Beatrice Wright: Pioneer of Rehabilitation Psychology

Beatrice Wright: Pioneer of Rehabilitation Psychology

Beatrice Wright (‘Beatrice Ann Posner’ at birth) was born on December 16, 1917, along with her twin brother, Sidney. She was born to a Russian immigrant family in Richmond, New York, consisting of her parents, a twin and an older sister. Her parents had shifted to New York, leaving the Russian family behind, and joined her uncle. Her family, although not wealthy, encouraged higher education. She explored her interests in psychology and is now famous for pioneering rehabilitation psychology. This article takes a brief look at Beatrice Wright’s life and aims to acknowledge her contributions to the field of psychology.

Read More: Top 10 Psychology Books for Beginners

Early Life:

Wright’s parents, Sonia and Jerome Posner, came from a Jewish heritage, which shaped their commitment towards equality and justice. However, Wright says, that her Jewish heritage doesn’t directly influence her attitudes. With their support, Wright could dream big. She graduated high school at the age of 16. Then, she commenced higher education as she joined Brooklyn College. At the time offering free tuition, the college allowed Wright to pursue a BA in Psychology. Beatrice Wright had the opportunity to be taught by well-known psychologists like Abraham Maslow and Soloman Asch.

Read More: Understanding Pain Management in Relation to Psychology

She graduated in the year 1938. Then she continued her education at the University of Iowa under her supervisor Kurt Lewin, and she received her Master’s degree and PhD there. She worked at the Child Welfare Research station at the University. A part of her work involved getting trained for nursery school education. Beatrice Wright had also met her husband, then a fellow student, M. Erik Wright, at the University of Iowa. Since she was pursuing her education at the time of World War II, her husband was drafted.

He insisted that Wright stay and continue working with Lewin. Due to the shortage of male psychologists during that period, Beatrice Wright also got the opportunity to teach psychology at Swarthmore College. A while after, Wright quit her job and moved to California along with her husband, who was shipped to the West Coast to serve as a psychologist for the Navy. Wright also had three children, Colleen, Erik and Woodring.

Beatrice Wright’s Work:

At a party in California, Beatrice Wright was offered a job at the United States Employment Service, San Francisco. She helped with the employment of people who faced difficulties in being hired. These people were either physically or mentally handicapped. As she continued her work and explored her passion for disability rights, Beatrice was approached by Roger Barker, who was another student of Lewin’s. As he took an interest in her work, he offered her to co-author his work on physical handicaps. As they continued working with each other, their relationship opened up a job offer for M. Erik Wright.

Read More: Autism Spectrum Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Types and Treatment

She couldn’t work at the University of Kansas while her husband was a faculty member, because of the university’s anti-nepotism rule. Utilizing the time on her hands, Wright started working with deaf children and their mothers at a medical centre. She moved to Australia along with her family when her husband was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. There, she finished working on her book ‘Physical Disability- A Psychological Approach’. During her time there, she also became one of the founding members of Division 22 of the APA. After returning to Kansas, Wright’s husband started to work as a professor at the same university. Once the anti-nepotism rule was lifted, Wright was soon offered a job at the university.

End of Life:

Wright’s work was prominent in the field of psychology and the lives of differently-abled people. Its influence led to the development of many government acts in support of rehab and disabilities. This includes the Rehabilitation Act, of 1973, and the Americans and Disabilities Act of, the 1990s. As an influential figure, she spoke at many lectures and conducted many lectures. She advocated discrimination rights for the remainder of her life. In interviews, she shared that she faced a lot of gender discrimination during her journey. However, she didn’t fail to leave an impact in the field. Beatrice Wright was presented with many awards, such as the Kurt Lewin Award in 2009, and the Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in Psychology in the Public Interest in 2016. Wright lived an impactful life, and passed away on 31 July 2018, at the age of 100.

Read More: Coping Withdrawal Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Understanding Rehabilitation Psychology:

Rehabilitation psychology is the application of psychological theories and principles to help people who have disabilities due to injuries or some kind of illness. Rehab psychologists assess difficulties faced by people due to their disabilities in terms of cognition, emotion and functional abilities. Then, they assist these people to help them continue living a fulfilling and healthy life. This field of Psychology is concerned with people of all age groups. A rehab psychologist assists people in coping with the trauma caused by disabilities.

Read More: Power of Self-Care in Trauma Recovery

They promote positive behaviours that help in positively adapting to disabilities. People seeking help from rehab psychologists can range from those who require minor adjustments to those who are suffering from psychopathological issues. Some of the common cases that rehabilitation psychologists encounter are traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, limb loss, burn injuries, sensory loss, etc. They administer tests of psychological functioning, conduct interviews or use behavioural observation methods.

Division 22 is the division of rehabilitation psychology of the American Psychological Association. It is one of the earliest divisions established as a part of the APA. When the division was established in 1958, Beatrice Wright and other pioneers initially had a different focus that included a broader culture along with people with disabilities. In 1980, Wright, along with a colleague, reviewed the uniqueness of this field of psychology, saying that rehabilitation psychology deals with life problems or feelings of deprivation caused by disabilities or illnesses.

Read More: Beyond Trauma: Illuminating the Power of Post-Traumatic Growth

Psychologists who are a part of this division work to increase the acceptance of differently-abled people. Now, psychologists of Division 22 frequently cited Beatrice Wright’s work. She is acknowledged to be one of the pioneers of Rehabilitation Psychology. Her work is widely recognized in the field and forms a strong foundation for other rehabilitation psychologists today.

Exit mobile version