Kathryn Stamoulis, PhD
Division 46’s Past-President Mary Alvord, PhD has spent much of her career living by our mission of “giving psychology away.” She has appeared on TV and in print countless times, sharing her psychological knowledge with the public in outlets like NPR and The Washington Post. She became involved in APA’s public education campaign in 2003 and went on to become the APA public education coordinator for the Maryland Psychological Association. All of her public service has been done while still helming a private practice and it was through her daily work in her practice that ultimately led Mary Alvord to write books on topics for which she recognized a great public need. Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens is the latest example of her subscribing to the philosophy of “giving away” her psychological expertise, in this case specifically as it relates to the topic of negative thinking.
“I can’t.” “It’s not fair.” “I’m a loser.” These are the thoughts many of Mary Alvord’s teenage clients have shared with her over the years. While the faces of her clients would change, the negative thinking they grappled with stayed the same. In counseling, she works one-on-one with young people to identify the negative thinking patterns that are holding them back and causing negative emotions like sadness, anxiety and stress. To help her clients, she teaches them how to use cognitive restructuring techniques, an evidence-based cognitive behavioral approach, to break them free from their negative thinking by challenging their catastrophic and negative thoughts during the sessions and also to use those techniques as needed in their everyday life. These tools are intended to help clients understand how to gain control over their thoughts and emotions and also to motivate them to take appropriate actions toward achieving their goals.
Mary Alvord witnessed the teenagers in her practice flourishing after they received counseling, but she worried about all the teenagers out there struggling with the same issues, but who were without access to mental healthcare. The concern led her to write her current book. In July 2017, Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens was published by Instant Help Books, an Imprint of New Harbinger Publications. The workbook co-authored with Anne McGrath, is written to help teenagers break through dysfunctional thinking by using easy to follow CBT techniques. Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens focuses on the nine most common distorted thinking patterns she observed in her practice. In it, the authors illustrate these patterns in a language that the teens would easily relate with and understand. The workbook contains examples and self-guided questions to help teens identify their distorted or off-target thought habits. She then provides research-backed CBT techniques that they can use to challenge and “conquer” these negative thinking patterns. Bonus skills included are mindfulness and behavioral activation. In essence, she has distilled the work she does with her young clients into a book that anyone can get their hands on for $16.95 or less.
Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens has sold well and has earned numerous 5-star online reviews, indicating it is a helpful resource for those in need. In an interview, Mary Alvord said, “I feel strongly that it is up to us as psychologists to disseminate evidence-based mental health knowledge to the public. There is so much need and suffering, and insufficient services.” She is living up to her responsibility of sharing what she knows for the good of others. Her book Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens and the accompanying workbook are shining examples of Division 46’s mission of “giving psychology away” to benefit the society at large.