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Professor Selected for APA Scholar Program

By Brett Wilson | May 20, 2014

Dr. Carissa Dwiwardani.

With Regent University's core challenge of leading the world in change and scholarship, the School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC) is paving the way with research conducted by its faculty members. During the spring 2014 semester, Dr. Carissa Dwiwardani, assistant professor for SPC, was selected as a Scholar for the Multicultural Concerns Committee for the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 39.

"The way we think about human nature and how people change is very much influenced by our culture and the way we gauge what's 'healthy' and 'not healthy,'" said Dwiwardani. "A lot of psychoanalysis is carrying values on human nature and change that is very culturally explicit."

APA has more than 134,000 members including psychology researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students, according to the organization's official website. Dwiwardani's recognition places her at the top of the leaders in her field; she hopes that this distinction will encourage the APA's psychoanalysis division to explore more multicultural factors of psychology and how it interfaces with psychoanalysis.

"We're being more explicit about the limitations of the framework in our subfield and we want to be more transparent in challenging them," said Dwiwardani.

Dwiwardani's passion for multicultural emphasis on psychoanalysis was born throughout her own education in psychology. Though she was drawn to American psychology and found herself "resonating with psychoanalytic thought," she found herself having to compartmentalize the fact that she spent the first 18 years of her life in Indonesia.

"I had to put away the 'cultural me,' during my studies," said Dwiwardani. "I didn't know how what I was learning would apply to an Indonesian population, but I thought 'let me learn this first and then work on applying it to different cultures.'"

Dwiwardani said the biggest difference she has noticed between Indonesian and American cultures when it comes to psychological health is the mentality of "separation-individuation," the idea that everyone needs to become self-sufficient in order to maintain their individuality during their young adulthood years.

"If I was still living in Indonesia and I had moved out of my parent's home just because I was 18, people would ask, 'what's wrong? Do you not have a very good relationship?'" Dwiwardani said. "It would raise more questions and suspicions about our health as a family rather than convince everyone that I am a successful person."

Dwiwardani explained that this can be dangerous in a therapist-patient relationship, if the two have differing definitions for topics, such as love.

"If I was your therapist, I could be assuming what love might mean to you, and I could do damage if I wasn't careful," explained Dwiwardani.

This passion and innate understanding of multicultural differences in psychology spurs Dwiwardani's passion for research and teaching. She believes this understanding of multicultural analysis is learned relationally, and she guides her classroom the same way.

"It's an important concept, in my conviction, for my students to learn this before they meet with clients to understand the limitations of their own worldview—so they can be humble about it," said Dwiwardani. "That's a concept that I will teach again and again."

Learn more about the School of Psychology & Counseling.


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