SCCR 2020 Keynote speakers

Claudette “Claudia” Antuña, Psy.D., MHSA, LICSW

Topical area: Social justice and services to refugees and immigrant communities

Dr. Claudia Antuña is a bilingual and bicultural (Spanish-English) clinician.  She is licensed as an Independent Clinical Social Worker, obtained a Certificate in Global Mental Health from the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, and received her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the Washington School of Professional Psychology in 2012. In 2006, she began responding to requests for forensic psychological evaluations from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. She has provided Immigration court with over 700 written reports and has provided oral testimony.

Currently, she is the Professional Development Coordinator for the National Latinex Psychological Association, Immigration Chair for Division 52 (International), a member of APA’s Immigration Work Group, and liaisons between Division 56 and 52 on the CODAPAR grant. Since January 2019, she has conducted a Podcast: Speaking of Psychology: On the Front Lines of the Immigration Crisis: and has been interviewed by Mother Jones, National Magazine and others on the current immigration crisis.

Title: Allowing Cross Cultural Research to Validate Our Understanding of Trauma and Torture When Advocating for the Undocumented Immigrant

This presentation could/should/would have been different if it had been given under a different political backdrop. It is the goal of my presentation to provide participants with a current digest of the most pressing immigration policies and how cross-cultural research plays a pivotal role in our understanding of how different people of the world express their experiences. We aim to help clinicians understand the needs refugees, asylees, and undocumented immigrants using our knowledge and expertise in the forensic arena. Given our current political climate and the multifaceted challenges that the U.S. faces in understanding how our immigration system works we hope to train clinicians willing to document torture and other human rights violations. This becomes imperative in educating the tries-of-fact (Immigration Judges) that have to make decisions about what will happen to them can be corroborated by current cross-cultural research.

People who are fleeing persecution, discrimination, and have experienced and have witnessed first-hand the violence of their fellow human beings come to this country frequently unable or incapable of articulating what has happened to them: Children escaping abuse and forced gang affiliation, battered women and men who fear for their lives from spouses and partners who feel entitled to subjugate and control them, elderly adults who have been displaced and mistreated. We believe it is the responsibility of the culturally competent informed forensic evaluator to tell their story and be their voice in an objective and neutral manner relying on the latest trauma and neurocognitive cross- cultural research the field of psychology has to offer.


Alexander Rödlach SVD, PhD

Topical area: Embedding Cross-Cultural Research: Driven by Values, Rooted in Relationships, and Focused on Action

Alexander Rödlach is a medical anthropologist at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where he teaches courses on public and global health as well as the African continent. His research focuses on themes at the intersection of health, volunteerism and religion. Currently, he studies (1) Faith Community Nursing’s impact on the health of clients, (2) the role of cultural meanings of water in refugee health and wellbeing, and (3) intercultural competence among health professionals. He is involved in needs assessment and program evaluation as well as the development of health infrastructure assessment tools.

Title: Embedding Cross-Cultural Research: Accompaniment

Various research approaches, such as Participatory Action Research, are motivated by a commitment to the democratization of knowledge-creation, conducted with communities as co-researchers and aim at action meaningful to them. Rödlach reflects on his engagement with Karenni refugees resettling in Omaha, Nebraska, as he advances such approaches using the concept of accompaniment, which was developed by liberation theologians (Gustavo Gutierrez) and espoused by the social sciences such as anthropology (Paul Farmer) or psychology (Mary Watson). Researchers adopting accompaniment place themselves in the lives and struggles of communities and develop interpersonal and reciprocal partnerships and personal relationships with them, resulting in knowledge that inspires transformative action.

Rödlach discusses the potential and limitations of framing research through accompaniment, which implies that such research goes beyond a single research event or exploring social problems in the short-term. As mutually benefitting and reciprocal partnerships and relationships of the researcher with the community develop, all involved acknowledge that they are committed to do in the long-term whatever is of concern and interest to all partners, particularly the community. Rödlach argues that embedded research framed by accompaniment is quite different from how embedded research has been understood in the research literature or is defined by related concepts, such as the „researcher-in-residence“. The latter easily overlook valuable insights and applications of cross-cultural research that result from embedding research through accompaniment.


Mónica Ruiz-Casares, PhD, MSc, MA, LLB

Topical area: Child well-being and ethical and methodological issues in research with children and young people

Mónica Ruiz-Casares, PhD is Associate Professor in the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry at McGill University and Investigator at the SHERPA University Institute in regard to cultural communities in Montreal. She is member of the Standing Committees of the International Society for Child Indicators and has worked in policy and program evaluation of human services internationally for over 20 years. She leads mixed-methods studies on child wellbeing and protection cross-culturally, mainly in low- and middle-income countries; with migrant and refugee families; and in contexts of parent-child separation. She is particularly interested in ethical and methodological issues involved in research with and by children.

Title: Cross-Cultural Research in Action: Placing Ethics at the Centre

Rigorous research is crucial to inform appropriate services and policies in increasingly multicultural and inter-connected societies. There is also increasing recognition of the need to consider the perspectives and circumstances of individuals and groups who have often been excluded from research (e.g., children, refugees, and asylum seekers). Conducting research in ways that respect, protect, and benefit study participants and communities requires careful ethical reflection and consideration of cultural norms. For instance, obtaining valid consent is essential to the ethical conduct of research, yet how can information be best presented to illiterate populations or consent documented in repressive political settings or with undocumented migrants? Likewise, ensuring confidentiality is crucial to obtaining truthful responses from study participants yet how do different understandings of privacy impinge on what is feasible and appropriate in different cultural contexts? This presentation will critically analyze ethical tensions that arise in the practice of cross-cultural research and how different cultural norms and institutional requirements are negotiated among partners and with participants and other stakeholders. The purpose is to engage us in discussion on a fascinating and vibrant subject and remind us of the need to develop and teach practical ethical judgment—a crucial component of good science.


Desiree M. Seponski, PhD, LMFT

Topical area: Culturally responsive mental health research and interventions

Dr. Seponski is an Assistant Professor in Human Development and Family Science and is Marriage and Family Therapy faculty at the University of Georgia. Her scholarship broadly focuses on persons and families who have experienced trauma and marginalization. She is currently researching culturally responsive family therapy and intervention (US, International: Cambodia, Southeast Asia), with particular interests in immigrant and refugee families who have experienced poverty, trauma, and discrimination. She is guided by Social Justice and Feminist Family Therapy lenses, especially focusing on the intersections between Gender, Aging, Spirituality, and Ethnicity. She directs the Culturally Responsive Research and Interventions in Global Settings (Currigs) Lab, which explores the use and development of culturally responsive trauma-informed family therapy in international and local contexts to advance interventions, outreach, and policy that foster well-being in underserved communities.

Title: Reflecting on Cultural Responsivity, Sensitivity, and Humility:  Motivation, Engagement, and Role of the Researcher

In this address, I highlight the theoretical underpinnings of culturally responsive mental health research; draw on my decade-long experience of cross-cultural and international mental health research to share lessons learned; and actively engage conference participants in reflecting on their own axes of intersectionality and purposes for conducting (or not conducting) culturally responsive mental health research. As scholars dedicated to cross-cultural research, we strive for cultural responsivity, sensitivity, and humility. We are acutely aware of the impacts of interlocking systems, contexts, culture, power, and beliefs on participants’ lives. But how often do we reflect, beyond our own short subjectivity statements (assuming there is room to publish one), on our intersectional identity’s impact on the research process and outcomes? In particular, how do our beliefs, values, and social locations influence our engagement and understanding within cross-cultural mental health research? The audience will be invited to dialogue on these topics, on motivations for conducting cross-cultural mental health research, how they engage communities, and roles of the researcher with these groups.