Author Archives: Susan

Stress Solutions

by Susan Andrews, PhD

Train Students in Mindfulness to  Reduce Stress and Improve Grades

For any of Louisiana’s Psychology graduate students or their advisors or our community-minded practicing clinicians looking for a project that will improve Louisiana’s schools and quality of education, I recommend training students from kindergarten to graduate level in Mindfulness. Many are now familiar with the technique called Mindfulness. It is easy to learn and easy to teach – even for young people. I am devoting this month’s column to an idea for the new year that holds great promise for making a difference in our future – the promise of increasing consciousness for ourselves, our community, the world.  

Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain. And, when you regularly devote as little as 5 or 10 minutes daily to breathing and becoming mindful of your surroundings, amazing things can happen. The following is one of many published articles on the value of teaching students.

One hundred 6th grade students received Mindfulness training each day of the school week for eight weeks in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research study designed to determine more of the benefits of practicing mindfulness. The students were compared to a peer control group who spent the same amount of time studying computer coding. After 8 weeks, it was found that the students who received Mindfulness training experienced lower stress levels, less depression and improved academic performance, compared to their controls. The MIT researchers surveyed 2,000 students in grades 5 through 8th and found that those who showed more mindfulness tended to have better grades and test scores. They also had fewer absences and statistically significantly less suspensions.

Many resources now exist to learn mindfulness and even to learn how to teach others. I am reminded that many moons ago now, LPA invited a young woman to speak on Mindfulness and she recommended a book available through Amazon called, Sitting Still Like a Frog, by Eline Snel. I have since recommended that many of my young clients (especially those with attention problems) buy this book. It is $12 and available at Amazon. But, the real prize is the CD that comes with the book and includes 10 or more short mindfulness meditations. Kids love it as do their parents.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker

There was no way that I would miss seeing what was billed as the conclusion of the Star Wars series.  Particularly because of the intriguing title. Luke was dead, sacrificing himself as had his first mentor Obi-Wan—would he be resurrected?

One of the movie’s strong points is a surprise-filled plot line, which obligates me to be scrupulous in avoiding spoilers, despite the comment some of them merit.  Another plus is the film’s finding ways to play on some of the tropes that fans of the series will relish: extra-terrestrials that range from the grotesquely imaginative to the cute and cuddly; re-encounters with almost all of the major players in the series’ history; the ramshackle wonders of Millennium Falcon; aerial combat scenes that include dizzying careers along risky courses.

There is an edge of sadness in the film’s highlighting the effects of aging. We see slender Luke contrasted with a grizzled oldster, Han Solo as a wise-cracking daredevil contrasted with a battle-scarred veteran, a frankly seductive Lando Calrissian contrasted with a sage grandfather, a sexy, saucy Princess Leia aging into a matronly general. This last transformation comes with a new wrinkle. The general now is endowed, in unexplained ways, with Jedi status and a light saber. I have read that the original plan for the movie had been to focus on Leia as a Jedi, but Carrie Fisher, who appears in this film by virtue of earlier outtakes from the series, died in 2016, making it necessary to retool the plan.

Another new wrinkle is a hyped-up version of Jedi powers, in which psycho-kinetic ability goes way beyond being able to retrieve a light saber, or even to retrieve a fighting craft
submerged in water. Jedi powers are further augmented in another way here. In addition to mind tricks and psycho-kinesis, they now include the power to heal.

Psychologically the series leans on the Oedipal theme of fraught relationships between fathers and sons: Darth Vader and Luke, Han Solo and Kylo. Rey’s training as a Jedi and Leia’s role as another seem a nod in the direction of gender equality. But there remains a gap in the attention to the special relationships between mothers and daughters and to sisterhoods.

This movie retains the moralist component of the series, the good guys vs. the bad guys, freedom vs. totalitarianism. At times it verges on, but happily manages to avoid, being an echo of the patriotic celebration of the 1996 sci-fi flick Independence Day.

When a story begins with Once upon a time, we know we are about to hear or read a fairy tale. In literary theory, fairy tales differ from fables, in that the latter offer theories about the origins of things while the former, like parables, communicate timeless moral realities. The series’ familiar introduction, A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, announces its status as a fairy tale. That The Rise of Skywalker continues in the fairy tale tradition is emphasized in another fairy tale convention, they lived happily ever after. I am risking a spoiler here, but the film ends with a focus on Rey. In the film, the actress portraying her often must contort her face to express agonistic excess. But the film closes on her beatific smile.
Why is she smiling? If you watch the film you will learn why.


Who’s READING What?

Recommended Reading for New Year’s

by Dr. Judith Miranti

The holidays have a way of inserting into our psyches a reflective mode that, if ignored, will just keep inserting itself until we stop and pay attention to our mind, body and spirit.  Individuals react differently to the approaching holidays. For some, the holidays are unbearable after the loss of a loved one depending upon their unique stage of grief and whether or not they are experiencing survivor’s guilt. For others, it is a time of thanksgiving and connecting with those we love.

During our reflective mode, these two short reads, God Isn’t Finished with me Yet (139 pages) and Man’s Search for Meaning (167 pages) put a lot into perspective regardless of one’s spiritual and/or religious beliefs.  Everyone wants to find meaning in life.  The self-help books that fill the shelves of bookstores testify to this search.  As we see fewer years ahead than behind, it can be easy to question our value or what we have left to contribute. How can we continue to be generative and give back and live with purpose in our later years?

Sadly, there is no quick fix.  To have meaning and purpose in life is a quest which is never ending but can be fulfilling.  Often we hear clients discuss how they are spiritually, psychologically and mentally bankrupt. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, has captivated generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival.  Frankl argues that while we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.  Throughout the holiday, pause and reflect on any one of the top ten Viktor Frankl quotations:

1. “Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.”

2. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

3. “But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

4. “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

5. “The meaning of life is to give life meaning.”

6. “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.'”

7. “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

8. “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

9. “The point is not what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us.”

10.”For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”

Find comfort in God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet.  We still have time to repair old wounds and reconnect with those from whom we are estranged.  We are encouraged to examine our lives and to make reasonable choices that will yield positive results.  We can let go of hurts, forgive ourselves, and find ways of bringing joy into our lives and discovering the spiritual graces of later life.

[Dr. Judith Miranti is Chair of the Division of Education and Counseling at Xavier University of Louisiana. She served as Dean of Humanities at Our Lady of Holy Cross College for 10 years and as VP for Academic Affairs for two. She has also served as the President of the National Association for Spirituality, Ethics, and Religious Values in Counseling.]

We Remember Dr. Billy Seay

Dr. Billy M. Seay, long-time member of the Louisiana psychology community, passed away December 4, 2019. He served as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Louisiana State University for many years, and then went on to become the founding Dean of the LSU Honors College.

Dr. Seay was one of the “monkey men,” the affectionate term for those who observed the behavior of primates and then explained the development, adaptation, and social structures of these close great-ape relatives.

When Dr. Seay came to LSU as a young psychologist in 1964, he brought with him the distinction of having published in the then ground-breaking studies about mother-infant separation. Seay studied with the American primatologist, Harry F. Harlow, at the University of Wisconsin, where Seay earned his doctorate.

In his work at Wisconsin and with Harlow, Seay published “Mother-Infant Separation in Monkeys,” in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, “Affectional Systems in Rhesus Monkeys,” and “Maternal Behavior of Socially Deprived Rhesus Monkeys,” and ‘Maternal Separation in Rhesus Monkeys,” in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

“Harlow provided his students with the resources of his laboratory, staff support, and considerable independence,” Seay told the Times in 2015. “When research was published he used a ‘post-Nobel’ style of authorship. Students were consistently the first author of  research reports. Exception occurred only if he had an agreement with an editor to be first author. He would not co-author dissertation publication. You were on your own.”

Seay also worked with colleague and fellow LSU professor and development psychologist, Dr. Nathan Gottried, to author The Development of Behavior: A Synthesis of Developmental and Comparative Psychology in 1978.

The Development of Behavior was ahead of its time. While debates still occur today about which influence––genetic, environmental, epigenetic, individual, etc.–– is dominant in development, Development of Behavior set out the importance of five “sets” for determining behavior from all five directions. In Development, they approached behavior from the dynamic interplay of the Phylogenetic Set, the Ontogenetic Set, the Experiential Set, the Cultural Set, and the Individual Set.

“One hopes that what is not lost is that all behavior is multiply determined,” Seay had told the Times. “There is not a single cause for any behavioral outcome,” he said.

“I think that both biological and cognitive psychology fail to recognize the importance of culture in shaping and determining behavior,” Seay said about the awareness of cultural impacts. “The cultural setting is a determining factor with respect to the environment an individual encounters. Failure to recognize cultural influences on behavior limits understanding behavior.”

Dr. Billy Seay was a devoted husband for sixty years to his college sweetheart. Billy is survived by his loving wife, Nedra Dees Seay, of Baton Rouge, his daughter Delecia Seay Carey and husband Tom, of Maurice, Louisiana, his son Franklin Whitfield Seay and wife Cheryl of Denham Springs, and many beloved grandchildren

Governor Appoints Mr. McNeely to LSBEP as Consumer Member

In December, Governor Edwards appointed D. Chance McNeely of Baton Rouge to the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.

McNeely is currently the Executive Director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, and he will serve as a consumer member on the LSBEP.

He has served at Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, Office of the Secretary, as Assistant to the Secretary for Policy; at the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Environmental Compliance, Office of the Governor, State of Louisiana, as Policy Advisor; and in U.S. House of Representatives as a Legislative Assistant.

Mr. McNeely has a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business from Louisiana State University (LSU) and Master of Public Administration also from LSU.

Act 515 of the 2018 Legislative Session created a position on the board for a Consumer Member. Under LA R.S.37:2353.A.(3)(b)(i) The consumer member shall be selected from the state at large and shall possess all of the following qualifications: (a) Is a citizen of the United States and has been a resident of Louisiana for at least one year immediately prior to appointment. (b) Has attained the age of majority. (c) Has never been licensed by any of the licensing boards identified in R.S. 36:259(A), nor shall he have a spouse who has ever been licensed by a board identified in R.S. 36:259(A). (d) Has never been convicted of a felony. (e) Does not have and has never had a material financial interest in the healthcare profession.

The consumer member shall be a full voting member of the board with all rights and privileges conferred on board members, except that the consumer member shall not participate in the grading of individual examinations.


Dr. Shannae Harness Sole Candidate for LSBEP 2020 Spot

The Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists is conducting an election to fill the opening coming in 2020. Dr. Shannae Harness of Baton Rouge is the sole candidate for this opening, for serving the five-year term from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2025.

Dr. Harness earned her degree from Jackson State University in 2012, in the major of clinical psychology. She is listed with the National Registry of Health Service Psychologists and is a member of the American Psychological Association.

In her statement, Dr. Harness noted, “… In order to assist the Board, one of my goals is to be a catalyst for change by opening the lines of communication within this field during the process of licensure and the maintenance of competent psychologists. My role as a regulator in enforcing the laws, standards, and ethics code is to be transparent and timely in carrying out the matters of the Board …

“Another goal for my tenure on the Board is to promote diversity and encourage open
dialogue about mental health issues that affect the underserved populations in Louisiana. This is a population that often does not present for help due to the stigma associated with treatment,” Dr. Harness wrote. “Furthermore, many are often incarcerated due to lack of receiving mental health interventions. I would like to focus on bringing the mental health divide amongst people of diverse backgrounds and bring awareness to these issues when participating in rule making activities.

“Lastly, the face of psychology has evolved over the past few decades when it comes to diversity among licensure applicants.  These individuals have different emphases in training and present different competencies. As such, the Board needs to stay abreast of the current laws, standards, and ethics within the field of psychology. Thank you for the opportunity to share my vision and it is my sincere wish to work closely with the Board to continue to promote and grow the field of psychology.”


Contemporary Southern Psychology Hits Odd Snag

The Online Journal Contemporary Southern Psychology, announced in June 2018, has published only one volume of one issue, and that volume is not available at this time, explained Dr. Bill McCown, the editor pro temp. McCown is Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean for Research at University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM).

“We expected to be almost into our third issue by now,” he said. “We thought there would be ongoing operational difficulties, but what we encountered was a bit unusual.”

The journal is the brain-child of co-editor Dr. McCown, and team members Dr. Burt Ashworth, Assistant Professor in Psychology and endowed chair in Gerontology, and Dr. Mkay Bonner, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice & Psychology, College of Business & Social Sciences, both at ULM Contemporary Southern Psychology is a peer-reviewed, open access journal with a focus primarily toward psychological research, aiming to match the style and contributions of the wellrespected, 1980s, Southern Psychologist.

While the editors encountered some expected production delays, what they didn’t expect was to find themselves engaged in national politics, said McCown who noted that as the national atmosphere became increasingly heated, “… things got very strange.”

“Not long after we started talking to outside reviewers and editors we began receiving calls and  manuscripts on unusual topics,” McCown said. “We found out that there’s an entire pseudo-scholarly world out there that we didn’t want to be affiliated with.”

“These are people who want to publish on racist and anti-semitic topics and somehow believe that the word ‘Southern’ indicates a like-minded audience. It’s clear most of them did not come from our area, perhaps not even our country. I guess we just got on someone’s radar.”

After a while this flood of extreme right interest subsided somewhat, McCown said, but it was as if it generated an opponent-process on the left.

“Suddenly the name ‘Southern’ seemed to be in the crossfire of some left-leaning people. We started getting emails and calls saying things like, ‘What are your real intentions? Are you as racist as everyone else in the South?’ And, ‘Are you white nationalists at your University?’

“The rhetoric even got much worse even after we explained our mission,” McCown explained. “At that point we just slowed down our pace and waited for the national climate to become more reasonable.”

“It seems that the word ‘South’, which the editors mean more in a geographic sense, is almost a trigger for nonobjectivity,” McCown said.

Have they considered a new name? “We want to be true to our concept, which is a regional journal which recognizes the brief but influential legacy of Ralph Dreger and LPA in one of its periods of excellence, “ McCown said.

“We also want to highlight the necessity of employing psychology and the behavioral sciences for making sure our region is all it can be. The Deep South was a late adopter to the science of psychology. Sometimes this is overlooked. We want to try to remind people not to make this mistake again. So we are sticking with the name.”

“We aren’t going anywhere. Our funding is secure. Our mission is legitimate.  We have enthusiasm and energy.  We will be a peer-reviewed, open-source, journal with no fee charges.  There is a need and we aim to fill it.”

“By late January we hope we will be announcing a special issue and have a general call for papers for future issues,” McCown said.

“The mission of the new journal is to emphasize what psychology can do for our region,” Dr. McCown previously told the Times. “The South, perhaps for reasons that no one still understands, has been slow to embrace this potential contribution. The results of this failure are all around us. The mental and overall physical health of southern citizens is poor. The southern education system is often disconnected from advances in cognitive and social psychology. Southern criminal justice systems desperately need changes that are informed by behavioral science. In the private sector many corporations inadequately understand what organizational psychology now can offer. Consequently, they are not maximally competitive beyond our region.”

“This is a deeper opportunity for psychology to assert its identity to a region that has not recognized what we do and can do well. This is very much in the spirit of the original publication and we hope is a way of celebrating 70 years of LPA’s successes in our state,” he said.

Community Health Centers Saved Louisiana’s Medicaid Program $645 Million, Boosted Economy by $772 Million, Report Says

According to a new report released November 26 by Capital Link and sponsored by the Louisiana Primary Care Association, 35 Federally Qualified Health Centers (commonly referred to as Community Health Centers), are responsible for an annual $772 million economic impact on Louisiana’s economy.

The authors concluded that by servicing Medicaid patients at a 24% lower cost than private providers, managing chronic conditions, keeping patients out of the emergency room, and emphasizing the importance of preventive care, Community Health Centers saved the healthcare system $868 million.

Among the report’s additional findings:

•In 2018, Louisiana’s Community Health Centers saved Louisiana’s Medicaid program $645 million.

•Health centers reinvested in their communities by engaging in $416 million in direct health center spending, resulting in an additional $356 million in indirect and induced community spending.

•Louisiana’s Community Health Centers employed 3,149 individuals and spurred the creation of 2,635 additional jobs in their surrounding communities.

•Last year, Louisiana’s Community Health Centers provided primary care, oral health, and behavioral health services to over 444,000 patients across the state.

Health centers continue to serve as the providers of choice for those who have recently gained access to health insurance coverage through Medicaid expansion.

The report said that Community Health Centers are known for providing high quality preventive and primary health care to patients, and they also work to stimulate economic growth and generate cost savings for both urban and rural communities across Louisiana.

“Year after year, health centers continue to demonstrate that they are critical components of Louisiana’s healthcare safety-net,” said Gerrelda Davis, Executive Director of the Louisiana Primary Care Association.

 “This report confirms that health centers are proven leaders in meeting the needs of patients at an affordable cost to taxpayers.  The federal government has no program with a better return on  investment than it does with the Health Center Program.”

Thirty-five Community Health Centers were included in this analysis.  Economic numbers were derived using health center audited financial statements and statistics as reported on the 2018 Uniform Data System.  An integrated economic modeling software called IMPLAN was used which applies the “multiplier effect” to capture the direct, indirect, and induced economic effects of health center business operations.  I is widely used by economists, state and city planners, universities, and others to estimate the impact of projects and expenditures on the local economy.

The Louisiana Primary Care Association (LPCA) represents 38 federally funded, private, non-profit and public Community Health Centers (including two Look-Alikes) across Louisiana that serve over 444,000 patients annually.  LPCA promotes community-based health services through advocacy, education, and collaboration with community partners. Their goal is to ensure that every Louisianan has access to affordable, quality, primary care services.  For more information, visit

Dr. Melissa Beck Helps Lead “LSU MIND” Group

Showcased in one of the cover features of LSU Research magazine, cognitive psychologist Dr. Melissa Beck is being called a “collaborative champion,” for her skill in developing cross-discipline research and teamwork.

Dr. Beck is professor of psychology at LSU and leads the Beck Visual Cognition Research Lab, where she conducts innovative and interdisciplinary research on visual attention and memory.

Dr. Beck serves on the executive committee for the LSU MIND group, or the Multidisciplinary Initiative for Neuroscience Discovery. “She’s been described as ‘the glue’ for various cross-campus collaborations,” reported Elsa Hahne at the LSU Office of Research & Economic Development.

In an interview with Hahne, Dr. Beck said, “When I first came to LSU, I was doing basic science research with my graduate students while also doing applied collaborative research at the Human Factors Group at the Naval Research Laboratory at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. We were looking at how pilots allocate attention to digital maps while they’re flying and how their expertise develops. I learned how to take basic research and apply it to different areas while working with people who aren’t cognitive psychologists.”

Beck is aware of how little other disciplines know about psychologists’ skills. She told Hahne, “At all universities, silos get created. Someone in engineering might think psychology is therapy— and it is!—but there’s also this huge other area of psychology called cognitive science. It doesn’t occur to them that we have all of these people with skills and the ability to study interesting problems that are related to business or marketing or engineering. We could collaborate, but people don’t understand what our skills are, and vice versa. Not unless we have conversations.”

Dr. Beck and her team of researchers have worked to uncover the “inattentional blindness” that impacts automobile drivers, the ways that visual attention and memory work or don’t work in various situations. With the aid of grants from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and working through LSU’s University Transportation Center for the Gulf Coast Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resiliency, Beck and her students are able to study human responses in a driving simulator.

Housed in the LSU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, “The simulator consists of a full-sized passenger car––a Ford Fusion with no wheels,” she said, “combined with a series of cameras, projectors and screens to provide a high fidelity virtual environment. Realtime Technology Inc. manufactured the simulator,” Beck explained.

“Lately,” Dr. Beck told Ms. Hahne, “I’ve been working with faculty members in construction management and architecture on a grant submission to look at how architects and engineers communicate with each other around design. People from different disciplines have different conceptualizations of what they do. For example, they might cognitively perceive a building differently. So, how do we get them to communicate well with each other? It’s kind of meta, because the very thing we want to study— cross-discipline communication—is necessary during our collaboration.”

ASPPB Quietly Advances the EPPP-2 Plan with Jan 1 Launch

Last month the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) quietly posted a message that the new Part 2 of the national licensing exam will officially launch on January 1, 2020. ASPPB officials first announced the new test, the EPPP-2, in 2017 as optional for its member jurisdictions. Then as resistance mounted, ASPPB’s Board of Directors decided that they would combine parts and make the entire exam mandatory, this coupled with a 100% fee increase. An outcry followed, then ASPPB backpedaled and made the roll-out optional––for the time being.

The upcoming January launch begins a “voluntary adoption” program, a carrot and stick for the controversial new test product, whose scientific basis is coming under more and more scrutiny.

The new test is optional––but whether it remains that way is highly doubtful, some say. In this article we review the behind-the-scenes decisions and interests impacting the test and those hoping to become licensed psychologists.

The National Exam

The current test, called the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology or EPPP, is the national licensing exam required for candidates seeking a state psychology license.

ASPPB purchased the rights to the exam sometime around 2013, and since then the EPPP is the top money making product for the non-profit corporation. The EPPP-2, first priced at $600 then lowered to $450, would increase testing revenues for ASPPB by 75%, boosting the firm’s yearly income by $3,750,000.

The current EPPP is expensive at $600 plus administration fees. At a recommended 50th percentile cut-off, many candidates have to take the test more than once. The test contains 225 items, with a fourhour time limit. To compare, physicians pay $605 for an eight-hour exam, and Social Worker candidates pay about $250 for a 170-item exam.

On-going criticisms about the scientific validity, the practical usefulness of the new exam, and the possible discriminatory impact of the entire EPPP selection approach, appear to have done little to deter ASPPB from its goal.

In the latest of a list of scientists voicing concerns, researchers lead by University of North Texas professor Jillian Callahan, PhD, are set to publish a critique in the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association, The American Psychologist.

Based on a pre-publication draft of the article, the authors will be addressing the need for stronger scientific methods in the EPPP-2 development, the suitability of the test for its intended use, impact on minorities, and legal vulnerabilities.

ASPPB has gone through several roll-out efforts, first to persuade and encourage member jurisdictions to accept the new test, and then to force the new exam on states.  The current effort, “voluntary adoption,” includes a fee of only $100 for Part 2 of the exam for “Beta Candidates.” After the “beta exam” closes in 2021, this fee will be $300 for early adopters. After January 1, 2022, the fee increases to $450.

It is not clear what happens to those states who refuse to accept the EPPP-2 for its candidates. ASPPB officials note, “… At this time, it is optional for licensing boards (jurisdictions) to sign on to require the EPPP (Part 2 – Skills).”

Since ASPPB owns the tests, they will likely make the combined exam mandatory again, said one insider.

Only nine of 64 possible jurisdictions have joined in to “adopt” the additional exam so far, totaling only 14% of ASPPB “members.” These are Arizona, Guam, Nevada, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. Starting in February, Missouri has signed on and starting in March, Manitoba has signed on as early adopters. Finally, Georgia has agreed to be an early adopter starting November 2020.

Show Me the Money

The ASPPB is a private, nonprofit, 501(c) tax-exempt corporation located in Tyrone, Georgia. The company states its mission is to “Facilitate communication among member jurisdictions about licensure, certification, and mobility of professional psychologists.”  The “members” are about 64 regulatory boards from across the United States and Canada. These boards pay dues to be a member of ASPPB.

Tax records indicate that ASPPB grossed $6,686,286 in 2017; $5,973,841 in 2016; and $5,284,952 in 2015.

Total revenue for 2017 was $6,645,731 and for 2016 was $5,933,473.  For 2015, revenues were $5,254,097.

Over the last five years, from 2012 to 2017, total revenues have increased from $4,274,419 to $6,645,731 or 55%.

Assets and balances for 2017 were listed at $8,629,194. In 2016 assets totaled $8,462,637, and in 2015 totaled $7,712,532.

Of total revenues in 2017, ASPPB spent 2,268,203 on salaries and other types of compensation.  Records indicate they have 12 employees and the highest compensated is the CEO, Dr. Steven DeMers, at $270,784. Another four employees’  salaries fall between $134,771 and $111,823. Board members receive between $6,800 and $12,800.

All listed compensation for 2017 together totals $839,747.  An additional $1,098,096 was paid to Pierson Vue Minneapolis for exam administration.

To compare, in 2016 they listed 12 employees, again the most highly compensated was Dr. DeMers at $243,842. Others fell between $131,949 and $125,860.

ASPPB’s main income producing product is the national exam for psychologists, with revenue of $5,378,524 in 2017. This was 80% of total revenues for the year.

In 2016 exams and related fees grossed $5,296,421, or 89% of all ASPPB venues. In 2015 this amount was $4,775,213 and in 2014 it was $4,826,421.

The company has some other products, such as the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT), a service to coordinate psychologists working across state lines. This product generated $357,708 in 2017.

The organization spends liberally on the other activities including $1,169,743 on travel, $978,143 on other salaries and wages, $240,951 on other employee benefits, $375,418 on information technology, and $240,143 on conferences.

While many members are government officials, ASPPB does not follow open meetings laws. Deliberations and decisions are private. “If you are not a member or staff of an ASPPB Member Psychology Regulatory Board or an individual member, you are not eligible to access this section of our website,” they write. Their conferences are also closed and for members only.

This arrangement––where a corporation, formed of state board representatives, operates as a test publisher, with influence and special access to government officials, and also a captive market––seems ripe for conflict of interest. The Times asked one CPA to look over the information and he said, “Of course there is influence and COI.”

“With a lot of cash sitting on the balance sheet, the strategy is to maximize expenses,” said an MBA in reviewing the information for the Times. “The extra profits are likely to go into perks rather than price cuts,” he said.

Scientific Criticisms Continue to Mount 

In the latest of a series of criticisms, University of North Texas professor Jillian Callahan, PhD, and coauthors will address concerns about the scientific quality of the new exam in an upcoming issue of The American Psychologist.

In the pre-publication draft posted on the internet, the authors write, “… the EPPP Part 2 has yet to be subjected to a broader validation process, in which the suitability of the test for its intended purpose is evaluated. Implementation of the EPPP Part 2 before validation could have negative consequences for those seeking to enter the profession and for the general public …” And, “For jurisdictions implementing the EPPP Part 2, failure to gather and report the evidence required for use of a test in a forensic context may also open the door for legal challenges.”

Other critics have pointed to similar problems, one being the lack of the need for additional test hurdles.

“There is no evidence that the public is facing some sort of previously unheard of crisis in terms of safety from currently practicing psychologists,” said Dr. Amy Henke. In 2016, while serving as a director for the Louisiana Psychological Association, Henke took the lead to pass a Resolution opposing the new test. She pointed out that multiple checks on competency already exist for psychologists and appear to be working to protect the public.

“Trainees are already held to high standards through a variety of benchmarks,” Dr. Henke wrote in the Resolution, “including but not limited to: APA approval of doctoral programs, multiple practicums where competency is repeatedly assessed, completion of formal internship training (also approved and regulated by APA and APPIC), and supervised post-doctoral hours obtained prior to licensure. There is no evidence to suggest this is not sufficient for appropriate training.”

Henke and others pointed to existing multiple hurdles that candidates already must clear, including two year’s supervision, a written exam, oral exam, background check, and jurisprudence exam. Additionally, the law allows the board to require additional physical and psychological assessments whenever needed.

However, Dr. Emil Rodolfa, from Alliant University and also then a program developer at ASPPB, questioned if these standards are enough, saying that supervisors have “… difficulty providing accurate evaluations of their supervisees to others who may have to evaluate the supervisee’s competency.”

Henke also said, “I am particularly concerned about regulatory boards encroaching ownership of training standards. The goal of a regulatory board, in my personal opinion, is to provide the least restrictive amount of guidelines possible in order to protect the safety of the public.”

Rodolfa disagrees and said, “Licensing boards have a mandate to ensure that the professionals they license are competent. Competence is comprised of the integrated use of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.”

Henke and others point out that the evidence from disciplinary statistics suggests that problems are very rare. For the most recent year with records, total reported disciplinary actions across the U.S. and Canada range from 159 to 222, with only nine to 17 licenses being revoked nationally. (See table.) Data from the ASPPB Disciplinary Data System: Historical Discipline Report show rates of disciplinary actions for psychologists to be consistently low. For an estimated 106,000 psychologists nationwide, the disciplinary rates remain around 1–2 per 1,000.

Louisiana’s rate is similar to the national average. For the year 2018–2019 there were two disciplinary actions. For the year 2017–2018 there were also two disciplinary actions. And for the year 2016–2017 there were three disciplinary actions and in 2015– 2016 there was one disciplinary action which is on appeal. And from 2014–2015 there was one disciplinary action.

Critics argue that a second test can have very little impact on such a low disciplinary rate.

Other criticisms center around the poor scientific quality of the test for making high-stakes decisions about candidates’ careers. In 2009 Brian Sharpless and Jacques Barber authored “The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) in the era of evidence-based practice,” for Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

“Professional psychology has increasingly moved toward evidence-based practice,” said the two authors. “However, instruments used to assess psychologists seeking licensure, such as the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), have received relatively little empirical scrutiny.” They write, “… there is a paucity of criterion, predictive, and incremental validity evidence available.”

Dr. DeMers responded in the same journal attempting to clarify issues and giving some information not published. He agreed with some of the recommendations, according to the summary of his article.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Dr. William Costelloe, Chair of the I-O and Consulting Psychology Committee of LPA, told the Times, “… predictive validation studies must be conducted.” This type of research proof is not optional, he said. “Well conducted, scientifically based predictive validation studies must be conducted if the EPPP2 is intended to be used as a selection tool,” Costelloe said.

In April 2018, ASPPB CEO, Dr. Stephen DeMers, met with members of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and representatives of Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA). After the meeting, Dr. Kim VanGeffen, Chair of LPA Professional Affairs, said, “Dr. DeMers acknowledged that, currently, there is not really any research on the validity of the EPPP-2,” VanGeffen said. “There do not seem to be any plans to obtain predictive validity nor does the EPPP2 committee believe that establishing this type of validity is necessary,” she said.

Dr. Marc Zimmermann, past LSBEP board member and Chair of the LPA Medical Psychology Committee, also attended. “He [Dr. DeMers] stated that there is no predictive validity,” said Zimmermann. “He also threw in that none of the national tests had predictive validity. He reported that content validity was the accepted standard because a test with predictive validity could not be constructed,” said Dr. Zimmermann. “… DeMers had the temerity to try to sell us something that does not meet the standard that psychological tests being published are expected to have.”

Other critics are concerned about the discrimination aspects of the EPPP. In a December 2018 study of New York psychologist candidates, Brian Sharpless, PhD, demonstrated that the EPPP has differing fail and pass rates for different races. Blacks had a failure rate of 38.50% and Hispanics had a failure rate of 35.60%. Whereas, Whites had a failure rate of 14.07% and Asians had a failure rate of 24%. The difference is large enough for African-Americans and Hispanics to constitute discrimination.

The study, “Are demographic Variables Associated with Performance on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)?” is published in The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied.

ASPPB’s Rough Roll-Out

Keeping its members cooperative with its product plans has been difficult for ASPPB. In 2016 the firm announced the EPPP–2 and told its members, licensing boards across the United States and Canada, that the use of the new test would be “optional.”

However, amid criticisms ASPPB did an about face in late 2017 and announced that the new exam would be mandatory after all, and be combined with the current test. And, the price would increase 100%, from $600 to $1200.

“The ASPPB Board of Directors, based on a number of factors, including feedback from our member jurisdictions and input from our legal counsel, has determined that the EPPP Part 2 is a necessary enhancement, and therefore an essential component of the EPPP,” wrote DeMers.

Objections mounted, mostly from student and early career psychologist organizations.

In July 2018, Dr. Amy Henke, now serving on the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP), and LSBEP members of sent a blistering letter to the ASPPB Board of Directors, to the ASPPB members, and to the administrators of state psychology boards across the US and Canada.

Objections from Henke and others involved technical and scientific issues, but also the criticism that there is no problem that the new test needs to solve.

“LSBEP does not believe that data exists demonstrating that psychologists are not already held to high standards of competence,” they wrote. “The data that exists in terms of complaints and disciplinary actions toward psychologists also does not support the theory that competency problems abound in the field of psychology.”

The LSBEP also criticized ASPPB’s role and said that the decision is “…an overstep.”

“We are concerned that ASPPB has lost sight of their original mission, which from this board’s understanding was limited to facilitating communication between various member jurisdictions,” the LSBEP members pointed out, and that mandatory decisions on EPPP-2 do not fit this role but rather the role of a vendor providing a product.

Following this, in August 2018, ASPPB President Sharon Lightfoot, PhD, announced that the ASPPB Board of Directors voted to rescind their 2017 decision to mandate the second exam.

“We will continue toward launch of the Enhanced EPPP in 2020,” Lightfoot said, “and make it available to states and provinces interested in serving as early adopters. We are lifting the requirement for use of the Enhanced EPPP and are lifting the deadline for implementation.”

In December 2018, ASPPB decided to use a carrot and stick approach for the new exam. According to an October 24, 2018 letter from Lightfoot, if Louisiana chooses to decline the use of EPPP-2, individuals here will not be allowed to take EPPP-2 even if they wish to do so.

“Only applicants who are registered through a jurisdiction that has adopted the Enhanced Exam, and who have passed the knowledge portion of the exam, will be allowed to take the skills portion of the exam,” said Lightfoot.

Also, those test-takers from compliant states will pay reduced fees as a reward for early adoption of the additional exam, while those from late adopters will pay $450.

Sources at the Louisiana State Board of Examiners believe ASPPB is forcing states to use the EPPP-2 by prohibiting individuals from taking the exam in a state which does not require its use. They say this would make it difficult for psychologists who obtain licensure in a state which does not use the EPPP-2 to obtain licensure in a state which does use the EPPP-2. This policy, if adopted, is punitive, they say.

Is Resistance Futile?

ASPPB appears to be doggedly maintaining it’s commercial course, despite the mounting criticisms that the second exam is not scientifically well-constructed or actually needed for public safety. One source close to the state board said they see very little way to avoid having to accept the new exam eventually–– that efforts to stop ASPPB were futile.

If critics are correct, and the second exam is wasteful spending, the cost and additional regulatory hurdle will be born entirely on the backs of new psychology license hopefuls.

Ford V Ferrari

Ford V Ferrari

This movie, a story about how the Ford Shelby Mustang wrested domination of the fabled Le Mans road race from Ferrari’s race cars will appeal to motor heads and patriots. But its appeal is more complex than that. 

It begins by taking us inside Ford’s corporate headquarters in the early 60’s where Lee Iacocca is confronting Henry Ford II with a reality. Ford sales are in a slump because its cars have lost their sizzle. The new generation doesn’t want its daddy’s car. It wants excitement. It wants speed.

He persuades his boss that Ferrari, who for years has dominated the Le Mans grueling twenty-four hour road race with his hand crafted 330’s, is in financial trouble. Ferrari might be ripe for a merger with Ford that would add sales appeal to the Ford name.   Ford dispatches a team to Italy to pitch Ferrari. At first, the Italian seems interested, but he ultimately, in contemptuous terms, rejects the Ford bid in favor of one from Fiat. He sneers at Henry Ford as an unworthy successor to his father, “He is not Henry Ford. He is Henry Ford II.”

When the CEO learns of the slur, rage at the injury to his Oedipal grandiosity erupts, and he declares war. Ford will do whatever it takes to produce a car that will out-perform the fabled Ferraris.

He is persuaded to assign the project to Carroll Shelby, a racing driver who once won at Le Mans and who has turned to car design. Shelby, in turn, recruits his buddy, Ken Miles, a crusty Brit racer and mechanic, as a partner to help with the design and to do the actual driving, which Shelby’s heart problems preclude.

This sets up three important features of the film. It is a contest between true blue Americans and snooty foreigners. It is a buddy film centered on the relationship between Shelby and Miles. It is a film about egos and self-esteem.  Henry Ford II struggles against being over-shadowed by his father, and ornery, individualistic Miles and Shelby struggle like twin Lacoons against being strangled by the corporate-think that characterizes Ford Inc.

There are two other psychological elements that grabbed my attention. One is the movie’s attempt to capture a subtle frame of mind, a kind of dissociation induced by the pressures of incredible speed and its hazards: “There is a point at 7,000 RPMs where everything fades. The machine becomes weightless. It disappears. All that’s left, a body moving through space, and time. At 7,000 RPM that’s where you meet it. That’s where it waits for you.”

And then there is the film’s status as a buddy film. To me the tie between Miles and Shelby was its emotional center. They love each other. C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, speaks of companionate love, the love of those united by a shared purpose. The self-psychologist Heinze Kohut describes mirroring self-objects, elements that stabilize our identities by a kind of deep congruence. United in their passion for automotive perfection, Miles’ and Shelby’s  love for each other is deeply moving.


Stress Solutions

by Susan Andrews, PhD

Take the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Wellness Survey

When we stumble onto something really valuable, I believe it is worth sharing. The Good Housekeeping Wellness Lab has developed a survey about what stresses you, your habits and how habits and behaviors and beliefs can affect your overall health and wellness. The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete online and asks you to consider your responses based upon the past 6 months. They acknowledge that they are going to try to gain insights and share them with their business partners and sponsors. So, you are being warned that your information is not going to be treated confidentially. 

If you are okay with these conditions, then I invite you to take the survey and print off a copy of the results for your records. The survey can be found at this address: XSnH1aK8U%3D

I took the survey. The first part is beliefs about yourself and your life and friends and work that range from stressful to happy and successful. The second part are questions about health and lifestyle habits. These questions include food and drink preferences and recreational habits. This is a thorough survey in that they also ask about programs and ways you promote your wellness, like exercising in a gym and fitness classes, or meditation.

The feedback is organized into four sections:  how stressed you feel, how well you are coping, your health habits and your overall health. It boils down to a score about how you are feeling about your life. Then, it asks if there are areas you are concerned about or want to improve. The survey offers a score on your Perceived Stress. It also rates your coping skills and resiliency. The last two sections are your beliefs about your overall health and health habits.

It is a great personal exercise and a good way to approach the new year 2020 and our annual exercise of making resolutions for our life and behavior.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy Holiday Season.

Stress Solutions

by Susan Andrews, PhD

Stress Inhibits Spatial Perception

For years, stress was considered to contribute mostly to psychosomatic-type illnesses. Then, slowly the research began to accumulate that indicates stress is not simply one of those “mental” or “emotional” problems. Stress is making headlines now in ways that really seems to contribute to what we now call the mind-body connection. Stress has even been shown to be passed from one generation to the next by the mechanism of a chronically non-stress resilient woman who is pregnant. Her unborn child will come into the world as not as able to recover easily in stressful situations as children whose moms are less stressed and possibly more stress-resilient. Cortisol has been tagged as one of the mechanisms responsible for how stress  can have lasting effects on the body.

Today, I am reporting on research(1) conducted at the Collaborative Research Center 874 at the Ruhr-UniversitaetBochum showing that stress can interfere with how we see and interpret visual-spatial information. Neuroscientists at the Collaborative Research Center 874 compared the findings of stressed participants to unstressed (the control group) participants in how stress affected their perception of scenes and faces (complex spatial information).

Earlier work out of the Collaborative Research Center 874 was able to show how the release of the stress hormone cortisol can influence long-term memory in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is also involved in the perception of scenes. Discrimination of faces was included in the study as faces are processed in the adjacent region of the temporal lobes.

The cold-pressor test was used to stress young men by having them immerse one of their hands in ice water for up to three minutes while being obviously filmed by a female researcher. This is a well-known method of establishing stress in research.

The stressed participants did less well in the discrimination of complex scenes than the non- stressed participants. However, there was no effect of the stress-induced cortisol on the participants’ ability to discriminate faces. This was the predicted outcome of the study. They reasoned that stress affects the hippocampus in the area of memory and complex spatial perception, but stress/cortisol does not also affect the workings of the adjacent temporal lobe at least as regards the perception of faces.

Further research was planned to look into the activity patterns of the hippocampus when it is under stress using MRI technology.

1 M. Paul, R, K. Lech, J. Scheil, A.M. Dierolf, B.Suchan, O.T. Wolf. Acute Stress influences
the discrimination of complex scenes and complex faces in young healthy men.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2016: 66: 125

The Peanut Butter Falcon

by Alvin G. Burstein

This 2019 movie is a striking contrast to the currency of splatter films, special effects and shock.  It is a frankly feelgood film with a focus on character and motivation. Many of its reviewers characterize it as a riff on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the Twain classic Huck and Jim, a Black slave, become companions on a raft voyage down the Mississippi. Huck is fleeing an abusive father, Jim, his owner’s threat to sell him to an exploitative slave trader. On their voyage, they encounter a host of characters. Huck struggles with the conflict between his liking and admiration for Jim and his enmeshment in the slave culture of blacks as property. Jim, throughout, demonstrates characteristics of generosity and loyalty to his friend. Two of the central features of the book are its implied critique of the “peculiar institution” of slavery and the carnivalesque roster of characters it features.

The Peanut Butter Falcon, too, is set in the deep South, and much of the action takes place on a raft on the river. Two of its central characters are, like Huck and Jim, trying to escape. Zak is a Down syndrome man who has been inappropriately confined in a nursing home for the aged for several years. His companion, Tyler, is a small-time outlaw, trying to escape the kangaroo court consequences of his misdeeds. Both are prisoners. Zac, of assumptions that his ambition to become a professional wrestler is foolish, Tyler, of his feeling that the grip of hard scrabble poverty and the guilt he feels about his brother’s death are inescapable.

Like Huck and Jim, Zac and Tyler forge a strong bond. The two companionships are alike in that they have a nominal leader, Tyler in the first case, and Huck in Twain’s account. And in both  cases the other partner, Zak, in the movie, and Jim, in the book, is portrayed as intellectually limited, but at the same time admirably loyal. And, like Huck and Jim, Tyler and Zac meet an array of striking characters: Winki, a blind preacher; The Salt Water Redneck, a decrepit wrestling coach; Ratboy, a vindictive pursuer; and Sam, a fifty-year-old pro wrestler; to mention a few. A critical difference is that Zak and Tyler are joined by a third companion on their voyage. Eleanor, the social worker who had been working with Zak at the nursing home, and who was assigned to bring him back, decides, at least initially as a strategic ploy, to join the duo.

While Twain’s critique is aimed at the institution of slavery, it seems clear the movie wants to bring into question the issue of personhood for those with Down syndrome. Assuming a degree of intellectual limitation, to what degree should they be entitled to pursue chosen goals? The British 2005 Mental Capacity Act states that anyone over the age of sixteen must be presumed able to make decisions for themselves absent a court finding about that individual to the contrary. The World Health Organization takes a similar position. United States laws are unclear. The movie raises the question of whether Zak should have the freedom to try to become a professional wrestler.

At the risk of verging on a spoiler, I will reveal that Eleanor decides to join Tyler and Zak on a permanent basis, forming a ménage à trois. The movie avoids considering the Oedipal complications of Zak’s finding Tyler and Eleanor’s bedroom door closed to him. How will that affect the brotherhood? And more generally, what special questions, if any, should arise with regard to the sexual interests of those with Down syndrome?

Oh, and about the movie’s title—you will have to see the film.