Giving psychology away
Mary Karapetian Alvord, PhD
Alvord, Baker & Associates, LLC
This is my final column as past president of Division 46. I thank the Board, the division members, and especially the presidential trio with whom I have worked closely in the past three years. The trio consists of the President-elect, President, and Past President. After elections, the trio transforms into a quartet to include the President-elect designate. Monthly calls make for continuous and consistent communications, an effective method to keep ideas flowing. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to serve in this capacity!
As psychologists we continue to ask important questions. How can we help reduce the stigma of mental illness? How can we teach young people about psychology and about the importance of mental health? How can we reach out to children and teens across long distances?
In this column, I want to share some public education efforts. As APA public education coordinator for the Maryland Psychological Association, I lead a committee of volunteer psychologists. We participate in health fairs and in YMCA Healthy Kids Day. We write blogs, make videos, send press releases, conduct interviews with the media and, in general, brainstorm about getting the word out about psychology and mental health. This year I also participated in a webinar for the APA partnership with the National PTA titled How to Tell When a Kid is Struggling Emotionally. This provides an example of APA’s public education efforts to disseminate valuable information on psychology and mental health issues. Approximately 1000 parents and teachers registered for the webinar. Slides are available at this website:
APA has partnered with Microsoft and Skype in the Classroom to bring the discussion of psychological principles and strategies into classrooms around the country and abroad. The program, called “Let’s Talk about Mental Health,” links APA psychologists with teachers who request lessons on anxiety, anger, depression, resilience, and other topics to be determined by the teachers and psychologists. These lessons are conducted in real time and interactively via Skype (no need for HIPAA compliance, nor worries about crossing state lines as this is an educational program!). Over 100 psychologists, many of whom belong to Division 46, have volunteered. The technology allows young students to have the experience of talking in a relaxed and positive way with a psychologist in the context of a classroom lesson.
Since the Spring of 2014, APA members have started to link with teachers across the US. I have now given six highly interactive lessons to 7th graders in health classes in Chicago, Illinois (see Heather Mongilo, 2014). The teacher and I have planned additional lessons on the topic of managing stress to cover for several months. I also developed experiential activities to help them understand the mind-body connection and ideas about coping strategies. The teacher and I agreed on handouts for his class that they could use during the lessons. In the spring of 2014, paper handouts were distributed, but by this fall, each child had an iPad, which made it possible for the youngsters to receive the handouts electronically and to do their own note taking, writing and drawing.
Dr. Julie Bindeman, a Maryland psychologist and a member of Division 46 and its Telepsychology Committee, shares her experiences with the publication education program:
I was excited to be part of the partnership between APA and Skype—what an incredible idea! I had looked over the APA materials and was thrilled when a local teacher contacted me. In our email correspondence, I was thrown for a loop. The teacher wasn’t looking for a talk based upon the APA lesson plans. Rather, she was teaching her class about stigma, homelessness, and humanity. She wanted me to talk about Stigma. After consulting with a colleague, we came up with a game plan for talking points. The Skype session started—and my lesson plan was thrown out the window! The students had questions for me and it seemed that the teacher had prompted her students to formulate questions for an “Ask the Psychologist” hour. I was able to get in a few minutes of background (from what I prepared) and then braced myself. The questions were thoughtful and insightful. I thoroughly enjoyed the hour, and was happy to roll with the punches.
Interested in telepsychology? Each region of the country has a National Telehealth Resource Center http://www.telehealthresourcecenter.org/ funded by HRSA Office for the Advancement of Telehealth. Free webinars are available. For those of you in the Mid-Atlantic Region, there will be a conference in March sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center which will hold a three hour workshop on Telemental Health 101. For more information see http://matrc.org/summit/index.html