APA Rebuilding Morale

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I have spent the last five nights in Toronto and now it is time to go home. It is bittersweet.

This year’s convention was steeped in history. The APA Council of Representatives passed a measure banning psychologists from participating in national security interrogations. The complete resolution can be found here.

I strongly encourage you to take the time to read this report. Do not simply read news articles responding to the resolution. Go to the source material. It is the only way to be fully informed.

This marks a significant milestone and will make this convention one that history will not forget. This feels like one of the first steps toward rebuilding. It feels like hope for those of us who wore our “Do No Harm” t-shirts and buttons over the past few days. I believe the APA governance should be commended for cutting through the red tape and passing this measure.

In addition to being official APA policy, this measure is significant from a social justice perspective. It represents compassion in ideology as well as standing up for fundamental principles. As the largest psychological association in the world, APA is essentially saying that science cannot be used to harm people.  As I drove back across the border and looked to the American flags just past Niagara Falls, I could not help but feel that the APA made the U.S. a little better. I feel proud to be a psychologist today and that was something wonderful to take with me on a long drive home.

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How To Go from OCPD to Disheveled Over the Course of a Weekend

When I come to APA’s convention, I am a very organized psychologist. I have a set agenda. I know where I am going to be and what time I am going to get there. I have my laptop and cell phone fully charged and I am completely prepared to learn, network, discuss and do everything else you are suppose to do at a professional conference.

By the end of the day, I feel like a tornado has swept me up and spit me out back into my hotel room. I am sitting in the Fairmont Hotel and my hair is a mess, my feet hurt from walking, my agenda of symposiums/meetings to attend has grown significantly, and my laptop is currently hanging on at 18 percent battery life.

So what happened?

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One of my favorite parts of convention is the pace. For me, convention feels like a mad scramble to get as much out of the day as I can with limited time as well as physical and emotional energy. Between going to events, running into colleagues and mentors, managing my own presentations, and just trying to figure out where I am going in the convention center/city, its easy to feel a blend of stimulus overload and exhaustion. Whenever I run in to someone, they ask me, “Are you going to this meeting or that symposium or their presentation?” Today alone, I have been invited to five to six additional events that somehow slipped passed me when I originally perused the agenda book. The pressure to support colleagues and friends takes a toll, especially when balancing it against taking time to breathe.

Yet, somehow even though it is strenuous … I still love it. Seeing old friends and learning about new psychological breakthroughs is reinvigorating. I endure, because there are certain moments that really make convention worthwhile. This blog is about some of these moments.

Today, I heard an APA board member discuss her feelings about the Hoffman report with a small group. She described the macro reaction she has observed from the larger membership as well as her own personal feelings. This resulted in a powerful blend of institutional knowledge and interpersonal connectedness. This allowed me to deinstutionalize my view of the APA and realize these are real people who are doing their best to manage this difficult time. It was very humanizing and humbling to observe.

I also got to take a walk with my former adviser, whom I have not seen since my dissertation defense. We reflected on our time working together and our new goals while furiously walking between meetings. Only at convention does a meaningful relationship get discussed while frantically trying to figure out which building your next presentation is in.11145117_10102756963400265_6556092373046282420_n

Finally, I was able to attend the Div. 17 governance meeting, where something truly special happened. I was able to watch one of the doctoral interns from my home site of Ohio State University – Counseling and Consultation Service win an award. Basak Kacar-Khamush won the Donald E. Super Fellowship Award for Outstanding Research in Vocational Psychology. Basak’s office has been two doors down for mine for the entire year. Seeing her receive this award filled me with a sense of pride as I reflected on her growth during internship.

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When I look at convention as a whole, it is a mixed bag of exhaustion and happiness. Most important, despite my messed up hair and sore feet, it’s worth the time, money and energy to attend. The celebratory moments are memories I will cherish.

Money Talks: Social Class at Convention

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Some of you may know that I serve on CSES. Just in case you have been inundated with acronyms over the last week, CSES stands for the Committee on Socioeconomic Status and resides under the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI). Over the last few years, social class issues have gained some significant momentum. The Recession of 2008, the Occupy Wall Street movement, rising inequality and the work of several national political representatives have brought social class concerns to the forefront of the nation’s collective consciousness.

As a result, several very important presentations and activities occurred at the APA convention concerning SES. Here are a few highlights.

The hashtag #StopSkippingClass is a CSES initiative to continue the discussion around social class issues on social media. This campaign was launched in memory of the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson. CSES members asked psychologists from around the convention to tweet, post on Facebook, or hold a sign completing the sentence ” Poverty is …

Here is an example of Ramani Durvasala, Ph.D. holding her sign at the CSES Business Meeting.

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In addition, Paul Piff, PhD, led a plenary session Saturday called “What’s Social about Social Class.” Piff has appeared on NPR, television, in The Wall Street Journal, and even did a TED Talk: Does Money Make You Mean. His TED talk, which has had some  2 million downloads, focuses on how people’s social class impacts their moral reasoning. In the session, Piff described several of his studies that appear to indicate that in American culture, those who are identified or made to feel like they have a higher social class are more likely to engage in “utilitarian” style thinking and be self focused. A few of the interesting studies he conducted have fascinating research designs, such as looking at how much candy people were willing to steal from children, how willing people were to cheat on a game, and whether owning a luxury car makes people more likely to cut off pedestrians. The consensus is that those with a lower social class (or those that are made to feel like they have a lower social class) tend to act more moral, caring and empathetic toward others. This contrasts with the stereotype that low-income people are more likely to steal or try to take advantage of others.

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Although there were many other presentations and activities, the last one I want to focus on was student driven. At the APAGS booth, they had a great study/art activity going on. They had a board set up with different dollar amounts across a spectrum. Students were asked to take stickers and indicate what their total student debt would be at the completion of their degree. They were also asked what strategy they would be using to pay of this debt. This allowed for a visual representation of how inflation and rising tuition have affected students. On Saturday, the numbers varied, but many stickers hovered around the $100,000 mark, which should be of serious concern for all APA members. APAGS has completed a report on student debt, which they will be discussing over the next year. When it’s released, I implore psychologists to move toward  action on loan forgiveness legislation.

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Buffalo Wings + Niagara Falls + Fear of Heights = Great Trip to Toronto

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As a person who grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (roughly 200 miles northeast of Toronto), I have an appreciation for the Ontario landscape. I am also one of the few people in the United States who views Toronto as south of home.

As I walk through the convention hall, I hear whispers of subtle frustrations with Toronto. Changing currency, no smartphone usage and a convention center that is set up like Hogwarts. OK, Toronto is not everyone’s favorite APA or vacation destination. Although I do empathize with some of these complaints, I still think a trip to Toronto has a lot to offer. I chose to drive from Ohio, and with this choice came some great opportunities. Whipping up the coastline of Lakes Erie and Ontario is as beautiful as it is adventurous. It allows for clarity and mindfulness that no workplace retreat can offer.

I was able to stop in Buffalo and partake of the original buffalo wings at Anchor Bar. IMG_0427The joint is filled with motorcycles, car parts and license plates plastering the walls like makeshift aluminum siding. The wings came and I enjoyed them with a cup of coffee. It’s an odd mix, but I needed to stay awake on my drive. Buffalo as a city is an amazing place. The combination of East Coast architecture and Midwest post-industrialism provides a unique yet middle American feel.

North of Buffalo, I entered Niagara Falls, one of the great wonders of the world. From miles out, you can see the mist floating above the city, giving it a majestic quality. Looking over the falls, you can’t help but feel small, insignificant. It makes your symposium seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It feels refreshing.

In Toronto,I have seen many sights and eaten some great food, but the highlight had to be climbing the CN Tower. As someone afraid of heights, I found this both a tourist destination and prolonged exposure therapy. I was able to walk to the edge of the tower and look over, but walking on the glass floor proved to be overwhelming. My SUD levels pushed too high and I had to back up. Again the feel of being small and insignificant washed over me. My concerns for making appointments and attending meetings shrank. Climbing the tower gave me a needed booster shot of self-care on a Friday afternoon.

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Yes, your data plan is useless, it’s hard to find meetings, and image management is at an all-time high. But, just for a second, put down your non-working smart phone, forget APA policy changes, and enjoy this Canadian wonderland. For me, seeing the city and enjoying the landscape is providing some much needed energy during a very busy convention weekend.

 

Early career psychologists and ‘the revolving door’

As I walk in a little late to a session for early career psychologists, Barry Chung, PhD, is speaking about a common topic at this type of convention — “the revolving door.”

The revolving door is a metaphor for “recycled leadership” in association governance. Basically, the same people hold the power year after year. Some people have served in various leadership positions for many years without ever rotating out of APA governance. The result is that there is a huge barrier that prevents new leaders from breaking in to APA governance. It also does not allow for new ideas and promotes group think/the formation of cliques. In the wake of the Hoffman report, this has become a hot topic around convention.

Chung adds that APA has a problem — it’s getting old. With an average membership age in the mid-50s, APA is struggling to recruit new people. This is why it is an APA imperative to get early career psychologists (ECPs) involved in leadership within the association.

Also at the session is Angela Kuemmel, PhD, who serves on APA’s ECP Committee and shares some facts about ECPs. First, she defines ECPS as within 10 years of receiving their terminal degree. Also, ECPs represent only 20% of APA membership, they tend to be more diverse in terms of identity and work in more diverse settings. They also tend to have a better scope of the career prospects in psychology and are more in touch with the contemporary issues facing the field.

A slight smirk then comes to Angela’s face as she describes another phenomenon  — “unempirical supported stereotypes about ECPs.” She describes microagressions that  damage the credibility of ECPs. She says that while ECPs are seen as having “lots of energy and being technology/social media experts,” they are not seen for their expertise within psychology. She goes on to describe the importance of not equating ECPs with students, which more seasoned folks too often do. These  beliefs discredit ECPs’ expertise in psychology.

I think of my own experience within APA governance and how often I have felt these microagressions. At this point, I feel a sense of irony blogging this event and fulfilling the stereotype. I am also aware of how often I am asked if I am a student.

Then Katharine Oh, PhD, a former ECP Committee member steps discusses the importance of modeling and leadership. When an ECP considers getting involved in an organization, it is crucial that they see other ECPs as models. She also discusses the importance of mentoring and helping ECPs get oriented within their leadership positions. She describes several leaderships programs she has been part of including a few “leadership development academies” designed to help early career leaders develop and gain experience for future leadership positions.

I think to my own mentors and how they helped me gain experience and leadership positions. If it weren’t for these people, I would have felt lost upon entering governance.

When I leave the session, there is a general sense of hope and optimism. It feels like the revolving door is starting to close. Only time will tell if significant changes happen, but it is truly encouraging to see this programming at convention.

We Need to Teach the Teachers: Training for the Future of Psychology – An Integrated Primary Care Curriculum.

IMG_0454It’s almost impossible these days to discuss psychological clinical work in the United States without also discussing how it fits into an integrated health care model. Luckily, the Div. 38 (Health Psychology) Clinical Services Counsel (CSC) is on the job. In the dark corridors of the Toronto Convention Centre, a few psychologists presented their proposed primary care curriculum to a clutch of students, faculty and clinicians.

They described a critical problem in psychological training programs: Students need to learn how to work in integrated health care, but we don’t have anyone to teach them — at least not on the mass scale necessary to train a generation of clinicians for a rapidly changing health care model. Most faculty in psychological training programs do not have experience or training in this type of treatment.

Essentially, we need to teach the teachers to teach the future of psychology.

How do we do this? Shanda Wells PsyD, described a curriculum the CSC is developing. It includes a plethora of materials that have been produced to help graduate faculty to teach integrated health care psychology — “beautiful Powerpoints, like you have never seen before,” plus handouts, pictures/models, videos, and even pre/post tests that have been produced by the committee to help develop teachers in graduate schools. She emphasized and repeated one point: “The materials are free and flexible”

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She and her colleagues showed a few of the videos, which featured high-quality cinematography and great use of diverse actors in real world settings. One video shows a psychologist in a “doctor’s office” talking to a man about behavior interventions for sleep. The video feels real and the acting is solid. It doesn’t feel like a generic psychology training video made in the 1980s. It feels current and relevant.

It feels like something students will respond to.

Nancy Ruddy, PhD, spoke of  the importance of setting expectations for the future of psychology for both students and faculty. The days are gone of “solo practice where you sit alone in a room with a box of Kleenex and a lamp,” she said. She described the importance of seeing ourselves as a component of treatment in holistic health care as opposed to islands off by ourselves.

In addition, committee members plan to make themselves available for consultation about the curriculum. They described the importance of allowing an “ongoing discussion” around this type of training experience. And they said they are excited to see how these materials get used in training settings and want to hear feedback on how they can improve them.

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The materials will be available for mass consumption soon. For more information, contact the Div. 38 (Health Psychology) Clinical Services Counsel (CSC).