International Psychology Allows Us to Question the Way We Think of Psychology as a Whole

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Dr. Perez with students on a field experience in Philippines

Dr. Patricia Perez

Dr. Patricia Perez is an associate professor in the International Psychology (IP) Program on the Online Campus. Having come to the program after leaving a tenured professorship elsewhere, Dr. Perez is one of the program’s biggest boosters. For her, IP is more than just a specialty within the field of psychology, and she takes that to heart, traveling frequently out of the country on field experiences with students to further give them a global, rather than just a Western, psychological outlook.

Dr. Perez, a 2018 recipient of the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award for inspiring students, answers questions about the discipline and explains why she loves her work.

Why do you think it’s important for international psychology to exist as a discipline?

International Psychology is a unique, innovative field that allows us to question the way we think of psychology as a whole. IP allows psychology professionals to describe, explain, predict, and understand psychological phenomena that has no geographical bounds, is contextually-relevant, and aspires to be a responsive psychology. IP trains professionals to harness all their skills and talents to address global psychological issues. We can also apply IP core concepts in research, applied practice, ethics, diversity and foundational literature within any branches of psychology, thereby internationalizing all of psychology.

Dr. Perez with students on a field experience in Kuwait

What led you to teach in international psychology?

I was working as tenured core faculty in child development at Harold Washington College. We had a TCSPP intern working in our Department of Applied Sciences. She mentioned that I would be a good fit to teach diversity courses on TCSPP’s Chicago Campus. By 2011, I had met Dr. Tiffany Masson, the chair of the IP Department, Online Campus, and became a dissertation affiliate faculty. Over time, I learned that IP spoke to my past, current and future personal and professional perspectives. The acknowledgement that the study and application of psychology is not held only to the standards of “Western” models was what hooked me to the field.

How does international psychology differ from other psychology disciplines offered at TCSPP?

First, we look at the “context” (e.g., population, individual, history, economics, culture) rather than any one gold standard in psychology to guide our research, consultation, and collaborative intervention efforts.  Secondly, we don’t make assumptions that we are competent in all ways of knowing as psychology professionals. Lastly, although we may be experts in our own psychology, we are encouraged to learn how psychology may be viewed or translated within other contexts.  As a result, students participate in experiential learning through service learning projects embedded in our courses as well as our required field experience courses.

What is/are your favorite aspects of the discipline?

Dr. Perez with students on a field experience in Ghana

I enjoy creating, developing, mastering, and then letting go. My training and mentorship in music and dance have allowed me to apply these skills to my work as faculty, part of a departmental team, a dissertation chair, and an international psychology consultant.  In addition, I really love to see students “transform” into IP professionals through their time with us in the Department.  Seeing any of my students give back to their own communities as a result of their training with us gives me tremendous joy.

What would you say are characteristics that make a person a good international psychology practitioner?

There are many personal characteristics that would make someone an appropriate candidate.  Some of these qualities include: a) being comfortable with being uncomfortable, b) awareness of self and how one impacts others, c) coming from a place of cultural humility, and d) being open and curious as the norm.  We recognize that with time, professional experience, guidance, mentorship, and completion of rigorous academic and service-learning coursework, we can progress towards being “successful.”  Lastly, we are lifelong learners and the IP field allows us to do just that!

1 comment
  • So happy to see Dr. Perez acknowledged for her stellar performance and example of a consummate International Psychologist. She puts into motion all the things she teaches, walking the walk and talking the talk! She sets the bar and gives students a role model to strive toward. Congratulations Dr. Perez!

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