Friday, May 15, 2009

Just Noticeable Difference

In psychophysiology, Limen refers to the moment when a small increment of change becomes noticeable—for example, if a light source is increased in tiny increments, the limen is the moment when someone can perceive the change. This is also known as the “just noticeable difference”. In this section we will highlight work and activities of the Limen co-founders between retreats. Sometimes this may feel to us (and perhaps to you, our readers!) that little progress has been made—but actually we are all inching forward and at some point our progress will become noticeable!

Our first retreat took place on February 13,2009 (click here for a summary of that meeting). Since our February retreat Liz, Anne and Stacey have been meeting, thinking, processing and talking. None of the above will come as any surprise to those of you who know us. Our first task was to process the flood of input that came from our first retreat. We had 42 people in attendance, and the day was stimulating, exciting, and confusing at times. We discussed feeling as if the process of the day was a success, with diverse voices being heard and opinions being expressed in an environment of support and respect. On the more confusing side, many issues were called into question including the different levels of the Limen model, whether we should be a non-profit, and even whether there should be an actual physical center versus virtual meetings and face to face consultation. We summarized the retreat in a memo so that those who attended as well as those who were unable to would have a narrative of the day.

We also wrote up the notes from the numerous afternoon breakout groups at the retreat. These notes were rich with ideas and gave us much to think about. We plan on offering the notes as a shared, working document to all Limen Group members, some time after retreat #2 or #3 (once we feel we have a better shared understanding of our mission), so that all in our virtual group can continue to work together to develop the different levels, goals and foci of the project.

One of the themes that became clear to us right way was the challenge of truly putting collective leadership into action. How can we hear and be responsive to many diverse opinions while still being able to make decisions and move forward concretely with plans? Dan Rosen summed it up well at the retreat, stating that he likes to be up in the clouds discussing lofty ideas, but also wants to have his feet on the ground and be “doing the work”. We feel the same way! In order to get some guidance about this we consulted with Karma Ruder at the Center for Ethical Leadership. CEL provides consultation locally and nationally to organizations who are striving to manifest an ethical, collective leadership model. Karma was enormously helpful to us, and some of her ideas will be evident in the work of our second retreat, where we will focus on relationship building and identifying our common, core values. Please note that the Center for Ethical Leadership is offering an upcoming workshop in June on creating “gracious space”; see “Announcements” section of the blog for a description.

We held our second retreat on Saturday, May 2 at the beautiful, newly renovated Filipino Community Center (click here for a summary). With a small group we were able to share an intimate space and our work focused on relationship building, making meaning of "social justice work," and identifying core values. We also discussed some possibilities for initial "feet on the ground" (as opposed to head in the clouds) work that we can do together, including forming some workgroups and/or consult groups around particular topics.

A very pragmatic issue has been to find dates for future meetings that work for as many people as possible. With everyone’s busy schedules we know it’s not possible to find a date that will work for all, and we hope you will find this blog, other email correspondence from us, and smaller group meetings to be useful ways to stay in touch and keep the momentum going between retreats. We have already heard from several of you that you have followed up with someone you met at the first retreat, and couldn’t be happier about this outcome of our first retreat.

Mission Statement

Among our other objectives for Retreat #3, we would like to work on developing a mission statement. Our mission statement should be short but pithy enough to communicate important information to others right away about what our group is all about, and what we are trying to accomplish. We will also work on developing some specific, short-term goals and objectives. In preparation for this work we would like to start a conversation here. Below are some guiding questions to begin to get us thinking about our mission and objectives:

- What are the relationships between psychology and social justice that you are interested in exploring?
- What are we trying to do that's different than what's already out there (i.e., why do you want to spend some Saturday afternoons with us, and not with all of the other wonderful groups we are all a part of?)
- What are you hoping to get out of this personally? Out of the many objectives that we might have, what are your personal priorities?

When you answer these questions, keep in mind that we are developing objectives for right now--these will likely change over time. Our mission statement, on the other hand, should be able to encompass our values, objectives and activities for a longer period of time (many organizations revisit their mission statement every couple of years).

Please feel free to post comments to this and/or to begin your own topic of conversation.


During the first year of developing our ideas for the Limen Group, Stacey, Anne and Liz met with over 40 people who we thought might be interested in Limen, want to participate, and/or have ideas to share with us about how to make the project as effective as possible. This was such a fascinating array of people and meetings that we have decided to make a column out of them. In subsequent blogposts we will offer a description of some of our meetings with these individuals, who they are, what they contributed to the development of the project, and how we might want to work with them in the future.

Marsha Botzer, MA (meetings with Stacey, January 15, 2008 and April 7, 2008)

The very first meeting I had, when this idea was just a spark in my head, was with Marsha Botzer. Marsha is a transgender activist, consultant, and speaker who has led and/or been a part of numerous local and national LGBT rights organizations. She founded Ingersoll Gender Center here in Seattle, a meeting and resource center for transgender individuals, as well as WTAP, an organization supporting transgender legal rights. She has been on the board of Equal Rights Washington, The Pride Foundation, and the National LGBT Task Force. She also co-chaired “Obama Pride,” the LGBT branch of Barack Obama’s presidential election campaign.

During our first meeting I told Marsha about my nascent ideas which at that point consisted primarily of integrating political activism/advocacy with psychology. We discussed ways that therapists could get involved in political activism, including testifying in Olympia on relevant legislation, providing clinical and empirical materials to legislators, and organizing grassroots efforts to have other mental health providers call their legislators when relevant bills were being considered. Although I did not have very specific ideas to discuss at this point, her enthusiasm for the overall concept was the first of many positive responses that seemed to provide a confirmatory, “you are going in the right direction with this” kind of feeling. Marsha has been involved in activism for many years, and she knows well the support, determination, and stamina that are required; she seemed to feel that providing this for mental health professionals in an organized way was a good idea.

During our second meeting in April, my ideas were somewhat more formulated. I had expanded my thinking to include integrating political activism into psychotherapy, and had begun to look at Liberation Psychology and the work of a few psychologists around the nation who were beginning to do so. I was still very much focused on LGBT rights, although this would change shortly. At our second meeting Marsha took me to meet Josh Friedes, Advocacy Director for Equal Rights Washington. He too was very enthusiastic about the Limen project, and offered several additional ways (writing op-eds and letters to the editor, asking clients or colleagues to tell their story regarding gay marriage rights using ERW’s on-line story telling tool and/or by testifying in Olympia) that both clients and therapists could get involved.

Marsha’s other profoundly significant contribution to our process was that she suggested having a “mini-retreat” once a core group of interested people was formed. As you all know we had our first retreat in February, and are planning our second and third in May and June. Thank you, Marsha, for this fabulous idea as well as for all of your tremendous support, enthusiasm and wisdom as we have developed this project!

"Limen Group, I hope for..."

We placed this opening to a sentence or a thought on large sheets of paper around the room at our first retreat, hoping that people would finish the sentence with their ideas and hopes for Limen. We only got two responses (probably because people didn’t know enough yet about what the Limen Group really is!) but they were so great we wanted to include it here.

“Limen Group, I hope for many long, messy conversations that explore those places we all fear to tread.”

“Hanap Buhay – to find life work”.

Thank you! Please feel free to contribute your own endings to this sentence by posting here.

Margin to Center

One of the goals of the Limen Group is to support systemic change through legislative and public policy work. Whereas psychotherapy can be thought of as making changes from the inside out--working from the individual outward to the systems (family, school, city, nation) in which we live--systemic change is making changes from the outside in—changes in law or policy that filter down to the individual and can have a huge impact on our day-to-day lives. In this column we will highlight ways in which individuals can impact systemic change, including tips on how to get involved, stories of successful political advocacy and alerts regarding current legislation that is relevant to our work to reduce oppression. Individuals often feel disempowered by the political system, feeling as if their voice or vote does not count or will not be impactful. Here we want to highlight the ways that one voice from the margins can reach the centers of power and be a part of structural change.

In this issue we simply want to provide an overview of some of the many ways that individuals can get involved in political advocacy. The options are varied and run the gamut from doing grassroots work to organize support, to writing opinion pieces, to meeting face to face with legislators. The important thing is to identify the modality in which you feel most comfortable and confident, and to find an area of advocacy that you feel passionate about. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of advocacy activities:

o Lobby in Olympia (or Washington, DC)
o Testify in Olympia (or Washington, DC)
o Use the internet to organize friends and colleagues to call their legislators in support of or opposition to a particular bill
o Help gather relevant empirical evidence for “amicus briefs,” documents that are submitted by legislators in support of particular bills
o Help gather relevant clinical anecdotes for legislative hearings
o Write op-eds or letters to the editor
o Write to and/or arrange a face to face meeting with your local legislator
o Donate money to the “PAC” (political action campaign) of an organization you are a member of
o Deliver “PAC” checks to your local legislator
o Get involved with your state and/or professional associations; most have public policy committees or other positions that involve policy work

In addition to the “how” of political advocacy, sometimes people are unsure of the “what”—what topics are out there to advocate for? Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of potential areas of focus for mental health and social justice advocacy:

o Treatment of specific populations (e.g.., returning Iraqi veterans; mental health treatment for substance abuse offenders who are in the criminal justice system)
o Human rights / social issues (e.g., death with dignity; family leave for birth/adoption of children; LGBT rights; immigrant rights and immigration laws; torture)
o Reducing healthcare and mental healthcare disparities (e.g., lack of affordable health insurance for individuals and the unemployed, disparities in access for target groups)
o Protecting clients’ rights (e.g., mental health parity; HIPAA)
o Advancing mental health professions (e.g., restoring funding cuts for Medicare reimbursement; reducing barriers to licensure)

In future issues we will provide more in-depth how-to’s on each of the above strategies, and down the road we would like to provide face to face trainings on political advocacy skills.


In this section we hope to explore the many meanings of the word "limen". Though we realize the name of our group is still up for discussion, we wanted to share with you why it holds such appeal. Here we will post definitions, uses of the word from a variety of fields of study, etc.

Artist Kurt Brereton's statement about his painting titled "Liminal #2":

"Psychologists call 'liminal space' a place where boundaries become indeterminate. We stand there, on the threshold, getting ourselves ready to move across the limits of what we were into what we might become. That is, this is a space or field of transformation between phases of separation and reincorporation. This painting is my record of finding myself inside a liminal space - in a period of ambiguity, of marginal and transitional state. This is a very common experience of shedding baggage and travelling lighter between stops. In post-colonial studies, liminality relates to the concept of cultural hybridity, describing complex untidy trans cultural spaces, trans geographical or trans gender states etc. Every transition is also an opportunity to redefine fixed viewpoints."