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This community blog is written by the current OPA Board of Directors' President.

 

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President's Message: October 2017

Posted By Mary Lewis, PhD, ABPP - OPA President, Friday, October 20, 2017

Navigating Traumatic Events as Psychologists – And a Human Being

As I sit down to write this e-newsletter article, I am reeling from the largest mass shooting in U.S. history and wondering how to talk to my clients, children, and friends about this event. My friends have reached out to me, wanting to know why psychologists cannot predict violence, or prevent harm, or ways to navigate the helpless feelings that may arise when national disasters and traumatic events occur, seemingly in a constant cycle these days. I do not have perfect answers, but there are a number of resources that I can direct them towards as a way to manage emotional and cognitive distress.

Violence has plagued our society as long as we have been documenting history, yet it seems more visible, visceral, and “in your face” due to the 24/7 nature of news sources and social media. Raw video from disasters, man-made or otherwise, can be viewed with no filters, no warning notices, and tap into our fears. This triggers the availability bias, which can heighten the fears that we are vulnerable to shootings or hurricanes. This is despite the data that demonstrates our odds of being killed in a mass shooting is much lower than that of dying of suicide, car accident, or heart disease (National Safety Council; http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/injury-facts-chart.aspx). Additionally, research is demonstrating that repeated exposure to media coverage can trigger higher acute stress (Holman, Garfin, & Silver, 2013; http://www.pnas.org/content/111/1/93.abstract). For those with already-existing trauma or stress-related disorders, this can trigger a re-occurrence of their symptoms. 

While psychologists are experts at helping others manage their emotions and cope with stressful times, I think it is a good reminder to consider reflect on how we are taking care of ourselves during this time. We are also human, and vulnerable to fears, worries, anxiety, sadness, anger, and other emotions related to daily stressors. The recommendations that APA and other national health groups offer are good reminders of ways to perform self-care in stressful times, and I want to remind all of us of a few of those suggestions.

Create a safe space. Our offices can be safe and brave spaces for our clients or students, but is there a space that you have where you can create peace and healing for yourself? Do you mindfully choose to retreat to this space when you need to sit and breathe, or restore your energy? My safe space is often outside, in nature, so that I can ground myself and reconnect with green space and fresh air. 

Turn off media and electronics. Some of us may feel compelled to keep checking news for more information, or using social media to share information to help others. I am quite guilty of this (see my Twitter or FB accounts)! However, research shows that disconnecting from media sources, even for short periods of times, can be psychologically healthy. This also helps re-set our mental outlook to one that may be more realistic. 

Use your support network. No matter whether you are introverted or extroverted, have a large or small network, this is a good time to reach out to those who support and love you, and remind yourself that there is still kindness and love in the world. It may just be a simple phone call or an offer to meet for coffee. Maybe it is snuggling with your pet, or a movie night with your family. Caregivers benefit from caregiving also.

Find balance. I continue to find that no matter what part of the career life-span that I am in currently, finding a balance in work/life as well as exposure to positive/negative news is one key to remaining healthy myself. We can seek out positive news stories and focus on the good things that are occurring in our daily lives, which may help buffer the effect of constant negative news.

Help others. While we do help our clients, students, and organizations on a daily basis, sometimes it is nice to move outside of those circles to do a kind act and spread positivity. Personally, I have started a Sunday afternoon tradition of writing one “card of gratitude” to a friend of mine. While this seems like a small act, it may be incredibly helpful to the recipient. 

Take our own advice. We help others find ways to practice self-care, whether it be through mindfulness, relaxation breathing, cognitive restructuring, honoring emotions, exercise, healthy eating, etc. I am constantly reminded of the old adage that “we cannot help others if we do not help ourselves.” It is easy to focus on helping others and forget to take care of ourselves. 

What other ways do you find are helpful in maintaining a focus on self-care in your daily life, especially in difficult times? Are there particular activities that seem to be calming, or invigorating? Please remember that part of OPA’s mission is to “support the personal and professional lives of psychologists throughout their lifespan, from student status through retirement.” If you are willing, I would love to hear the strategies that you are using care of yourself as well as additional ways OPA can support your self-care endeavors. 

In closing, I want to share with you a brief list of resources that may be useful to both you and your clients and students. If you have additional resources, please feel free to email them to me. 

Resources
Managing your Distress in the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting
http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/mass-shooting.asp

OPA Colleague Assistance Program
http://ohpsych.org/page/OPACAP

Tips for Survivors: Coping with Grief after a Disaster or Traumatic Event https://store.samhsa.gov/product/SMA17-5035

Coping with Traumatic Events: Resources for Children, Parents, Educators and Other Professionals:
https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/tools-learning-resources/coping-traumatic-events-resources

Trauma-Informed Approach 
https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma

Impact of Mass Shootings on Survivors, Families and Communities
https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/newsletters/research-quarterly/V18N3.pdf

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President's Message: September 2017

Posted By Mary Lewis, PhD, ABPP - OPA President, Monday, September 25, 2017

As I write my first article as President of the Ohio Psychological Association, I first want to thank all of you for your trust in my leadership this critical year when OPA implements the new governance structure and explores new ways to help psychologists remain independent in Ohio! I am truly heartened by the OPA members who have volunteered their leadership for the board this year, and am thankful for the number of individuals willing to dedicate time, energy, and passion to OPA. We could not be the nationally-recognized organization without each and every one of you. 

I also want to reflect on how important timing, opportunity, and openness to new experiences can be in regards to how we interact with the public. In graduate school, sometimes a message is sent that only hard work achieves results! Work diligently (and a lot!) on your dissertation, grant funding, practicum hours, etc. That message denies the reality of those who start at a different place in their lives with fewer advantages, and less privilege than others. Research also demonstrates that serendipity is critical in career path choice and personal development (Williams, Soeprapto, Like, Touradjui, Hess, & Hill, 1998). We all have the opportunity to find ourselves at the “right place, right time” and engender change in our communities. 

Here’s one good example. I am, by virtue of my flexible academic position, able to have access to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook throughout the day. My goal as a psychologist using social media is to find 1-2 articles each day that have to do with wellness, mental health, human development, or other psychological topic, and post it on these sites as a way to educate the public about psychology. I had the fortune to see the article about the NAMI-Google partnership, using the PHQ-9 to offer a screen for depression for individuals doing a mobile google search for “depression.” My tweet was viewed by a correspondent from BBC World Radio News, and she reached out to me to see if I would be willing and able to participate in a radio interview. From the time of my tweet to the moment I was live on international radio was approximately 2.5 hours! I am grateful for my timing, the serendipity of the moment, and the opportunity to network with the media to give feedback from a psychologist’s perspective on this topic. 

Collaboration is so critical in this time. We are all working towards the same goal of supporting healing and positive well-being for individuals, families, organizations and communities! While we may have different theoretical orientations, approaches, comfort levels with technology, and backgrounds, this common goal brings us together. Allport’s Contact Hypothesis (Allport, 1954) still holds true that individuals with equal status, common goals, intergroup cooperation, support of authority figures, and personal interaction can improve relationships between all of us. 

I would challenge each of you to go outside your comfort zone and try something new! Explore one of the following action steps to collaborate and help promote psychology: 

  • Find one organization that has the same goal as you, and reach out to them with the goal of collaborating (e.g., NAMI, MHA, Red Cross, YMCA, local religious organization, senior center, library, etc.)
  • Please let OPA know if you are willing to be a media resource, write a letter (as many of you did with the potential Board consolidation), call a legislator, participate in a committee, or lead an OPA team in a local walk. 
  • Become a Disaster Response Network psychologist through APA and help out with local, state, and national disaster responding. 
  • Be mindful and deliberative in your social media and public presence to create opportunities to educate the public about psychology and the role of psychologists. 
  • Rely on your psychological and scientific expertise to provide educational materials in various modalities, in numerous environments.
  • And above all, do so in an ethical manner!

For more information, see these links:

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President's Message: February 2017

Posted By Thomas P. Swales, PhD, ABPP - OPA President, Friday, February 24, 2017

The Ohio Board of Psychology is being eliminated! 

In November, a bill was introduced that would have eliminated the Ohio Board of Psychology. The legislation would have consolidated various boards. 

Fortunately, Michael Ranney and the Board of Directors of your Ohio Psychological Association worked behind the scenes to pressure the sponsors of this bill to take no further action. Our first battle was won. 

However, the next legislative battle may be lost, unless we take action. 

According to the proposed budget for the State of Ohio, the Ohio Board of Psychology will be eliminated within six months. 

As you may remember, the budget bill process was previously used by John Kasich’s administration to push through Medicaid expansion. 

While most of us cheered Medicaid expansion, the current proposal, hidden within the budget bill, may have tragic consequences for psychology. 

What can I do to help fight this?

  1.  Be prepared to speak with your legislator personally. Personal contact is what counts. We will help you by preparing talking points for you to cover. Get to know them. Offer to help them as a consultant on any mental health concern. We are their experts. We voted them into office, and are their constituents, and supporters.  
  2. Attend Legislative Day. Clear your schedule, and give us one day of your time. Drive down to Columbus, and spend the day meeting face-to-face with Ohio State Senators and Representatives. You’ll have lunch with legislators from across Ohio in the Statehouse Atrium. We will also set up appointments for you and your colleagues to have face-to-face meetings with your legislator, or their aide. 
  3. Stay in touch. We are putting together our advocacy strategy. When Michael Ranney, Penny Tipps, Brad Potts, or anyone else from OPA reaches out to you for help in the near future, please pick up the phone, or read their email, and respond.

Final thoughts

First, our Executive Director Michael Ranney, lobbyist Penny Tipps, and Advocacy Chair Brad Potts, along with the rest of the OPA Board, will put together our strategy to preserve the licensing board. Our strategy must be thorough, and effective. 

Second, our previous strategy worked. One of the sponsors of last year’s bill to eliminate the psychology board would have refused to sponsor it again, because of all the opposition that we pulled together against the bill. We were part of a coalition of over 100,000 licensed professionals who opposed the bill. Many of them reached out to complain.

Third, you are paying the bill for the licensing board, through your licensing fees - Don’t settle for less than the best. You should get what you already pay for. Ohio Board of Psychology Executive Director Ron Ross, PhD, and Board President Alice Randolph, Ph.D. and the rest of the board and staff have provided us with excellent, responsive, and efficient service, in both licensing and investigations.

Finally, I cannot promise you that we will win this battle. 

However, I can promise you that the Ohio Psychological Association will do everything in its power to defeat this proposal. We need an independent Ohio Psychology Board!

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below or call OPA today!
Sincerely,

Thomas P. Swales, Ph.D., ABPP
President, Ohio Psychological Association

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President's Message: November 2016

Posted By Thomas P. Swales, Ph.D., ABPP, Monday, November 28, 2016

A new Director of Professional Affairs, and new lobbyist can only happen if you stay a member of OPA.

We will be hiring a new Director of Professional Affairs after Bobbie Celeste retires in December. We have also budgeted to hire Penny Tipps as lobbyist. Your membership funds both positions. We have excellent organizational leadership and services to support your practice. Our staff, lobbyist, and advocacy committee members under Brad Potts all work together to read every bill that potentially affects our profession, and works with the OPA Board to set our legislative positions and agenda.

 

How can you help… call and meet with your legislator.

You have the power to change what happens politically in Ohio, with one face-to-face meeting. All it takes is one phone call to set an appointment with your State Senator or Representative. The power of face-to-face contact is priceless. If you hand over a personal check, or a check from our PAC, the impact is compounded exponentially. Contact the OPA office, and we will give you a handout to share that will provide facts, not fiction, on the key legislative bills we are supporting.

 

Thank you,

Thomas P. Swales, Ph.D., ABPP

President, Ohio Psychological Association 

Tags:  Advocacy  President's Message  Swales 

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President's Message: October 2016

Posted By Thomas P. Swales, Ph.D., ABPP, Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Can medical marijuana be harmful? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Many states have taken action to either de-criminalize marijuana, or created rules for the prescription of marijuana for certain medical conditions. Ohio is one of the states that has created a medical marijuana law where physicians can prescribe marijuana for the treatment of certain qualifying medical conditions. Bob Stinson, PsyD tasked me to investigate the Ohio medical marijuana law, and I spent a great amount of time reviewing the scientific literature. The evidence is clear that marijuana has benefit for patients with certain neurological disorders. So, how can medical marijuana be harmful, when there is scientific evidence of its benefit to patients?

Posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury were included as qualifying medical conditions in the Ohio medical marijuana law. What is interesting is that these conditions were included in the law based upon personal testimonies, rather than compelling and convincing scientific evidence. This is a reminder to me of why it is important for the Ohio Psychological Association to remain engaged in the legislative process.

 

Lesson learned. The devil is always in the details.

Reading the bill after it was rushed through the Ohio legislature, it was easy to be distracted by the list of other qualifying medical conditions included in the bill. It is essential that the Ohio Psychological Association stays vigilant, to protect the best interests of our society. Thanks to psychologists Emily Gilmore, Nate Tomcik and others, a position statement on Marijuana as medicine for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury was crafted.

There is no scientific evidence that marijuana or medications derived from marijuana are effective treatments for PTSD. There is growing evidence that marijuana used by individuals with PTSD has many risks, including worse response to treatment, as well as increased risk of violence and addiction (i.e. cannabis use disorders). Most importantly, there are many existing treatments for PTSD that are safe and highly effective. There is no scientific evidence that marijuana or medications derived from marijuana are safe and effective treatment for traumatic brain injury. Finally, marijuana use is associated with higher rates of occupational problems; psychiatric problems, including addiction; neurological and cognitive impairment; and lower quality of life.

Would you like to share your opinion? Feel free to weigh in with your opinion, or additional research, by contacting me, or any other OPA Board member. We will discuss and hopefully take action on the proposed position statement at the next OPA Board meeting.

 

Thank you,

Thomas P. Swales, Ph.D., ABPP

President, Ohio Psychological Association 

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