Duchess of the Month: Dr. Thema’s story of inspiration, a woman of great impact

by Joseph Omoniyi
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Dr. Thema Bryant’s journey to becoming the 2023 president of the American Psychological Association (APA) has been one of hard work, dedication, and resilience. With more than 120,000 members, the APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology, and Dr. Thema is poised to take on this important role with grace and determination.

It all began with her studies at Duke University, where she completed her doctorate in Clinical Psychology. From there, she went on to complete her post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical Center’s Victims of Violence Program. These early experiences set the stage for Dr. Thema’s future career, as she became the Coordinator of the Princeton University SHARE Program, a role that allowed her to provide intervention and prevention programming to combat sexual assault, sexual harassment, and harassment based on sexual orientation.

Today, Dr. Thema is a tenured professor of psychology at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, where she directs the Culture and Trauma Research Laboratory. Her clinical and research interests center on interpersonal trauma and the societal trauma of oppression, and she has made significant contributions to the field in these areas.

Dr. Thema has also served in various leadership roles within the APA, including as a past president of the Society for the Psychology of Women and a past representative to the United Nations. She has also served on the APA Committee on International Relations in Psychology and the Committee on Women in Psychology.

Throughout her career, Dr. Thema has received numerous accolades for her work, including the Distinguished Early Career Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest award from the APA in 2013 and the Distinguished Scientific Achievement in Psychology award from the California Psychological Association in 2015. The Institute of Violence, Abuse and Trauma honored her with their media award for the film Psychology of Human Trafficking in 2016, and in 2018, she received the Donald Fridley Memorial Award for excellence in mentoring in the field of trauma from the same organization.

In addition to her professional achievements, Dr. Thema has made a concerted effort to raise public awareness about mental health issues. She has extended the reach of psychology beyond the academy and private therapy office through community programming and media engagement, appearing on outlets such as Headline News, National Public Radio, and CNN.

With all of these accomplishments under her belt, it is no wonder that Dr. Thema has been chosen to lead the APA as its president in 2023. It has been a long journey from her early days at Duke University to this point, but she has persevered through challenges and achieved greatness. As the APA’s new president, Dr. Thema is sure to make a positive impact on the field of psychology and on the lives of individuals around the world.

Dr. Thema’s journey to the presidency of the APA is a true grass-to-grace story. From her early work combating sexual violence at Princeton University to her current position as a renowned professor and mental health advocate, she has dedicated her career to making a difference in the lives of others.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Dr. Thema has also made a name for herself as a speaker and writer, sharing her insights and expertise with a wide audience. She is the editor of the APA text Multicultural Feminist Therapy: Helping Adolescent Girls of Color to Thrive and has given an invited keynote address on the topic of the trauma of racism at the APA. In 2020, the International Division of APA honored her for her International Contributions to the Study of Gender and Women for her work in Africa and the Diaspora.

Dr. Thema is also an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and directs the mental health ministry at First AME Church in South Los Angeles. She incorporates sacred dance and spoken word into her therapy, community forums, and faith communities, and as a member of the Association of Black Psychologists, she is committed to using culturally based interventions in her teaching, research, and practice.

Dr. Thema’s dedication to her work extends beyond her professional commitments, as she is also the host of the Homecoming Podcast, a mental health podcast that aims to facilitate people’s journeys home to their authentic selves. This is just one example of how Dr. Thema is using her platform to make a positive impact in the world, employing sacred dance and spoken word in her therapy, community forums, and faith communities. As a member of the Association of Black Psychologists, she is committed to incorporating culturally based interventions in her teaching, research, and practice.

With her diverse background and wealth of experience, there is no doubt that Dr. Thema will be an excellent leader for the APA. Her commitment to improving the lives of others and her dedication to advancing the field

Despite the challenges she has faced along the way, Dr. Thema has never let setbacks hold her back. She has persevered and achieved greatness, and her journey is an inspiration to us all. With her leadership, the APA is sure to continue making a positive impact on the field of psychology and on the lives of individuals around the world.

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