Division 35 of the American Psychological Association (APA) has named Dr. Denise Newman, PhD, recipient of the 2023 Sweetgrass Award. The award
honors the Indigenous psychology professional who epitomizes values and virtues through the dedication of outstanding professionalism in service. For Native peoples, sweetgrass is a sacred plant that attracts positive energy, beauty, and sweetness.
Dr. Newman served as President for the Society for Indian Psychologists, whose stated mission is to provide an organization for Native American indigenous people to advocate for the mental well-being of Native peoples by increasing the knowledge and awareness of issues impacting Native mental health.
One of the main focuses for the Society is for Native psychologists to support professionals, researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students who are aspiring for careers in any area of psychology and match them with Native mentors, to share ideas, spread knowledge, and provide new information that is relevant to Native People who are united by a common set of core values.
At the 2021 Society for Indian Psychologists (SIP) Convention, Dr. Newman was a co-collaborator for the SIP Mentorship Program: “The Native-to-Native way.” The Mentorship Program is an online mentoring community of American Indian/Alaska Native and Pacific Islander scholars in psychology and allied health professions. The SIP pair Native students and early career professionals with experienced and elder Native psychologists from all around the country and overseas. The program offers mentoring training and online webinars, CE offerings, on topics in Indigenous psychology, personal, and career development.
According to the APA Sweetgrass program, Dr. Newman is honored for actions including mentoring and support of Indigenous women, development or adaptation of research methods or models for treatment and intervention that are ethnical, cultural and gender appropriate for Indigenous women. Also included are activities such as advancing the understanding of the psychology of Indigenous women; the scientific understanding of features of ethnicity, culture and class among Indigenous women which pertain to the psychology of women. Advocating on behalf of Indigenous women in policy, clinical and research findings in the area of services to AN/AI and other Indigenous women, children, youth, and families, is also included.
Dr. Newman notes that her training and background as an analyst help her to be particularly sensitive to multicultural concerns and to the importance of knowing oneself in depth and in the context of relationships with others. She combines her scientific background in development and neuroscience with her interests in psychoanalysis and culture. Her psychotherapy style is depth and insight oriented, and she also has over 25 years’ experience in academic research, university teaching, graduate training, and clinical specialty practices background as a university professor.
Her specific areas of expertise include developmental psychopathology during adolescence, identity, and personality development – including racial and ethnic identity, culture and neuroscience, diverse topics in American Indian mental health, and developmental topics in psychoanalysis. She especially enjoys working with culturally diverse populations and with pre/post-partum mothers. She is active in service with various international, national, and local professional organizations in
psychology, psychoanalysis, child development, American Indian affairs, and mental health.
She has published and presented scholarly research on topics in developmental psychopathology, psychiatric epidemiology, ethnic minority children’s development, and on Native American mental health and personality development. She has lectured nationally on topics related to the development of depression, anxiety, substance use, attention problems, dissociative or disruptive behavior, personality and identity development, stress and trauma in preschool, adolescence, and during the transition to young adulthood.