03 November 2020 | by Black History Month
Today's article offers a perspective on the future of psychology from Fabianna Dennis, a 2nd year psychology and behavioural sciences student at Cambridge University.
In the midst of a global pandemic and social unrest, starting my second year studying Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Cambridge felt trivial.
However, it also feels as though this time has been a unique opportunity to reflect on my own experiences, not only as a psychology student, but as a black woman studying at one of the world’s top universities.
I have enjoyed many moments during my time at university so far, from the quintessentially Cambridge activities like formals, balls and having drinks with my college mistress, to simpler moments like having brunch with friends and spending hours in the library doing more chatting than work.
Not to mention the amazing opportunities that I have been offered since starting here, such as being featured in a BBC documentary and being able to work alongside the BPS. That being said, it is difficult to ignore how my Blackness has affected my experiences here.
I often find myself defending my identity, fighting imposter syndrome or seeking comfort from other Black students who share my experiences.
In addition, seeing very little people who look like me on my course (both staff and students) and in my daily activities makes me question whether this is a place I belong.
It is even more difficult when a large majority of my workload only involves the theories and writings of white men from decades ago.
This lack of representation has made me reflect on the future of psychology and what psychology as a discipline should be doing to support its students – especially those who look like me.
The future of psychology should look diverse and inclusive. I hope that it listens to and shares the stories, theories and ideas of all types of people, from all kinds of backgrounds.
It is one where everyone can be engaged in conversations about mental health without feeling misunderstood.
I hope the future of psychology will be about the students being taught the importance of acknowledging and showing empathy towards the backgrounds of others.
This is what matters, and if this can happen it means that in the future, we will have a generation of psychology students equipped with the knowledge to understand and help all kinds of people, regardless of their backgrounds and the traumas they may have faced because of who they are.
Psychology is the study of the human mind and so it should involve all humans.
Not only will more people will be encouraged to enter the field if they see themselves represented in it, but psychology and mental health may be discussed more openly in communities where currently, there are high levels of disengagement and distrust.
If we are to achieve this future, universities and schools should all think about how they can decolonise and diversify both their courses and departments.
Teaching staff should address their own biases as well as encourage students from all types of backgrounds to study psychology.
Furthermore, we should find ways to inspire curiosity and critical thinking in students. The more questions we ask, the more we learn, and students should feel comfortable in challenging the same ideas we are always taught.
The lasting effects of colonisation and institutional racism will make this future difficult to achieve however, by holding institutions and educators accountable and by accrediting courses that make steps towards change, the British Psychological Society can help us reach my vision of a more inclusive approach to psychology.
In the meantime, we can start conversations and inspire change within our own communities, amongst friends and colleagues.
Even what may seem like the smallest step is still a step towards a better future for psychology.