Dr. Amy Dickson has been named recipient of the 2022 Award for Distinguished Service in Psychology by the Louisiana Psychological Association, announced at the spring convention. Dr. Dickson is Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, (LSUHSC), Department of Psychiatry, New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a license Clinical Psychologist, Infant Team Director, and Psychology Section Deputy Chief.
“This award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to the professional field of psychology in Louisiana and beyond by their professional service, particularly in the area of diversity, or demonstrated community involvement in support of less privileged or oppressed groups,” said Dr. Amanda Raines, spokesperson for the Association.
“Dr. Dickson works to support some of the most vulnerable populations in our community,” said Dr. Raines. “She works with the Department of Child and Family Services where she provides services to families involved in the court due to suspected abuse and neglect of children. In her previous role as Director of the Victims Assistance Program for the Department of Psychiatry at LSUHSC, Dr. Dickson managed a crisis hot line to assist families in the New Orleans area impacted by violence. In addition, she has worked as the co-director for the Harris Infant Mental Health program at LSUHSC for the past 17 years where she has trained social work interns, psychiatry fellows, and psychology interns to have a deeper understanding for the mental health needs of young children,” said Dr. Raines.
Dr. Dickson is the Psychology Section Deputy Chief and the Child Coordinator of the Psychology Internship Training Program at LSUHSC. She is a Child-Parent Psychotherapy trainer and she is the Director of the Orleans Parish Infant Team which treats children ages 0-5 years in the foster care system. She is part of a Safe Baby Court and trains around the country on infant mental health and court team work.
Dr. Dickson also consults to local child protection agencies, and sees clients at the Behavioral Sciences Center and at a federally qualified health clinic Dr. Dickson considers the training of others to be one of her important contributions. “Training the police to respond to incidents of violence involving children was incredible work,” said Dr. Dickson. “I was able to ride along on shifts with police officers, often at night and attend their daily staffings. I got to know many officers on a personal level and could hear the stress of their job and their helplessness, at times, when confronted with various scenarios. The officers truly wanted to help the families and often did not know how. Getting to work with these families, who would not have come to the attention of mental health professionals, was immensely rewarding,” she said.
Dr, Dickson co-directs the Harris Infant Mental Health training with Dr. Joy Osofsky. According to their website, the LSUHSC Department of Psychiatry began the Harris Center for Infant Mental Health over a decade ago. The Center offers training to predoctoral psychology interns (through an APA approved infant-child internship), child psychiatrists (as a required part of their residency training program), post-doctoral psychologists, social workers, and other professionals seeking infant mental health specialization.
The officials note that the program is multidisciplinary and unique in fulfilling requirements for psychology and child psychiatry training programs, being the first predoctoral internship in infant mental health recognized and approved by both the American Psychological Association (APA) and Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). The child psychiatry rotation began as a six-month experience, explained officials. However after learning how much residents were benefitting from the rotation, the child psychiatry faculty at LSUHSC made it a mandatory part of training. All trainees, from all disciplines, consistently rank their experience in the Harris Center for Infant Mental Health a top part of their training, according to
Dr. Dickson noted her role after Hurricane Katrina. “The police reached out to our team as they were so traumatized during and after the hurricane and they had built trust in us after working together for so many years. They let us come and hear their stories and provide support. That is a tough group to get to open up and we all felt honored to join those brave individuals on their healing journey,” she said.
For the Orleans Parish Permanency Infant and Preschool Program, Dr. Dickson has conducted extensive relationship-based evaluations to assess whether parental rights should be terminated, or children ages 0-5 years should be reunited with their biological parents as part of a state funded multidisciplinary team. She also conducted out-patient relationship-based family therapy with all available caregivers and their infants, individual therapy with the young children and their parents, psychological evaluations with the caregivers, and/or developmental evaluations with the children if needed. Her services include providing court testimony as an expert witness as needed and supervising the trainees. She presents to local child protection agency staff on a variety of mental health topics. Dr. Dickson has been a provider to Zero to Three funded Court Team since 2007. She has been the Program coordinator since July 2002 and Director since March 2004.
“I was able to provide evaluations when I saw undiagnosed learning disabilities or disorders,” said Dr. Dickson, “work with the children’s teachers to help them understand that the child’s response was often due to their trauma versus oppositional behavior, and helped change the way each family functioned as they understood the impact of their life events on them and could treat each other in a more compassionate and supportive manner. The program enabled me to build connections with so many people who never would have connected to someone like me before.
Due to our grants, we were able to see people free of charge. I still keep in touch with some of my earliest clients as they call to tell me about their own children now and they have referred friends and family members. It’s so wonderful to hear from them.”
In her work at the Harris Infant Mental Health Program, Dr. Dickson has been co-director since 2010. Her services include conducting out-patient family therapy with parents and their infants. She assists in the coordination and teaching of a weekly didactic seminar on infant mental health to a yearly group of fellows. She supervises trainees and has been part of the Harris Professional Development Network since 2008. She has also been part of the Child Welfare Professional Development Network within the Harris network and the Fatherhood Engagement Committee.
“I enjoy watching people make substantial, positive changes in their lives and seeing the ripple effects of those changes as ensuing generations and family members and friends benefit from the clients’ greater emotional health and positive functioning,” she said. “Learning from each other, we all benefit.”
“My work in child protection is also immensely rewarding,” Dr. Dickson said. “These caregivers rarely have a supportive person in their life and many later thank the team for all they have learned. It is always hard to see a child injured, but it is also hard to see a parent who was not protected themselves. Child abuse work is hard, and all the professionals who choose to work in this area truly want to help. Building shared knowledge, learning from one another, and providing emotional support not just to my team and the families- both biological and foster- but also my foster care caseworkers and the attorneys has made us all better at our jobs and better able to find new ways to keep families together or connected to one another in healthier ways.”
Her many accomplishments and recognitions include:
Featured Poster Presentation at the Annual ISTSS
Conference: Childhood Maltreatment and Developmental Delay in Miami, Florida November 6, 2014
One of New Orleans City Business’ Power Generation for 2003 YLC: Volunteer of the Year 2002
Project Leader of the Year 2001
Project (NRP) of the Year 2000
Commendation from Total Community Action for work with local Head Starts
Commendation from CASA for volunteer teaching to incoming classes
Commendation from NCTSN for work given on published materials
Dr. Dickson’s publications include:
Zeanah, P., Larrieu, J., Osofsky, J., Dickson, A., & Zeanah, C.H. (2021). Enhancing Developmental Trajectories: The Critical Importance of Increasing & Supporting Evidence-Based Services for Louisiana’s Most Vulnerable Citizens.
Hines, E.N., Thompson, S.L., Moore, M.B., Dickson, A.B., & Callahan, K.L. (2020). Parent-child separation due to incarceration: Assessment, diagnosis, and treatment considerations. Zero to Three, 40(4), 22-29.
Family Time Resources: A Series of Publications for Foster Care Workers, Foster Parents, CASAs, Judges, Parents, and Attorneys- in collaboration with the Harris Professional Development Network committee members, October 2020.
Hines, E., Thompson, S., Moore, M., Dickson, A. & Callahan, K. (2020) Parent-child separation due to incarceration: Assessment, diagnosis & treatment considerations. Zero to Three Journal, 40 (4), 22-29.
Dr. Dickson said she is grateful to the many people who have trained her over the years, but she is most thankful for Dr. Joy Osofsky.
“I have been taught by many fabulous people who are so good at what they do,” Dr. Dickson said. “I have had the incredibly good fortune of being mentored by Dr. Joy Osofsky who has exposed me to so many wonderful learning opportunities and provided the grants and vehicles to be able to do such meaningful work. LSUHSC is involved in great community work, and I feel so grateful to have landed here to be exposed to such wonderful opportunities and people who
keep the work challenging and interesting and relevant to society.”
Dr. Dickson believes you should never stop training. “Listen to the community members,” she said. “Learn that despite your advanced training, we can always learn from others. Our team has never entered a system thinking we know the answers. Even when called into help, we learn the most from listening and observing and then partnering with others to see what will be beneficial. We co-create wonderful interventions together when we do this. I have definitely learned more from my clients and colleagues than they have learned from me,” Dr. Dickson said.
Dr. Dickson said, “I love going to work each day. My colleagues and trainees are awesome, and you never know what will happen that day. Kids, in particular, are so unpredictable and can bring such joy. I love to watch people heal from their traumas and fully engage again and find joy, meaning and happiness. It is a humbling experience to be a part of someone’s journey and I feel grateful every day that I get to do the work I do.”