President-Elect Column: Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World Daily

Mary Gregerson

Mary Gregerson

Mary Gregerson, PhD

In ancient Judaism tikkun olam meant repairing the world every day.  In this column, I describe three APA Division 46 2016 initiatives to make our world better daily in many ways: (a) The Media First Responder Corps, (b) Environmental Health Psychology, and (c) Entertainment Psychology.

Media First Response follows the modern Siddur Sim Shalom American Conservative prayer book application of tikkun olam to counsel “citizens of all races and creeds [to] forge a common bond in true harmony to banish all hatred and bigotry.”  Similarly, Environmental Health Psychology follows a modern translation of Siddur Sim Shalom broadly meaning to improve “the establishment or construction of the world” (Rabbi Fredi Cooper, email correspondence, 2015). In the same tradition, Entertainment Psychology embraces and extends the Sabido tradition of “entertainment with proven social value” (Barker, 2007) to design and appropriate entertainment venues and products to influence social change.

The 2016 Division 46 tikkun olam initiatives include daily social responsibility (Media First Response and Entertainment Psychology) and environmental stewardship (Environmental Health Psychology).  Such pro-social activism uses technological and media solutions to foster social justice, good will, and personal growth within the context of world peace. These activities advocating pro-social activism described below are anchored in the tradition of APA Division 46. In addition to social repair work, mending and conserving the physical environment appears in our efforts toward environmental responsibility that applies technology and media relevant to sustainable healthy living.

Media First Responders Corps

In 2015 APA Division 46 launched a new consultation service Media First Responder Corps which consults with local officials and reporters to prepare them for effective, stress buffering mass communication during community crises or natural disasters.  A dozen psychologists from around the world were trained in the first Media First Responder class.  They learned mass media crisis communication and consultation/networking skills.  Now, they are networking to train their local community officials to frame evidence-informed media messages delivered with composure while their local journalists learn how to design mass communication, whether broadcast or print, to counter trauma-by-television (see Gregerson, Ferguson, Wilson, & Lowman, 2014) and promote social justice (Gregerson, Ferguson, Lowman & Wilson, 2015).

Media First Response Breaking News.  Two instances of this training have already been associated with “real world” positive outcomes.

First, in Leavenworth, KS Media First Response trained community officials recently led a Town Hall on the controversial relocation of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Ft. Leavenworth, KS.  This meeting threatened to erupt into conflict between disagreeing contingents but Media First Response trained officials (i.e., Mayor and State Representative) maintained steady, firm leadership that fostered continued dialoguing between all sides.  Later, televised reports of the meeting featured these Media First Responder leaders.  A subsequent open-air protest at the Ft. Leavenworth main gate maintained peace while permitting compelling communication as evidenced at the event and in televised reports.

Second, parental panic from a threatened school shooting was addressed effectively by Media First Response trained educational leaders.  They turned to the social media, where the parental panic was spreading epidemically, and with a single, well-crafted communication calmed the situation. Media First Response stemmed a rising tide of parental concern, sensitized by the spate of school shootings across the nation.

For 2016, individual trainees will continue to consult with their hometown officials and journalists and a large training (the First Fifty) group will have a trainee sponsored by every State Psychological Association.  Future plans include online Media First Response training, a skill based referral service that will allow Media First Responder consultees to access Media First Responder psychologists’ expertise worldwide, and a blog that will archive interchanges between Media First Responder psychologists as they consult with local leaders and journalists in preparedness as well as frontline crisis situations.  Additionally, research will evaluate its effectiveness and detail community response, starting with the pilot data accrued from these initial Ft. Leavenworth, KS consultations.

Environmental Health Psychology

Environmental tikkun olam in 2016 Division 46 activities will highlight improved living conditions by maximizing sustainable natural resources like water.  Besides attempting to raise consciousness about this impending water shortage crisis (see Gregerson, 2015), application of media psychology principles and technology could cultivate sustainable water solutions.  For instance, in developing the Kansas 50 Year Water Plan an underground pipeline now has replaced an open air aqueduct, initially proposed, which lost much water to evaporation.  Division 46 media and technology psychologists can play a central role in identifying best usage practices to educate and cultivate effective leaders, vision, and implementation.

Advocacy for effective stewardship of the physical environment can occur through many different groups like the Kansas Water Plan activities just noted.  For APA, the 2016 APA Division 46 Presidential will address technology and culture by featuring robotics, particularly in education at levels K-12.  Furthermore, an invited 2016 APA Convention session on Our Future is Here Now—Environmental Health Psychology in Research, Practice, and Education is planned for Denver, CO. This session will feature talks on:

  • A comprehensive theoretical model including the physical environment useful for research, teaching, practice, and consulting.
  • Prescribing nature in eco-therapy with adults.
  • Pediatric environmental health.
  • Environmental psychology to design habitats healthful for zoo animals.

Entertainment Psychology

A creative venue for tikkun olam centers on Entertainment Psychology.  Within the United States, the under-utilized edu-tainment model (see Barker, 2007) concerns designing and re-purposing popular entertainment to produce positive social change in targeted attitudes and behaviors like it has been done in many places worldwide.  Edu-tainment effectively has changed targeted public health issues like population control and parenting practices. Re-purposing means using existing entertainment products like popular films for educational purposes (see Gregerson, 2010, 2011).

Division 46 is currently planning select entertainment psychology activities.  In 2016 June Wilson and Sean Theonnes will lead a Division 46 Presidential Task Force on Entertainment Psychology that will compile published articles, planned consultations and media products. Under development for APA 2016 convention is a timely entertainment psychology program to address the social justice controversy now rocking both the videogame (i.e., “gamergate,” Goodale, 2015) and entertainment (i.e., backlash over all female Ghostbusters reboot; see Stedman, 2015) industries.  Entertainment not only reflects culture but also can influence culture, so social responsibility is not just a trend, but also a tikkun olam for these industries (see Gregerson, 2010).


One step at a time, every single day, we can improve the world.  In 2016 please join Division 46 tikkun olam.  Together we can create a world better, safer, more peaceful than the one that greets us each day when we wake up.


Barker, K. (2007, August 9). Sex, soap & social change — The Sabido methodology. Population Media Center: Acting for Change. Retrieved from

Gregerson, M. B. (Ed.) (2010). The cinematic mirror for psychology and life coaching. Division 46 Book Series. New York, NY: Springer.

Gregerson, M. B. (Ed.) (2011). Technology innovations in behavioral education. New York, NY:  Springer Science + Media.

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