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Stories | 06.21.18

Transformative Conversations about Identity and Equity

Patty Johnson, Psy.D. ’11, believes in the power of personal narratives to confront injustice and promote equality. In December, Johnson gave a Tedx Talk in Oak Park, Illinois, about how to use narratives to have conversations about inequity. She is a psychologist who has written for Girls’ Globe, Thrive Global, 500 Pens and other publications. Johnson recently wrote a memoir and published a book of essays.

How did you choose your topic for your Tedx Talk?
It was fueled by stories of injustice shared by others, my life experience as a woman of color, and the perpetuation of ignorance during the current presidency. We can feel angry, sad, and a range of other feelings relating to injustice, but then what? This is the question I hoped to address.

My form of advancing social justice is continuing to emphasize the vital role of sharing narrative so that we can understand the true essence of others rather than defaulting to generalizations that perpetuate division.

What do you do as a psychologist at Lawndale Christian Health Center?
I’m a behavioral health provider. I collaborate closely with primary care physicians so that we can provide holistic care to patients, which includes strategizing about exacerbation of medical issues due to emotional distress, collaborating to increase patients’ medication compliance, treating trauma related to violence in the community, and addressing barriers to care. Additionally, there is heavy stigma and numerous misconceptions about mental health in many communities of color. It’s wonderful to be able to provide psychological services to patients who might have never been willing to step into a traditional mental health setting.

How did your Adler University education help shape your career?
Adler’s emphasis on social justice complemented my career goals well. In my perspective, the role of a psychologist must embody a spirit of social justice. Also, I was practicing as a master’s-level therapist when I started the Psy.D. program at Adler. The primary care concentration was tremendously helpful in my shift from traditional counseling to brief and targeted consultation work.

What inspired you to write your memoir and a book of essays?
Being the first-born, first-generation child to Indian immigrant parents was, well, a pain in the ass. And I didn’t make it easy on them either. Defying my parents’ plans for my arranged marriage and instead marrying someone who was not Indian didn’t go over very well. However, over time, we were all transformed by the difficulties cultural and generational differences caused within our family. I wanted to share our challenges in the hopes that others are encouraged while going through similar circumstances. The release date is to be determined.

I’ve recently completed a book titled Essays of Night and Daylight, which includes stories on race, immigration, and perceptions of American life through the lens of people of color. You can find updates at

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