, and clinical skill development. Dr. Powell’s research and scholarly interests also focus on difference and diversity, including the impact of diversity-related courses on students' personal and professional development, as well as the subjective experience of faculty who teach such courses.

You recently presented a paper at the CSU Diversity Best Practices Conference on “A New Approach to Integrating Disability and Physical Difference into Diversity Training.” Can you tell me about the new approach?

There is a movement within the disability activist community moving the focus away from a medical model of disability, which is what’s prominent in most Western societies, and focuses on there being something wrong or defective with the individual. This implies that efforts need to be taken to normalize them in some way. Whereas the social model shifts the focus away from that and recognizes the person as fine just the way they are. What’s problematic is the society which oppresses and stigmatizes them.

What types of oppression exists for people with disabilities or physical differences?

There is a preponderance of negative attitudes and bias and prejudice against people with disabilities and physical differences. This makes it really challenging for somebody to grow up with a positive sense of self. What can happen is a person can feel a lot of shame, a lot of sense that there is something wrong with me, I am not normal. Think about the language that we use to describe: defective, deformed, retards, spastic, all very demeaning things. You think about the context then of what somebody is exposed to, you don’t see a lot of portrayals of healthy, happy people with disabilities and physical differences when you look at the media, for example.

Does a person with a disability or physical difference typically prefer for a person to ask about it directly or ignore it?

If you want to know something about somebody whether it be about their disability or physical difference or whether or not they prefer to be referred to as African American or Black for example, get to know the person first. Don’t make it the first thing you ask them when you meet them because this objectifies them and identifies them as the disability or skin color, not as the person. As people get to know each other, they divulge personal things or ask personal questions in a much more appropriate way. I am not saying it’s never okay to talk about it. I think we have to have open conversations, but people have to understand their own reactions and biases and prejudices and how those might impact others. Also, that we think about those models we were discussing, medical model, social model, moral model, how those things impact the kinds of questions they ask.

How do you incorporate the importance of recognizing “privilege” into the classroom?

When you have privilege, you don’t have to think about things, because it doesn’t impact you. Sometimes when people recognize their own privilege, they feel guilty. And then they can become immersed in that guilt and stuck and unable to move any where. What I usually talk to students about, is when you do that, you are self-absorbed. You are focusing on yourself and not the people outside of you that most need your energy. So, I think it’s a combination of becoming aware of that privilege, and once we become aware of privilege, hopefully, one of the things that people do is they educate others about it and become an ally by taking measures to intervene on behalf of people who have disabilities and physical differences. As students begin to understand their own privilege, they are able to interact in more respectful ways with clients.

How can therapists and clinicians better prepare themselves to be culturally competent when working with patients who have a disability or physical difference?

As therapists and clinicians, we have to be aware of ourselves, our biases and our discomfort level, but we also have to be allies and educate other people. This applies to difference and diversity in general. So, part of that is then reaching an understanding of how can we eliminate stigma and oppression that results in disenfranchisement of people, and that starts with honest self-exploration and awareness.

How can a parent/guardian be a resource to a child with a disability or physical difference?

I think a very important thing is being able to educate parents about how to, if they have a child that has a disability or a physical difference, help that child, and to not unintentionally perpetuate stigma in the home. If parents can start this education for themselves early on, they can provide a healthier, more empowering experience for their child. Giving children opportunity to be around other kids who have physical differences or disabilities is important, too.

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Communicating With and About People With Disabilities

Affirmative Phrases Negative Phrases
person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability retarded; mentally defective
person who is blind, person who is visually impaired the blind
person with a disability the disabled; handicapped
person who is deaf the deaf; deaf and dumb
person who is hard of hearing suffers a hearing loss
person who has multiple sclerosis afflicted by MS
person with cerebral palsy CP victim
person with epilepsy, person with seizure disorder epileptic
person who uses a wheelchair confined or restricted to a wheelchair
person who has muscular dystrophy stricken by MD
person with a physical disability, physically disabled crippled; lame; deformed
unable to speak, uses synthetic speech dumb; mute
person with psychiatric disability crazy; nuts
person who is successful, productive has overcome his/her disability; is courageous (when it implies the person has courage because of having a disability)

Etiquette considered appropriate when interacting with people with disabilities is based primarily on respect and courtesy. To learn more about this from the Department of Labor, please visit

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Contact Information

If you would like to be include in future profiles on this site, please contact Frances Mervyn at

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Updated 10/15/09

News & Events Archives

Sep/Oct 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

Nov/Dec 2013

October 2013
National Coming Out Day, October 11

June 2013
Pride Month

March 2013
Recognizing Women's History Month

February 2013
Recognizing Cultural Ethnic Differences

November 2012
Recognizing our Military Community

October 2012
National Coming Out Day, October 11
Disabilities Awareness Month

September 2012
Hispanic Heritage Month

June 2012
Pride Month and Haitian Flag Day

February 2012
African American/Black History Month

November 2011
Recognizing our Military Community

September 2011
Hispanic Heritage Month

June 2011
Equality Month

March 2011
Women's History Month

February 2011
African American/Black History Month

January 2011
Happy New Year!

November 2010
Recognizing Student Veterans

October 2010
National Coming Out Day, October 11

September 2010
Hispanic Heritage Month

Recognizing Ramadan

June 2010
Equality Month

May 2010
Older American's Month

March 2010
Women's History Month

February 2010
African American/Black History Month

November 2009
The Office of Multicultural Affairs recognizes our student veterans and military during the month of November

October 2009
National Coming Out Day: October 11th and Disability Awareness Month: October

September 2009
Hispanic Heritage Month

The Changing Face of Immigration: Legal Debates, Controversies and the Implications for Clinical Practice (PDF)

May 2009
Weil Grant Training: Leading Culturally Sensitive Parent Education Support Group

April 2009
Latino Mental Health Professional Networking Evening

Diversity Training: Hurricane Katrina Disaster Victims

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