Dr. Atwater is the Director of the LMU Counseling Program, teaching courses (applied developmental psychology (lifespan), individual and group counseling, counseling theories and techniques, and psychological assessment and consultation in both the Counseling and School Psychology programs at LMU. Dr. Atwater received her B.A. from Stanford University and her M.A., P.P.S. Credential, and Ph.D. (School Psychology) from the University of California at Berkeley.
Previously, Dr. Atwater has been a professor of counseling in CSULA's Charter College of Education (2003-14) and served as co-Principal Investigator for the Los Angeles County Office of Education's Student Mental Health Initiative, a grant that provided training in suicide prevention and postvention to pre-service teachers, counselors, and administrators. Dr. Atwater has served as past President of the School Psychology Educators of California (SPEC); member of the Advisory Board for the Center for Multicultural Education (CSULA); and Editorial Review Board Member for Scientific Journals International.
Since 2001, Dr. Atwater has worked in Oakland, Alameda, Pasadena, Los Angeles and Berkeley Unified School Districts conducting and supervising psychological assessments and individual and group counseling sessions; worked on research and program evaluations with Stanford Research Institute (SRI) International (Washington DC), the Bay Area Consortium for Urban Education (Berkeley, CA), and the Corporation for Research in Educational Networking (Washington, D.C.); and served as supervisor to clinical fieldwork candidates and psychology interns in Los Angeles area schools.
Dr. Atwater is also the creator and Project Director of the SUCCESS Coaching program, a multi-year collaboration (2010-2015) with the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she supervised graduate students as they provided individual clinical services to elementary school students. Her most recent national workshop presentations focus on how educators can foster effective culturally-relevant dialogue in classrooms and schools and avoid the "trap" of color-blind racial ideology.
University of California, Berkeley: Ph.D., Education (Cognition and Development)
University of California, Berkeley: M.A., Education (Cognition and Development)
Stanford University: B.A., Psychology
Areas of Expertise (7)
Industry Expertise (2)
Pupil Personnel Services Clear Credential, Advanced Authorization in School Psychology
Research Focus (2)
Dr. Atwater's research focuses on the effects of school-based clinical counseling programs with “at-risk” elementary and secondary school populations; the multicultural attitudes, beliefs, and classroom practices of teachers working with diverse learners (specifically the use of the "color-blind" ideology and its effects on students of color); and on identifying ethical practice models in the field of counseling.
Dr. Atwater teaches graduate courses in the Counseling and school psychology programs, including courses in applied developmental psychology (lifespan), individual and group counseling, counseling theories and techniques, and psychological assessment and consultation. In addition, Dr. Atwater provides university-based clinical supervision to interns and fieldwork students in schools and community agencies.
Counseling Theories and Techniques
Fieldwork Mental Health Counseling I
Fieldwork Mental Health Counseling II
With the exponential growth of the multiracial and multiethnic college-age population, it is important to address the role that family and peers play in multiracial individuals' identity formation. This is particularly important as ethnic identity is strongly associated with adolescent and young adult self-esteem. Practice interventions are discussed as well as future directions.
One of the important tasks of supervisors and educators in the human service fields is to provide their fieldwork students with models of appropriate ethical behavior and decision-making. The ethical training that educators provide to students in the helping professions will greatly influence how prepared students feel to navigate through difficult ethical situations when they arise in the field. The goal of this article is to introduce a conceptual framework of "Top 5 Ethical Lessons" for the human service professions that is currently in use by social work and school psychology faculty at a large urban university. Training in the "Top 5" Lessons allows graduate students to come away with a new skill set of engaging in the dialogue of ethical decision-making while simultaneously adhering to their field's ethical principles of respecting individuals, promoting equity, and advocating for social justice...
Mental health refers not just to the presence or absence of mental illness but to the ability to cope with life stressors in a manner that does not severely impact daily life functioning. A variety of cultural characteristics can impact a person's ability to seek, afford, and access mental health services and resources. Culture, when defined broadly, includes the beliefs, values, and norms of a specific group...
There are numerous cultural issues that can enhance or impede the psychological assessment and service delivery of people of color in the United States (e.g., African American or black, Hispanic, Asian American or Pacific Islander, Native American, and mixed racial or ethnic groups). These cultural issues may be understood broadly by examining three main cultural factors that affect an assessment and treatment setting: (1) individual characteristics and cultural beliefs of the person of color; (2) cultural beliefs of the clinician or service provider, including cultural assumptions and theoretical orientation; and (3) the type and standardization of the psychological assessment instruments chosen for use in psychological evaluation...
This article describes four main “keys to success” in implementing a comprehensive school-based “life coaching” counseling program for at-risk students at diverse Los Angeles area schools, based upon seven years of the author’s direction of the program. Specific techniques that work to create and sustain a family-school-community partnership are highlighted. The “keys to success” emphasize three main goals critical to a school-based counseling program: (a) counselor training in clinical communication microskills and brief counseling methods, (b) ongoing clinical needs assessment and program evaluation, and (c) a six-step goal-setting process that mimics the stages of the clinical interview process. Counseling programs must also retain flexibility of goal implementation based on individual client progress...
This article discusses the difficulties inherent in addressing racial issues with students, and acknowledges the learning curve that must take place if teachers are to feel prepared and competent handling racist, stereotyped, or prejudiced comments in the classroom. The author proposes a Multicultural Response Framework of Racial/Cultural Discourse to serve as a framework for teacher reflection and development as they respond to students ' questions and comments about race. Findings from a pilot study are presented to illustrate how the framework can be used to classify teacher responses to hypothetical racial vignettes. Implications for psychologists and educators are discussed...
Color-blindness, the ideology that "race should not matter" in how individuals are treated, is often confused with "race does not matter" (Neville, 2000). The historical, social, and political origins of color-blind racial attitudes are outlined here. Developmental and constructivist theories are used to illustrate how teachers' use of the color-blind ideology may hinder students' critical thinking skills and inadvertently affect their cognitive growth. Research documenting color-blind practices in schools is presented, and variables that may affect teachers' ability to adopt color-conscious practices are reviewed. Teaching about the consequences of color-blindness to pre-service teachers can make them aware of how this ideology may affect their practice...
Research demonstrates that skin color significantly impacts how students are treated (Lewis, 2001; Skiba, et al., 2002). Despite this, some teachers hold “color-blind” attitudes where they pretend not to notice or care about students’ ethnicity. This study explored the color-blind attitudes and diversity training experiences of 46 elementary teachers. Teachers completed both a Color-bind Racial Attitude Survey (Neville, 2000) and a diversity training questionnaire. Teachers whose diversity training a) included a “color-conscious” curriculum, b) was longer than one day, and c) taught how to address racial issues held significantly lower color-blind attitude scores. Implications for multicultural teacher education are discussed...
Counselors, psychologists, teachers, administrators, social workers—in short, anyone who has ever worked with students with behavioral or emotional difficulties—can instinctively recall those students whose behavior remained confusing and overwhelming despite school personnel’s best efforts to intervene. For anyone who has ever left an individualized educational plan (IEP) meeting feeling that the child’s needs were not truly understood, Regalena Melrose’s book Why Students Underachieve: What Educators and Parents Can Do about It is a highly worthwhile read. Melrose’s research-based premise about how and why we continue to misunderstand such children and the ways to serve them better is nothing short of revolutionary in a field where classification of the 13 federal disability categories dominates the special education landscape. With clear prose and practical case study examples, Melrose first lays out reasons why educators must re-conceptualize the problems many of these students face—particularly students who often do not fit ‘neatly’ into an Attention...
As part of its effort to develop a portfolio of effective high schools, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the Early College High School (ECS) Initiative. ECSs are publicly funded schools that offer a high school education and two years of college credit in a compressed time. The goal is to enroll students who are typically underserved and underrepresented in postsecondary education...