Category Archives: Features

Stress Solutions

What do Jazz Fest and Stress Have in Common?

Do you like music? To New Orleanians, Jazz Fest means good music, and lots of it. So, you might  ask what could Jazz Fest and Stress possibly have in common? My answer is “MUSIC!” The reason is that one of the best ways to relax and reduce built-up stress is music.

Why is music such a good way to relax? There are many answers, but the key answer is also the  key to stress. It is simple really. Music is a great way to relax and reduce stress because it can stop you from thinking. And, thinking is the #1 trigger for stress.

Thinking generally produces cortisol. To reduce the buildup of cortisol, you have to stop  thinking. That is why focusing on your breathing, mindfulness, meditation, or exercise are great  stress relievers. Most of the time if you are practicing mindfulness or meditation, you are not  thinking and trying to solve a problem. You are burning cortisol when exercising so maybe it  does not belong in the same group. My point is that music can stop you from thinking.

There are major advantages to using music as your primary means of stress reduction. For one  thing, it is much more fun and pleasant and easy to do than most of the other things you can do to reduce cortisol. Music is usually easy to set up. Any type of music, well – almost – any type of  music will work. It can be playing in the background while working. Then you can take regular  breaks by sitting back and focusing on the music and clearing your mind of whatever you are  working on for a few minutes.

Music uses almost all the brain areas. I’m not sure if this is a fair statement, but music like good  jazz or classical seems to balance the nervous system. The more you can take a moment to pay attention to, focus on the music, the more it will work to relax you.

If at the same time, you  practice a little breathing while listening actively, you will be surprised how much 5 minutes like  that can do for you. You will feel ready to re-attack that stack of files on your desk.

So, how about putting on something you like to listen to, take a few deep breaths and then  maybe move a bit to the rhythm. Shrug those shoulders. Relax your neck and shut your eyes for a minute. When you catch yourself in that big yawn, then you know you were successful. You  reduced the cortisol. I think I will take some of my own advice right now.

Dr. Slaton Named 2022 Distinguished Psychologist by LPA

Dr. Karen Slaton, who has been at the forefront of psychology’s transition to integrated health care for most if not all of her career, and engaged in practice, research, and teaching, has been named the 2022 Distinguished Psychologist by the Louisiana Psychological Association.

Dr. Slaton is the Program Manager of Behavioral Medicine/Health Psychology/Primary Care  Mental Health Integration at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. She developed and manages the Primary Care Mental Health Integration Program at the Care  System. She implements the Veterans Administration mandated effort to fully integrate  behavioral health as part of the extended Patient Aligned Care Team. This team consists of  psychiatry, social work, nursing and psychology, and is essential in assuring veteran access to same-day care.

Dr. Slaton also coordinates behavioral medicine services, such as services for pain, palliative  care, cardiology, physical medicine & rehabilitation, and integrated health services (including  yoga and hypnosis).

Dr. Slaton also serves in additional roles including Health Behavior Coordinator, Pain Psychologist, Complimentary Integrated Health VISN lead and Lead Tobacco Cessation Clinician.  She provides health promotion and disease prevention services to veterans such as tobacco cessation and weight loss coaching.

She trains other clinicians in the Interdisciplinary Pain Program, Bariatric Treatment Team, and  Controlled Substances Oversite Board. She collaborates in other teams and committees  including Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Committee, Women’s Health Committee,  Employee Wellness Committee, and the Opioid Safety Initiative.

Dr. Slaton is Clinical Assistant Professor of Behavioral Sciences at Tulane University School of  Medicine and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Louisiana State University Health  Sciences Center School of Medicine. She provides invited lectures to trainees in the Tulane  School of Medicine Clinical Psychology Internship Training Program and the LSU School of  Medicine Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency Program.

Dr. Slaton is an APA accredited clinical psychology internship and postdoctoral fellowship  Training Committee Member, providing didactic training and supervision to interns and post- doctoral fellows in the areas of primary care mental health and behavioral medicine.

Dr. Slaton is a nationally Approved Consultant in Clinical Hypnosis and a Registered Yoga  teacher.

Dr. Slaton has also owned and operated her own private practice through Northshore  Psychological Services, LLC, Covington, and the Center for Wellness and Peak Performance, LLC,  Covington. She provides a wide range of psychological services including psychotherapy, assessment and evaluation, consultation, and professional training. Her areas include posttraumatic stress disorder, marriage, couples and relationship counseling, food, weight and  body image issues including eating disorders and bariatric psychology, depression, anxiety,  sport and performance psychology, clinical and sports hypnosis, personal growth and  development and counseling patients with medical illness.

Dr. Amanda Raines announced the award in April, at the annual meeting of the Louisiana  Psychological Association. “This award is given to an individual who has made significant  contributions to psychology research, practice, or both, during the course of their career,” said Raines. “This year we are recognizing Dr. Karen Slaton. Dr. Slaton currently serves as the  Program Manager for Primary-Care Mental Health Integration and the Health Behavior  coordinator at the New Orleans VA. She is actively involved in more local and regional committees within the VA than I can count,” Raines said.

“She maintains academic appointments at Tulane and LSU and actively stays involved in both  training and research related endeavors. Dr. Slaton is certified by the American College of  Sports Medicine as an Exercise Physiologist and by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. She is also a certified & registered yoga teacher and somehow manages to incorporate all of  these skills into her integrative practice at the New Orleans VA.”

Dr. Slaton’s research includes:

Slaton, K. (2000). An investigation of the relationship between  parental bonding and body image disturbance among male and female college students. Dissertation.

Slaton, K. & Lyddon, W. (2000). Cognitive-experiential reprocessing and rape: A case study.  Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 14, 189-200.

Slaton, K. & Westphal, J. (1999). The Slaton-Westphal functional assessment inventory for adults  with serious mental illness: Development of an instrument to measure functional status and psychiatric rehabilitation outcome. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 23, 119-126

Raines, A. M.,  Primeaux, S. J., Ennis, C. R., Walton, J. L., Slaton, K. D., Vigil, J. O., Allan, N. P., Zvolensky, M. J.,  Schmidt, N. B., & Franklin, C. L. (2021). Posttraumatic stress disorder and pain
in veterans: Indirect association through anxiety sensitivity. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Vigil, J.O., Slaton, K.D., Raines, A.M., & Franklin, C.L. (2018, September). Examining the Effects of a Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Program among Veterans. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Pain Society, Atlanta, GA.

Lyddon, W., & Slaton, K. (2001). Promoting healthy body image and the prevention of eating disorders among adolescent women. In C. Juntunen & D. Atkinson (Eds.), Counseling strategies  for developmental concerns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Her training lectures are  numerous, and include: Use of Hypnotic Language in Non-hypnosis Clinical Encounters.  Presented at 6th Dabney Ewin, MD FACS Hypnosis Lecture. 2022 Tulane Brain and Behavior Conference.

Primary Care Psychology. Presented to Psychology Interns at Tulane University School of Medicine and Southeast Louisiana Veteran Health Care System.

Motivational Interviewing: Effective Communication with Veterans. Presented at the Southeast  Louisiana Veterans Health Care System 2020 Fall Women’s Health Summit.

Motivational Interviewing Skills for Dealing with Challenging Patient Encounters. Presented at LSUMC PM&R Pain Conference.

Behavioral Intervention for Chronic Pain. Presented at LSUMC Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Resident Didactic Lecture.

Motivational Interviewing. Presented to the LEND program staff at Louisiana State University  School of Medicine.

Motivational Interviewing Skills for Dealing with Challenging Patient Encounters. Presented at LSUMC PM&R Pain Conference.

“My career as occurred in phases,” Dr. Slaton said, “I started in academic medicine at Tulane School of Medicine and like many of my Tulane colleagues, left after hurricane Katrina for  private practice. I enjoyed a thriving practice in Covington for almost a decade before joining  the New Orleans VA 10 years ago. I always say I have the best job ever! I work as a clinical health psychologist in various medicine services and have the privilege of serving Veterans in honor of my grandfather who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in WWII,” she said.

“I’m lucky to be able to provide clinical hypnosis to Veterans and to teach hypnosis at the National level for the VA, teach a weekly yoga class to Veterans, lead the Primary Care Mental  Health Integration team, and serve the facility as a consultant for patient education. However,  my favorite part of all is training the next generations of psychologists in our APA accredited  internship and fellowship programs,” Dr. Slaton said

 

 

Stress Solutions

Acute Stress is Helpful…
Chronic Stress is Harmful

Of course, the key to successful management of stress is recognizing acute stress from chronic  stress. So many things stress us during the average day that it is hard to be aware of when  acute stress becomes chronic stress. Webster defines acute in this context as “characterized by  sudden onset…and lasting a short time.” Webster gives 136 synonyms and antonyms of acute. The word, acute, comes from the Latin word, acutus, meaning sharpened, pointed, having a  violent onset, and less than a 90-degree angle. If your nervous system is healthy, it redresses  itself when the acute stress is over and is better off for the process in many cases.

On the other hand, the meaning of chronic according to Mr. Webster is “continuing for a long  time or returning often.” Of interest, there are only 41 synonyms of the word, chronic. In medical care, an illness that lasts more than 90 days is considered chronic. The Greek root of  chronic is time. The psychological context of chronic stress is more like habitual, returning  often.

The difference between Helpful and Harmful is based on how successful the person is at  managing their stress. If a person is in a chronically stressful situation, good management has  to include frequent breaks during which you can clear your mind, think, and do something  relaxing and happy-making before returning to the stressful situation either in your mind or in  action.

So, there really are two important keys involved in keeping stress from becoming harmful: 1)  Learn how to recognize when you are in stress. 2) Learn how to best manage your stress to  keep it acute (i.e., by taking frequent breaks) and finding things you can do that are relaxing. Or, if your stress primarily comes from your mind and the fact that you have a busy mind and your  mind seldom or never shuts off, then finding a way to clear your mind long enough to reduce  the body’s stress reaction.

Sadly, many of us tend to deny that we are under stress, therefore failing to recognize it. There  are so many triggers and situations that produce the stress hormones, but none are as present  as our mind and thinking. Do you remember those childhood years when an adult might have  said: “What were you thinking?” And, the response was truthfully, “Nothing!”

Well, for most of us, those days are long gone. That is why the technique that is now called,  Mindfulness, is sweeping the world. It is easy to do for anyone and if done often enough it will  produce the desired result of a peaceful, quiet mind. Mindfulness only takes a minute or two to  do and the only thing most people have to do is sit back, close your eyes, focus on your  breathing, and spend a quiet, mindful minute or two. Try it right now. It only takes a minute.  Your To Do List can wait a moment.

Stress Solutions

Some Benefits of Keeping Indoor Plants Around

Nature walks and the beauty of nature have long been identified by philosophers and  researchers alike as a good method to reduce stress. So many of us do not live next to a  beautiful park or serene lake around which to walk or take a meditation break. The next best thing is keeping plants around your workplace.

Plants not only provide an oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, but also, they are natural things of  beauty. Plants capture the carbon dioxide in their environment and release oxygen into the  atmosphere. The process is called photosynthesis. The more carbon dioxide, the better the  plants thrive. A recent study indicates that as global warming increases, plants will actually take  in more carbon dioxide. Science backs up more benefits to keeping indoor plants around you. Indoor plants improve our mental health. And stress reduction just happens to be one of the  ways that indoor plants improve our mental health. Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor  Emeritus at the University of Vermont, has research that shows visual exposure (just seeing  plants) helps reduce stress in only five minutes.

An interesting study conducted at Washington State University (Lohr, et al. 1996. J. Environmental Horticulture) found that the presence of plants in a workplace helped reduce  stress levels of employees. The research was conducted in two computer labs, identical except for the plants present in one lab. The subjects in the lab with plants were 12% faster in reaction  time and their systolic blood pressure was lower (measure of stress). The subjects also reported feeling more attentive when surrounded by plants.

Plants in the same room while working increases a person’s ability to pay attention and stay  focused (J. Environmental Psychology). Flowers are even more impressive. Research at Rutgers  showed an immediate impact on happiness. One hundred percent of the people in the study  immediately responded with a smile.

Even more impressive is that a study published in 2010  that was performed in 101 Michigan high schools strongly supported the positive effects of  nature on students’ performance on standardized test scores. More students were planning to  attend college. The long-term implication for teachers is offer more lessons outside and keep plants in your classrooms. It will pay off in students grades and attention.

So, treat that forgotten Boston fern in the corner of your office or therapy room with a little  more respect! Plants are not just fluff for the decorator; having plants around us is improves  our lives in so many ways.

Experts Point to Alarming Trend of Increased Opioid Related Overdose Fatalities

A new report warns of soaring overdose deaths from the opioid crisis. Authors from the  Lancet’s, “Responding to the Opioid Crisis in North America and Beyond: Recommendations of  the Stanford-Lancet Commission,” published in February, said that in the USA and Canada, 2020 was the worst year on record for fatal opioid overdoses. The US overdoses rose 37%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that provisional data analysis  estimates for the 12 months ending in May 2021, there were 75,387 deaths from opioid toxicity.

Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of  drug overdose deaths, said the CDC, with 72.9% of opioid-involved overdose deaths involving  synthetic opioids. And, overdose deaths involving psychostimulants such as methamphetamine  are increasing with and without synthetic opioid involvement.

Also in February, Medscape reported a surge in the rate of Black Americans dying from a  combination of opioids and cocaine, an increase of 575%. The rate for White Americans  increased by 184%.

A recent analysis in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that in the South, deaths from  cocaine and opioids increased 26% per year among Black people, 27% per year among Latinx  people, and 12% per year among non-Hispanic Whites.

Dr. Marc Zimmermann is a neuropsychologist and medical psychologist in Baton Rouge, with over 30 years experience. He  is noted for his work in forensic psychology having testified in multiple states and jurisdictions, and he has been a consultant to many chemical dependency programs such as the Serenity Center and Lane Recovery Solutions. He is also a staff member at PTI in Baton Rouge.

Dr.  Zimmermann said that according to the Louisiana Department of Health, the bulk of all  recorded opioid overdose deaths occurred in the parishes of Southeast Louisiana. St. Tammany Parish experienced an average of over 47 opioid overdoses a year and Jefferson Parish  averaged over 71 opioid overdoses a year.

While their age-adjusted rates are not as high as St. Tammany and Jefferson Parishes, Orleans  and East Baton Rouge Parish experienced high average numbers of deaths from opioid  overdoses during the same time period.

Dr. Tiffany Jennings is a Louisiana native who is the Rural Health Coordinator for the Louisiana  Psychological Association and in full time private practice. Dr. Jennings has worked in a variety  of settings, including outpatient, inpatient, state and Federal agencies. She was previously an  Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology, at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport and a Neuropsychologist at Overton Brooks VAMC in Shreveport, and for the US Army’s Traumatic  Brain Injury Clinic at Fort Polk in Leesville.

How serious does she feel the opioid crisis is in rural settings for Louisiana? “The opioid crisis  continues to be a serious crisis that has not shown any signs of abating,” Dr. Jennings said.

“The COIVD-19 may have exacerbated the crisis. The Louisiana Dept of Health’s website notes  an increase in fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses as people are ‘cut off from services and  disconnected from support systems, have made it difficult for individuals to seek help.’

“The Louisiana Opioid Surveillance Program has noted an increase in deaths from overdose,”  she said. “This was noted to be in part due to availability of synthetic opioid drugs, which are  much more powerful than morphine. This results in a higher chance of death from use –– such  as fentanyl.”

Has she seen any changes over the last couple of years? “There’s been several high-profile  lawsuits against drug manufacturers for their alleged role in the opioid crisis,” Dr. Jennings said. “I believe there currently four US companies in the process of settling, to the tune of  approximately $26 billion. This has certainly brought attention to the extent of the current  opioid epidemic.

“Many insurance agencies, including Medicaid, expanded telehealth access due to the ongoing  COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, I have not seen much change with regard to access to service for rural health settings in Louisiana. There continues to be a wait list to see Medicaid providers. Reimbursement remains an issue. Also, those in rural areas may not have the  technology to fully utilize telehealth services,” Dr. Jennings said.

The Lancet Commission Report pointed to the lack of accessible, high-quality, non-stigmatising, integrated health and social care services for people with opioid use disorder in the USA. The  authors recommended reforming public and private health insurance systems to address this issue, including cutting off funding for care that is likely to be harmful.

Dr. Geralyn Datz is a licensed Clinical Health and Medical Psychologist and a national educator  of healthcare providers, attorneys and the public. Dr. Datz is licensed in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, and specializes in pain psychology, forensic assessments, and public speaking. She is President and Clinical Director of Southern Behavioral Medicine Associates PLLC, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a group specialty practice devoted to treating patients with chronic  pain, She is a past president of the Southern Pain Society, and previously with New Orleans Veteran Affairs Medical Center and Pennington Biomedical Research Center

We asked Dr. Datz if there is adequate treatment available? “No there is not,” she said. “The  treatment of opioid use disorder is a very large, systems based issue that right now is in dire  straits and vastly underfunded. The short answer is that we need more insurance reimbursed  programs, and the treatment needs to extend well beyond ‘rehab’ as it is traditionally defined. Private treatment centers are one component of treatment, but cannot meet the needs of this  diverse population, which often has serious mental health issues and/or comorbid pain  conditions. There are effective treatment models like Pain Rehabiliation Programs, that help
people with medical conditions come off of opioids, but sadly these are no longer reimbursed  by insurance.

In addition, the treatment of opioid misuse is ideally multidisciplinary and  requires medical and mental health follow up, which frequently does not occur. The Commissions comment on using the Chronic Disease Model for treatment, and in healthcare, is exactly on point.”

Is treatment covered by funding such as insurance for those who need help? “.Again…no. There  are wide ranges in what insurance will and will not cover in treating opioid overuse and addiction. Often, comorbidities, such as pain or severe or even mild mental illness, are left  untreated. In addition, there are variations between what private addiction centers will accept which insurances if any at all. As a result, care ends up being parsed out for opioid-dependent  individuals and not as effective. Furthermore, many individuals do not have insurance coverage at all, further complicating the problem,” Dr. Datz said.

“The 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was designed to make treatment of  mental health and substance abuse conditions as easily and fairly reimbursed as medical conditions. This Act was a step in the right direction but is still not fully realized. A recent report  showed that many insurances are non compliant, and showed wide disparities between  behavioral health care and medical/ surgical healthcare. Mental health parity needs increased  attention, and enforcement, in order to address the public health needs that we are now facing.”

Dr. Jennings agrees. “Given the number of deaths from opioid overdose, I would say there is not nearly enough treatment, recovery and support systems in place for this population. This is especially true of those in rural settings,” she said.

“The state has enacted laws in an attempt to better regulate prescriptions and to reduce the chance of ‘doctor shopping’ for those addicted or who have developed a tolerance to their pain medication. Government agencies on federal and state levels are holding providers accountable for illegal prescriptions for opioids,” said Dr. Jennings.

“Louisiana is expecting to receive approximately $325 million from a national settlement of  opioid lawsuits. The intention is to divide monies into addiction treatment, response and recovery services. The goal is to send the monies–divided up over a 20-year period–to local  agencies that directly work with those suffering from opioid addiction,” she said.

“For some patients, education into the nature of chronic pain and their ability to manage pain  can be helpful. There are evidence based psychotherapy treatments (such as Cognitive  Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain) that can be used to help a patient manage pain. For  patients in need of an increase in structure or level of care, there is certainly a need for  agencies that provide this care. Again, insurance and location can often be a barrier to treatment.”

Pain costs society up to $635 billion annually, according to the CDC, and is the number one  reason for disability. Pain is becoming better understood as a multifaceted phenomenon with  psychological factors.

In 2016, CDC authors published Guidelines and said that there was no evidence for a long-term  benefit of opioid pain medications. The authors found strong evidence for serious risks, including overdose, opioid use disorder, and motor vehicle injuries. The CDC said that other  treatments, including psychological approaches, had long-term benefits, without the high risks of opioids.

“It is now widely accepted that pain is a biopsychosocial phenomenon,” Dr. Datz, told the Times  in a previous interview. “The Guidelines are really exciting because they explicitly state that  physicians should be using nonpharmacological strategies including cognitive behavioral  therapy as well as exercise for patients with pain,” Datz said.

“This is a departure from the traditional belief that pain was primarily physical, and to be only  treated by medical means, which was the biomedical model,” Datz said.

“The benefits of pain psychology are that the person experiencing chronic pain ultimately has more control over their pain process, their reaction to it, and their life,” Datz said. “This is  accomplished by teaching patients about how their expectations, their attention, and their  stress levels interact with chronic pain and can greatly exacerbated.”

“A large body of research,” said Datz, “has shown that use of structured cognitive behavioral  therapy, and in particular cognitive behavioral therapy combined with physical therapy, as happens in functional restoration programs, are extremely effective ways of dramatically  improving physical function, mental health, and overall well-being in patients with chronic pain,” she said.

“Unfortunately, these methods have been sorely underused, partly due to insurance coverage  issues. With the advent of the ACA however, this is getting a lot better. Also, I think providers and patients are more open to these ideas now that the opioid epidemic has become such a  hot topic nationally,” she said. Among the key messages of the Lancet Commission report, the authors noted that “The profit motives of actors inside and outside the health-care system will  continue to generate harmful over-provision of addictive pharmaceuticals unless regulatory systems are fundamentally reformed.”

Dr. Datz will be presenting “Forced Opioid Tapers and the Culture of the Opioid Crisis: Time to revisit pain psychology” at the American Academy of Pain Medicine in Scottsdale Arizona on  March 19. She will speak about how the approach of using pain psychology during opioid  therapy is not new, but is enjoying a renewed urgency in the context of rising rates of opioid  tapers and the safety issues surrounding preventable side effect from forced opioid tapers.

Lancet Commission authors warned that pharmaceutical companies based in the USA are  actively expanding opioid prescribing worldwide, and are using fraudulent and corrupting tactics that have now been banned domestically.

Dr. Thomas Takes Top Position at Louisiana Tech

Dr. Donna Thomas has been appointed Chief Academic Director for Partnerships at Louisiana  Tech University, reporting to the Provost, Dr. Terry McConathy.

Dr. Thomas has served as chair of the Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Department at LaTech for almost 10 years and is the George and Jean Baldwin Endowed Professor.

In the announcement, Dr. McConathy said, “Dr. Thomas will be responsible for the oversight  and direction of development and implementation of academic programs that support Louisiana Tech University’s mission, vision, and strategic objectives. “As Chief Academic Director for Partnerships, Dr. Thomas will manage academic partnerships with external stakeholders  and funding efforts for academic partnerships and curricula design; enhance and implement non-traditional student engagement opportunities; organize and support faculty expertise for  curricular delivery in emerging program areas; and organize programmatic approvals and accreditation of transdisciplinary programs,” Dr. McConathy said.

“The Chief Academic Director for Partnerships will collaborate with division leaders, deans,  associate deans, unit heads, and faculty to identify extension, dual enrollment, online and  remote programs, and academic pathways that explore, develop, implement, and integrate  programs supporting the University’s mission,” he said.

Dr. Thomas has served as the Department Chair of the Psychology and Behavioral Sciences  from 2012. In this position, she managed and coordinated all the activities of the department  including instruction, research, services, and administrative activities. She was also the Director  of Training for the counseling psychology doctoral program from 2006 to 2012. She has chaired  and participated as a committee member for numerous dissertations, and has taught psychology at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Since 2014 she has also served as the NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative. In this position  she represented Louisiana Tech University and its faculty in the relationship between the  National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Conference USA (CUSA), and the campus. She  represents LaTech as the voting delegate to NCAA and C-USA meetings and serves on NCAA councils, cabinets, and committees as appointed. She has assisted with interpretation of NCAA  and C-USA legislation and policies.

In this role, Dr. Thomas reports to the faculty and administration on the academic well-being of  student- athletes. And she ensures, either directly or indirectly, that student-athletes meet all  NCAA, conference, and LaTech requirements for eligibility to practice, financial aid, and  intercollegiate competition.

Dr. Thomas also monitors the student-athlete experience and is involved in the personal and  academic welfare of the student-athletes. She works with the athletic director and senior staff  to educate student-athletes about NCAA rules, and devise and implement compliance  programs within the athletics department. She meets regularly with the Director of Athletics  and serves as the Senior Faculty Advisor on athletics to the university president. She is a liaison  between the faculty and administration and the intercollegiate athletics program. She also provides periodic reports to the President’s Athletics Council relating to matters of academic  integrity, performance of student-athletes, rules compliance or violations, and other matters  related to the athletics program.

Dr. Thomas meets with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and serves as Dr.  Donna Thomas Takes Top Position, Chief Academic Director for Partnerships, at Louisiana Tech  continued chair of the President’s Athletics Council. She was a member of the council beginning  in 2007. The Council reviews intercollegiate athletic programs and activities and makes recommendations to the President for his consideration. Athletics Council members are  appointed by the President. She has also served on the Student Athlete Welfare Committee.

In her duties for the psychology department, Dr. Thomas has participated in funding and grants including Increasing Diversity in the Doctoral Student Populations at Louisiana Tech University, BoR/SREB Doctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity, and Third Judicial District Drug Court Treatment.

Her collaborative publications include, “Psychological effects of intensive and comprehensive  training centers on blind and visually impaired adults. Journal of Blindness Innovation and  Research, “Facebook and Romantic Relationships: Intimacy and Couple Satisfaction Associated  with Online Social Network Use,” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking,  Measuring students’ perceptions of faculty competence in professional psychology: Development of the  Perceived Faculty Competence Inventory. Training and Education in Professional Psychology.”

Dr. Thomas’s professional service includes serving as Member of Editorial Board for the Journal  of Rural Mental Health, published by the American Psychological Association; Regional Advisory  Committee member for MacArthur Models for Change (Louisiana) grant; Ad hoc reviewer for Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking; Reviewer, proposals for annual convention,  American Psychological Association, Division 17; Executive Board Member, Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs; LaTech College of Education Administrative Council,  Special Initiatives Committee, Committee on Recruitment, Diversity, and Global Issues.

She has been affiliated with the American Psychological Association, Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology, Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs, Louisiana Psychological Association, Louisiana Counseling Association APA Division 17–Counseling  Psychology.

She has received the Outstanding Service Award, College of Education, and the Outstanding  Service Award, Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences numerous times, including  the Special Award of Merit for Outstanding Service.

In the past, Dr. Thomas also served as clinical associate for the Counseling and Psychology  Clinic in Monroe, and as administrator and owner for Rehabilitation Services of Louisiana LLC. 

Dr. Thomas earned her master’s degree in experimental psychology from the University of  Louisiana Monroe, and her doctorate in counseling psychology from Louisiana Tech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Facts Point to Discrimination in National Exam, Selection Programs at State Boards

The debate over an additional exam for those applying for a state psychology license has shined the light on a nest of scientific problems originating at the Association of State and Provincial  Psychology Boards (ASPPB).

The debate has unearthed new facts and a jaw dropping irony––the psychology profession, a  discipline that preaches anti-discrimination to others, and that sets the bar for selection-testing, has been promoting racism at state licensing boards, and by all accounts doing it for the  money.

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.

For this report we look at current facts, core problems and underlying causes of how organized  psychology is failing its students, the public, and its own goal of fighting systemic racism.

“Adverse Impact” found in psychology license examination program

The psychologist license exam is called the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology  or EPPP. After finding racial differences in the New York state pass–fail rate on the EPPP scores, Dr. Brian Sharpless has now found similar problems in Connecticut.

Dr. Sharpless studied 642 applicants to the Connecticut State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. In his article, “Pass Rates on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) According to Demographic Variables: A Partial Replication,” he reported  significant differences in failure rates based on ethnicity.

Whites had a 5.75% failure rate, Blacks had a 23.33% failure rate, and Hispanics had a 18.6%  failure rate.

In a much larger study in New York, Dr. Sharpless discovered an even greater impact by race.  He reported his findings in “Are Demographic Variables Associated with Performance on the  Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)?”

Dr. Sharpless gathered data on 4,892 New York applicants and first-time EPPP takers. He  obtained records of all doctoral-level psychology licensure applicants from the past 25 years  and looked at their EPPP scores.

He 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%.

“Adverse impact” is the term used to describe differences in scores. An exam has adverse  impact if minority candidates fail to pass at at least 80% of the majority race candidates’ rate.  The results in New York classify as adverse impact and the Connecticut results clear the bar only by a hair.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the  basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. When state psychology boards deny a  license based only the EPPP scores, they must prove that the test is being used in a fair and 
unbiased manner.

Selection–testing and design of selection programs is most often a subspecialty in industrial– organizational and business psychology. State boards primarily deal with healthcare  practitioners, and are composed of clinicians. So, expertise in selection testing is unlikely to be  involved in all or most states.

“If two states have found adverse impact, it is probable that all or most states will also find  adverse impact. It is typical for knowledge tests to have adverse impact anyway, and this must  be handled in the overall selection program,” said one expert.

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.”

According to one source at the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP), the board makes no effort to study their procedures for adverse impact.

Critics of the national exam have gained momentum, fueled by the ASPPB’s effort to install yet  another, second examination, called the EPPP2.

Dr. Jennifer Callahan sounded the alarm as lead author in her article, “The enhanced  examination for professional practice in psychology: A viable approach?” published in the  flagship journal for psychologists, American Psychologist.

The EPPP2 has not been evaluated for its intended purpose, Callahan said. “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.”

Dr. Sharpless had also been pointing to legal risks. “… given the ethnic performance  discrepancies and limited validity evidence, […] it will remain open to charges of being a  potentially arbitrary barrier in an already protracted path to professional independence…”.

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.”

Another 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 cutoffs and adding unbiased tests to the overall selection program, so that our clients  could avoid adverse impact.”

Criticisms have been mostly dismissed by officials at the ASPPB. In an answer to Callahan, also  published in the American Psychologist, 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.

Dr. Turner is employed by ASPPB and in charge of the exam services. He was previously  employed by the Georgia school systems. Both Hunsley and Rodolfa have also worked with and  provided consulting services for the ASPPB examinations.

Callahan and coauthors replied, “…Turner et al. remain narrowly focused on defense of content  validity and a reliance on outdated standards that fail to meet contemporary expectations for  assessment of health care professionals. […] ASPPB’s methods demonstrably foster linguistic biases and systemic racism that constricts licensure of diverse individuals as psychologists.”

Callahan urged ASPPB to take “drastic corrective action.”

Experts point to serious issues with how states use cutoff scores on the national test, especially  since there is no criterion related research to help set the cutoff.

“A 50th percentile cutoff score, that automatically fails the bottom half of a sample, all who are  highly qualified already, does not make sense,” said one business psychologist. “This is exactly  the way you drive up adverse impact. You’re basically having a bunch of PhDs compete against  each other and then flunking half of them. Is your hypothesis really that half are incompetent?”

Sharpless had earlier noted problems with the cut off scores, typically set at the 50th percentile  by state boards. “Additional empirical attention should be devoted to the cut score…” he said.  “…the determination of the ‘passing’ score is one of the most important, yet difficult, psychometric tasks in testing …”

ASPPB acknowledges the exam limitations. On their webpage officials state, “There is no  suggestion that people who do better on the EPPP will be better practitioners.”

The connection between test score and job performance would require predictive validity  research, which ASPPB does not conduct.

Dr. Costelloe, explained “… predictive validation studies must be conducted.” For instance, “…  you infer that a candidate with a high Extroversion score will make more sales than a candidate  who has a high Introversion score,” Costelloe said. With a predictive study, “… you realize that  your inference was not only completely wrong but backwards. Why? The sales personnel are  interacting with mechanical engineers who must make the decision to switch over these new  valves. They don’t want to relate. They want specific engineering facts and data and they are  introverts.”

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.”

ASPPB seems unconcerned with the scientific criticisms and standards. In April 2018, then SPPB 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 nor does the EPPP2 committee  believe that establishing this type of validity is necessary,” she said.

Dr. Marc Zimmermann, past LSBEP board member, 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.”

Is more regulation needed? Safety estimates for psychologists are very good

One of the arguments that critics mention is the consistently high safety ratings for  psychologists, based on the low number of disciplinary actions nationwide.

“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 EPPP2 while serving as a director for the LPA.

“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.”

However, Dr. Emil Rodolfa, 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.”

The facts are on Dr. Henke’s side. 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.

For 2016–2020, the total reported disciplinary actions across the U.S. and Canada ranged from  139 to 186.

Using a conservative estimate of 10 clients per psychologist per year, this translates to a safety  problem of one or two per 10,000 service events.

Louisiana’s rate is similar to the national average. For the year 2019–2020 there was one  disciplinary action, for 2018–2019 there were two, for 2017–2018 there were also two, for 2016– 2017 there were three, in 2015–2016 there was one, and in 2014–2015 there was also one.

ASPPB’s plans for doubling the size and cost of licensing exam

Several sources suggest that profit motives may be the main reason for the cutoff and the extra test. The current EPPP costs candidates $600 plus administration fees. The test contains 225  items, with a four-hour time limit. To compare, physicians pay $605 for an eight-hour exam and  social worker candidates pay about $250 for a 170-item exam. The EPPP2 would increase cost  from $600 to $1200.

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 2012, ASPPB acquired the rights to the exam, taking over from Professional Examination  Service (PES). In 2013 ASPPB wrote 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 that letter, ASPPB officials said, “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 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…” At the same time, ASPPB  increased candidates’ exam fees from $450 to $600.

One 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.”

In 2013 ASPPB officials were instrumental in conducting and designing the 5th International  Congress on Licensure, Certification, and Credentialing of Psychologists, held in Stockhom. The  invitation-only conference was primarily funded by ASPPB. Dr. Emil Rodolfa, Chair of the Implementation Task Force for the EPPP 2, facilitated at the Congress.

ASPPB officials have gone through several roll-out efforts for the EPPP2, first to persuade  member jurisdictions to accept the new test, and then to force the new exam on states.

In 2016 the firm announced the EPPP2 and told its members, licensing boards across the United States and Canada, that the use of the new test would be “optional.”

However, after criticisms mounted, ASPPB did an about face in late 2017 and announced in a  surprise move that the new exam would be mandatory after all, and combined with the tests.  And, the price would increase from $600 to $1200.

In July 2018, Dr. Amy Henke, then serving on the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP), and LSBEP members 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.

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

However, shortly after that, ASPPB decided to use a carrot and stick approach. According to an  October 24, 2018 letter from Lightfoot, if Louisiana, or other jurisdictions, chose to decline the use of the new additional test, then student candidates in those jurisdictions would be  prohibited from taking the test. Sources at the Louisiana state board considered this to be punitive, because many students  wished to prepare for licenses in other states, which might require the second test.

Dr. Henke said that at a recent meeting of the member jurisdictions, representatives voted  100% to allow qualified candidates from any jurisdiction to take the EPPP2.

“Unfortunately,” Henke told the Times, “the ASPPB Board and staff have pushed back on both the vote and the formal request. For instance, despite this unanimous vote, ASPPB’s Board has  not acted on the clear wishes of the member jurisdictions. Instead, they have decided to  individually poll each jurisdiction with a survey that I felt was misleading and biased.”

ASPPB’s non-profit & financial status

The ASPPB is a private, non-profit, 501(c) 6, tax-exempt  corporation located in Tyrone, Georgia.

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 corporate mission is to “Facilitate communication among member jurisdictions about  licensure, certification, and mobility of professional psychologists.” The “members” are the 64 or so regulatory boards from across the United States and Canada.

These boards pay dues to ASPPB. LSBEP records note they paid $2,660 in 2020 for annual ASPPB dues.

ASPPB’s net assets for 2018 (the most recent year available due to delays from Covid) totaled $9,137,930. GuideStar estimates their assets at $11,013,348.

Total revenue for 2018 was $6,505,651. Revenue for 2017 was $6,645,731 and $5,933,473 for  2016.

ASPPB’s main income producing product is the national exam. 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.

While they paid $1,302,603 to Pierson Vue Minneapolis for exam administration in 2018, most  other expenses claimed on their tax reports are for employees and employee related expenses.

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.

Assn Executive Officer Dr. Matthew Turner received pay and benefits of $$171,174 in 2018. He  has four employees reporting to him for exam services.

Assn Executive Officer Janet Orwig received pay and benefits of $158,142 in 2018. Ms. Orwig has 12 employees reporting to her for member services.

The ASPPB website lists other staff, including a business manager, financial officer, two  directors of professional affairs, and an administrative associate.

“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.

Other examples are $336,175 on “technology,” $188,256 on conventions, $123,053 for “item  writers and exam consultants,” $144,000 on bank fees, $60,610 on advertising, and $55,946 on dues and subscriptions.

It is not clear how oversight is established at ASPPB. The Times asked one CPA to look over the  information and he said, “Of course there is influence and COI (Conflict of Interest).”

Conclusions

ASPPB appears unable to constructively answer the criticisms and mounting evidence that their  exam program, marketed to the captive customers through state boards, is scientifically  deficient and discriminatory.

The state boards have bought into a mess, but do not appear able to deal with the bureaucracy  at ASPPB. Since state boards are typically composed of clinicians, and rarely have the hands-on experience needed for high-stakes selection testing, they may lack the knowledge to fight the  problem.

Ignorance does not fly as an excuse for discriminatory practices in the private sector, so it’s  ironic that it is found in the public and quasi–governmental agencies of psychology.

ASPPB appears too busy feeding off of the exam revenues, and building their bureaucracy on  the backs of psychology license candidates, perhaps especially racial minorities, to wake up. State psychology boards must not ignore the problem any longer. Callahan’s call for “drastic corrective action” is on point. But it is the members of ASPPB who need to take action, with or  without ASPPB bureaucrats.

In September 2020, the American Psychological Association (APA) called for “… true systematic  change in US culture.” Zara Abrams reported in a Monitor article, APA “… is working to dismantle institutional racism over the long term, including within APA and psychology.”

Before preaching anti-discrimination to others, APA needs to start in their own backyard.

Dr. Charles Figley Named Distinguished Psychologist for 2021

Dr. Charles Figley, the Paul Henry Kurzweg Distinguished Chair in Disaster Mental Health,  Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the Tulane School of Social Work, and Director of  the Tulane’s award-winning Traumatology Institute, has been named the 2021 Distinguished  Psychologist by the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA).

LPA Awards Chair, Dr. Laurel Franklin noted that Dr. Figley has exhibited “…exemplary contributions to Psychology. We were especially impressed with the breath of your mentorship,  clinical, and research endeavors in the area of trauma and trauma-related disorders.”

Dr. Figley has served as co-founder of two graduate programs at Tulane. He served as Founding Program Director of Tulane’s Master of Science degree in Disaster Resilience Leadership Program and as Founding Program Director of the City, Culture, and Community PhD Program.

“I was shocked and delighted to be named Distinguished Psychologist by the State Association,”  said Dr. Figley. “Thank you so much. This is among the most welcomed and prized awards I  have received. I am too old to cry but never too old to scream with delight!”

Included among his many accomplishments, Dr. Figley has served on the American  Psychological Association (APA) Council of Representatives and on the Executive Council of  APA’s Division on Trauma Psychology.

He has served on numerous editorial boards including for Family, Systems, and Health, Journal  of Family Psychology, and Traumatology. He is founding editor of the Journal of Traumatic Stress, the Journal of Family Psychotherapy, and the international journal, Traumatology. He is also Founding Editor of the Book Series Death and Trauma, Innovations in Psychology, and  continues to as Editor of the Psychosocial Stress Book Series.

He has published more 160 refereed journal articles and 25 books as pioneer trauma scholar  and practitioner.

His Encyclopedia of Trauma was named as an Outstanding Academic Title for the 2013-2014  Academic year by Choice, a publication of the American Library Association. The work is an interdisciplinary guide, bringing together concepts from the humanities, all of the social  sciences, and most of the professional fields, for understanding human responses to traumatic events.

His newest book is Psychiatric Casualties: How and Why the Military Ignores the Full Cost of  War, co-authored with Mark C. Russell and published by Columbia University Press.

The authors write, “The psychological toll of war is vast, and the social costs of war’s psychiatric  casualties extend even further.  

Yet military mental health care suffers from extensive waiting lists, organizational scandals,  spikes in veteran suicide, narcotic over-prescription, shortages of mental health professionals,  and inadequate treatment. The prevalence of conditions such as post–traumatic stress disorder is often underestimated, and there remains entrenched stigma and fear of being diagnosed.  Even more alarming is how the military dismisses or conceals the significance and extent of the  mental health crisis.”

Dr. Figley’s Encyclopedia was one of the sources for Tulane’s “MOOC,” one of Figley’s many  innovations at Tulane. An MOOC, sor  Massive Open Online Course, is a trend in higher education that allows for online enrollment extending to other states and even other nations.  Figley’s training invention was the first free course in the world about trauma, and the first MOOC for Tulane.

“It’s the first of its kind anywhere,” said Dr. Figley in a previous interview. “The original MOOC  model was flawed. MOOCs were simply the traditional classroom structure…” They were often  only videotaped lectures moved online and free. But, “They were boring, rigid, and rather  inflexible,” he explained. “We chose to invent a new platform that would make it easier and  more fun for students to use all platforms––ipad, smartphones, computers––to access all  course material, when they wanted it, where they wanted it, and we made it much more  interactive and engaging,” he said.

Dr. Figley has made training others a key element of his vision. He has regularly presented at  the American Psychological Association and regional associations topics such as, “First Do No  Self-Harm––Self-Care Strategies for Psychologists Working with Trauma Survivors,” “Compassion  Fatigue and Promoting Regeneration in Psychologists” and “Stress Management  skills and Developing a Self-Care Plan.”

“Burnout, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and secondary traumatic stress reactions are  frequently found among psychologists and others who deliver humane human services,” said  Figley. “These problems are an indication of low resilience that can be corrected with proper training for workers and their supervisors. I love helping in this way,” he told the Times.

Dr. Figley enjoys, “A sense of satisfaction of informing psychology and helping psychologists.  Also, I learn lots from practitioners struggling with critical issues never addressed by researchers,” he explained.

Figley’s book First Do No SELF Harm has garnered high praise, “… because it addresses–– finally––the high prices physicians and medical students pay in managing work-related stress,”  he explained.

His work he has had far-reaching influence. In 2018 Dr. Figley and Reggie Ferreir, Director of  the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy, visited Puerto Rico to assess the status of the area  after one year following landfall of the Category 4 hurricane, Maria. Reported by Tulane magazine, the two were working with the Foundation for Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization,  to promote economic and social development.

Figley and Ferreira helped assess the area’s needs in disaster recovery and mental health  services, and also trained organizational leaders in disaster resilience and leadership for recovery.

He is a former professor at both Purdue University (1974-1989) and Florida State University  (1989-2008) and former Fulbright Fellow and Visiting Distinguished Professor at the Kuwait  University (2003-2004). In 2014 Dr. Figley received the John Jay College of Criminal Justice  honorary degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa.

Dr. Figley notes on his website that he has many passions, among these is social justice with  special focus on those overlooked: “This passion emerged in high school, continued during his  service in the US Marine Corps, especially his war service in Vietnam where he worked with his  high school in Springboro, Ohio to collect and ship several tons of school and hygiene supplies  to his Marine unit in Da Nang for distribution to the children at the Catholic orphanage and  school.

After graduation he spent considerable time as a volunteer and as a scholar to help war  veterans cope with their mental health, disaster survivors, secondary trauma survivors, and others who experienced traumatic stress injuries. He continues his humanitarian efforts today,  focusing inequities in the treatment of Native Americans, torture trauma survivors, and the  elimination of on trauma stigma.”

Dr. Figley and wife Dr. Kathy Regan Figley own and operate the Figley Institute, a professional  training company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Trend of Remote Work Relies on Psychological Science

One of the most frequently noted 2021 trends is the move to at-home work, already common among digital workers but catapulted forward for many others by the pandemic.

Completely in psychology’s wheelhouse, successful home and remote work calls for a complex blending of employee self-direction, methods for coordinating with colleagues, and integration with family and family life.

Employers know that remote work can mean challenges for productivity. The adjustment requires a keen understanding of the complexity of workers’ traits,
knowledge of work environments, and types of supervisory skills.

Two psychological scientists are focusing their expertise to help employers and their employees to bridge the gap between the old and new work situations. Bill Costelloe
and Jim Stodd have founded a new consultancy, called ThriveRemote, LLC. Their new firm is dedicated to applying and sharing expertise about the psychology of remote work scenarios. Costelloe’s and Stodd’s goal is to facilitate remote work solutions for the benefit of client organizations and their employees, as well as mitigate some of the predictable difficulties often associated with the transition to remote work.

The two consultants and their team members at ThriveRemote bring a range range of services to help solve a variety of problems encountered by both employers and employees. These include employee selection, development, engagement, leadership training, retention strategies, performance management, compensation programs, and in particular reward methods for remote workers.

Both Costelloe and Stodd, with advanced degrees in industrial-organizational psychology, bring a rich background of seasoned experience in organizational
leadership and human resource management to the task.

As well as his association with ThriveRemote, Dr. Costelloe serves as President of Costelloe and Associates, Inc., located in Metairie, Louisiana, a firm he has maintained for over 30 years specializing in the industrial application of psychological assessments,
candidate selection, career planning & development, and employee morale surveys.

During the 2020 shutdowns, employers scrambled to find ways to cope and maintain some level of productivity. “As we all know,” said Stodd, “the pandemic has forced us to accept new circumstances, terms, conditions, and situations that most of us would not have wished for.

Included in that has been the necessity for millions of people to work from home,” he said.

“While most business leaders and their employees were extremely reluctant to embrace remote work as a norm, the pandemic just has not given us much of a choice. Yet, as more data comes in regarding this once unwelcome circumstance, it’s not looking all that bad, at least for most,” Stodd said. “In fact, this forced change may end up being one of the few silver linings to come out of all this disruption, tribulation, and
suffering with many believing that remote work is here to stay.

Jim Stodd is the Principal of JT Stodd & Associates, located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and specializes in compensation and rewards, organization planning, change
management, and general human resource management.

Costelloe and Stodd note that others are debating the relative merits of remote work. However, they choose to simply acknowledge that remote work is likely here to stay.

“It is a new norm for much of our industrial society, at least in ways and numbers that were just not foreseeable prior to the pandemic,” Costelloe said.

“We believe that remote work should become a greater focus for applied behavioral scientists––such as ourselves––and that we can continue to better understand, shape, and influence the factors and circumstances that contribute to individuals thriving in remote work situations versus languishing, coping or just getting by,” said Costelloe.

Psychological scientists are trying to keep pace with the urgent needs to understand and help people adjust to the pandemic environment.

“While a lot has yet to be learned regarding these factors and circumstances, amazingly a lot has been learned in a fairly short period of time,” said Stodd.

“Much has been written on this topic over the last several years, but science-based evidence regarding what makes remote work productive and sustainable has been limited. We want to share what is already known about the predictors of remote worker
success,” said Stodd, “so that business leaders can use that knowledge to better predict who is most likely to thrive within a remote work circumstance, understand why they thrive, and use that knowledge to better design, situate, and manage their remote work programs for the mutual benefit of both the worker and the organization.”

Costelloe and Stodd describe findings from one science-based study, a recent investigation undertaken by psychologists associated with the Universities of Georgia and South Florida.

The researchers described “remote work effectiveness” in terms of three areas:
Overall Adjustment (to the remote work situation); Stress Level (during performance of remote work); and Job Performance (relative to pre-pandemic/normal-office performance levels).

The researchers looked at 62 possible predictors of remote work effectiveness and found eight strong predictors.

The first three of these eight predictors had an inverse or negative relationship to
one’s ability to thrive in a remote work situation. And, these three all pertain to
the internal characteristics––for example, personality traits, competency or skills, or
habits of the worker, Stodd notes.

These factors were: 1) Feelings of Social Isolation; 2) Stress Levels Before Engaging in Remote Work; and 3) General Proneness to Anxiety.

Stodd explained one example, saying, “Feelings of social isolation were found to
hurt a person’s overall ability to thrive in a remote situation, including their overall
adjustment to remote work, stress levels during remote work, and job performance,”

Stodd said. “The negative impact of social isolation may even be greater based upon one’s personality. For instance, folks that are extremely extraverted, and normally energized by frequent social contact, or those with strong affiliation needs, may be even
more negatively impacted by the social isolation that frequently comes with remote work.”

The next five factors were found to be positively associated to remote work effectiveness. These five pertain to situational factors exterior to the person
that an employer can influence directly and rather significantly.

These were: 4) Sleep Quality During Periods of Remote Work; 5) Organization’s Support During and After the Transition to Remote Work; 6) Workspace that is Comfortable, Well-Equipped & Conducive to Productivity; 7) Technology that Facilitates Productivity, Communication and Social Interaction; and 8) Job Design and the Variety of Tasks Involved in the Job.

“It was found that characteristics of the work itself mattered, including how demanding the job is, having increased task variety, and job-related information exchange,” Costelloe explained. “Also found to be important are situational factors including, family interruptions of work, spousal/family respect of boundaries, and the proportion of
childcare the worker is doing during remote work relative to a partner.”

Costelloe and Stodd are in agreement about the importance of individual differences, which has lead them to closely examine other characteristics that may influence an
employee’s productivity or success at remote work.

They point out another example, a study related to important characteristics for success in remote work, where researchers measured characteristics with the 16PF, a well-established personality assessment tool supported by decades of academic and applied scientific support.

In this study, researchers concluded that “employers need to consider the individual differences in remote workers’ personalities and identify how to best support and
development them to realize their potential as remote workers.”

The researchers identified three core competency areas which are important for individuals to “thrive” as remote workers.

The three are: Agility – How people respond to change and handle challenges independently; Achievement – How people adapt their work practices to drive action and ensure accountability; and Affiliation – How people deal with the absence of having other people in the same physical space to support them.

“The researchers found that remote workers need to possess a mix of Agility, Achievement and Affiliation to be highly effective in a remote work environment,” said Stodd.

“That is, while these characteristics may be important for many if not most jobs, they become even more important for thriving in remote work scenarios given remote work
frequently presents specific challenges around social interaction, communication, and work style.”

Another element of how successful employers and employees will be in adapting to remote work is the relationship to supervision and management.

“Research and professional practice draw attention to the importance of effective supervision and management in the support of remote worker success,” said Costelloe.

“Studies confirm the criticality of effective leadership and supervision in creating reasonable expectations and goal clarity, providing organizational support, ensuring
resource availability, maintaining work-life balance and the effective management of stress levels, nurturing employee growth & development, facilitating necessary
social interaction and support, and conveying the trust necessary to create a true sense of belonging,” he said.

“Of course that’s a lot of stuff,” Stodd said, “which has led researchers to conclude that remote managers also need to possess special competencies in the areas of Agility,
Achievement, and Affiliation, including the ability to coach and develop others, extend individual concern and compassion, and build & maintain effective teams.”

Overall, helping companies and employees adjust to the new normal is exciting for the two consultants, an area that combines their talents and psychological science to
help others deal with the consequences of the pandemic.

“The ability to thrive in remote work involves a complex set of factors, some of which are innate to the individual, some of which are situational, combined with the need for
leadership that is well-honed to the remote work circumstance,” said Stodd.

“While complex, employers who want to do well need to develop an appreciable understanding of all these factors as well as establish programs, processes and procedures that will maximize the benefits of remote work – of which there are many –for both the organization and its remote workforce,” said Costelloe.

The two intend to continue educating their clients and the public about the possibilities for adjusting to changes and challenges in the new work environment. More information can be found at their website.

Dr. Sonia Blauvelt Helps Lead Suicide Prevention Project for Southeast La

The Mental Health Association for Greater Baton Rouge is implementing a
COVID-19 Emergency Response for Suicide Prevention Project in southeast Louisiana to help contain the expected increase in mental health problems for Louisiana citizens. The project includes several components and Baton Rouge psychologist, Dr. Sonia Blauvelt, is leading the suicide prevention program.

The announcement from the Association noted that: Socially and financially disadvantaged families are more vulnerable to stresses and traumas, and the risk
for mental health problems and domestic violence increases after families face
extreme adversity, such as those related to COVID-19 disruptions and trauma.

Blauvelt explained, “We identified these areas of southeast Louisiana as
having high rates of COVID19 infection and deaths, high rates of intimate partner violence, and poor health outcomes overall,” she said. “These factors leave individuals even more vulnerable to deterioration in mental health in addition to having limited resources.”

The project is funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and managed through the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Behavioral Health.

There is a great need for community based services for people with suicidal thoughts
and behaviors,” said Blauvelt, “and we hope this program will reduce the high level of
hospitalizations and inpatient stays for people who experience higher risk of suicide.”

In her role, Blauvelt helps case managers implement the suicide case management program and she will provide clinical supervision and intervention when necessary. “I also work to partner with general hospitals and mental health hospitals in the regions
we are serving to identify individuals who may need suicide prevention services so that we can get referrals to our program,” she said.

Dr. Blauvelt is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge. Her PhD is from Louisiana State University and she interned at the Charlie Norwood VA/Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia where she specialized in treating
Veterans with military sexual trauma. She currently treats PTSD, trauma-related disorders, and anxiety disorders, with special attention to cultural factors related to mental health.

Dr. Blauvelt is working closely with LSU assistant professor of psychology, Dr. Raymond Tucker, who founded the LSU Mitigation of Suicidal Behavior research laboratory. He is clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at LSUHSC/OLOL, and trains medical staff/students in suicide-specific assessment and intervention protocols.

Dr. Tucker is also the co-director of the National Suicidology Training Center where he
provides training on suicide-specific interventions, including suicide safety planning,
post-vention programming, and motivational interviewing for suicide prevention.

Dr. Tucker said, “In tandem with Frank Campbell and the National Suicidology Training Center, I have helped develop the suicide case management program and train peer support providers and other staff at the Mental Health Association in this program,” he said.

“The program uses a variety of clinical and follow-up techniques that have been found to reduce risk for suicide in adults after receiving care in emergency facilities. The program particularly uses the Safety Planning Intervention and Caring Contacts to help support at-risk adults as they get setup and started with outpatient clinical services. My
own research, in collaboration with researchers at VA Puget Sound in Seattle, has investigated specific ways of using Caring Contacts after people leave acute care facilities and best practices for how to create these contact cards,” he explained.

The COVID-19 Emergency Response for Suicide Prevention Project includes four main components, according to the Mental Health Association (MHA).

Case Management for individuals who have attempted suicide or are identified as having chronic suicide ideation. This includes all of the following elements – screening,
assessment, safety planning and means restriction, discharge planning, transition care, warm hand offs to treatment or community organizations.

Another component is First Responder and other Health Care Professionals Suicide Prevention Training, partnering with the National Suicidology Training Center to provide more trainings on suicide prevention and Postvention strategies for first responders and providers across the state.

For Suicide Prevention Training for the general public, the Association is partnering with
the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Louisiana Chapter to provide statewide
suicide prevention training for the general public, including both safe Talk and ASIST
prevention training.

The fourth component is Suicide Prevention Outreach to Domestic Violence Victims. The Association is partnering with Southeastern Louisiana University, Discovery/Renew Family Resource Projects to establish an advocative role for domestic violence victims and establish a relationship with shelters and other domestic violence coalitions and resources to address trauma.

One challenge for Dr. Blauvelt and Dr. Tucker is getting the word out and networking.

“A major difficulty is networking with all the different hospitals and clinics in the area to ensure that the program is known, understood, and offered to the correct patients,” said Tucker.

“I echo Ray’s sentiments,” said Blauvelt, “about difficulty networking and ensuring that only eligible people are referred. Although we have hired and trained half of the staff needed to begin services, we continue to recruit case managers/peer support specialists to finalize our team. It is a challenge to hire the right individuals to do this critical work. We are confident we will have a full team soon,” she said.

“We are actively accepting and seeking clients in the program. MHA continues to finalize formal agreements with community partners necessary to fully implement this program. The training element of this grant is also underway. The National Suicidology Training Center has completed two first responder trainings. The National Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Louisiana Chapter has also completed two trainings to the general public,” Blauvelt explained. “MHA is also working with the Family Resource Center in Southeastern University to target victims of domestic violence who are at greater risk for suicide.”

Dr. Tucker said, “We hope a program like this is a part of growing community efforts to
prevent suicide in Louisiana.”

[For additional information contact Dr. Blauvelt at https://www.drblauvelt.com/]

Psychologist Blows Whistle on New Orleans VA Procedures

A New Orleans psychologist was at the center of a CBS News investigative report that
aired last month finding that the New Orleans VA may not have been diagnosing enough veterans so that they could be treated adequately for traumatic brain injury (TBI), the signature wound of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

CBS investigative reporter Jim Axelrod broke the story, “Whistleblower says veteran
affairs dramatically under diagnosed traumatic brain injuries.” Louisiana
psychologist Dr. Frederic Sautter was key to the report.

Go to CBS online for the full report.

Axelrod reported on the heartbreaking story of Army Sergeant Daniel Murphy
who served five decorated combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Murphy
specialized in detonating explosives and was honorably discharged in According to the
report, Murphy suffered both physically and psychologically. “He had the classic symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder –insomnia, anxiety, and a feeling that the
enemy was lurking around every corner,“ said Axelrod.

According to the CBS report, VA sources confirmed that Murphy screened positive for
traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2017. However, he did not receive a final TBI diagnosis or treatment. Two months later he took his own life at 32 years old.

The report notes that suicide is twice as high in veterans with TBI than in those with PTSD only.

Cases like Sergeant Murphy’s haunted Dr. Sautter, said Axelrod. Dr. Sautter retired recently from the VA, but until that time he headed up the family mental health program at Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System in New Orleans. Dr. Sautter saw hundreds of vets coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and began to become suspicious that they were not being properly assessed for TBI, said the CBS reporter.

Sautter told Axelrod that many of his patients, who were suffering from PTSD, appeared to also be presenting symptoms of traumatic brain injury. However, they had not been diagnosed or treated for the injury and this was a concern to him. So, Sautter set out to try and understand what was happening and he did his own research into the numbers.

According to Axelrod’s investigation, the VA protocol requires that all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are screened for TBI and a positive screen then leads to further evaluation. Reporting on internal documents from the VA, Axelrod noted that most vets who receive a positive screen are ultimately diagnosed with TBI.

CBS found that 60% to 80% of patients who are positive on the screening, across all the VA hospitals, are ultimately diagnosed and receive treatment for TBI.

However, Dr. Sautter found that at the New Orleans VA this number was only 18%.

According to the report, Dr. Sautter brought his results and list of the veterans who had slipped through the cracks to colleagues at the Pain Management & Rehabilitation (PM&R) division at the VA. A nurse at the division, Priscilla Peltier, told CBS that “There was absolutely no treatment being provided to them.”

In October 2017, Peltier presented a plan to her boss, the chief of PM&R, Dr. Robert Mipro, for contacting the veterans on the list. Peltier told CBS that Dr. Mipro responded that the list was not their concern and to “lose the list.”

Dr. Sautter insisted that the VA to investigate his concerns first through the Inspector General and then through the Office of Special Counsel.

CBS said the Office of Special Counsel ordered an investigation by the VA Medical Inspector and produced a report in March 2019. CBS said that the report was not made public but confirmed the New Orleans relatively low TBI diagnosis.

However CBS then contacted a VA spokes person who said the Medical Inspector’s report had used “bad data” and that the TBI diagnosis rates in New Orleans were in line with the national average.

Dr. Sautter is not optimistic about changes at the VA. “No one on staff will convince VA to change their practice and take responsibility,” he explained to the Times last week.

“Their focus is on their image and maintaining good numbers. The current PM&R staff is quite good. The issue is prior patients not receiving evaluations need to be contacted and assessed,” he said.

“I am now retired from VA and have a private practice. There have not been negative consequences for me except the anxiety of the experience and disappointment at the total denial by the institution and alienation from the institution,” he said.

Dr. Sautter was the Manager of a Family Mental Health Program at a VA Med Center for many years, and treated hundreds of couples and individuals. He is an expert in traumatic stress and relationship problems and has treated hundreds of combat veterans to help them overcome a variety of stress problems, providing compassionate evidence-informed care to individuals that have had to endure immense emotional pain, according to Psychology Today’s provider information.

Asked how it was to work with CBS News, he said, “CBS was very professional, vetted everything with attorneys, and put a great deal of effort into it. They were impressive.”

Has he experienced retaliation? “I feel like I did the right thing and veterans have communicated appreciation,” he said. “The reaction of the institution was total denial. I would never encourage anyone to do it unless they were in the later stages of career and could accept leaving the institution (VA). The nurse who complained was retaliated against but I never felt like anyone was going to try to intimidate me.”

His thoughts for other psychologists? “If important protocols are not enacted it is
your duty to report it. Do not expect gratitude from anyone at the institution but it is very satisfying knowing that you stood up for what you believe in,” he said.

Are Money Problems Behind the Psychology Board’s Latest Legislation?

by Julie Nelson

In the last week of February, the state psychology board surprised the community when they circulated a memo that the board would be putting forth legislation in the 2020 session. The memo cast the legislation as “housekeeping,” but the sweeping changes they wanted were anything but.

By March, Senate Bill 458 had been filed, 23-pages that detailed an ambitious set of changes to the Psychology Practice Act. The changes included expanding the board’s
own charter, creating new qualifications for serving, authorizing the board to conduct continuing education, exempting the board from Open Meetings Law in certain
situations, and redesigning the position of the Executive Director.

But the most financially significant change was the board’s goal to register psychological assistants, creating new regulations and fees that could double or even triple costs for some psychologists, especially those in small businesses.

Similar to other past legislative goals by the board, the plan was essentially kept from the public. Why the secrecy? Why bypass rulemaking? Why more legislation?

In this article, we examine the possible issues behind the odd behaviors of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP).

LSBEP’s Ongoing Financial Problems

Posted under “Performance” for 2019, LSBEP data from the Boards and Commissions website gives strong hints to the underlying reason that the board might be looking for more money from the registration of psychologists’ assistants. They noted:

“The Board is planning to engage in rule-making this FY that will impact revenue in FY2020-21 and include requiring the registration of assistants to psychologists providing
psychological services to clients under the supervision of a licensed psychologist and begin pre-approval of continuing professional development activities. A financial analysis for
the impact of these initiatives is being conducted and an amendment to the projected 2020-21 Budget is anticipated.”

The board’s financial problems are long standing, they have been running deficits since 2014.

Based on the financial tracking data, the LSBEP stayed within budget for most years and carried a “fund balance” of around $100,000. A source at the Legislative Auditor’s office said the fund was a surplus or reserve.

For 2014, the board took in $262,582 and spent $249,517. Legal services were $37,882. The fund balance had a surplus of $144,709.

In 2015, the board received $263,691 in fees and spent $275,147. Legal services increased to $56,002. The fund balance was listed at $120,188.

However, in 2016 budget tracking indicates a fund deficit of $214,818.

In a June 2016 Report, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor found the LSBEP to have inadequate controls over financial matters during the 2014–2015 period. The Auditor found a lack of business and accounting functions, and reported there were inadequate segregation of duties and lack of supporting documentation, inadequate controls over employee payroll and leave, inadequate controls over debit and credit cards, and inadequate controls over travel and meals expenses.

It is not clear from the Auditors report how the board went from a surplus to a deficit between 2015 in 2016. However, also in 2016, the board spent $336,677, while proceeds remained steady at $265,945. Legal services rose to $104,894.

In 2017, legal services shot to $149,774, and the fund balance became a deficit of $352,395. In total, the board took in $272,833 and spent $408,388.

For 2018, the board collected $299,599 and spent $307,003. Legal services dropped to $40,826. The fund balance was a deficit of $359,799.

Last year, in 2019, the board took in $310,023 and spent $212,640, with legal services at $61,182. The fund balance dropped to a deficit of $262,415.

But projections for 2020 point to new problems. Salaries are projected to go from $85,727 in 2019 to $168,787 in 2020. The board is estimated to take in $329,831 and spend $366,236. Legal services are estimated at only $57,509, but the fund balance is still a deficit at $298,820.

And, for professional services there is a category for “Others” that increases from $8,620 in 2019 to $43,499 in 2020. Salaried employees in 2019 is listed at $61,569, but increased to $93,200 for 2020.

In summary, between 2019 and 2020, expenditures are set to increase by 72%. (See figure.)

The Expensive “Complaints Committee”

The LSBEP conducts two main duties as a board––approving new licensees and administering discipline. New licenses are handled by the volunteer board members and the salaried Executive Director.

However, the complaints subcommittee is designed to conduct its affairs without board members’ oversight. This arrangement leaves volunteer board members free of any bias if they are then required to participate in a disciplinary hearing.

The Rules and the internal Policies and Procedures confirm this: “The LSBEP in accordance with the La. Admin. Code, 46:LXIII.1501.C. hereby delegates authority to a Complaints Committee which may consist of the Compliance Officer, a complaints coordinator, an investigator, legal counsel, and one or more Board members […]”.

The LSBEP has both employees and contractors. For 2020, two employees are listed: The Executive Director at $62,400.00, and the Compliance Investigator at $46,200.00. With related benefits for 2020 coming to $62,537, this brings the salaried employees to
a total $168,787 for 2020. Aside from student workers there are no clerical employees or others listed.

Contract employees include contracts for a Complaints Coordinator (approved for up to $36,000); Prosecuting Attorney ($50,056); Investigator ($12,000); and General Counsel
($45,000).

According to the Policies for the complaints subcommittee, “The Executive Director oversees the functioning of this committee and may serve on the Complaints Committee if necessary.” And, “The Executive Director or Compliance Officer is authorized and empowered to assign per case, individuals who are contracted, employed or appointed by the Governor to the LSBEP, …”

A new position, a “Compliance Officer (Investigating Officer)” appears to have been added sometime in the last two years. According to the policy manual, this person may be a full-time or part-time, may conduct investigations and/or inspections outside of the main office, conduct investigations into alleged or suspected misconduct by licensed members, applicants for licensure and/or others who may be suspected of violating state and federal ethical and agency laws, rules, and policies, may conduct surveillance and unannounced on-site monitoring/compliance visits, among other duties.

The complaints subcommittee operates without the direct supervision of any board members and is the most expensive and least transparent element of the LSBEP. But what exactly is the extent of the problem that this expensive subcommittee is solving?

Is the Extra Expense Really Necessary for Public Safety?

Considering the depth and breadth of law enforcement personnel assigned to the complaints subcommittee, an observer might think that there is a serious problem with psychologists’ products/services.

However, based on LSBEP’s statistics the number of annual disciplinary actions averages between two and three per 1000 psychologists. Since a psychologist serves an average of 30 individuals per year, this translates to around 2.5 problems in
30,000 customer experiences.

This rate is consistent across states and consistent with the national averages. Statistics published by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards calculates the national number of disciplinary actions for the last five years to range from 181 to 229, an average of 189.4. (See figure.) For 106,000 psychologists across the nation, this is 1.8 mistakes per 1,000.

These rates are also consistent with the other psychotherapy and counseling professions. The Times compared a random sample of disciplinary outcomes for the psychology, counseling, and social work boards. We found that all of three boards have
similarly low rates of disciplinary actions, between one and three discipline events per 1,000 licensees.

In research over a sample of a five-years, we found that 75 percent of discipline actions were related in some way to forensic child custody evaluations. The remainder was split
between sexual/dual relationships and impaired psychologist issues.

Using data of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, which estimates the product-related injuries for various industries, psychologists compare very favorably regarding public safety. Furthermore, to compare to hospital care, where 98,000 patients die annually due to medical errors, psychologist services presents a very safe alternative to inpatient care.

Waste and Ineffectiveness in the Complaints Committee?

Do the lack of checks and balances in the complaints committee, and the heavily staffed law enforcement approach, create more problems than it solves? Have licensees, the taxpayers, been saddled with paying for unnecessary attorneys, including their mistakes?

In an interview with an MBA, he said, “Alignments and incentives are all wrong in the subcommittee. High costs and inefficiencies would be expected,” he explained.

According to several sources, beginning around 2012, the LSBEP embraced an aggressive, adversarial style for dealing with complaints. For the first time, a Prosecuting Attorney was hired in 2014. Also, a private investigator was hired. Sources
have wondered if this may have been related to the then new executive director’s background as a Fraud Analyst/Investigator in the Criminal Division of the Maryland Attorney General.

Finances and other problems began to mount. Hired in 2014 at a $15,000 contract, the first Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. Jim Raines, submitted invoices for $52,000, according to discussion between officials in December 2016. The board was still digging out of money troubles in part because Mr. Raines submitted invoices totaling $66,597 earlier that year, according to the minutes for the LSBEP.

At the same time, Mr. Raines may have contributed to an expensive escalation of legal matters when he failed to recuse himself from a complaints case against Dr. Eric Cerwonka. Mr. Raines had been previously retained by Cerwonka in Cerwonka’s own child custody dispute. Additionally, the two engaged in a fee dispute following the close of the case. Cerwonka filed a constitutional violations lawsuit alleging that the Raines had privileged information about Cerwonka that he used in the investigation.

In another example, the LSBEP contract attorneys appeared to have been confused
about time limits for investigating complaints, ignoring language in the Psychology Practice Act that limited investigations to one year.

At a 2015 hearing, demanded by the defendant psychologist to be open to the public in order to have the press attend, the time limit was to be addressed. However, General Counsel, Mr. Lloyd Lunceford, prompted the chair to have a private discussion in and executive session. When the board members emerged from the executive session, they dismissed the case. This made any discussion on time limits irrelevant. The then Complaints Coordinator, Dr. Gary Pettigrew, appeared frustrated having to dismiss the case stating that he did so, “…purely on the advice of the prosecuting attorney.”

In a side comment to the chair, overheard by the Times reporter, Mr. Lunceford appeared to confirm that the attorneys in the committee had misinterpreted the law and made an error. Two years later the board put forth legislation to change the time limit in law.

Another time limits case is still on a judge’s desk in District Court. If reversed the board
could be required to reimburse the legal fees to the defendant.

New Statutory Laws: Circumventing the Public and Solving the Wrong Problems?

Is the LSBEP solving the wrong problem when it sets out to create new law, instead of
redesigning its complaint committee? Do their legislative solutions just cost more in attorney fees? Do they circumvent the public’s involvement when they go straight to the legislature?

It appears that the board’s first foray into creating news statutes was in 2012 when they decided to craft legislation to bring behavior analysts under it’s jurisdiction. A backlash occurred, with strong animosity directed at psychology from other groups in the mental health community.

Their legislation in 2014 was less controversial, but in 2015 the LSBEP sprung Senate Bill 113 on an unsuspecting community. The bill fueled a tug-of-war between state associations over language in the Practice Act.

In both 2017 and 2020, the board first indicated they would proceed with rulemaking, which is the process for creating administrative law. However, both times they surprised the community and chose to contact a legislator.

The Times spoke to an administrative law expert who preferred to remain anonymous. The expert explained that the board is circumventing the public by putting their goals into statutes instead of using administrative law and rulemaking, which includes a process for public involvement.

“They are circumventing the public,” when they go straight to the law and ignore rulemaking, said the expert. “They are eliminating the input from the public. Administrative law is separate from the statutes, and that area of law is to be
separate. They want to put their administrative law into statutes, and that is a serious concern.”

State agencies are prohibited from taking a position or lobbying on any legislation. Emails show that the executive director took an active role in SB 113. And, the LSBEP had hired its own lobbyist, Deborah Harkins. This later prompted Sen. Fred Mills to put forth legislation to prohibit agencies from paying lobbyists.

The Times asked Senator Mills about the origins of his Act 480. “It became readily apparent to me that some of the health professional licensing boards were intentionally trying to circumvent this law by hiring a lobbyist to lobby on their behalf, either for or against legislation that the board did or did not like,” he said. “It was indisputable evidence of, for instance the board of psychology, hiring a lobbyist when the board is listed on the website as one of her clients. This was really my motivation in filing Act 480,” said the Senator.

Conclusion

Years ago the policy at the LSBEP was, “Complaints received shall be rotated between former LSBEP members appointed as investigators.” The subcommittee then appeared to have had one psychologist, Dr. Gary Pettigrew, as the Coordinator, whose contract was for 40 hours per year. Legal consultation came from the General Counsel, only as needed.

Between then and today, major changes occurred, some very expensive. The expense impacts both the licensee, who funds the board, and psychologists who have to defend themselves against a fully staffed, motivated law-enforcement unit. At the same time, the measures of public safety have remained consistently good.

One attorney said that the Baton Rouge area has become a “cottage industry” for
the legal profession due to the boards. It seems unlikely that the LSBEP can legislate it’s way out of its managerial and financial problems. Unfortunately, in trying to do so they are removing the public from it’s legitimate role––being a correcting, and perhaps helpful, influence.

Scott Lilienfeld, Advocate for Excellence in Psychological Science and Practice, Succumbs to Pancreatic Cancer

Nationally recognized psychologist and Emory Professor, Scott Lilienfeld, died on Sept. 30 at his home in Atlanta. The cause was pancreatic cancer. He was 59.

Dr. Lilienfeld was considered by many across the nation to be a firm, resilient, and insightful voice for scientific, professional psychology. He dedicated much time and work to helping maintain awareness in the field for standards of excellence for professional psychologists.

Dr. Lilienfeld was the 2018 keynote speaker for the Louisiana Psychological Association,. He delivered the address, “Being the Essential Partner: Understanding and Overcoming
Skepticism about Scientific Psychology.”

He received the James McKeen Cattell Award for Lifetime Contributions to Applied Psychological Science, Association for Psychological Science (APS).

His work has been cited over 21,295 times. He delivered the Award Address, “Psychology’s Public Image Problem: Why Many Laypersons and Politicians Don’t
View Our Field as Scientific,” at APS.

Dr. Lilienfeld served as the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor at Emory University, and authored numerous works, including Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, and Psychological Science Under Scrutiny: Recent Challenges and Proposed Solutions, was Editor of Clinical Psychological Science, and a regular keynote speaker, including for APA, APS, SEPA and SWPA.

In his 2012 American Psychologist article, he wrote, “…professional organizations must continually underscore the point that trained psychologists are virtually unparalleled
among rival professions in one crucial respect: our ability to apply scientific reasoning and rigorous methodology to assessing, evaluating, and alleviating human problems, whether they be mental health difficulties, such as depression or anxiety disorders, or
broader societal difficulties, such as prejudice or blind obedience.”

Among his findings he cited that only 30% agree that “psychology attempts to understand the way people behave through scientific research” and 41% see psychological research as less rigorous than medical research.

Along with many findings he noted that an APA Presidential Task Force found that, “Despite psychology’s foundation in science and its standing as the science of human behavior, it is not fully accepted as a science by the general public.”

In 2018, Dr. Lilienfeld reviewed the common criticisms of psychology’s scientific status he discussed rebuttals of the criticisms, and gave main reasons for negative public views of psychology.

He noted that the public face of psychology is not represented by psychological scientists. “Psychologists are rarely called on by the media to comment on psychological findings; when they are, they are rarely scientific psychologists,” he said.

He pointed to “The Illusion of Understanding––We’re all ‘psychologists’ in everyday life, so psychology seems easy.” Among the problems he included the “Confusion Between Psychologists and Psychotherapists,” as an important factor.

He also said that that scientific psychology is challenged by the “scientific impotence excuse,” and that “When psychological findings conflict with our deeply held intuitions, we may resolve that cognitive dissonance by dismissing a scientific approach to the
questions at hand…”

Among the remedies, Dr. Lilienfeld said that, “Academic and practicing psychologists have not spent enough of their time disseminating science to the public, combating bad science, and correcting misconceptions of the field.”

“We must play a more active role in educating laypersons about psychology’s scientific side and confronting its nonscientific side,” he said.

Dr. Bonner Recognized for Psychology in Public Interest

Dr. Mkay Bonner has been recognized as the 2020 recipient of the Award for Psychology in the Public Interest by the Louisiana Psychological Association,
announced last month by the association officials.

The recognition 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 officials.

Dr. Bonner is an industrial-organizational psychologist who has worked closely with the police in Northeast Louisiana for decades. She is the Public Safety Psychologist for several police, sheriff, and fire departments. For almost 20 years, she has conducted a variety of evaluations for pre-employment, fitness-for-duty, and officer-involved shootings. Dr. Bonner is also an Associate Professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and teaches in the Criminal Justice & Psychology Departments, is a reviewer for the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, and authored or co-authored many journal articles and book chapters.

Dr. Bonner and her husband, Assistant Chief of Police at University of Louisiana at Monroe, Dr. Mark Johnson, serve on the Advisory Council of the Northeast Delta Crisis Intervention Team, known as CIT, covering 12 parishes in the northeast part of the state. She and her husband have now trained over 1300 individuals, mostly in the
law enforcement field, through a combination of more than 100 classes, ranging from 4 hour continuing education classes through the 40 hour complete CIT class. Johnson recently finished his EdD in Curriculum and Instruction, specializing in Law Enforcement
training and evaluation.

The nominating psychologist said, “During the events following the tragic death of George Floyd there have been calls for radical police reform, perhaps even wholesale police abolition. Louisiana has a heritage of excessive police behavior and much to overcome. Yet some of us see this as a moment to apply the solutions that Dr. Bonner has been advocating throughout our state and beyond for a long time. We see an opportunity for hope in the midst of our current despair.

“For over 16 years Dr. Bonner has been working quietly, working intensely to provide evidence-based training to prevent police misconduct and to minimize police use of
deadly or inappropriate force. This work has occurred at an organizational and at a tactical level. At an organizational level she and her team have analyzed systemic and
institutional conflicts that result in disparate use of deadly or inappropriate behavior. They have subsequently worked to change specific dysfunctional cultures or systems associated with excessive applications of police use of force and of cultures of racism associated with citizen abuse by first responders. Interventions like this by nature do not get publicized. They are confidential. Who wants their region, their own jurisdiction, their town, most of all their police to be labeled and singled out? But change seems effective and reasonably long term, perhaps a source for a bit of optimism in the present American confusion.”

The nominating psychologist continued, “At a more tactical level Dr. Bonner and her colleagues’ work has developed theory-based training to address common situations involving crisis intervention that police and other first responders frequently encounter. Mental illness is one of these problems. Racism is another. This work is not unique, but I believe it is uniquely effective. There are numerous programs in the country for police and first responders that address race, class, and poverty. Many more attempt to train providers about general mental health issues. But the data shows that they are not particularly effective and don’t do much good over the long term. Perhaps this is because they too often teach generalities rather than train specific skills for high risk situations. They may succeed in raising awareness but do not impart lasting behavioral changes because they do not apply discrete knowledge to risky, emotionally charged situations and back it up with practice and continued training.”

Dr. Bonner is a regular participant and presenter at the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology, an eclectic professional organization that encourages the scientific study of police and criminal psychology and the application of scientific knowledge to problems in criminal justice.

Bonner has also presented at the professional conferences of the Society of Police and Criminal Psychology, the American Psychological Association, and Professional Training Resources, Inc. Examples include, A Successful Rural Mult-jurisdictional CIT Program: A
Quantitative & Qualitative 10 Year Review
, presented at the 2017 APA Annual
Conference; “Recruiting and hiring minorities into policing, with international
considerations,” in International Journal of Crime, Law and Social Issues; “The Intersection between law enforcement and persons with a mental illness,” in Crime, Punishment, and the Law; and “Doing more with less: The advantage of reserve officers in law enforcement,” in Innovations in Police Volunteering.

Dr. Bonner has taught multiple courses at the North Delta Regional Police Academy, including courses such as Emotionally Disturbed Persons–Mental Illness, Deescalation, Stress Management, Cultural Diversity, and Police Survival.

The nominating psychologist said, “Dr. Bonner’s and her colleague’s work has been different because it trains police and first responders to think through these necessary specifics. She addresses unusual situations, but situations that might not be unusual to first responders.

“Evidence shows that they reduce the use of deadly and inappropriate police actions by giving participants opportunities to learn and to think through and rehearse. They do not provide miracles, but they help us come closer to where we all want to be as a society.

“She, her husband, a former detective, with a great deal of ‘street credibility,” and colleagues can reach the people, the fellow officers, the paramedics, the fire personnel, the prison guards and correction personnel, that most of us academics just cannot. They can, have, and will continue to be able to address racism, culturalism, classism, and inequalities because they have an authenticity gained through years of experience and a much-earned trust.”

In a recent Times interview about Police Psychology, Dr. Bonner said that not only do psychologists need to stick to their scientific base of facts, but to be truly helpful and comprehensive, psychologists must learn the culture and work environment law-enforcement personnel.

“We must learn and understand the culture and environment that they work in,” she
said. “We cannot leave our office, open a book, lecture to them for two hours on mental illness, and expect it to make a difference. We must spend time with them, go on ride-alongs –at midnight, experience some of their training classes. We must understand them, how to talk to them, the best methods for them to learn…” she said.

“Psychology has much to offer. However, we cannot dabble in research and training with law enforcement,” she warns. “We must be committed and remember our roots of scientific research and competencies. That is how we can make a difference. And, it is an extremely worthwhile endeavor.”
Selection for awards were made by
members of the Louisiana Psychological
Association’s awards committee composed
of Drs. Mike Chafetz, Beth Caillouet
Arredondo, Brian Mizuki, Kim VanGeffen,
and Laurel Franklin. The committee
accepts nominations from the community
at-large.

Dr. Frick Honored for Scientific Achievements

The state psychological association has named leading international authority, Dr.
Paul Frick, for Contributions in Psychological Science. The 2020 honor is given to an individual who has significantly increased knowledge of psychological concepts by scientific research and dissemination of findings.

Dr. Frick holds the Roy Crumpler Memorial Chair and is professor of psychology at Louisiana State University (LSU). Previously, he was Chair of Psychology at U. of New Orleans. His research investigates the many interacting factors that can lead children
and adolescents to have serious emotional and behavioral problems, such as aggressive and antisocial behavior.

Dr. Frick was noted to be one of only four researchers from LSU who achieved an
h-index over 100, based on the Google Scholar Citations database. Worldwide, only 3,160 scholars reach this level.

Dr. Frick and his colleagues have focused on the importance of “callous–unemotional” traits in children and adolescents.

“We are still working to advance research on callousunemotional traits,” Dr. Frick
told the Times, “especially in light of its addition to both the DSM-5 diagnosis for Conduct Disorder and the ICD-11 diagnoses of Conduct-dissocial and Oppositional defiant disorder,” Dr. Frick said. “In the upcoming September issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, we have a paper that will be the featured manuscript showing that CU traits predicts gun carrying and gun use in a crime in the four years following the adolescent’s first arrest,” he said.

The study will also be featured in Am. J. of Psychiatry ‘s audio podcasts found at
https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/audio.

“Also,” Dr. Frick said, “our work to advance clinical assessment of CU traits has also been progressing, with the first papers being published on the reliability and validity of the CAPE 1.1., the Clinical Assessment of Prosocial Emotions, Version 1.1, which
provides clinicians a way to assess the specifier. Finally, an open trial for our early
intervention for young children with CU traits has also recently been published,” he said.

Last year, Dr. Frick and his international co-authors published an article in Nature
Reviews, and pointed out that society pays a heavy price for its failure to diagnose and treat conduct disorders.

Conduct disorder is associated with an exceptionally high costs for individuals and society, noted the authors of the the report. “The health and personal burden of it is seven times greater than that of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a much more widely known disorder. While it is likely that children diagnosed with ADHD may also show signs of conduct disorder, very few will be diagnosed or receive treatment for it. Conduct disorder is also associated with a greater health burden than
autism.”

“Despite the fact that it is associated with a very high personal, familial, and societal
burden, conduct disorder is under-recognized and frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated. Unfortunately, the longer this goes on, the more difficult it is to treat. It truly
exemplifies the old saying that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Also, many treatments that are being used in the community have not proven effective,” Frick
previously said to LSU News.

Authors noted that “Conduct disorder (CD) is a common and highly impairing psychiatric disorder that usually emerges in childhood or adolescence and
is characterized by severe antisocial and aggressive behaviour. It frequently co-occurs with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and often leads to antisocial personality disorder in adulthood. CD affects ~3% of school-aged children and is
twice as prevalent in males than in females.”

“Callous-Unemotional Traits and Risk of Gun Carrying and Use During Crime,” authored by Emily Robertson, MA, Paul J. Frick, PhD, Toni Walker, MA, Emily Kemp, BS, James Ray,
PhD, Laura Thornton, PhD, Tina Wall Myers, PhD, Laurence Steinberg, and PhD, Elizabeth Cauffman, PhD, can be found in AJP in Advance (doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19080861)

Authors note, “This study demonstrates the importance of considering callous-unemotional traits in gun violence research both because callous-unemotional traits
increase gun carrying and use in adolescents and because the traits may moderate other key risk factors. Notably, the influence of peer gun carrying and ownership may have been under- estimated in past research for the majority of adolescents by not considering the moderating influence of callous- unemotional traits.”

Another study, “Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Adapted for Preschoolers with Callous-Unemotional Traits: An Open Trial Pilot Study,” is published in Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.

“The Clinical Assessment of Prosocial Emotions (CAPE 1.1): A Multi-Informant Validation
Study,” was recently published in Psychological Assessment. This study examined the validity of the Clinical Assessment of Prosocial Emotions, a newly developed clinician-rating measure of CU traits in children and adolescents.

The “Public Significance Statement” for the research noted, “This study provides empirical support for a new interview-based method for assessing limited prosocial
emotions (e.g., a lack of guilt and empathy) in children with conduct problems (e.g.,
aggressive and disruptive behavior). This is important because existing clinical tools
for assessing limited prosocial emotions have been limited to questionnaires alone despite the important role of clinical interview data in the formulation of psychiatric diagnoses.”

Dr. Frick is a leading international authority in child and adolescent diagnosis and
behavior and his work focuses on the pathways by which youth develop severe antisocial behavior and aggressiveness. He has published over 180 manuscripts in either edited books or peer-reviewed publications and he is the author of 6 additional books and test manuals. He has been Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of New Orleans, and was named the recipient of the Robert D. Hare Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for the
Scientific Study of Psychopathy.

In 2017, he was named the Editor-in-Chief for the prestigious Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, the official journal of the International Society for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, a multidisciplinary scientific society.

Dr. Frick’s research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation. In 2008, he received the MacArthur Foundation’s Champion for Change in Juvenile Justice Award for the state of Louisiana. He has been the editor of the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, is past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy. He has an Honorary Doctorate from Orebro University in Orebro, Sweden in recognition of his research contributions in psychology. He is also Professor in the Learning Sciences Institute of Australia at Australian Catholic
University.

Selection for awards were made by members of the Louisiana Psychological Association’s awards committee composed of Drs. Mike Chafetz, Beth Caillouet
Arredondo, Brian Mizuki, Kim VanGeffen, and Laurel Franklin.

The nominating psychologist said, “Dr. Frick has brought a rich and inspired analysis to
psychology and is one of the great minds in our field. His research exemplifies what it
means to advance psychology for the benefit of the larger society.”