Episode 11 Dana Cea
7:09PM Mar 24, 2021
Hello, hello, hello, fantastic listeners. Welcome to Out Loud in the Library, a Durham Tech Library podcast. I'm your host, Courtney Bippley, reference librarian extraordinaire. Today's library updates are that Library Fest is coming up right around the corner. It starts on April 5, and you don't want to miss it. I put a link to the website in the show notes, so you can find a virtual event that you will love. Today I'm talking to Dana Cea, a PhD student at ECU. She will be a guest of the spectrum club for an event on April 6th, I hope you can make it. It's going to be awesome judging by our conversation here.
Thank you so much for joining me today.
You have an event coming up on April 6th with the SPECTRUM Club at Durham Tech. And they have invited you to talk about disabilities, LGBTQ issues, and support for both of those things where they intersect. What made you want to pursue your doctorate in this area?
Well, if we're going to do the short version, it's to improve counselor education. The long version is I started out as a consumer of mental health and eventually became a peer support specialist, which you can get certified here in North Carolina. And it's different for every state, essentially, you have lived experience with mental health conditions condition or substance use disorder and you go through a training and then you can start providing services as a peer support specialist. And I thought this would be a great way to provide services. And when I started to hear the stories about others who weren't getting really good treatment for mental health providers, and this fell a lot within the LGBTQ community. And I thought, Okay, well, I will go back, I'll get my master's. And then I can be one of those therapists so I can provide the great services that everyone else is looking for. And during my master's program, I started to realize why therapists might not be as great as we might want them to be. I think there's a disconnect between the actual experiences of having a mental health condition or needing support, whether you have a mental health condition or not everyone can go to therapy, of course, and there's just a disconnect between that experience of needing the service and the experience of giving the service. So I knew that the next step for me was to get my PhD so that I could come back and teach the up and coming counselors in training and try to provide the information they needed to gap what was missing.
That sounds like incredibly needed work. And I'm a big proponent of everyone can go to therapy and benefit from it. Even if you don't have a diagnosed mental illness. Do you have any advice for students who are thinking of going into the mental health field?
I think the first one, kind of to my story, is go to therapy. I know a lot of us want to help others. And I kind of refer back to a dentist, would you go to a dentist who doesn't get their teeth cleaned? Probably not. So yeah, I personally would rather my therapist also either have been or currently be in therapy. So that experience of being on both sides of the chair, as it's sometimes described can be really, really helpful. And that to me would be the first step in considering the career of anything in the mental health field.
If someone is looking for a therapist or a counselor, how can they make sure, without actually going to meet a bunch of them and potentially having a negative experience, how can they make sure they find one who is an LGBTQ+ ally?
Yeah, that's a really tough one to answer. And I think I'm going to compromise somewhere in the middle. So you don't have to sign up with all kinds of therapists and go to a full intake session, which can be you know, over an hour, and you also can't just look at websites, that doesn't really tell you the whole story. And I think the missing piece here is even if they are an LGBTQ ally, do you fit with that therapist? Is that style a good one for you? So first, I think in how do you even find these therapists and often the responses will go to Psychology Today. That's a great resource. And I definitely recommend it. There are other databases that you can go to. So start searching. I won't name all of them here. I would recommend that you just kind of start searching what therapy, LGBTQ, and start to see what pops u. What databases pop up, because when I did this, and this hasn't even been that long ago. It was 2016-ish. So four or five years ago, I went into my University's Counseling Center, and they had a whole database of therapists, and one of the columns was LGBTQ ally. So either it said yes. Or it said no. They sorted by Yes. And what happened? Almost all of them said yes. Who's gonna say no, I'm not an LGBTQ ally? So those databases can be helpful, they can help you to narrow it down. One of the ways to do that is look at their profile, they might have checked that they're an ally for the trans community, do they share their pronouns? For me, that's a big indicator. If you share your pronouns, then you're probably on top of trans topics that are important, you know, to share your pronouns, whether you identify as cis or trans. So that's one key way to look not just at the checkboxes that they checked. Also look at what they've written, go to their website, do they have any specific pages or wording that talks about the LGBTQ community? That's going to be another indication. Narrow down that really big list into your top five, or 10. And that sounds like a lot, bear with me, narrow it down to your top five or 10. And reach out to all of them. Right now, therapists are overwhelmed with the clients who are coming in, we're all struggling. I mean, the pandemic has hit all of us hard. I will say though, as an introvert, I've really liked being at home.
I'm with you.
That part has been helpful. There's all the other things that come along with it that do make right now, so stressful. And as we look to transition back into in person, school, and everything that goes along with that, it's going to be more stressful too, because we have to figure out, you know, what's safe for us. So I digress, essentially, you've got your five or 10 that you're going to reach out to. You're not going to hear back from all of them. That's just unfortunately the case. Should they be reaching back out to you? Absolutely. At the very least, they should tell you that they're not taking clients. For the ones who do reach out to you, if they don't already offer it, ask if you can do a short consultation, or what some therapists call a meet and greet. This is going to be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. So it's not an actual session, you're not signing up for services, all you're doing is talking to them about what they expect, what you can expect, what is their style? How much do you have to pay? Can you use insurance? Should you use insurance? These are all those questions that you can get the answers to just in that short little conversation. Plus, you have the added benefit of seeing, can you communicate well with this person? Do you feel safe to share what you need to share with this person? Does this person actively listen to you and respond, that is going to be the best way. So you don't have to go and get an hour and a half session with everybody. And you can't just look at a list of providers and know who's going to be a good fit. It's really that place in the middle of that consultation or meet and greet where you can find the perfect therapist for you.
That sounds like amazing advice for really anyone because you are hiring someone to provide, basically, a service for you. So it's okay to... shop around sound negative, but-
oh, no, it's a business shop around. Yeah, exactly. This is an interview. And I think to your point, what's also so important is to know if it's not a good fit, whether that's after the consultation after the assessment, or after five sessions, you always have the option to find another therapist. And part of that might be asking the therapist, hey, this isn't working out for me, Do you have anyone else you would suggest? Because often, like for me, for example, I work a lot with trans clients. And so I know the other providers who also work well with trans clients, and I have a list that I can refer you to. So I think don't ever think that you're stuck. You're not you have options, and you deserve to have the best fit possible.
Incredibly important for people to know that even if they the first maybe even few therapists they interview aren't working out it doesn't mean there's not someone out there who can be beneficial for them.
So what is the percent of students who typically identify as LGBTQ plus, and also with a disability?
So that number is a little bit different than my research, which is focusing specifically on students who identify as transgender, gender nonbinary, and have at least one disability. So I'm going to talk a little bit more about those statistics because I have better information on that you can guesstimate that if you're expanding beyond the LGBTQ from trans and into the LGBTQ community rather that the pecent is going to be higher, so I don't have really good numbers on the LGBTQ community. However, for the trans and gender nonbinary community with disabilities you're looking at for public institutions of higher education. So we're talking about public universities and colleges including, community colleges, 0.26% that's not 26% it's 0.26%. And that sounds like nothing until you actually divided out that is almost 38,000 students across the United States who identify as transgender, gender nonbinary, and have at least one disability.
This is where those math classes come in handy.
Yes, yeah. And so where did I get the statistics? Right? You're like, did you just make this up? Or is this invested in something? Yeah. So I looked at three different areas. The first is the National Center for Education Statistics. So that gave me the number of students who were in public institutions, the Williams Institute, and then the US transgender survey gave me better numbers on students who identify as trans and students who have disability and then the intersection of the two.
Now, is there wiggle room in those numbers for people who aren't out yet?
Absolutely, yeah, we never really know how well these numbers are. Because things change in general people may, to your point, not feel comfortable. And so they may not have been represented in some of the statistics that has been gathered already. So our best guesstimate is that these numbers are probably higher. But this is the best we can do with what we have right now.
So if there is a student, and I'm 100% positive that there is, out there, who is trans or non binary? How can Student Resource staff increase knowledge and training to better assist those students and the students with disabilities?
Absolutely. And speaking of those students, I am one. So I identify as nonbinary, and I have a variety of disabilities. So I'm hard of hearing, I have an autoimmune disorder, and I have severe and persistent mental illness. So I'm falling into those categories. And that's why I did this research.
Did you fill out your own survey?
No, I did not fill out my own survey. That's a good question. I'm not sure that would be allowed. So I think, to your point, there's two different ways we can take this question. One way we can take it is how can staff and faculty support these students? And the other way is how can students support themselves? If we're looking at staff and faculty, and I think the number one way that we can support students like me is to talk to us ask us for our feedback. Part of what I look for in my dissertation is academic success. So what does that mean? And there's a lot of definitions of that. And sometimes they focus on graduation, sometimes they focus on GPA, I looked at four different things that would not be considered academic success. The first one is if a student was to withdraw from classes, the second is if the student was to drop out of classes. The third is if the student was put on academic probation. And the last one is if the student was dismissed for academic reasons, each of our schools looks at GPAs differently, each of our programs look at GPAs differently. And graduation isn't always an indicator of success. Because even if you've experienced withdrawal from classes, dropping out of classes, probation, or dismissal, you can still graduate. So I think staff could look at these numbers, they could actually look at students who are withdrawing from classes, for example, and say, What's going on here? Why are they withdrawing from classes? Where the accommodations not adequate? Did they get enrolled in too many classes? Maybe they're not in the best major fit? Maybe they need to go in a different direction? Or maybe they just have life stuff going on? How can we support these students? Well, the only way to answer that is to ask the students and I don't think in all the years that I've been a student with a disability receiving accommodations that I've ever actually been asked feedback on, how did that work for you? What if we had follow up conversations? I know we have the initial conversation with students to say, here are some accommodations what might work for you or in some cases, the students are just given accommodations without even asking if they would work. We also need to follow up to say maybe midway through the semester, how's this working out for you? Are faculty actually honoring your accommodations? And we need to check in with students more so I think that is on the disability side. On the other side, for those of us who identify as LGBTQ generally, or trans and gender non binary specific, faculty and staff can go to trainings like SafeZone to get more information on the LGBTQ community. And often these panels will include students who identify as LGBTQ. I remember that one of my colleagues went to a safe zone training and during the panel, her question was, how do I let students know that I'm an ally? And they said, put the safe zone icon on your syllabus, add your pronouns to your syllabus, make an announcement. So there are all these ways that faculty and staff might not be thinking about, you know, back to the whole therapist and client thing. This is the student and teacher thing. When you're on the other side of it. It looks very different. So we need to get information and feedback from the people who are directly being affected, which is the students.
And so that leads into my next question, which is do you have advice for students to help them be able to better advocate for themselves? Because unfortunately, institutions are often slow to change?
Absolutely. I think one of the best ways is to find out what are other schools doing right, what seems to be working. So if you can reach out to other schools, LGBTQ centers, and get in touch with students there, maybe through some of the LGBTQ student organizations, or through student organizations focus on Disabilities, for example, reach out to them and say, Hey, what's going right at your school, perhaps there's an advisory committee that students could get on or they could create that would advise faculty staff all the way up to provost and Chancellor's, we need to hear the voices of students. So the more opportunities students can create, to share their voices, the better. I think the other part of that is if students can bring potential solutions to the problem that can help the faculty and staff as well. So the student isn't just saying, hey, this isn't working for me, the student is saying, hey, this isn't working for me. And this would or this would help. And finally, I think finding faculty and staff who can advocate for the students is really important. It's sounds easy for a student to go up to a faculty or staff and say, Hey, I made this and then maybe they get turned down, because we're stuck in these systems of power where students aren't always considered. So if the students can find faculty and staff who can support them and advocate for them, that's going to be even more impactful when it comes to making the changes that you're talking about are so hard to make.
It sounds like your research is fundamentally this, this question of finding out what the students need and what works. And so what are you hoping to learn from your research?
I want to get feedback from students, I sound like a broken record. So,
That often means it's very important.
Right. So part of this is what are the best practices that promote academic success or contribute to academic success. The way that I'm going to find that out is by looking at the students who report academic success, and then who also report which practices are in place at their institutions. The other thing that I want to do is really and truly get feedback from students. So they were asked, here's a list of best practices that's been proposed, which one of these do you think would help? And then there was also the option to add in anything that wasn't already included. So we're going through that analysis, now we're looking at what do students want? What did the majority of students indicate that they would find helpful? And what is missing from this list? So that's what we're pulling together right now.
I look forward to reading the paper.
Yes, it's long, but you can just get to the last chapter.
Yeah, I was, I was definitely gonna do that anyway.
If you have questions about the analysis, I am happy to show you.
I was gonna read the abstract and conclusion and discussion.
yeah, that makes sense.
Okay, so last question. What was the last book that you read?
The last book that I read? And I haven't been able to finish it because.
Grad school and getting your PhD are not conducive to pleasure reading.
Exactly. Yeah. It you have to find the time if you want that to happen. So this connects in with the last vacation that my spouse and I took, we went down to the coast, and we went to where the first colony was here in North Carolina. And so it's over on Roanoke Island. And they had, it wasn't really a statue. It was more of like a monument type. You didn't really walk into it. But there was a, I guess you could call it a statue. There was a plaque. It was really a dedication to the first freed colony of black individuals in North Carolina. And I hadn't heard too much about this. And which is odd because I grew up in North Carolina. You know, I took history here as I grew up, and I thought how if I never heard about the first freed men's colony in North Carolina.
I don't think I have either.
Yeah, so I started doing some research and they had done a dedication for this memorial. And a couple of the people that they interviewed for the article about the memorial, had written books about this colony, and I was like, well, I got to get my hands on that. And it was actually pretty difficult to find. And so the book that I'm reading now is by Patricia Click, and the title I know you can see it no one else can see it. Time Full of Trial, the Roanoke Island, Freedmen's colony 1862 to 1867 by Patricia C. Click. It was actually published by UNC over in Chapel Hill. And so this talks about how this colony was started, how it was maintained, how the people lived and what they did and their families. There are still inhabitants of the island now who came from that colony. So there are interviews with them. There are pictures and artifacts included, and it's the history of this colony that is so unfortunately forgotten in North Carolina's history.
That sounds like a great book. Thank you so much for joining me today. Good luck on your defense, which is going to be today for everyone listening to the podcast the day it comes out, and I look forward to attending your event on April 6th!
Thank you so much.
By the time y'all are listening to this, Dana Cea's defense is probably over but I know that she did amazing. I just know it in my heart. Please do join us for her event on April 6th. The details and the link to join are in the show notes. Now for a special announcement. Library Fest is coming up as previously mentioned, and I am getting to do a three episode special series for Library Fest. I got to interview some really amazing people and I can't wait for you to listen. So subscribe to the podcast so you don't miss it. Have a fantastic day!