Psychology has traditionally been seen an individual endeavor, fashioned by an individualistic society and cultural traditions. With a few exceptions, from the time we start in school in the U.S., we are told “do your own work,” with collaboration sometimes seen as “cheating.” In some cases, our education is not just individualistic, but fiercely competitive and cut-throat. Even when practicing, we primarily work one-on-one with clients, and private practice continues to be a career goal for new psychologists. I remember how isolated I felt at my first full-time clinical job, surrounded by people yet working alone. It was a struggle to build relationships and find ways to collaborate within the privacy guidelines and maintain the confidentiality of my clients.
We live in an increasingly collective world, fueled by technology and with a growing acknowledgement of the critical role of multicultural psychology and diverse perspectives in our work. Clients and student’s ever-changing physical environments, political climates, globalization, and the rapidly changing social world require us to keep up with these rapid changes. Further, research demonstrates that working in collaborative groups at all academic and practice levels is efficacious and helps with problem-solving, empathy development, psychological adjustment to college, and higher self-esteem, to name a few (e.g., Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 2013). Psychologists have embraced collaborative work with others, whether via integrated healthcare, active and collaborative teaching models in academics, or cooperative research teams.
Collaborative leadership, similar to collaborative learning, should consist of five factors: Positive interdependence, individual and group accountability, positive interaction (preferably face-to-face), learning interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing (Johnson & Johnson, 2017). Dr. McDaniel, when President of APA, promoted an idea of “collaborative habits,” wherein she challenged all of us to be mindful and intentional about our interactions and learning from others, while being flexible and fluid in those experiences (McDaniel, 2016).
OPA is a model of collaborative leadership in numerous ways. We are active members of the Coalition for Health Communities, thanks to the efforts of Michael Ranney, our ED. The new OPA governance structure is another model of collaborative leadership, working across silos and fostering engagement and interdependence. Further, our first OPA General Assembly (a virtual meeting held Saturday, November 18th) engaged members in a discussion about critical issues facing Ohio psychologists to inform the strategic plan of OPA.
I’d like to also note that one of our mutually beneficial collaborations has been a long-term relationship with the Ohio School Psychologists Association (OSPA). Dr. Erich Merkle, our current OSPA liaison to the OPA board, frequently attends OPA board meetings, shares information from OPSA with OPA (and vice versa), and had a well-attended workshop at the OPA Convention in the spring. I appreciate Dr. Merkle’s collaborative spirit, and willingness to be flexible as we navigate this new governance structure, as well as his expertise and understanding about how our two organizations can work together.
As I mentioned in my first e-newsletter article, collaboration is critical in this current climate! Initiating strong relationships with other organizations that support mental health is just one step of collaborative leadership. The next step is facilitating a mutually-beneficial interdependence, as well as being mindful about actively maintaining and improving the relationship. Our connections may be with medical professionals, religious organizations, school systems, non-profit agencies, and legislators, all of whom have different cultures of engagement. The OPA staff and board has a commitment to building and working with our healthy networks, and we would love to hear about your experiences with collaborative connections with others, if you are willing to share.