Suzette Fromm Reed, Ph.D., who directs NLU’s Community Psychology program, will be traveling to Washington, D.C. next month to brief members of Congress on community-based strategies to prevent childhood trauma–such as surviving abuse, having a drug-using parent, living in poverty and being exposed to violence in the home or community.
The opportunity arose after Fromm Reed received a national honor from the American Psychological Association. It selected her for its 2015-16 Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology, which provides leadership training to the nation’s top mid-career women in the psychology field, to empower them to lead positive changes and boost women’s influence in psychology.
When the Institute convened in October, led by women such as a Harvard Medical School professor, participants learned about their leadership styles, and to avoid the self-sabotage women are taught, including offering up an idea by prefacing it with, “I’m not sure if this is a good idea, but…”
She will use those strategies when she goes to Washington, D.C. in March to tell Congressional representatives why it’s better to use a community’s strengths to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), including various types of trauma, than to clean up its devastating after-effects.
“It’s outside my comfort zone,” she said about contacting Congress. “I’m a behind-the-scenes person, but advocacy is important.”
Advocating for buffers and self-healing for trauma-wracked communities has been important to Fromm Reed since she wrote her 2004 dissertation on community characteristics that inhibit adults from maltreating children. Forward-thinking child advocates in the state of Washington spotted that dissertation and asked Fromm Reed to consult on their longitudinal research-in-progress , which assessed the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on physical health, mental health and academic outcomes for children.
Fromm Reed will soon be traveling to Washington state to appear before a think tank considering how communities build resilience, especially in the form of connections to partners and peers.
“We found that community resilience is as important as individual resilience at buffering ACES, and that you can build community resilience,” she said. “We (society) have waited until the problem occurs and then we fix it. We can shift the focus to designing a self-healing community with families, schools, community agencies and public service agencies–a shift from reacting to preventing. And it costs less.”
In addition to her leadership on the issue of preventing ACES, Fromm Reed also shows leadership in other ways: she mentors students, leads NLU’s Community Psychology Ph.D. program and runs research projects aimed at women’s and girls’ empowerment.
After she learned how women phrase their ideas in a self-sabotaging way at last October’s leadership institute, “I thought, ‘how can I bring that back to the women I’m mentoring,'” said Fromm Reed, who mentors many women of color in NLU’s Ph.D. program. “So now, we catch each other and say, ‘don’t apologize.’ Don’t cut yourself off before you start.”
She specializes in boosting the confidence of her students, especially those who were not born into the types of affluent, well-educated households which usually produce academics.
“I want them to see they are not impostors–they belong in academia,” she said. “My parents were not college-educated.”
Stay tuned to hear more about Fromm Reed’s and NLU’s work to use community strategies to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences. She has plans in the works for a team of NLU faculty to continue research on the topic, and in May will be screening a documentary set in Walla Walla, Wash., the community in which she focuses much of her work.