The Adler School community gathered at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre on Oct. 26 for “Sixty Years of Social Interest: The Adler School’s Legacy and Responsibility Moving Forward”—a special colloquium that highlights the School’s celebration this academic year of its 1952 founding to continue the pioneering work of Alfred Adler.
Adler, considered the first community psychologist, espoused the notion that health relies on community life and connections—and socially responsible practitioners must advocate for the conditions and systemic changes necessary to achieve community health. In 1952, his associate Rudolf Dreikurs came to Chicago and established the Alfred Adler Institute to train practitioners to apply this approach to mental health.
The Institute is now called the Adler School of Professional Psychology, enrolling more than 1,000 master’s and doctoral students at campuses in Chicago and Vancouver, and through its online offerings. Its curriculum, training and initiatives steadfastly focus on the School’s mission to continue the pioneering work of Alfred Adler by graduating socially responsible practitioners, engaging communities, and advancing social justice.
“The most pressing issues facing individuals and communities cannot be resolved with diagnoses or be addressed somewhere in the psyches of those involved,” said Adler School President Raymond E. Crossman in his remarks opening the colloquium for the audience of faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni, community partners, and professional colleagues.
“Oppression afflicts millions each day, and socially responsible practitioners must be prepared to engage at the intersection of power and resolve to end such affliction. That’s what Alfred Adler was writing about in 1933 in Social Interest: A Challenge to Mankind. That’s what Rudolph Dreikurs was writing about in 1961 in Social Equality: The Challenge of Our Times. That’s what we’re writing about today in the SRP Project white paper, and that’s what we’re doing today in preparing socially responsible practitioners.”
Following his opening remarks, Dr. Crossman introduced colloquium panelists:
- Adler School Co-Founder, Trustee, and Distinguished Service Professor Harold Mosak, Ph.D.
- Paul Rasmussen, Ph.D., Adler School core faculty and director of the School’s Adler Child Guidance Center
- David Katz, Ph.D., chair of the School’s Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology program in Chicago
- Lynn Todman, Ph.D., Adler School Vice President for Leadership in Social Justice, and Executive Director of the School’s Institute on Social Exclusion
- Cynthia Belar, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Education Directorate of the American Psychological Association.
In his remarks, Dr. Mosak, who celebrated his 91st birthday on Oct. 29, spoke about the Institute’s beginnings in 1952 and his longtime dream that the school he helped found would someday offer a doctoral program.
As a School trustee, Dr. Mosak was instrumental in pursuing and helping to establish the Adler School’s Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) program, which began in 1987 with an entering class of 24 students. Today, it is among the Chicago Campus’ most successful programs, training clinical psychologists as socially responsible practitioners. A new Vancouver Campus program is enrolling students to start in fall 2013, as Canada’s first comprehensive practitioner-oriented Psy.D. program.
“Two-thirds of my life has been in association with this School,” Dr. Mosak told the audience, which included his fellow School Co-Founder and Board Trustee Bernard Shulman, M.D. “My walk is slower, my voice is fainter.
“[But] it’s been a wonderful journey…. I want to thank all of you for sharing it with me,” he said, to a standing ovation.
Dr. Mosak also spoke of Co-Founder Rudolf Dreikurs’ conviction that “if this were to be a better society, it would be through teachers.” During the colloquium, panelists and audience members returned several times to discussing this conviction—and how the Adler School and its practitioners apply it to public policy, sports, and other non-psychology fields that can benefit from socially responsible mental health approaches. Click here to view photos from this event.
Following Dr. Mosak’s remarks, Dr. Rasmussen reflected that the Adler School applies Alfred Adler’s concepts of purposefulness of behavior, and the fundamental human need for belongingness— concepts coming to the forefront, “but it is not yet mainstream.”
In addition, the School’s approach to training clinicians who understand the impact of community conditions and change on their clients’ recovery is revolutionary, said Dr. Katz. Of the School’s approach to training practitioners this way, he said, “What a powerful tool we have to change society. To be effective and meaningful, we can’t avoid the context of our clients’ lives.”
In her remarks, Dr. Todman focused on Alfred Adler’s unprecedented 1898 “Health Book for the Tailor Trade.” In it, Adler highlighted the futility of doctors treating the medical problems of tailors who worked and lived in terrible conditions—and sending them “back into those conditions to die.”
Adler went on to teach that socially responsible practitioners must not just treat patients, but actively advocate for systemic change and community conditions that support health, establishing the foundation for the study of mental health social determinants.
“I would call what Adler was talking about, policy and social justice, especially for the most vulnerable [T]his is what I call socially responsible practice,” and this is the work of the Adler School, Dr. Todman said.
Dr. Belar discussed how the Adler School “doesn’t just teach Adlerian theory. It walks the talk.” She commended the School’s institutional leaders, including Dr. Crossman and Wendy Paszkiewicz, Psy.D., Vice President of Community Engagement and Training, for actively leading thought and practice as national leaders. Faculty such as Cristina Cox, Ph.D., are staunch advocates and teachers on training psychologists to work with vulnerable populations, she said.
In addition, “your curriculum supports the mission,” Dr. Belar said. “Your focus on advocacy and your effort to integrate work on health disparities is critical. Consider that the healthcare system is in need of action. [For example] in this country, primary care is the de facto mental health care provider. Many needs go unaddressed. Unfortunately, we don’t have a good [national] system for training mental health practitioners in primary care.”
Dr. Belar said she believes that “it’s a matter of time” before the Adler School’s approach to training mental health practitioners as part of the healthcare system and taking systemic approaches to community health becomes widespread.
In concluding the day's conversation, Dr. Crossman issued a call to action received with agreement from the audience: “We have much work to do at the School and in the world.”
“As of Sunday’s Commencement Exercises, in two days, the world will have 3,469 Adler School alumni,” he said. “That’s a good number—and that’s not enough. [It is] not enough practitioners to face the world’s challenges, community challenges, in the unique way that our alumni, socially responsible practitioners, do. So we all have much work to do.”
About the Adler School
The Adler School of Professional Psychology has provided quality education through a scholar/practitioner model for 60 years. The School’s mission is to train socially responsible graduates who continue the visionary work of Alfred Adler throughout the world. The Adler School offers graduate-level programs enrolling more than 1,000 students at its campuses in Chicago and Vancouver, British Columbia, and through Adler Online.
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