A voice for women

TWU Psychology's Mollen named APA Distinguished Leader

Debra Mollen

Aug. 16, 2022 – DENTON – Debra Mollen would just as soon avoid the spotlight. She's passionate about her work in academia and gratified that her efforts have brought attention to Texas Woman's University, but she isn't comfortable with too much personal attention.

Circumstances, however, do not permit such modesty.

The US Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe vs. Wade has thrust issues dear to Mollen – women's sexuality, reproductive rights, and the advancement of women – into the public eye. Mollen, director of TWU's master’s program in counseling psychology and a professor of TWU's Core Counseling Psychology, has been at the forefront of those discussions.

"I don't particularly want to be known," Mollen said. "It's an interesting thing. A bit of a paradox. I've been giving these interviews this summer regarding Roe, and I'm part of a group of psychologists the American Psychologists Association has been giving out to the media when they're contacted for interviews. I'm so glad they're drawing attention to this and I'm happy to do this, but I wish I didn't have to for obvious reasons. I just wanted to have a career where I can be make a meaningful difference and be of service."

That service was honored this summer. In recognition of her leadership, research and service to women in psychology, Mollen has been named a Distinguished Leader for Women in Psychology by the American Psychological Association's Committee on Women in Psychology.

The APA recognized Mollen for her "critical contributions to psychology through her trailblazing research on sexuality, reproductive justice, multicultural competence, and counseling psychology training."

While she is grateful for the award, it's the work and the ongoing debate and struggle over reproductive rights that has Mollen's focus.

"I'm really concerned about the access that was already limited and is now out of reach for hundreds of thousands of girls and women," she said. "All of our concerns had grown in the last few years because what was happening at the state level and nationally, especially in Texas. That was really disconcerting, and a lot of us are redoubling our efforts to raise awareness and enact change. The results of Roe being overturned are so terribly dire."

Mollen earned her PhD in from Indiana University, her master's from the University of Denver and her bachelor's from Adelphi University.

Since coming to TWU, Mollen's academic career has grown well beyond the classroom into scholarship, writing and editing. She has written articles for more than 50 publications and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Counseling Psychology and Psychology of Women Quarterly. She has chaired the Division 17, Section on the Advancement of Women, co-chaired the 2020 Association for Women in Psychology annual conference.

Mollen also co-chaired the revision of the APA’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women.

"I really love the work I do as an academic," Mollen said. "It's been such fulfilling work to train future psychologists and therapists, and do the work of teaching and mentoring students and other young professionals.

"At the outset of my career, I did not expect scholarship to be as essential to my work as it has been," she added. "It turns out, like a lot of students who are thinking about becoming faculty members, the scholarship part is often the scariest. It takes a big leap of courage to craft something and send it out in the world. The point of peer review is our work will be closely scrutinized. It's really frightening, but it's one of those experiences of having that fear and confronting it and going forward anyway.

"We talked about the fear of writing and of sharing our work with other people. It's about overcoming that fear and realizing we have something important to say as scholars. There are fears a lot of us have related to achievement and promotion of our work, and those are fears best confronted and overcome. It feels like such a compelling fit for me. I have a hard time not doing it."

Mollen was honored during the 2022 CWP Leadership Awards ceremony at the APA convention on August 6 in Minneapolis, Minn.

"As much as this award honors me, there are a lot of people who helped launch my career and allow me to do the work I do, which I'm very grateful for," Mollen said. "I appreciate the support of my colleagues and students, my treasured alumni who I adore. I would love to thank our chair, Dr. Nila Ricks, whose support has been monumental and instrumental in the years since she became my supervisor. She's been a phenomenal leader and a role model for how to lead an impact people's lives positively."

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Page last updated 9:32 AM, August 24, 2022