Author Archives: Susan

No Substantive Changes After Public Feedback on Proposed Rules from Psychology Board

After publishing over 19,000 words of new proposed regulations, the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists conducted a public hearing on December 16. The board dismissed calls from the public for substantive changes.

Proposed rule changes include those for fees, registration and oversight of assistants, continuing education rules, training, credentials and scope of practice for neuropsychology, specialty designations, ethics for school specialists, and the rules for using an Emeritus title.

More than 20 individuals submitted criticism of the proposed rules, the majority of comments had to do with the oversight of assistants to psychologists.

As required by law, the State Board published a “Notice of Intent” of the changes in November 20 issue of the Louisiana Register. According to several sources attending the public meeting, the board members wanted to avoid “substantive” changes brought about by feedback, which would then require a second Notice of Intent.

Dr. Kim VanGeffen from the Public Affairs Committee of the Louisiana Psychological Association, noted, “The Board stated that they will be unlikely to make major changes to the Rules as, to do so, would require reposting the Rules and having another period of commentary. They may make what they would term minor changes.”

The Times asked Dr. Greg Gormanous, current chair of the State Board, to comment and he  agreed to provide individual feedback. ” I am offering my comment as an individual. Also I am stipulating that you include the entire quote,” Dr. Gormanous wrote.

“The public hearing on rule making initiated by LSBEP served its purpose. Written comments  were read into the record. The written comments were from many people who were attending virtually. LSBEP also requested oral comments from a member of the public who attended in person. When the hearing ended, the Board, being sensitive to public attendees, next devoted a substantial amount of time and discussed most of the comments. Those deliberations resulted in several important non-substantive tweaks,” he said.

The board appeared to ignore the requests to show evidence of a need for the new detailed oversight and management regulations for assistants, a problem voiced by many of those commenting.

Public comments also included details of managing assistants. According to VanGeffen, “The  Board explained that the process of registering assistants will require an ‘administrative review’  and not full approval of the Board,” said VanGeffen. “Some people commented that the current wording of the Rules suggests that one would have to employ the person first before submitting the application for registration.” Also, “Currently the Rules require that the supervisor be “on  site” while the assistant is performing services,” she noted. “There were a number of comments  about how this is not consistent with the new Medicare guidelines […]. “There were questions about whether ATAPs who are currently employed would be “grandparented.'”

The new regulations effort stems from the 2021 House Bill 477, legislation put forth by the  Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, now Act 238.

HB 477, authored by Representative Joe Stagni, was a compromise measure following the downsizing of a 23-page bill introduced by the psychology board in 2020 and then again in 2021. Under pressure from opponents, the board agreed to substitute a fee bill, telling sources that without the increased fees the board would not be able to operate in the future. This  message resonated with the majority of those attending a special meeting of the Louisiana Psychological Association called for by petition of those opposing the measure.

According to the Notice of Intent, the proposed rule changes will increase revenue collections for the LSBEP by $21,000 for FY 23 and $18,050 in FY 24 and FY 25. The estimate is 420 assistants.

Also according to the Notice, the Board claims that benefits include a positive impact for licensed psychologists and also for competition.

“The proposed rule changes will benefit Licensed Psychologists by reducing their risks associated with hiring unqualified individuals to work with vulnerable populations…” And, “The proposed rule changes are anticipated to have a positive effect on competition and employment. Licensed Psychologists who utilize ATAP’s are able to serve a larger client base than if working independently.

Next, the Board is required to respond to all comments and submit a report to legislative oversight committees, House Committee on Health and Welfare and the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, according to the Administrative Procedures Act.

“The agency shall issue a response to comments and submissions describing the principal reasons for and against adoption of any amendments or changes suggested in the written or oral comments and submissions. In addition to the response to comments and submissions, the agency may prepare a preamble explaining the basis and rationale for the rule, identifying the data and evidence upon which the rule is based, and responding to comments and submissions. Such preamble and response to comments and submissions shall be furnished to the respective legislative oversight subcommittees […]

Also, “Prior to the adoption, amendment, or repeal of any rule or the adoption, increasing, or decreasing of any fee, the agency shall submit a report relative to such proposed rule change or fee adoption, increase, or decrease to the appropriate standing committees of the legislature and the presiding officers of the respective houses as provided in this Section. […]

This review is to include numerous items including: “(3) The specific citation of the enabling legislation purporting to authorize the adoption, amending, or repeal of the rule or purporting to authorize the adoption, increasing, or decreasing of the fee. […] ” (ii) A summary of all comments received by the agency, a copy of the agency’s response to the summarized comments, and a statement of any tentative or proposed action of the agency resulting from oral or written comments received.”

The oversight subcommittees determine among other things, whether the rule change or action on fees is in conformity with the intent and scope of the enabling legislation, and whether the rule change or action on fees is acceptable or unacceptable to the oversight subcommittee.

The public meeting was held December 16 and according to the Administrative Procedures Act was required to be at least 35 days after the notice was published. The Notice was published November 20, 2022. According to the Act, “Any hearing pursuant to the provisions of this Paragraph shall be held no earlier than thirty-five days and no later than forty days after the after the publication of the Louisiana Register in which the notice of the intended action appears.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana Attorney Gen Jeff Landry Files Lawsuit On Government Involvement in Social Media/Speech

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt have brought a lawsuit to show the federal government is colluding with social media companies to censor speech. This according to Landry’s office.

Attorney General Landry said in a press release on December 6, 2022, “Our case has exposed many ways the federal government colluded with social media companies to censor freedom of speech on their platforms. Chan’s deposition showed that the FBI was part of this incredible conspiracy. All Americans should be alarmed and outraged!”

Attorney General Schmitt said, “Missouri and Louisiana are leading the law in exposing exactly how the federal government colluded with social media companies to suppress speech online. Our deposition makes it clear that the FBI played an outsized role in working to censor speech ahead of the 2020 election.”

As part of the lawsuit, Landry and Schmitt deposed FBI supervisory special agent Elvis Chan. Chan testified that he and the FBI had quarterly meetings then monthly meetings with major social media companies in the leadup to the 2020 election. During these meetings, Chan
warned of the potential for a Russian “hack and dump” operation. The deposition testimony was able to show how the federal government and the FBI colluded with social media companies to sensor freedom of speech on their various social media platforms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Governor Edwards Names Terri Ricks Head of DCFS

On December 21, Gov. John Bel Edwards named Terri Ricks the new secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services, according to the press release. Ricks has been serving as interim Secretary since former Sec. Marketa Walters stepped down last month. Gov. Edwards also named Amanda Brunson as Deputy Secretary. Brunson has been with DCFS since 2021, when she was hired as Special Projects Officer in the Child Welfare Division.

“I want to thank Terri and Amanda for their dedication and willingness to fill these important roles,” said Gov. Edwards. “No doubt there are many challenges facing child welfare agencies, including here in Louisiana, but I am impressed by the way Terri has taken her years of knowledge and put it into leading the department and finding solutions. Amanda likewise will be a vital asset as we work to give Louisiana’s children the services they deserve.”

According to the press release, Ms. Ricks has played an essential role in the leadership and management of DCFS and has been responsible for enterprise-wide efforts since 2016. Those efforts include leading the restructuring of DCFS in 2016 and fundamentally reframing the Family Support Division to include a greater emphasis on workforce initiatives, a shift to more family-centered child support, increased client access through more robust customer service, and increased poverty competency of staff. Ms. Ricks represents DCFS on the Governor’s Workforce and Education Subcabinet, a cross-agency collaborative effort primarily focused on harnessing Louisiana’s untapped talent. She also led the efforts to create the department’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) unit. Responsive to Louisiana’s needs, she has increased partnerships with community organizations, national foundations, and others to decrease poverty and increase equity and family stability.

 

 

 

Gov. Edwards Touts Positive Outcomes of Criminal Justice Reforms

In two press releases, Gov. John Bel Edwards touted the state’s improved criminal justice program after a November report by PEW and a bipartisan report by the Pelican Commission Institute highlighted significant improvements in Louisiana’s criminal justice reform outcomes.

In December, the Governor said the Pelican Institute, a conservative think tank, released an analysis of crime data in Louisiana that drew four conclusions:

1) Property crimes are decreasing in Louisiana 2) Increases in violent crime were a nationwide event in 2020, impacting almost every state 3) Violent crime increases in Louisiana were lower than in other southern states 4) Increases in violent crime are not correlated with criminal justice reforms or decreased incarceration rates.

According to the announcement, one of the key goals of bipartisan criminal justice reform was to reserve prison beds and law enforcement resources for more dangerous offenders.  Incarceration numbers for Louisianans convicted of non-violent crimes have dropped significantly thanks to bipartisan criminal justice reform, but Louisiana now has more people incarcerated for violent offenses than before criminal justice reform. According to the Pelican Institute analysis, violent offenders are also serving longer sentences now than they were before bipartisan criminal justice.

“This report proves that bipartisan criminal justice reform has actually helped Louisiana
fight the nationwide increase in violent crime by focusing our law enforcement resources on violent offenders,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “Don’t let lazy narratives fool you. We have gotten smarter on crime, and tougher on violent crime. Conservative, liberal, and non-partisan experts all agree that our reforms have been successful, because the data proves it. We still have a lot of work to do to bring down crime rates, but we’re better off thanks to bipartisan criminal justice reform.”

In November, the Governor’s office pointed out that the Pew Charitable Trusts published
Gov. Edwards Touts Positive Outcomes of Criminal Justice Reforms, continued a story highlighting the transformative impact bipartisan criminal justice reforms have had on Louisiana in the five years since taking effect.

Reporting for PEW, Michelle Russell wrote:

“This fall marks five years since Louisiana enacted its landmark criminal justice reforms. Signed by Governor John Bel Edwards in 2017, the 10 bills passed with strong bipartisan majorities and followed the recommendations of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, an interbranch body of justice system leaders and stakeholders.

“The new laws included changes to sentencing, corrections, and community supervision. In the legislation, policymakers focused on ensuring adequate prison space for those who pose a public safety threat, strengthening probation and parole practices, eliminating barriers to reentering society, and reinvesting savings to reduce recidivism and support victims. Using the most recent publicly available data, here are five findings about how Louisiana’s system has changed since the reforms took effect.

“The state’s prison population has fallen 24%, driven entirely by a decline in people convicted of nonviolent offenses.

“Louisiana’s reforms sought to steer people convicted of less serious crimes away from prison and shorten the time incarcerated for those who could be safely supervised in the community.  In the summer of 2017, before the new laws took effect, there were about 35,500 people under the Louisiana Department of Corrections’ jurisdiction held in prisons or local jails throughout the state. By the summer of 2022, that number had fallen nearly a quarter to about 27,000. A report recently presented to lawmakers showed that the declining prison population was entirely driven by a reduction in people convicted of nonviolent offenses. That number shrank by about 11,000 between 2016 and 2021. Over the same period, the number of individuals who were incarcerated for violent offenses increased by almost 1,400.”

Dr. Susan Tucker, psychologist, was involved in these reforms. She was previously the Assistant Warden, licensed psychologist, and program developer at the Bossier Parish Correctional Center, designed the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Treatment Program. The program first began at the Forcht Wade Correction Center Keithville, Louisiana, and was relocated to the Medium Security Facility for the Bossier Sherriff located between Benton and Plain Dealing, LA.

Tucker’s programs earned state and national recognition, including a legislative commendation, the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment grant, and the governor’s grant for prevention. In 2010 the Vera Institute of Justice, an organization dedicated to improving justice systems through research and innovation, noted that the program, “…should be a model for the nation.”

In 2015, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has named Dr. Susan Tucker and her treatment programs as one of this year’s recipients of the prestigious Bright Ideas awards for innovation. 

 

 

 

 

The Banshees of Inisherin

A Review
by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD

In 1963, when I moved from the University of Michigan to the Neuropsychiatric Institute of the  University of Illinois, I met one of the last giants of Psychology, Ernest A. Haggard, who held a  professorship there and a prestigious career investigator’s award from the National Institute of  Mental Health. In contrast to the contemporary trend of increasing specialization in psychology, Haggard’s research was wide ranging. It included studies of fleeting changes in facial  expression, details of responses to Rorschach’s test, and the effects of confinement on  submariners and of social isolation on inhabitants of farms on the fjords of Norway.

This last study was much on my mind as I watched The Banshees of Inisherin because of its  letting, a fictional isolated island off the coast of Ireland. I was also drawn to the film, which has  been characterized as a black tragicomedy, because of its reception. Released by Searchlight  Pictures in 2022, it won multiple awards at the 79th Venice International Film Festival and, more remarkably, a 15-minute standing ovation.

It was written and directed by Martin McDonagh. It stars Colin Farrell as Padriac, Brendon Gleeson as Colm, and Kerry Condon as Siobhan, Padriac’s sister. Each of them is stunningly  effective in leading the audience through the tale.

The story centers on a rupture of the previously close relationship between the two men.  Heretofore, they have met regularly to drink and talk at the isolated island’s pub. With no  warning, Colm tells Padriac that he wants nothing more to do with him. Padriac is devasted, and unable to account for the change, seeks fruitlessly somehow to restore it. Colm ultimately tells  his former companion that, if Padriac persists in attempting to relate to him, Colm will  amputate one of his own fingers. When he does so, the unspeakably horrid event shocks Padriac, but doesn’t forestall his efforts. The horror ratchets up with Colm’s hacking off four  more fingers and flinging them at Padriac’s door.

Padriac’s pet burro dies as a result of ingesting one of the digits. Grief-stricken and enraged,  Padriac tells Colm that he will burn down the latter’s cottage while Colm is in it, warning Colm to make sure his former friend’s dog is outside. Padriac carries out his threat, rescuing the dog,  only to learn that Colm escaped the inferno.

Colm suggests to Padriac, that, with the burning of his cottage, their feud might end. Padriac  eesponds that would have been the case only if Colm had died in the fire. In a cryptic ending, as Padriac turns to leave, Colm thanks him for looking after his dog, and Padriac responds. “Any  time.”

Gov. Appoints Dr. Fanning, Others to Boards

In June, the Governor announced that he reappointed Dr. John T. Fanning of Jefferson to the  Traumatic Head and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund Advisory Board. Dr. Fanning is a clinical  psychologist. He will serve as a representative of an organization recognized for its work in  advocacy programs for persons with traumatic head injuries.

In September the governor announced additional appointments, including:

Rebecca L. Mandal-Blasio of Mandeville has been appointed to the Louisiana Behavior Analyst  Board. Ms. Mandal-Blasio is senior clinical director of Learn Behavioral LLC, Autism Spectrum  Therapies. She will serve as a behavior analyst nominated by the Louisiana Behavior Analysis Association.

Courtney B. Wright of New Orleans has been appointed to the Louisiana Behavior Analyst  Board. Ms. Wright works with Children’s Autism Center, LLC. She will serve as a behavior analyst nominated by the Louisiana Behavior Analysis Association.

Laura J. Fazio-Griffith, Ph.D. of Baton Rouge was reappointed to the Louisiana Licensed Professional Counselors Board of Examiners. Fazio-Griffith is a licensed professional counselor  and associate professor of counseling at Southeastern Louisiana University. She was nominated by the Louisiana Counseling Association and will serve as a counselor educator.

Amanda E. Johns, Ph.D. of New Orleans was appointed to the Louisiana Licensed Professional  Counselors Board of Examiners. Johns is an assistant professor with Nicholls State University. She will serve as an educator who is a licensed professional counselor and whose function is  the training of mental health counselors in accredited programs.

Roy A. Salgado Jr., Ph.D., of New Orleans, was reappointed to the Louisiana Licensed  Professional Counselors Board of Examiners. Salgado is a licensed professional counselor  supervisor and licensed marriage and family therapist supervisor. He is a professor of  counselor education and supervision at the University of Holy Cross. He was nominated by the Louisiana Counseling Association and will serve as a counselor educator.

Chastity A. Butler of Monroe has been appointed to the Licensed Professional Counselors Board of Examiners. Ms. Butler is clinical director of Seaside Healthcare. She will serve as a licensed professional counselor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Board to Take Control Over Psychologists’ Assistants

The state psychology board is proposing new rules and regulations to govern the use of  assistants to Psychologists. The notice for new rules was published in the November issue of  the Louisiana Register. The proposed rules include the conditions for the use of assistants , the responsibilities of supervising psychologists, and the disciplinary activities that the board may engage in for those registered as assistants.

The new oversight conditions stem from the 2021 House Bill 477, legislation put forth by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, now Act 238.

HB 477, authored by Representative Joe Stagni, was a compromise measure following the downsizing of a 23-page bill introduced by the psychology board in 2020 and then again in 2021. Under pressure from opponents, the board agreed to substitute a fee bill, telling sources  that without the increased fees the board would not be able to operate in the future. This message resonated with the majority of those attending a special meeting of the Louisiana  Psychological Association called for by petition of those opposing the measure.

The language reads:

§2354. Fees

(4) The board shall charge an application fee for the initial registration of each assistant to a psychologist that shall not exceed fifty dollars. The board shall adopt rules in  accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act to implement the provisions of this Paragraph.

Sources from both the state board and the Louisiana Psychological Association that supported  the measure acknowledged that the new regulation was an attempt to raise revenue for the board, which has been struggling financially for a number of years.

The public may submit comments and criticism to the boards office by noon on December 12.  According to the notice, “LSBEP will conduct a Public Hearing at Noon on December 16, 2022, at  the board office located at 4334 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Suite C-150, Baton Rouge, LA 70816.  All interested persons are invited to attend and present data, views, comments, or arguments,  orally or in writing.”

The Louisiana Register’s Notice of Intent for new rules and regulations includes the following: 

§1101. Conditions for Utilization of Assistants
A. Upon employment of an ATAP, [Assistant to a Psychologist] but prior to assisting in psychological duties, the Supervising Psychologist shall submit a complete application for initial  registration, required registration fee, and documentation on such form and in such manner as  may be prescribed by the board to demonstrate that the registrant meets all of the following criteria:
1. is 18 years of age or older;
2. possesses a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent;
3. is of good moral character as determined by a criminal background check conducted under  the authority of R.S. 37:2356.1 and the provisions of this Part;
4. is not in violation of any of the provisions of the La. Revised Statutes Title 37, Chapter 28.  Psychologists; or the Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 46, Part LXIII; or any provision governing the practice of psychology under the jurisdiction of the board;
5. is qualified, or will receive supervised training commensurate with the services to be performed and is under the direct and continuous supervision of the Supervising Psychologist  as defined in this Chapter.
B. Prior to the approval of any registration, the registrant shall initiate a criminal background check from the Louisiana State Police, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information in accordance with this Part, and the criminal history records information report must be received  and cleared by the board.
C. Upon review of the application, the board shall notify the licensed psychologist of record that the application and evidence submitted for registration is satisfactory and the registration has  been approved; or that the application or evidence is unsatisfactory and rejected; or other pending status. If the application is rejected, a notice from the board shall include the reasons for the rejection.

§1103. Responsibilities of Supervisors
A. The Supervising Psychologist:
1. is responsible for the registration and renewal of an assistant to a psychologist in conformity  with this Chapter on such form and in such manner as prescribed by the board;
2. directs the provision of psychological services to clients;
3. is administratively, clinically, ethically, functionally, and legally responsible for all activities of the Assistant to a Psychologist;
4. is accountable for the planning, course and outcome of the work. The conduct of supervision  shall ensure the welfare of the client, and the ethical and legal protection of the assistant;
5. is responsible for general communication regarding the needs of the clients and services rendered;
6. is responsible for continuing professional supervision of the ATAP;
7. provides general professional supervision of the ATAP that shall include one cumulative hour  per week as a minimum for direct supervisory contact:
B. Neglect in maintaining the above standards of practice may result in disciplinary action  against the supervisor’s license to practice, including suspension or revocation.

§1109. Exceptions to the Registration of an Assistant to a Psychologist
A. The provisions of this Section shall not apply to the following:
1. a medical psychologist utilizing assistants under the provisions of RS 37:1360.61 under the  jurisdiction of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.
2. an individual licensed under this part as a licensed specialist in school psychology who is  providing services defined under RS 37:2356.3.

§1107. Denial, Revocation, or Lapse of a Registration for an Assistant to a Psychologist
A. and take such actions permitted under RS  37:2351-2378, et al in matters involving the ATAP and/or their supervisor. The board has the authority to conduct investigations
B. The board may deny or revoke the registration of an assistant to a psychologist (ATAP) that is  in the best interest of public health, safety, and welfare for any unethical, unlawful, or other  unprofessional conduct under the jurisdiction of the board.
C. Immediate action may be taken to administratively suspend an ATAP’s registration in the  event information is received that the action(s) of an ATAP is causing harm to clients, is  otherwise likely to cause harm to future clients or patients, or the action(s) is unethical or  unlawful. Such action may be taken in instances including but not limited to falsifying  information in an application; and/or receipt of information involving an arrest, warrant for an  arrest, or conviction of the ATAP. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNO’s Dr. Harshaw Studies Tylenol

University of New Orleans psychology professor Dr. Christopher Harshaw is uncovering the  possible link between a common pain reliever and developmental disorders. His findings have  been published in the October issue of Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, as reported  by UNO Campus news.

Dr. Harshaw was awarded a oneyear grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents for the  research, which focused on the developmental reaction that mice have to acetaminophen, best known by its popular brand name version, Tylenol.

In the UNO article, Harshaw said, “Several epidemiological studies have linked the use of acetaminophen in infants and young children to attention deficit and autism spectrum disorder  in humans. Studies in animals have also shown long-term changes in brain in behavior after  exposure to acetaminophen early in life. Most had nevertheless neglected the question of how acetaminophen interacts with inflammation early in life. We emphasize that, though  provocative, our results do not support a simple conclusion regarding the relative danger vs.  safety of (acetaminophen exposure) early in life.”

What are the most important applications of his findings?

“Though our results are provocative, we emphasize the need for caution. That is, the results of  our initial study do not support a simple conclusion regarding the relative danger of APAP  [acetaminophen] early in life for humans. First, our study has a number of limitations. We thus  plan to replicate these results and refine our methods in future experiments. Critically, we also  documented a significantly protective effect of APAP against a novel inflammation-induced morphological change in these same mice (see Harshaw & Warner, 2021). Given that a number  of prior studies have reported neuroprotective effects of APAP in specific contexts and brain cell types,” he explained, “future studies must investigate potential beneficial effects of APAP  against changes in the developing brain induced by early-life inflammation.”

As stated at the conclusion of the paper, “A key implication of our findings is that no simple  conclusion regarding the relative safety vs. danger of APAP early in life is yet possible. In fact, it  may be that inflammation and APAP constitute a developmental Scylla and Charybdis. Further  research is needed, however, to ascertain the veracity and boundaries of this claim, including  the conditions—genetic, epigenetic, and experiential—that may interact to canalize atypical  developmental trajectories in response to these common early life exposures” (Harshaw &  Warner, 2022).”

What are some more of his recent publications?

“My lab’s recent papers have focused on the effects of early life exposures on behaviors relevant to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in mice. In particular, we’ve focused on exposure  of the mother to antibiotics (during pregnancy and nursing) and exposure of the pups to  acetaminophen early in development. Our paper on antibiotic (ABx) exposure found significant  differences in microbiome diversity following perinatal ABx that were far more pronounced in  male than in female offspring. We also found a number of subtle differences in behavior in these pups during the early postnatal period. However, we also showed that some of these  behavioral differences were, in fact, the result of significant deficits in temperature regulation in these animals, induced by ABx,” said Dr. Harshaw.

“Our paper on acetaminophen (APAP) examined how APAP interacts with inflammation early in ife to influence ASDrelevant behavior. This is an important question given that confound by  undication is a significant issue in the human epidemiological literature and early life sickness  and infection are also risk factors for neurodevelopmental disorders. We found distinct effects  of inflammation and APAP, with APAP increasing social caution in males but not females. We  also found significant interaction between inflammation and APAP, with ‘two hit’ inflammation +APAP females showing significantly greater levels of anxiety and ‘two hit’ males showing  levated levels of social avoidance.”

Can he tell us about his laboratory?

“My laboratory is called the Mechanisms Underlying Sociality (MUS) Lab and is located in the  Department of Psychology at the University of New Orleans (UNO).  It consists of a ‘wet lab’,  rooms in the animal facility, and office space. I currently have three Ph.D. students and a  number of undergraduate RAs in my lab. Two of the Ph.D. students are conducting their own  experiments in rodent models, and one is conducting a study examining the thermal correlates of social anxiety in human participants.”

What is his agenda for the coming years?

“In the coming years I plan to continue to focus on exploring the mechanisms underlying effects of early-life APAP on behavior. Using funds from the Louisiana Board of Regents (BoR), for  example, we recently purchased an Agilent ‘Seahorse’ mitochondrial analyzer and a vibratome  for slicing unfixed brain tissue. We will soon begin examining whether APAP induces long-term  mitochondrial damage in specific populations of neurons early in life.”

What is it like at UNO and how are things with the new chair?

“UNO is a great place to teach and conduct research–I am excited about continuing my career  here! The new chair, Dr. Refinetti, has also done a great deal to stabilize and grow the  department. Under his leadership the Department is in a far better position to adapt and meet  the changing needs of our students and community.”

Dr. Harshaw earned his Ph.D. in Developmental Science, with a specialization in Developmental  Psychobiology, at Florida International University in Miami. Since the Fall of 2017 he has been  an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Orleans.

Who Profits? The 50th Percentile EPPP Cut-Off

In January a group of psychologists from the Louisiana Association for Psychological Science  submitted a complaint to the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists saying that  the Board is inappropriately using the national licensing exam in a way that discriminates  against Blacks and other minorities, denying their property rights.

The crux of the matter is in the use of the 50th percentile as a pass-fail hurdle for the national examination. This cut-off automatically eliminates half of the candidates seeking a license, all of  which hold doctoral degrees and are otherwise qualified. The cut-off is recommended by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards  ASPPB) and uniformly accepted by the states.

The authors of the complaint said that the cut-off  of the 50th percentile increased the likelihood of “adverse impact” and therefore,  discrimination.

Authors cited the research of Dr. Brian Sharpless, PhD, associate professor at the American  School of Professional Psychology, who in 2018 used a Freedom of Information Act to obtain  exam results from the New York state board of psychology.

Sharpless gathered data on 4892 applicants and their exam scores over a 25-year period and  found that 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%. Sharpless  has found similar problems in Connecticut. Whites had a 5.75% failure rate, Blacks had a  23.33% failure rate, and Hispanics had a 18.6% failure rate.

Differences in pass rates constitute adverse impact and according to the EEOC, can be taken as  discrimination, unless proven otherwise with careful research.

The request for an investigation was denied by the Louisiana board.

In this report, we review the context, conflicts of interest, and the involvement of the  Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards in the decisions of Louisiana gatekeepers.

Racial discrimination

By law, an applicant for a state psychology license must pass a national exam, but the law does  not indicate the cut-off for passing. That detail is set by the rules of the state board. In 1983 the  rule was that the applicant had to pass at the 25th percentile. Between that time and now the  cut-off has been changed to the 50th percentile. This score fails 50% of test takers, including  those who fall in the bottom half of the average range.

Several sources confirm that the higher the cut-off is set the more likely adverse impact will be  found and a discriminatory result.

According to an ASPPB report, the exam is developed by creating test items coming from a  sample of survey respondents who are psychologists. However, 85.4% of those responding are white, while only 2.6% responding are Black. Only 3.6% are Hispanic.

Furthermore, Louisiana contributed only 1/2 of one percentage point to the total respondents. In comparison, California contributed 21.6%, Michigan contributed 5.8%, and Ontario  contributed 6.4%.

Blacks and individuals from Louisiana are significantly underrepresented in the test  development process.

One Black candidate told the Times, “We’ve known for a long time that the test discriminates– we learned it in graduate school. But there’s nothing we, as students, can do about it.”

Michael Cunningham, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Africana Studies and Associate Provost at  Tulane, points to potential problems with item development.

“Like all standardized exams, people with the highest pass rates tend to very similar in racial  and ethnic backgrounds as the test developers,” he said. “For many standardized tests, experts  examine items for bias when there is an adverse impact of a question for males or females. In  these cases, when bias still exists after an item analysis, the question is excluded. I don’t think  similar considerations are done for racial/ethnic or SES backgrounds.”

One business psychologist said that in the private sector the ASPPB’s approach would not be  accepted. “Business owners would not take the risk of having adverse impact. We would be adjusting cut-offs and adding unbiased tests to the overall selection program, so that our clients could avoid adverse impact.”

An additional weakness in the use of the national exam is that there is no research connection  to outcomes, those that score better are not proven to be better psychologists. ASPPB acknowledges the exam limitations. On their webpage officials state, “There is no suggestion  that people who do better on the EPPP [the exam] will be better practitioners.”

Industrial-organizational psychologist Dr. William Costelloe, who works in the private sector,  agrees. There is no other choice these days, he told the Times, “… predictive validation studies must be conducted.”

Criticisms have been mostly dismissed by officials at the ASPPB. In an answer published in the  American Psychologist, APPB employees Drs. Matthew Turner, John Hunsley and Emil Rodolfa defended their decisions. “The standards emphasize that licensure/credentialing examinations  are built from a content validation framework, and this framework is used for licensure examinations across professions,” they said.

In April 2018, then ASPPB CEO, Dr. Stephen DeMers, met with members of the Louisiana State  Board of Examiners of Psychologists and representatives of Louisiana Psychological Association  (LPA).

About 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.  There do not seem to be any plans to obtain predictive validity…”.

Dr. Marc Zimmermann, past LSBEP board member, also attended. “He [Dr. DeMers] stated that  there is no predictive validity,” said 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.”

Additionally, there is little evidence of a public safety problem requiring a high cut-off.

“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, who spearheaded a  Resolution opposing the addition of a second exam. “Trainees are already held to high  standards through a variety of benchmarks.”

Statistics support her claim. Data from their own ASPPB Disciplinary Data System: Historical  Discipline Report show rates of disciplinary actions for psychologists to be consistently low. For  an estimated 125,000 psychologists in the US and Canada, the disciplinary rates remain around  1–2 per 1,000.

Who Profits? ASPPB Sells the National Exam

ASPPB’s main income producing product is the national exam, generating 94 percent of their  total revenues.

The ASPPB sells the EPPP, the national exam, to candidates who are required to take the exam by the state boards, and the state boards are members of ASPPB. 

According to the most recent information posted by the IRS, the exam and related services  generated $6,137,348 in 2018. This accounted for 94% of the Association’s 2018 income.

Exam income was $5,378,524 in 2017, and $4,916,406 in 2016. Total revenue for 2018 was  $6,505,651. Revenue for 2017 was $6,645,731 and $5,933,473 for 2016. GuideStar estimates  their assets at $11,013,348.

ASPPB is a 501(c) tax-exempt corporation whose official mission is to, “Facilitate communication among member jurisdictions about licensure, certification, and mobility of professional  psychologists.”

The “members” are the approximately 64 regulatory boards from across the United States and  Canada. These boards pay dues to ASPPB. The Louisiana Board’s records note they pay approximately $2,500 for annual ASPPB dues.

But the associations goals appear to go beyond facilitating communication. In their 2016 “Game Plan,” they listed their primary goal as, “1. offering exemplary examination and credentialing programs.”

They report a total of $2,278,482 for compensation of key employees, other salaries and wages, contributions to pension plans, employee benefits and payroll taxes.

In 2018, the CEO, M. Burnetti-Atwell, received pay and benefits of $255,936. In 2017, Dr. Steven  DeMers, then CEO, received $270,784.

“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.

Examples of this appear to include items like travel, which includes travel for spouses or  companions. The organization spent $949,483 on travel in 2018 and $1,169,743 on travel in  2017.

Some years ago, ASPPB appears to have embraced a more aggressive corporate strategy. An  insider told the Times, “In 2010 or somewhere around that time they [ASPPB] were in New  Orleans and they implied that they would be making a lot of money on the new test.”

In a Letter of Agreement from ASPPB to the boards in late 2012, ASPPB wrote that the exam is  “made available as a service to psychology licensure boards that are ASPPB members in good standing as signified by payment of membership dues.” ASPPB owns the intellectual property  rights to the EPPP and the data generated by the testing program, the authors also explained.

Prior to 2013 ASPPB contracted with Professional Examination Service (PES) for delivering the  EPPP. Each state or jurisdiction had a contract with PES. But in 2013 ASPPB informed the boards
that their contracts with PES were being “replaced with a contract between your jurisdiction and the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.”

In the letter, ASPPB officials wrote, “ASPPB and PES have agreed that it would be simpler and  more appropriate for ASPPB to contract directly with the 64 psychology regulatory agencies that are members of ASPPB.”

ASPPB said that the change would be “mutually beneficial because ASPPB can now provide a  simplified agreement that is more specific to the needs of psychology licensure boards. In  addition, the renewal of contracts is expected to be more efficient…” And, “Finally, as voting  members of ASPPB, each jurisdiction exercises more oversight of this important examination  service by contracting directly with ASPPB for examination services.”

One undisclosed insider thinks the corporate objective for ASPPB is to be a central source for  regulation of psychologists. “They want to ultimately do all the licensing and regulating for  psychology,” said the insider. “They want to regulate all the telepsychology.” And, “They want to  be the Walmart.”

ASPPB protects its turf. “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 members only.

They communicate a strict policy of confidentiality, “The authority to correspond with other  individuals, committees or organizations and express the opinions or position of the  Association is reserved for the current President of the Association and/or the Chief Executive Officer or his designee and/or the Board of Directors.

“To ensure acknowledgment of this Spokesperson Policy, and to verify necessary confidentiality  compliance, the Association requires a signed confidentiality agreement by all Committee/Task  Force and chair members, …”

*****

Who profits from the 50th percentile cut-off? Not the public. There is no evidence of a safety  problem that would be corrected by a high cut-off score. On the contrary, this situation has  contributed to the severe shortage of psychologists in Louisiana, with only one for every 6,000  citizens.

Who profits? The IRS notes that the 501(c) 6 “… may not be organized for profit to engage in an  activity ordinarily carried on for profit (even if the business is operated on a cooperative basis  or produces only enough income to be self-sustaining).” The ASPPB is profitable.

These problems might start with the ASPPB, but legally and morally they land at the doorstep of every state psychology board. The situation hits Louisiana particularly hard. While only 4% of  licensed psychologists nationwide are African-Americans, Louisiana has a 34% Black population,  a group chronically underserved by mental health professionals. Louisiana is  specifically in need of psychologists who understand the Black experience. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jungian Analyst & Author Dr. Del McNeely Finds Psychotherapy in Decline

Jungian Psychoanalyst and author, Dr. Del McNeely, in her book, Mercury Rising: Women, Evil  and the Trickster Gods, explains the value of the Trickster archetype.

The Trickster plays a critical role in psychotherapy, says McNeely. As an archetype of transition,  the Trickster can guide the journey of “individuation” that is essential in psychotherapy. The  Trickster mediates between the conscious and unconscious world, Dr. McNeely points out, a  needed requirement in psychotherapy for truth and psychological growth.

In her book Becoming, she considers the issue that personal growth for the individual is being  dismissed by both the profession and the medical industrial complex. What does she think are  the main problems with today’s marketplace and the dismissive approach to individuals’ growth and development?

“I believe the more we uncover, the more light shines through onto the conscious world and the wider and deeper our vision becomes,” Dr. McNeely said.

“Medication can help us feel better, but it does not get us to any new information about our  complex selves. Only talking and opening to new thinking can do that. After listening to my  interview with Laura London, I wondered, ‘Did I get across the sense that individuating implies  that one becomes, not more introverted and self-obsessed, but more aware of one’s  responsibility to society?’ I do address this in the book, but I may not have focused much on it in the interview. A consequence of individuating is that one recognizes the importance of  contributing to one’s fellow human beings with empathy, compassion, and active participation  in society.”

Dr. McNeely recently heard an interview with a prominent psychiatrist who presides over an  eminent medical complex, and he spoke for one hour about the problem of the shortage of  Adderall and other anxiety reducing drugs. He talked about how this was attempted to be  handled, how people could minimize their concerns until the drug was replaced, but Dr.  McNeely said she was shocked he never once mentioned psychotherapy. This should be  distressing she noted, in view of the many studies that show how talk therapy is much more  successful than medication alone in treating anxiety, depression, insomnia, obsessive- compulsive, and other psychiatric disorders.

Does she have any ideas for how this can be remedied?

“You can’t accompany someone to a level of consciousness you have not attained yourself,” Dr.  McNeely said. “There is great satisfaction in resolving a complex that has held power over you  for years; to feel compulsions resolve and give way to conscious choices; to watch resentments  and hatreds unravel and disappear in good will; to feel gratitude replace bitterness; to see a  third solution to opposites that were impossible to resolve previously; to see the larger of  several possibilities; to recognize old ego problems you have outgrown; to have a wider vision, a larger container for truth; to find attitudes soften and bodily tensions relax.”

And what is her advice to psychotherapists in today’s culture?

“Experience in depth psychotherapy should be part of every psychologist’s training. Enjoy the  privilege of being present as people examine their souls,” said Dr. McNeely. “Psychologists  should plan financially to include a sliding scale payment plan in which long-term patients can  afford, as well as offering some pro-bono work for the benefit of the community. Enjoy  gratitude. Psychotherapists know the value of Jung’s approach through clinical results, that is,  watching people enlarge their consciousness and change their attitudes and behavior,  transforming their suffering into psychological well-being.

“However, psychology’s fascination with behavioral techniques, made necessary by financial  concerns and promoted by insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, has changed  the nature of psychotherapy, and has attempted to dismiss the wisdom of Jung and other  pioneers of the territory of the unconscious mind,” Dr. McNeely said.

Dr. McNeely is a founding member of the New Orleans Jungian Training Seminar, an  organization that trains analysts as part of the Inter-regional Society of Jungian Analysts, and  she remains on the faculty. She is also advisor to the C.G. Jung Society of New Orleans.

“I consider the society a valuable asset to our culture, as we try to present a vision of  psychoanalysis to the public that is more than the Freudian model that was so popular in the  mid-1900s. Freud and Jung both understood the importance of the unconscious.”

What have been some of the most satisfying experiences she has had in mentoring and training others?

“In practicing analysis this observation of Jung has brought me great satisfaction as I can watch  person expand their range of awareness beyond their personal being and become more  conscious of their connection to a larger reality,” Dr. McNeely said. “Most people begin analysis  with uncovering their repressed early history (Freud) and continue on to discover the energetic  center that Jung describes. This is a transformation that is very rewarding for me.”

Dr. McNeely is distinguished in the community for her books and plays. Among her  publications, she has authored four books on Jungian psychology – Touching: Body Therapy &  Depth Psychology; Animus Aeternus: Exploring the Inner Masculine; Mercury Rising: Women,  Evil, & the Trickster Gods; and Becoming: An Introduction to Jung’s Concept of Individuation.

“I’ve also written a memoir,” she explained, “A Russian Lullaby, about my three years in the  Soviet Union. And my one-act play, Visions of Genius, addresses the relationship between Jung, James Joyce, and his daughter Lucia. It was performed on the  evening of March 18, 2016, to benefit the C.G. Jung Society of New Orleans.”

An Atheist, a Priest, and a Jungian Analyst Walk into a Bar, another one-act play, written and  directed by Dr. McNeely, was performed in 2019, also as a fund raiser for the C.G. Jung Society of New Orleans. The actors, all volunteers, gave a staged reading at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of  New Orleans where the Jung Society programs are held.

The play puts forth ideas about many controversial topics in the public awareness today,  explained Dr. McNeely. Examples are: the existence of God; the status of women; attitudes  toward abortion, the clergy and celibacy; college politics; student disquietude; intolerance of  different religions and races; the importance of imagination.

Dr. McNeely said in a previous interview with Laura London, “My books have come about when  something in my life spoke to me and wanted to be expanded upon, like the Trickster complex,  women’s poetry, etc. But I think my main object in writing and speaking is to convey the experience of contentment that comes when we expand consciousness and that connection to  a larger self is made and felt.” She further stated in the interview, “That was a fundamental motive in writing Becoming. I feel  so strongly that someone has to convey this message to young people. You can learn through  talk-therapy to change most problem areas that cause trouble in your life. It takes longer but is  in the end healthier and more rewarding than taking medications and drugs to change behavior faster. Find an analyst you feel compatible with and talk on a regular basis. Talk over your concerns, your feelings about the therapy and the therapist as well, your doubts, dreams,  failures, pride, hopes, traumas, loves, losses … all.”

Dr. McNeely received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Louisiana State University and has  held the Diplomate in Clinical Psychology through the American Board of Professional  Psychology for over 50 years. She studied at the C.G. Jung Institute Zürich and completed her training as an analyst with the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts in the United States.

How did she choose her career path?

“I began a lengthy psychoanalysis while in graduate school with a Freudian, the brilliant Ed  Knight,” Dr. McNeely said. “I then applied for training at his suggestion but was turned down  because the New Orleans training institute could not take another woman and non-MD at that  time. But several years later I learned about the Jung Institute in Switzerland and realized it was  even more to my inclination, and I was accepted there for training.”

“In graduate school of psychology at LSU, I had the good fortune of having some wonderful  clinicians as professors, like Tom Richards, Joe Dawson, Paul Young and others. They taught  that our best work required developing our most conscious selves. The therapist’s instrument of change is oneself. We were encouraged to seek therapy, to know  ourselves,” Dr. McNeely said.

Where did she get her training in Jungian Analysis and what was it like?

“After spending a year in Zurich, I could not afford to keep living abroad and had to continue  analytic training in the United States. Upon returning to the US, I learned about the newly  formed, InterRegional Society of Jungian Analysts and continued my training there,” she said.

“The training usually takes about 6 years, but I spent much longer due to taking time off to  marry and accompany my husband on his engineering job in the Ukraine. I was in training at  the InterRegional Society of Jungian Analysts from 1974 to 1986. I found the material more  difficult when I was first exposed to Jung’s ideas in Zurich, and so different from the Freudian  and behavioristic programs I was familiar with.

“But then I began to love the readings and discussions, and never tired of doing psychotherapy and analysis. And observing the growth of consciousness in each person. Training included seminars and classes, individual supervision of case work, mentoring and examinations by  committees who observed our progress, and continuing individual analysis,” Dr. McNeely said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changes Proposed for Fees, CPD, Neuropsychology, and Emertius

The Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists is proposing changes to fees, the continuing education rules, training, credentials and scope of practice for Neuropsychology specialty designation, and the rules for using an Emeritus title.

The proposed changes were noticed in the November issue of the Louisiana Register.

Changes to the continuing education requirements include the addition of two hours required credit for training in multiculturalism or diversity.

C. Within each reporting period, two of the required hours or credits of continuing professional development must be within the area of multiculturalism or diversity in accordance with the  limitations specified in §807.

Additionally, changes to continuing education include the board becoming a sponsor of training and new language for those wanting approval to offer continuing education.

The board also proposes to reinstall the Emeritus title for retired psychologists who are no  longer practicing psychology.

According to the notice:

§905. Psychologists Emeritus: Retired

A. A psychologist emeritus: retired is eligible to renew their emeritus status license provided  they submit such renewal application along with the annual renewal fee at the reduced rate  established under Chapter 6 of this Part; and are fully retired from the practice of psychology,  not rendering psychological services in any form, and are not engaging in any activity that might be construed as the practice of psychology within the state of Louisiana.

B. A psychologist emeritus is eligible to renew their current license until July 31 of each year upon submission of the required renewal fee and renewal application form and on showing that the licensee:

1. has been a licensed psychologist for a minimum of 20 years; 2. has no outstanding  complaints or ethical violations; 3. s subject to the LSBEP ethics code; 4. is retired from the  practice of psychology; 5. is only able to use the title psychologist emeritus: retired; 6. is not  required to complete CPD unless they want to reinstate as specified in Subsection C below.

C. A psychologist emeritus: retired is eligible to reinstate their status to Licensed Psychologist  and resume the independent practice of psychology in Louisiana upon submission of a  reinstatement application for licensure including the required reinstatement fee and fulfillment  of all continuing professional development requirements as defined under this Chapter, provided they are not in violation of any of the provisions of the Louisiana Revised Statutes,  Title 37 Chapter 28. Psychologists.

D. A psychologist emeritus returning to full practice after five or more years shall be subject to an oral examination prior to reinstatement to the status of licensed psychologist.

E. A licensee who renews their emeritus status shall be exempt from continuing professional development requirements. The Emeritus title was removed by the 2014-2015 board, because it confuses the public, said 2014 board chair Dr. Rita Culross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress Solutions

What happens to your Brain When you see a bird in Nature?

This was the title of a recent leading article in the National Geographic virtual magazine.  Obviously, it captured my attention and the more I read the more I realized that there is a  definite connection to stress reduction. A study done at King’s College London and published in  scientific reports (August 2022) examined the immediate effects on well-being when the study  subjects were in green spaces of nature and seeing/hearing birds at the same time. After  statistical analysis the data showed that people rated their well-being in the moment highest  when birds were present. The analysis eliminated the presence of nature (trees, plants, and water) thus isolating the positive effects of birds on human emotions. The positive effects were  found regardless of whether the participant had a prior diagnosis of depression/anxiety or no  mental health issues.

The 1,292 participants were volunteers who agreed to use a smartphone app to fill out a 5-point Likert scale (Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree) questionnaire when randomly pinged 3 times  a day for 2 weeks asking their current location (seeing plants or trees or water) and if they were seeing/hearing birds at that moment. They also completed 10 questions about their mental  well-being at that moment. Five questions asked about positive well-being (I am feeling  confident, relaxed, happy, connected to other people, and energetic). Five questions asked  about negative well-being (I am feeling anxious, stressed, down, lonely, and tired).

As this was the first such study, more data is required to make generalized statements. The  King’s College study participants were mostly white, middle-aged, college-educated, and  employed women. The findings raise questions about what is happening in our brains when we see birds or hear  bird song? Would a functional MRI pick that up? Can the same effects be found across cultures?  How long does the effect last?

This study has also prompted the exploration of theories as to why nature is so powerful at  reducing stress and improving present time wellbeing. One theory is that homosapiens evolved in nature and living in urban environments creates a constant background of stress. Thus, we can best recover in nature because that is where we evolved and were meant to be. A second  theory is called an attention restoration theory. It proposes that the constant strain of daily life- stressful commutes and constant Zoom calls-requires intense focus. Being in nature allows us  to disengage from such an intense focus. Of course (as you might have already thought),  neither theory accounts for the birds! Still, explore this for yourself. For example, do you agree  that seeing a hummingbird sends an immediate burst of joy.

A Christmas Story/A Christmas Story Christmas

The holiday season is upon us, and I began thinking about a Christmas film. A few years ago, I  reviewed several versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the December issue of Psychology  Times, and on another occasion It’s a Wonderful Life. It came to my attention that there is a third Christmas classic—one that I had never seen, and that the famous movie critic Roger Ebert has characterized as having acquired iconic status.

Since 1997 Turner Classic Movies has featured a 24-hour marathon beginning on Christmas Eve of the 1983 MGM film A Christmas Story. I thought that deserved a pre-holiday look. Then I read that the iconic original had spawned a 2022 sequel, Warner Brothers A Christmas Story  Christmas. That committed me to a mini-binge, watching the icon and its sequel, both of which  are available on HBO Max.

The iconic original is a narrated 1940 Christmas reminiscence by the protagonist, Ralphie Parker as an adult, interspersed with episodes recreating key moments in his growing up in Hohman,  Indiana. As a nine year-old, Ralphie had yearned for a Red Ryder 200-shot BB rifle, an ache that would be familiar to any young male of my generation. The film’s episodes recreate Ralphie’s interactions with his grumpy father, his cliché-bound mother, his feckless younger brother, his  stern elementary school teacher, his classroom and playground buddies and the neighborhood bully as he struggles to find a way to get Santa to bring him his heart’s desire. The nostalgia is as thick and rich as a fruitcake as the movie moves toward its conclusion. Ralphie manages to reconcile himself to the failure of his multiple strategies to acquire the gun, but his grumpy Dad points out an overlooked package. So Ralphie can drift off to sleep with rifle by his side, savoring the best Christmas ever.

Now the sequel. Thirty-three years later Ralphie is married, with two children of his own, living in Chicago struggling unsuccessfully to get the 2000-page novel that he has taken a year off to write published. On the eve of a planned Christmas visit by his parents, Ralphie learns that his father has unexpectedly died. Ralphie and his family drive to Hohman to be with the widow and to celebrate, as best they can, the holiday. Ralphie must not only take on the role of pater  familias, but write an obituary for his Dad.

His having given up his job to focus on the novel has constrained their financial resources, but he and his wife manage to provide for Christmas gifts, only to have them stolen from their car. Ralphie re-engages with his former schoolmates as the couple tries to prepare their children for a skimpy Yule.

Rather than an obituary, Ralphie writes an account of his childhood’s “best Christmas ever” as a  tribute to his father. It is published in the local paper and Ralphie becomes recognized as a  nationally syndicated author.

Whether intended or not, the psychoanalytic implications of a  father and son relationship centered on the gift of a gun are manifold, and Freud’s remarks on  the massive impact of a father’s death are well known. But at Christmas, perhaps, a fruitcake  can be taken to be just that: a gustatory treat. coming to see that compassion trumps vengeance, an outcome that seems a bit forced. And at the end of the three hours of screen  time, I was both glad to see the curtains closing—and  ready for the first sequel.

Piggy

A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD

I need to begin this review with a disclaimer: this film is disturbing, both because stirs up the deep prejudice about the body dysmorphia we call obesity and because of its plot complexities. It is troubling in a third way as well. It combines acting so convincing that it has a documentary feel, and loose ends that belie the extraordinarily artful mashup of humor, pathos, bildungsroman and gore.

This 2022 film, now showing at theaters, is also available on Amazon Prime and other streaming services. It is an expansion of a short film with the same title released a few years earlier, both versions written and directed by Carlota Pereda and filmed in northern Spain. The original won several awards, which doubtless contributed to Pereda’s decision to prepare this one, her major film debut. English subtitles with speakers’ identification that sometimes obscure the text is one of the rough edges that, along with loose ends in the plotting, sometimes suggest an amateurish documentary. But Laura Galán’s stunning capture of young Sara’s rage and shame about her dysmorphia and her world’s reaction to it is award-worthy. One forgets that she is playing a role—and maybe the documentary feel is intentional. Her parents, played by Carmen  Manchi and Julian Valcárcel are also outstanding.

The movie opens with unsettling clips of the butcher shop operations of Sara’s family’s business, a foreshadowing of the Stephen King like elements later in the movie. The plot line is this. Sara, while trying to take advantage of a swimming opportunity, is subjected to cruel teasing about her fatness by her peers. She becomes involved in a murder scene and subsequent serial abductions. The outcome, after a series of genuinely startling turns that I will not reveal, has a rom com element that seemed surprisingly flat after the wrenching jolts that preceded it.

Do I recommend the film? I was impressed and a bit shaken by it, an unusual reaction to a film for me. If you are open to such an experience, take a deep breath and prepare to be troubled and surprised.

Dr. Mixon Honored for LGBTQ+ Advocacy

The Louisiana Psychological Association named Dr. Clifton Mixon for their 2022 Award for  Psychology in the Public Interest, announced at the Spring meeting.

“This award is given to an individual who has made significant scholarly or practical contributions to the health and well-being of the general public through their work in psychology,” said Dr. Amanda Raines, spokesperson for the association.

“This year we are recognizing Dr. Clifton Mixon. Despite being early in his career, Dr. Mixon  serves as an active member of the LPA legislative committee, which meets weekly during the  legislative session. In the 2021 legislative session, he took on a leadership role coordinating LPA’s efforts in advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Dr. Mixon has ensured that  LPA is aware of legislation impacting the LGBTQ+ community and that such efforts remain an  active priority for LPA’s advocacy. He even testified on behalf of psychologists who care for  those in the LGBT+ community twice in the legislature this past year. In addition to his roles  within LPA, he serves on several community organizations to advance and promote the well-being and interests of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community,” said Dr. Raines.

According to information from Oschner, Dr. Mixon received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and Southeastern Louisiana University  in Hammond, respectively. He received a doctor of philosophy in child and adolescent clinical psychology from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

His publications include: Incremental Benefits of a Daily Report Card Over Time for Youth with  Disruptive Behavior: Replication and Extension. School Mental Health. 12:507-522; Leveraging  Technology to Facilitate Teachers’ Use of a Targeted Classroom Intervention: Evaluation of the Daily Report Card.Online (DRC.O) System. School Mental Health. 11:665-677.

Dr. Mixon is licensed by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and has been  on staff at Ochsner since 2019. Dr. Mixon’s expertise is in treating children and adolescents with acute, chronic or recurring medical problems and providing affirming care to gender diverse youth.