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Usha Tummala-Narra, Ph.D. is Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling, Developmental and Educational Psychology at Boston College, as well as in Independent Practice in Cambridge, MA.

She has presented nationally and published peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters on the topics of immigration, trauma, cultural competence and psychodynamic psychotherapy. Usha has served as the chair of the Multicultural Concerns Committeefor Division 39 (Psychoanalysis), as a member of the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs (CEMA) in the American Psychological Association, and as a member of the APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration.

The Quote

Make a difference about something other than yourselves.
Toni Morrison

What Led to the Specialization of Trauma?

Usha talks about being a child immigrant to the United States from India, and after arriving in the United States witnessing pockets of inequality and turmoil about which nothing was being done. Usha shares the story of how she managed her own struggles witnessing this and then how she eventually learned where and how she could help.

A Crucial Early Mistake

Usha recalls an early experience of working with a client who had experienced severe trauma and remembering the difficulty of what it was like to hear this woman’s stories and not know how or if to respond. Usha talks about the way her own process grew out of this experience–that of learning to be present and authentic in session with clients as they shared their stories.

Usha’s Why

I go back to the quote I mentioned (above). This is something I feel deeply about, and these issues are deeply entrenched in our society and this world. This is my purpose.

Usha’s advice

  • Think about the purpose of the work itself and the kind of meaning that it has for you.
  • I also think it’s important to reach out to people in the field and learn how they are working and what they’re doing.
  • Read stories of survivors and see how that sits with you.

Usha’s go-to books

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Interview Links

Ron Gellis, PhD
Patricia D. Wilcox, LCSW

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