Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
In the summer of 2020, the PACT Institute – and Tracey and I personally – made a commitment to improve our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts and to better serve systemically marginalized communities. We immediately started working with a DEI consultant to help us look critically at our organization and where we could do better.
My Personal Journey
My own understanding expanded significantly at the end of the first training this year. When someone asked about what I considered betrayal, I mentioned mismanagement of thirds and the reveal of information that, if previously known, would have changed everything. I gave examples of this and rattled off my usual list, including finding out your partner is not the gender they were assigned at birth.
I was initially shocked to find the chat room buzzing with accusations of my acting out transphobia. Me? Transphobic? No! People are misunderstanding my meaning. What?
I realized that there was something here I couldn't see. Over the next 24 hours, I reflected on the criticisms that came my way, made several attempts to repair with students, and was humbled to find my blind spots and to have caused harm.
As painful and confusing as this experience was at first, it has catapulted me on a journey that continues to be life-changing. Each complaint that had been leveled at me becomes clearer as I seek to understand and learn more. I am discovering what it means to be a person of privilege – as well as an ally, an anti-othering person, and a person who can no longer settle to be deeply ignorant and dismissive of my ignorance. I strive to do better at making everyone feel safe and supported in PACT training.
Behind the Scenes at the PACT Institute
At the PACT Institute, we haven’t done a lot of talking on social media about diversity, equity, and inclusion over the last year. Instead, we have focused on taking action. The PACT Institute is committed to building an equitable and thriving learning environment for our BIPOC and LGBTQI+ communities. We have been quietly chipping away to break down barriers and achieve these goals.
First, we had to acknowledge that the majority of our student body is white, cisgendered, and straight. To increase diversity among our students in this year’s PACT training, we offered and continue to offer scholarships for folks with identities that are marginalized or underrepresented in the clinical field.
Scholarships. Through PACT Diversity, Social Work, Front Line, and Financial Need Scholarships, we aim to build a foundation for our institute’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. The goal of these scholarships is twofold. First, we want to support individual therapists who are able to fuse PACT ideas with the lived experience of clients in marginalized communities. We believe this will be an effective way to better serve as many currently under-resourced people as possible.
The second goal is to begin to develop a more diverse next generation of leadership within the PACT Institute. (See 2021 DEI Milestones below.) Because frankly, like our students, our institute faculty and staff is mostly white, cisgendered, and straight. Increasing diversity among faculty and staff is a long-term goal.
Internal training. For now, we are doing our best to gain a better awareness of and sensitivity to the daily life experiences of individuals and groups who live in continuous fear, oppression, and devaluation in a society where normalcy, acceptability, and otherness are defined by those who hold power, which in the US, has historically been white men. To that end, PACT Institute faculty and staff participate in required ongoing education and training.
As a team, we have looked at our own internal biases, systematic biases within the field of psychology, and how we can stop perpetuating systematic oppression and exclusion. We read books, engage with experts, and have ongoing discussions about how to promote equity within the PACT Institute. (See 2021 DEI Milestones below.)
Updated Policies. Several years ago, we changed our education and outreach materials to consciously show inclusive imagery that challenges stereotypes in our social media, website, and newsletter content. We’ve realized over the past year that promoting a sense of belonging and equity for every student requires more than better representation in media. It also requires us to rethink policies and practices.
Here are some changes we’ve made at the PACT Institute over the past year:
We’re not looking for a pat on the back. We know that our efforts represent a drop in the bucket compared to what needs to change systemically in the field of mental health and in the world. We are sharing this with you because so many like-minded community members have reached out over the past year to inquire, criticize, correct, and educate us. Each one has been crucial for our growth and understanding.
While we have worked deeply on DEI efforts this year, we’ve made missteps along the way.
For example, in the beginning of our DEI efforts, we focused primarily on race. We neglected to reach out specifically to gender-diverse and trans clinicians. And we didn’t focus enough on how to help all students feel safe and supported once in PACT training.
We were initially resistant to the idea of affinity groups in breakout rooms, not seeing the need for them. However, as training went on, we understood the importance of these affinity group rooms for increasing equity and reducing harm.
As our trainings attract students from across the globe, we’re figuring out how to have these conversations – about increasing equity and reducing harm – with all students in a meaningful way. We are grateful for everyone who engages with us on this continuing journey.
Personally, and as an institute, we have a long way to go. Still, I am proud of where we are going as a professional community of opportunity, learning, teaching, and healing.
At the PACT Institute, we are all humbled by what we have learned, by the support we’ve received along the way, and by how much work we have left to do. We’re clear about our commitment to continue learning, supporting each other, and doing the work.