Author Archives: DeveloperDash

Dr. Tucker’s Work Honored

Legislators commended the results of the Steve Holye Intensive Substance Abuse Program and other programs created by psychologist and Assistant Warden, Dr. Susan Tucker, in a House Concurrent Resolution (HCR3), signed by the Speaker on February 25.

The HCR3 authors pointed to multi-million dollar cost savings to the state because of shorter incarceration times of those offenders who participated in the psychological programs designed and delivered by Tucker and her team at the Bossier Sherriff’s Office, Medium Correctional Facility, located between Benton and Plain Dealing, Louisiana. Dr. Tucker has been working on reducing the rates through her comprehensive, innovative, and evidenced-based programs, to improve lives, families and community safety.

The legislators also noted that, while the programs were effective in shortening sentences of certain offenders, these efforts also helped offenders reintegrate into their families and communities and lower the risk of repeat offenses.

“I am very proud of our program and that we accomplish two goals which save taxpayer money but also provide rehabilitation to the substance abuse incarcerated offenders as well as their families,” Dr. Tucker told the Times. “With successful completion of our intensive treatment program, certain offenders can earn up to one year off their sentence. This is a significant savings to the public,” she said.

Fifteen hundred offenders have graduated from the nine-month program and an additional six hundred have graduated from the six-month program since it was moved to Bossier, after the Forcht Wade Correctional Center was closed due to budget cutbacks in 2012.

The Resolution authors noted that Tucker’s Substance Abuse Program has awarded more than five hundred thousand days of “good time credit” to offenders and saved the state nearly $13,000,000 during the January 2013 to December 2015 time period.

Another group of offenders have earned credits of nearly 50,000 days credit, saving the sate more than $1,000,000. And, those successfully participating in the Family Recovery Program earned 75 days of credit. Over time the program has awarded 55,000 days of credit, a $15,000,000 savings in reduced incarceration time.

“THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED,” the authors wrote, “that the Legislature of Louisiana does hereby commend and recognize the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Program for its success in shortening the sentences of certain offenders, while better preparing those offenders to reintegrate into their families and communities without a return to substance abuse and incarceration.”

Tucker has previously explained in an interview what she views as the basis of the program’s success: the innovations, the comprehensive approach, and the evidenced-based methods. “The philosophical approach to our treatment,” Dr. Tucker explained, “includes focusing on the thinking patterns, emotional reactions, and behavioral events that often lead to self–defeating patterns and eventually to criminal activity. We utilize psychological assessment instruments to illuminate areas of concern, including low cognitive ability, personality disorders or features, mood disorders, and thought disorders. We individualize a treatment program for that offender and he works closely with his assigned counselor to meet the goals of that treatment plan.”

Henke First in LSBEP Election Returns

Dr. Amy Henke has captured 62 percent and Dr. Leah Crouch, 38 percent, of votes from the licensed psychologists casting votes in the election for a seat on the state psychology board, the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP).

The position to be filled by either Henke or Crouch is that of outgoing medical psychologist, Dr. Marc Zimmermann, who completes his term this June. The final choice between the two candidates will be made by the Governor.

The election was the first in recent years without a member of the Louisiana Academy of Medical Psychologist (LAMP) seeking a position on the board. The LSBEP has routinely been composed of three medical psychologists in the five members, despite the fact that medical psychologists make up only about 5 percent of all licensed psychologists and are not required to hold a state psychology license.

In the current election, Dr. Henke received 183 votes, Dr. Crouch, 113 votes, and 27 of those casting votes, abstained.

President of the Louisiana Psychological Association, Dr. Lacey Seymour, reported the results to the Office of the Governor in a letter on January 25, obtained from the president.

In the letter, addressed to Ellen Palmintier, Director at Boards and Commissions, Seymour asked that the Governor appoint the individual with the top number of votes. She wrote, “As per our current policy, we respectfully request that the Governor appoint the psychologist who obtained the majority of the votes in the election. Therefore, we urge Governor John Bel Edwards to appoint Dr. Amy Henke.”

By law, the Governor may appoint either nominee on the list provided by LPA.

Sources in the community have said they are curious about the absence of a LAMP member on the list to the governor, which usually results in the appointment of that individual.

Last year an effort was pushed by the LAMP dominated psychology board to remove the wording from the psychology practice law. The law currently gives the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) the right to construct the “list” from which the Governor makes appointments.

The effort failed because the Senator sponsoring the bill refused to advance it if there were any conflicts over the substance of the legislation. The LSBEP dropped the effort to delete LPA’s role in the “list.”

LAMP is known to be a political powerhouse. The group donated more money to legislators in 2014 than any other political action committee in healthcare, including the much larger state medical group, for that same year.

Dr. Amy Henke is a clinical psychologist with the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. She is a member of APA Divisions for Pediatric Psychology and Health Psychology, and a member and Director for the Louisiana Psychological Association.

Dr. Crouch is a clinical psychologist with membership in the Divisions for Psychologists in Independent Practice, and also for Trauma Psychology. Dr. Crouch is also a member of the Society of Personality Assessment.

Tulane’s Dr. Bonnie Nastasi Helps Bring Psychology to the Global Community

In 1989 the United Nations held the “Convention on the Rights of the Child,” and called for the promotion of child well-being worldwide, including the physical, psychological, and spiritual. The Convention members said that protection of children was the responsibility of governments and of all adults, and they called on the scientific and professional community to promote learning, development, and the general protection of children across the globe.

Tulane’s Dr. Bonnie Nastasi, Professor in the Department of Psychology, has been at the forefront of this movement for decades. She and her international colleagues have taken up the goal of helping children around the world, much of what began with the “Promoting Psychological Well-Being Globally Project,” a brainchild of school and educational psychologists meeting at a conference of the International School Psychology Association.

From that beginning, a multi-year research project involving 12 countries emerged, in Brazil, Estonia, Greece, India, Italy, Mexico, Romani, Russia, Slovak Republic, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, USA (Boston, Puerto Rico, New Orleans). The work has taken Nastasi from the streets of New Orleans, to the shores of rural Sri Lanka, to the slums of Mumbai, India.

Her work to protect and promote the well-being of children worldwide has spanned the globe and over twenty years. She told the Times, “Doing work in another country, and especially cultures so different from my own has been an amazing experience,” she said, “and has changed the way I think about cultural competence in the US as well.” For example, she explained, the work has helped her “think more deeply about what constitutes culture and how we can best assess and honor the culture of others.”

“Sri Lanka especially feels like my second home,” she said. “I could imagine living there. It is a place I found peace.”

Nastasi and her colleagues have worked to create and develop interventions that address the complex goals of children’s well-being, while at the same time dealing with the issues involved in exporting psychological science developed in the US, to other countries. And, she has authored numerous articles, books, and book chapters on the topic.

In one of her most recent books, Nastasi and colleague Amanda Borja, describe many of the findings and experiences of their global efforts: International Handbook of Psychological Well-Being in Children and Adolescent; Bridging the Gaps Between Theory, Research, and Practice (Springer, 2016).

Also recently published is her co-authored text, Mixed methods research and culture-specific interventions: Program design and evaluation (Sage, 2016). She is working on two edited texts, International handbook on child rights and school psychology, and Handbook of School Psychology in a Global Context, both to be published by Springer.

In a keynote presentation to the Louisiana School Psychological Association this past November, Nastasi explained that the World Health Organization has found that 20 percent of children worldwide suffer from mental health problems and at least 5 percent of these are severe. Access to services ranges from 20 to 80 percent but access is not sufficient in any country, she explained. The risks to children are many––war, ethnic conflicts, poverty, illnesses, lack of education, disasters, Dr. Nastasi told the school psychologists.

At the same time, Nastasi cautioned that research psychologists and psychological practitioners must be careful in “… exporting theories and practices developed in the United States to other cultures and contexts.”

The development of interventions for people across the globe is hampered, Nastasi says, by the tendency for those with the best knowledge to apply existing theories and techniques without fully considering differences in cultures and contexts.

Exporting our knowledge is more challenging than it might seem, she notes. Evidence-based practice is often confused with the search for the ‘one-size-fits-all,’ Nastasi says, and confusion comes with the Western method of randomized controlled trials as the benchmark, which places “emphasis on internal validity at the expense of external validity.”

She and her colleagues set out to resolve some of these issues when they developed the “Participatory Culture Specific Consultation Model” and methods, supporting the development of culture-specific programs for use in the global community.

Nastasi and colleague Asoka Jayasena applied their culture-specific methods in a program to support psychological well-being in youngsters in Sri Lankan school systems, a project spanning almost two decades and which included interventions before and after the 2004 tsunami.

Nastasi and Jayasena illustrated the steps in “An International Partnership Promoting Psychological Well-Being in Sri Lankan Schools,” published in the Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation in 2014.

Sri Lanka is a small island south of India in the Indian Ocean, with a population of about 20 million. The household income is $231 a month in the provinces where Nastasi and Jayasena worked, with 70 percent rural and high levels of poverty and unemployment.

While government-funded health care was free for the general population, access was severely limited by a shortage of mental health professionals, Nastasi explained. There were only 20 psychiatrists for the 18 million people in 1995 when Nastasi and her group began their work.

With the goal of promoting psychological well-being of the school-age population, the co-consultants engaged in a research–intervention process using participatory culture-specific system consultation.

Each step required careful efforts where the consultants learned the culture, conducted formative research, and formed partnerships with people in the social systems. The researchers developed culture– and context–specific conceptual models, interventions, and assessments for promoting the psychological well-being of the Sri Lankan youngsters.

The collaborative approach included four main phases, Nastasi has explained in various articles. These are a participatory process of consultation, a focus on cultural and contextual specificity, and the use of research to inform and evaluate interventions, “and efforts to promote sustainability and capacity building,” she explained.

In Mumbai, Nastasi and her colleagues developed a culturally constructed model for clinical practice to prevent HIV and sexual disease transmission.

Nastasi and her colleagues attributed much of the program’s success to the capacity for a partnership-based approach.

While extremely rewarding, the work was also at times challenging, she said.

“Especially initially adjusting to the different environment and culture-e.g., the food, the climate,” she said.

“In Mumbai especially, we were conducting work in slum communities—I was overwhelmed initially by the level of poverty, the sanitary conditions, the number of people living on the streets (including children),” she explained, “and by the sheer number of people in the metro area of Mumbai.”

“That took some adjustment,” she said.

“The experience made me wonder,” she said, “if we can ever solve the world’s poverty…” She explained that the scope of need for children, women and families seemed at times, overwhelming.

“The other challenge in Mumbai was the relative status of men and women, even at a professional level. I had not encountered gender discrimination of that magnitude since my early career in academia in the US. That was a huge adjustment, but a female colleague (and later friend) from Mumbai was an enormous help in figuring out how to manage gender relationships professionally.”

The projects in Sri Lanka and Mumbai have concluded, and Dr. Nastasi has moved to new projects, while staying connected.

“I spent 2.5 months of my sabbatical in the Fall 2015 in Sri Lanka—exploring possibilities for the future,” she said. While working with international colleagues on book projects, she also initiated work on another text, this one on supporting the “… psychological well-being of adolescents in the context of ‘Child–Friendly Schools,’ a concept taken on in multiple countries by UNICEF.” This work is to be published in English by Springer first, and then translated to local language for Sri Lanka, she said.

Dr. Nastasi is also working with two charter elementary schools in New Orleans, and directing the work of her doctoral students.

“The most rewarding experiences,” she said, “have been working with colleagues and local participants in research and intervention projects. I have made life-long friends in both places and continue to communicate with them. In both places, I found a place to call home,” she said, and she resides there when she traveled for her work.

“I learned from my interactions with others¬–both colleagues and local participants–and discovered just how similar we all are in terms of our human qualities and struggles, despite cultural differences.”

“The interpersonal aspects plus my own personal growth were the primary rewards,” she said.

Dr. Nastasi is a past-president of APA Division for School Psychology, past-president of the Louisiana School Psychological Association, President-elect of the International School Psychology Association, past co-chair of APA’s Committee on International Relations in Psychology. She is also the current representative to APA Council for Division 16 (School Psychology), among her other achievements.

Reducing the Room’s Temperature can Increase the Quality of Your Sleep

You probably know how important good sleep is to your overall health. Not only getting enough sleep but the QUALITY of your sleep is the key factor in your protection against many diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. A 2010 study published in the Annals of Epidemiology showed that regularly getting less than six hours of sleep per night can lead to a higher risk of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. For their study, researchers asked participants to fill out questionnaires about their health and sleep patterns. The researchers analyzed six years’ worth of data from just under 1,500 participants, all between the ages of 35 and 79. They identified several ways to improve the quality of sleep. One of the most surprising findings was the effects of room temperature on the quality of sleep.

It is best to sleep cool. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to sleep when it gets too hot? That’s because the core temperature of your body needs to be cool in order for you to sleep well. The optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Any warmer than that, and your body may not be able to cool as much as it needs to for truly restful sleep. Sleeping cool may even help relieve insomnia.

A body of research is finding that regulating sleep temperature may bring some relief to sufferers of insomnia. According to Dr. Cameron Van den Heuvel, a research fellow involved in a 2009 study of body temperature and sleep performed by the University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research: “Temperature regulation is a significant factor in each of the two types of insomnia. The difference is when the insomnia occurs. People with sleep onset insomnia have difficulty initiating sleep at the beginning of the night, taking two to four hours each night in the worst cases; while people with sleep maintenance insomnia fall asleep easily but have trouble staying asleep, waking up multiple times during the night… In both types of insomnia, sleep is not restful and sufferers are tired during the day.”

Studies of sleep onset insomniacs show that they have consistently warmer core body temperature immediately before initiating sleep, when compared with normal healthy adults. This results in a state of heightened arousal that prevents them from falling asleep when they go to bed, probably because they have to wait for their bodies to lose the heat that’s keeping them awake. We’re only talking about a half to one degree but that small temperature change can result in significant differences in arousal between insomniacs and people without sleeping problems.”

If you are slow to fall asleep at night, try cooling down your room.

Stress Solutions

by Susan Andrews, PhD

Tips for Reducing Stress

Anyone who has ever suffered from chronic or moderately severe acute stress knows that you feel it physically just as much as you feel it mentally. And, it is accepted that one’s overall health can impact stress levels, both negatively and positively. In keeping with the focus on the positive, here are a couple of diet tips for reducing stress.

  1. Keep a healthy, balanced diet. A good rule of thumb is to eat for your heart. When you’re experiencing stress, your heart is experiencing it right along with you, which means that over time it can actually put your heart at risk. Keep your heart in good shape by eating a lowered fat diet with plenty of lean protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. This will help lower your blood pressure, which will help keep your heart from thumping hard when you start to feel stress.
  1. Eat to actually reduce stress. When stressed, your body produces stress hormones, like cortisol, which increases sugar in the bloodstream. This is what makes us crave unhealthy food when we’re stressed. However, giving your body simple carbohydrates like candy and white bread only gives your body a quick burst of sugars, so any good effects won’t last. That’s why you need to focus on complex carbohydrates with lots of fiber, like whole grains and sweet potatoes. The carbohydrates in those foods will prompt your brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone that relaxes us, but the nutrients and positive effects will stay with you much longer.
  1. Reduce caffeine intake and increase water intake. Too much caffeine can start a vicious cycle. The more you ingest caffeine, the more you feel you need to ingest caffeine. Coffee will give you a quick boost, but the fatigue will catch up, which causes you to drink even more coffee, even though that fatigue or an inability to focus is a signal that your body needs rest. Excessive caffeine consumption can actually lead to lapses in concentration and a decrease in our overall ability to be effective. So the work becomes harder because we’re less efficient. Caffeine is a substance that naturally increases blood pressure anyway, so you pile that on top of the effects of stress, and that’s a lot of strain for your heart.
  1. Most of us drink too little water. It is a known fact that we lose cognitive efficiency as our body becomes more dehydrated. Being dehydrated by just 2% impairs performance in tasks that require attention, psychomotor, and immediate memory skills (Adan, J Am Coll Nutr, 2012). The research data on this topic can be somewhat contradictory but everyone knows drinking water is good for you. For example, if the mild dehydration is due to physical exercise, that is actually good for long-term and working memory. There is also evidence that executive functions are better preserved. And, drinking more water helps keep our weight down.

Stress Solutions

by Susan Andrews, PhD

The Psychology Times, Oct 2015

Dr. Susan Andrews, Clinical Neuropsychologist, is currently Clinical Assistant Professor, LSU Health Sciences Center, Department of Medicine and Psychiatry, engaged in a Phase III study on HBOT and Persistent PostConcussion Syndrome. In addition to private clinical practice, Dr. Andrews is an award-winning author of Stress Solutions for Pregnant Moms (2013).