November 20 | 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM ET | Virtual

Civil Courage for Racial Justice: A Behavioral Prescription for Change

Monnica T. Williams, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Mental Health Disparities,
Associate Professor, Clinical Psychology Program, School of Psychology, University of Ottawa

Monnica WilliamsDr. Monnica T. Williams is a board-certified licensed clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, in the School of Psychology, where she is the Canada Research Chair in Mental Health Disparities. She is also the Clinical Director of the Behavioral Wellness Clinic in Connecticut, where she provides supervision and training to clinicians for empirically-supported treatments. Prior to her move to Canada, Dr. Williams was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School (2007-2011), the University of Louisville in Psychological and Brain Sciences (2011-2016), where she served as the Director of the Center for Mental Health Disparities, and the University of Connecticut (2016-2019) where she had appointments in both Psychological Science and Psychiatry. Dr. Williams’ research focuses on BIPOC mental health, culture, and psychopathology, and she has published over 100 scientific articles on these topics. Current projects include the assessment of race-based trauma, unacceptable thoughts in OCD, improving cultural competence in the delivery of mental health care services, and interventions to reduce racism. This includes her work as a PI in a multisite study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD for people of color. She also gives diversity trainings nationally for clinical psychology programs, scientific conferences, and community organizations. She has served as the African American SIG leader for Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), and currently is Chair of their Academic Training & Education Standards  Committee (ATES). She serves as an Associate Editor of Behavior Therapy. She also serves on the editorial board of Cognitive Behaviour TherapyCanadian PsychologyInternational Journal of Mental HealthJournal of Psychedelic Studies, and the Journal of Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders. She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International OCD Foundation and co-founded their Diversity Council. Her work has been featured in several major media outlets, including NPR, CBS, Huffington Post, and the New York Times.

In racialized societies, race divides people, prioritizes some groups over others, and directly impacts opportunities and outcomes in life. Racial problems cannot be corrected merely by good wishes of individuals – purposeful actions and interventions are required. To create equitable systems, civil courage is vital. Civil courage differs from other forms of courage, as it is directed at social change. People who demonstrate civil courage are aware of the negative consequences and social costs but choose to persist based on a moral imperative. After defining allyship and providing contemporary and historical examples of civil courage, this presentation explains the difficulties and impediments inherent in implementing racial justice. Dr. Williams will describe exercises based on cognitive and behavioral approaches to help individuals increase their awareness and ability to demonstrate racial justice allyship in alignment with valued behaviors. She explains how these approaches can be utilized, how they can help individuals grow, why they can be difficult, and how psychologists might make use of them.

Categories: Culture / Ethnicity / Race, Professional/ Interprofessional Issues, Adult Anxiety
Keywords: Race, Professional Issues, Adult Anxiety

All levels of familiarity with the material.

Participants earn 1 continuing education credit.


  • Overview of race and racial justice
  • The importance of civil courage
  • The problem of in-group solidarity
  • The assumption of a just society validates its rules
  • The behavioral prescription for change
  • Identifying avoidance and taking risks in the services of social justice values

At the end of this session, the learner will be able to:

  • Define allyship in the context of racial justice
  • Describe civil courage and why it is an important in psychology
  • Describe CBT-based techniques for developing civil courage in ones self and fostering it in others.

Long Term Goals:

  • Identify key areas for personal growth around racial justice.
  • Develop an anti-racist approach in personal and professional life.
  • Become a better ally to people of color in the service of social justice values.

Recommended Readings:

Williams, M. T., Sharif, N., Strauss, D., Gran-Ruaz, S., Bartlett, A., & Skinta, M. D. (2021). Unicorns, leprechauns, and White allies: Exploring the space between intent and action. The Behavior Therapist. [in press]

Williams, M. T. & Sharif, N. (2021). Racial allyship: Novel measurement and new insights. New Ideas in Psychology, 62, 100865.

Staub, E. (2019). Witnesses/bystanders: The tragic fruits of passivity, the power of bystanders, and promoting active bystandership in children, adults, and groups. Journal of Social Issues, 75(4), 1262-1293.

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