Restoring Relations with Cuba: Doors Open for Educational Exchange

My “once in a lifetime” travel to Cuba experience for me occurred in 1990 in connection to a forensic case. I remember thinking to myself, “this is an island frozen in time.” As fate would have it, my second trip occurred in 2012, following about 11 months of planning and waiting to obtain permission to travel with a group. Separated by 22 years, I still thought, “this is an island frozen in time.” The classic cars were two decades older. And I so wished I could bring one of these home with me:


Universities began teaching psychology in 1962 after the Revolution and witnessed heavy Marxist and socialist influence.

Clinical psychology consists of diagnostic assessment and the prevention and rehabilitation of mental illness, and examines the mother-child relationship, education, sexual orientation, and psychological functioning of parents and teachers.  Specialists treat and re-educate antisocial individuals and provide services in facilities for children.  Some psychologists specialize in development and the influence of family and community. Others examine intellectual development, preschool education, and special education. Some focus on vocational development.

There are moral norms (akin somewhat to our ethical principles), and of paramount importance is respect for human rights.

Patient confidentiality is held in high esteem. There is a caution not to use psychologists towards non-professional goals.

Research must not harm the subject of the research, research should contribute to the betterment of humanity, and excessive assessment should be avoided. Interventions should be used only by professionals qualified to use them. The combination of scientific rigor and personal honesty, acknowledging when hypotheses cannot be proven or are erroneous, is championed. Plagiarism is frowned upon.

There is recognition of the importance of multidisciplinary teams, cooperation among specialists, and exchange of experiences. The role of other specialists should not be underestimated.  As noted by Marx (rough translation), “if man works only for himself he may become a famous scientist, a great scholar, an excellent poet, but he will never be a truly great man.” And, “it is nobler to work towards a common goal; the greatest joy (as in accomplishment) stems from providing happiness to the greatest number of people.”

Psychologists are viewed as playing a role as educators. Psychologists are expected to engage in “autosuperacion” (self-improvement; self-growth) and develop as much knowledge as possible in their discipline (analogous to continuing education).

Psychologists are perceived to owe a heightened duty of responsibility to society, and this is manifested in their professional and personal lives.

As evidenced by the statement, “Responsibility, Duty, Honor, and Professionalism”, psychology is alive and well in Cuba.

The APA sent a delegation of 16 psychologists to Cuba in March of 2012 (my travel took place in April, 2012). Here is their report:

See in particular Outcomes and Next Steps beginning on page 23.

One can only wonder how the profession will flourish in the near future now that our relationship with Cuba is no longer verboten.

I leave you with a taste of Cuba:

University of Havana


Old (car) and New (bus)


View from Hemingway’s home


Much repair is needed


View of a main street in Old San Juan


Havana’s Malecon in 2012 (from inside the tour bus)


The U.S. embassy on Havana’s Malecon seafront and a taste of the old


Raising the Flag


Stars and Stripes fly at the U.S. Embassy; view of Havana’s Malecon seafront


I can hardly wait for my third trip to Cuba.


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