What the Future of Psychology Looks Like

Neurodiversity, sensitivity, and how the status quo snubs 20–30% of us

Jenara Nerenberg
Elemental
Published in
5 min readMar 24, 2020

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Multicolored blue, green, yellow, purple, and orange human brains floating mid air on a gradient brown background.
Photo: PM Images/DigitalVision/Getty Images

“W“We’d love your help promoting our conference,” the woman said over the phone. “We have some of the biggest names in psychology.” I flip open my laptop to see who she has lined up.

To be clear, I’m no therapist. I’m a journalist with a public health degree and a media consultant covering the future of psychology.

Scrolling through the website of this large industry conference, I see the predictable lineup of balding white men. I take a deep breath to calm my nerves, but quickly and politely end the call.

TThe history of Western psychology is plagued with a skewed and narrow lens on humanity. From its earliest origins, the care of human minds was put in the hands of a select few. This is a field that would have benefited from the integration of diverse viewpoints so as to be reflective (and effective) for the diversity that exists in our human species. Instead, psychology has inherited the same bias that we now see in other fields like technology, artificial intelligence, medicine, the research sciences, and health care more broadly. Alas, not everyone is a 70-kilogram white male.

After 141 years, the field is now at a meaningful juncture — an amazing, incredible confluence and overturning of social norms emerging from popular culture is now pushing psychology to its edge, both scientifically and ethically.

Psychology’s future currently rests on the melding of two threads of inquiry that are interrelated but too often siloed: acknowledgment and appreciation of cognitive diversity (or “neurodiversity”) and trauma reconciliation (on a widespread systemic and societal level, as well as a personal level).

The majority of psychologists… are so focused on getting everyone to adapt, adjust, and acclimate to the status quo that they often miss what is right in front of them: Our status quo itself is harming people.

Here’s what I mean:

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Jenara Nerenberg
Elemental

Author, Divergent Mind (HarperCollins). Journalist at UC Berkeley & Garrison. Founder, The Neurodiversity Project. divergentlit.com