Exploring advocacy in psychology in Italy: Exporting a term from the U.S. to a different cultural context.


Rosemead School of Psychology

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Multicultural competence includes the ability to negotiate meaning of an ambiguous term with humility and respect. What if the term is advocacy? This article introduces a 3-step technique based on the theory of social representations to examine the meaning and implications of advocacy in the cultural context of Italian psychology compared with the North American guidelines set by the American Psychological Association. Because there is no translation of the term advocacy in Italian, exploration of this particular context appears as especially relevant in light of linking advocacy with multicultural competence. Inspired by the structural approach in social representations research, this article proposes 3 steps: word association, a definition check, and focus on areas of application. A study of the meaning of advocacy with 145 Italian psychologists provides an example of each of the steps. Participants associated advocacy primarily with influence, patronage, and support, as well as promotion, lobby, power, defense, and advertising. Their replies coincided with the official definition provided by an Italian encyclopedia only in terms of support and influence. Priority areas for psychologists’ advocacy in Italy are identified as human rights issues; children, youth, and families; and trauma, violence, and abuse. Although on the surface advocacy does not play a vital part of psychological training (with the exception of community psychology graduate programs) or national associations’ concerns, in reality, participants are sensitive to what it implies.


Multicultural competence; Advocacy;

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Professional Psychology: Research and Practice





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