Standing Up for Social Justice

Ferkauf Students Found Chapter of Psychologists for Social Responsibility 

As doctoral candidates in the clinical health psychology program at Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Michelle Chen and Cait Sleight treated a broad range of patients during their yearlong clinical externships. But they were troubled by the experiences of patients who had been victims of social injustice, which included trauma, racial discrimination and gender bias. The two began to wonder if they could do more to advocate for these populations beyond the clinic walls.

From left to right: Michelle Chen, Cait Sleight and Dr. William Salton

From left to right: Michelle Chen, Cait Sleight and Dr. William Salton

To raise awareness within the Ferkauf community of these and other social injustice issues, Chen and Sleight created the school’s first chapter of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), under the supervision of Dr. William Salton, adjunct instructor and clinical director of the Max and Celia Parnes Family Psychological and Psychoeducational Services Clinic.¬†“PsySR educates students and professors about our roles as clinical psychologists in advancing peace and social justice through the ethical use of psychological knowledge, research, and practice,” said Chen.

Since its inception last spring, Ferkauf PsySR has hosted and participated in social justice events throughout the New York City area. That includes an informal conversation about working with asylum seekers over dinner led by Salton and Dr. Carl Auerbach, professor of psychology, who teaches a doctoral class on evaluating asylum seekers; two trips to documentary film showings about police brutality and an Iranian juvenile rehabilitation center at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival; and a presentation from Dr. Ian Hansen, president-elect of the national PsySR organization, about recent reports of psychologists’ involvement in torture programs. “The discussion that followed was illuminating, as students shared their own concerns about social injustices that they have witnessed,” said Sleight.

“Our hope for the Ferkauf chapter of PsySr is that it continues to expose psychology students to social justice related issues, as well as raising awareness in the general community,” added Chen.

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