Practical, Not Pathological: Understanding Cultural Mistrust in Testing

Tuesday, September 27, 2022
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM (EDT)
Zoom information will be provided to registrants at a later date.
Category: Training

Practical, Not Pathological: Understanding Cultural Mistrust in Testing

September 27 | 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm ET | 3.5 CEs

To register for any event, please login to your member or non-member profile on the SPA Website.



The contribution of the field of psychology to the historical and ongoing oppression of individuals with intersecting marginalized identities has a profound impact on if and how such individuals seek treatment. Systems within the United States have a long-standing history of inflicting harm on Black individuals, families, and communities. As a result of their own experiences of marginalization and intergenerational trauma, Black Americans have developed strategies for interacting with the dominant culture that aid in protecting against further marginalization and oppression, including limiting self-disclosure until one can be reassured that shared information will not be used with malice. Researchers have referred to this as “healthy cultural wariness” or “cultural mistrust.” On psychological assessment measures, such reluctance is captured as guardedness, impression management, defensiveness, grandiosity, and paranoia. Interpreting such scale elevations as an indictment of moral character, evidence of wrongdoing, or serious mental illness inflicts further harm on marginalized communities and may pathologize adaptive behavior. This workshop will explore the roots of cultural mistrust and focus specifically on how cultural mistrust presents on psychological tests, and we will address the social justice imperative to situate these test scores in context when interpreting test results and writing assessment reports.

Goals and Objectives:

1. Participants will be able to describe the ongoing and historical oppression of Black Americans at a systems level.

2. Participants will be able to explain the social justice imperative for addressing cultural mistrust throughout the assessment process and how failure to do so contributes to the ongoing marginalization and oppression of BIPOC clients.Participants will be able to discuss different ways that cultural mistrust can impact psychological testing.

3. Participants will be able to explain the social justice imperative for addressing cultural mistrust throughout the assessment process and how failure to do so contributes to the ongoing marginalization and oppression of BIPOC clients.

4. Participants will be able demonstrate an understanding of how cultural mistrust impacted test scores using deidentified case examples.

5. Participants will be able to integrate cultural mistrust, when appropriate, into their reports, and differentiate between adaptive and pathological behaviors.

6. Participants will be able to critique previous findings and diagnoses through the lens of cultural mistrust.

Skill Level:

Participants can be of any level, though basic knowledge of assessment principles is useful.


Registration is now open!

Member Type  Rate
Student Member $124
Early-Career Member $174
Member/Fellow/Associate $249
Student Non-Member $154
Early-Career Non-Member $234
Non-member $324


Jennifer Laney is a licensed clinical psychologist.  She received a B.A. in General Psychology from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2009.  Jennifer earned her MA in Clinical Practices in 2011 from the University of Hartford and her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in 2016.  Jennifer’s dissertation entailed the development of a training workshop for community mental health providers working with veterans suffering from combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder.  She co-authored publications including “Female graduate students’ attitudes after leadership training: A case study” (Journal of Leadership Studies, 2014), How we are trained and what we do: A survey of clinical child psychologists and graduate students” (Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 2012), and “Connecticut’s enhanced care clinic initiative: Early returns from pediatric-behavioral health partnerships” (Families, Systems, & Health, 2011).

Jennifer is extensively trained in psychological assessment, trauma, borderline personality disorder, dialectical behavior therapy, and substance use. She is a consultant for individuals who are currently involved with the Department of Children and Families. Jennifer is hired by attorneys to complete psychological, parenting, and substance use assessments for clients, many of whom have complicated histories of trauma, abuse, and neglect and difficulties across many domains, including cognitive, interpersonal, and emotional functioning. She uses information from a variety of sources, including test data, case history, behavioral observations, and collateral information to develop a social justice-oriented, integrative understanding of the clients’ strengths, struggles, and needs to assist in their legal defense. Previously, Jennifer coordinated the testing program at Behavioral Health Network in Massachusetts and was involved in the training of future psychologists in assessment and evidence-based treatments, such as dialectical behavior therapy.

Margo Townley, MSW, PsyD 

I chose to earn a doctorate in psychology after working in child protection and related fields as a Social Worker for more than 20 years in the Midwest, the South, and New England. I have worked with persons across the lifespan in various capacities, which has given me a unique breadth and depth of understanding the intersections of our various social roles and identities. 

I earned my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 2015 from Union Institute and University. I am self-employed as a consultant for those involved with Massachusetts child protective agencies and courts to assist in their defense and to offer guidance for caring for the state’s most vulnerable children and families. I provide a myriad of assessments and evaluations; merging my Social Work training and experience with the training and experiences I’ve gained through my PsyD to provide a strengths-based approach to the work. I offer assessments and recommendations for services and treatment with the aim of improving outcomes for individuals, parents, and children. I hope to make the information and results accessible and understandable so meaningful services and changes are possible for people and institutions. I work to educate professionals and others regarding the effects that the intersecting of trauma, poverty, intergenerational issues, circumstance, and a plethora of other factors have on one’s available choices and possible outcomes in an effort to increase understanding and promote social justice. 

Karissa Spurgeon, PsyD, LMHC obtained her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2008 and her doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology in 2019 from Springfield College.  She has worked as counselor in the Western MA area, primarily in community mental health, focusing on complex trauma in youths. Karissa has obtained specialized training in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychological First Aid, Solution Focused Brief Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, and Psychological Assessment. Currently Karissa works at a child community mental health clinic. Her roles include developing child programing, supervising master’s level clinicians, and outpatient therapy. Additionally, she is the leader for multiple DBT groups for adolescents and adults.  Karissa is also an adjunct faculty member at Springfield College, teaching in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. She has taught the following courses: Psychopharmacology, Child Development and Theory, Human Lifespan Development, Crisis Intervention, Clinical Seminar: Diagnosis, Assessment and Treatment Planning, Advanced Counseling Practicum, Internship and Seminar.

The Society for Personality Assessment (SPA) is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. SPA maintains responsibility for this program and its content. 

For More Information:

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