Thursday, July 10, 2014

5 Ways To Boost Clients' Life Satisfaction by Using Their Religious Values

by guest blogger, Tara Luchkiw, M.A.

Numerous research studies have demonstrated that there is a positive relationship between religiousness and psychological well-being (Koenig, 2001). People who report having strong religious belief and engaging in frequent religious behaviors often report higher levels of satisfaction with life and lower levels of anxiety and depression than those who report infrequent attendance at worship services, sporadic private prayer practices, and doubts in their beliefs. Several researchers have proposed a number of reasons why religious behavior might be related to greater well-being. Likely explanations include the provision of social support, establishment of meaning in life, engagement in healthy lifestyle choices, promotion of positive religious coping styles, and facilitation of positive affect, all of which are believed to be endorsed by and facilitated through religion (Ellison, Boardman, Williams, & Jackson, 2001; Ellison & Levin, 1998; George, Larson, Koenig, & McCullough, 2000; Seybold & Hill, 2001). Addressing these components in treatment can assist your clients with engaging in value-driven behaviors. 

Many clients look to their religious faith to give them strength and hope as they work through various psychological difficulties. For these clients, integrating their personal beliefs into treatment may lead to better treatment outcomes. For example, in a review of studies examining religion and mental health, depression in patients treated with religious interventions was resolved more quickly than in patients treated with a secular intervention or no intervention in five out of eight clinical trials (Koenig & Larson, 2001). The following are five ways you can engage your clients’ religious values in treatment.

1. Encourage your clients to get more involved in activities at their place of worship or to attend services more regularly. Religious involvement provides access and opportunities to create social networks with people who share similar values, morals, interests, and activities. A large social support network could provide emotional and tangible assistance that may promote better mental health among religious persons. Consider suggesting church-based activities as behavioral activation targets.

2. Encourage your clients to establish a daily practice that includes private prayer or devotional activities. Religious belief provides a view of the world that gives experiences meaning, which yields a sense of purpose, direction in life, and peace of mind for the believer. One study found that participants reported having a greater sense of meaning in life and greater well-being on days that they engaged in religious behaviors (Steger & Frazier, 2005). The findings from this study also suggest that religious individuals feel greater well-being because they derive meaning in life from their religious activities. Consider implementing mindfulness meditations in the form of private religious devotional practices.

3. Focus on client beliefs that prescribe healthy lifestyles. Many religious faiths teach members to respect and care for their bodies. They teach, for example, that the body is the temple of God, or that life and health are gifts that are deserving of gratitude and responsible stewardship. Consider using such client values to guide treatment goals for engaging in increased healthy behaviors.

4. Explore religious coping techniques. Clients may reference their religious beliefs in various ways in attempt to cope with difficult life situations. Some forms of religious coping may be healthy and adaptive, whereas others may be negative and maladaptive. Consider exploring with a client the ways he or she uses religious beliefs to cope, and whether the clients’ current coping patterns are effective.

5. Focus on aspects of religious faith that promote positive emotional experiences, such as hope, gratitude, grace, and forgiveness. Some religious clients may struggle with intense experiences of guilt, shame, or fear of divine punishment. These are areas the client may wish to discuss with a religious leader. In such a case, a referral to a pastor, priest, rabbi, etc. may be appropriate.

Like all other aspects of diversity, religious belief and behavior is an important domain in which psychologists should seek to develop competence. Individuals may express their faith differently from other members in the same religious category or denomination. Thus it is important to discuss each client’s religious values from his or her perspective. It is not necessarily the case that a treatment provider must share the same religious beliefs and values as the client, however it is essential that the provider approach a client’s faith with sensitivity and respect. Doing so with a competent integration of religious activities in treatment has the potential to enhance client well-being and overall treatment outcomes.

* * * * * 
Tara K. Luchkiw, M.A. is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Mississippi. She is currently working on her dissertation and will be applying for her predoctoral internship in Fall 2014.

Full reference citations available upon request
 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mental Health and Aging: Managing Loss



 I'm Blogging for Mental Health. 

Aging can be daunting.  We often experience considerable loss as we get older.  Some losses might be observable, such as a loss of mobility or significantly diminished cognitive functioning.  Some losses may be less obvious, such as the loss of independence one feels when he or she cannot do all of the things that he or she could once do.  While depression is not be a normal part of growing older, the life changes and losses that older adults experience could lead to one feeling depressed.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression is more prevalent in individuals who suffer from other illnesses or who have limited functioning (http://www.cdc.gov/aging/mentalhealth/depression.htm).    

Some symptoms associated with depression are:


  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • A loss of interest in things that one used to enjoy 
  •  Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Appetite changes or changes in weight
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping 
  •  Fatigue or low energy 
  •  Problems concentrating   
  •  Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation


Notably, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “In 2010, the highest suicide rate (18.6) was among people 45 to 64 years old.  The second highest rate (17.6) occurred in those 85 years and older” (http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures). 



Fortunately, there is effective treatment for depression, and older adults can benefit from this treatment.  Participating in psychotherapy, taking antidepressant medication, or utilizing a combination of both treatment modalities can lead to symptom reduction.  However, older adults might not realize that they are suffering from depression.  Furthermore, they might be opposed to receiving mental health treatment because they think that those who receive such treatment are crazy, and they do not need such treatment.  Therefore, it is important to approach this subject with older adults gently.   

For family members and friends of older adults, recognizing the symptoms of depression is just the first step.  Letting them know that while we, as younger persons cannot truly understand what they are going through because we have not done so, we can appreciate the changes and challenges that one experiences as he or she ages.  It is important to discuss the changes and losses that our older adult relatives and friends have and to validate their feelings.  Explaining that depression is a type of illness like other illnesses that they might be experiencing could lead older adults to be more accepting of mental health treatment.  

Other ways to help with low mood can include:
  • Exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Socialization
  • Active lifestyle
  • Meditation
  • Volunteering

Caring for an older adult can be stressful and lead to depression, if one does not have adequate resources to cope.  Therefore, in addition to paying careful attention to the older adult for which one is caring, it is important for the caregiver to be aware of any symptoms of depression he or she may be experiencing and seek treatment for these symptoms. 

Resources:
National Institute of Mental Health:

Medline Plus:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001521.htm

The Voice of Women 40+

Guest Blogger: Michele Evans, Ph.D.
 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

28th Ohio Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference

Dr. David G. Myers, Keynote Speaker
The Ohio Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference (OUPRC) website is available for you to register yourself and your students to attend OUPRC on Saturday, April 26.  All information (including registration and abstract submission) can be found at:


Please make sure that you register each individual SEPARATELY, and that if an abstract is submitted for a presenter, each presenter is also REGISTERED.  There are separate links for each.  (Abstract submission does not qualify as registration).  Faculty in attendance should also register, and all registrants should make a lunch choice so that we can plan accordingly.

Complete information about the schedule for the day, the keynote speaker, and maps to campus can all be found at the registration site.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Walks in Columbus April 2014

Saturday, 4/13 at 12:30pm: National Eating Disorders Awareness Walk (Fred Beekman Park)


Saturday, 4/26 at 9am: Race to Eliminate Sexual Violence (Wolfe Park in Bexley)


Saturday, 4/26 at 8:30am: Walk to Cure Arthritis (Columbus Zoo)



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Need Resources? Try 211

by Guest Blogger, David Weaver, Ph.D.

Clients Over-Whelmed? You Over-Worked? Call 211 or Search 211.org

Does your clint have multiple unmet needs? Like food, shelter, health care, transportation, child care, recovery from addiction or other problem. Would you feel over-whelmed? Could you effectively and simply help them help themselves?

Calling 211, or going to 211.org or 211franklincounty.org (Hands On Ohio in FC) gets the person the necessities they need. They get them for themselves. Its sponsored by the United Way and Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (nationwide). The person quickly learns about self-help groups, self-reliance, and all community services.

The new psychologist in a community mental health agency working with addicted, alcoholic, homeless, physically ill, felons, suicidal or homicidal clients has backup. Simply refer those pesky non-treatment plan issues to 211. The professional also learns by exploring 211.

I have been strengthened and calmed by knowing 211 had my professional back. It discharges my counter-transference (especially when I use self-reliance groups like Al-Anon) and my liability. Referral to the professional 211 agency allows the person to decide what to do and with which resource. It works for my clients multiple problems, allowing us to focus on psychotherapy and helping all of us to feel better. I sleep better.

People using 211 gain motivation, remission and recovery. They are more likely to help themselves solve their problems.

Self-help groups are the third pillar of treatment. They boost the effect of psychotherapy and medicine. They are infinitely expandable having the capacity to divide like a cell and serve all 3 million diagnosable Buckeyes. For free and with around the clock coverage given their use of sponsors and phone numbers. Peers helping peers are motivated and knowledgable. They are always available. The meetings are always available. They target their issues with great fidelity. When wo recovering people are welcomed, accepted and respected, we heal. Self-reliance also heals.

211 began in 1979 (the 'community' mental health promise, since broken). But, according to my small sample surveys only a consistent 20% of police, physicians, counselors, teachers, and State employees know what 211 is. Let us get 80% educated about 211. Get the 411 on 211. Refer to it.

Call 211.

211.org

211franklincounty.org

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

PEC Press Releases for 2014

Stay tuned for these press releases from OPA and APA in 2014!

  • January - Willpower and New Year's Resolutions.
  • February - Heart Health . 
  • March - TBD . April - Tax Day 
  • May - Mother's Day 
  • June - Father's Day
  • July - Summer Vacation 
  • August - Back to School
  • September - Job Stress 
  • October - Mental Illness Awareness Week/National Depression Screening Day .
  • November - Holiday Stress 
  • December - Seasonal Affective Disorder 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Out of the Darkness Walk Report - Columbus

On Sunday, October 13th, 2013, team members from the Ohio Psychological Association/Central Ohio Psychological Association participated in the Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk. Pictured are team members Nicolette Howells, Marjorie Kukor, Beth McCreary, and Mary Lewis. Also pictured are Makayla and Marina McCreary and Emma Lewis. Walking but not pictured are Aaron Lewis (in the stroller) and Mike Cutright. The team walked at Fred Beekman park in Columbus, OH to support suicide prevention efforts and raised $905 from 15 donors. The entire Columbus walk raised $67,767 (pending mail-in donations). Fifty-percent of the donations will stay in the Columbus area for direct suicide prevention efforts, while the other 50% will go towards suicide prevention research.

While at the walk, OPA and COPA distributed 100 Apa Help Center book marks, 50 "Road to Resilience" and 65 "Talk to a Psychologist" brochures, plus 50 of the "Mind your Mental Health" brochures. We also provided flyers on "211," which is a local service that can link callers to self-help groups and mental health resources.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Guest Blogger: "They" can be "Us"

by Guest Blogger: Morgan Shields 

America is a place that fosters individualistic pride. But this sense of independence is an illusion. We are not actually independent. As social creatures, our mental and physical health depends upon the support and acceptance of our community and society at large.  We need each other for social support, but also services. We need doctors, teachers, and farmers to provide services that we cannot produce on our own.  We need our neighbors to call 911 when we fall off of a ladder, and we need doctors to “fix” the broken bones.  We need the police to investigate when we are mugged, and we need our friends and family to support us after the trauma.

Can you imagine a society without a cooperative system? Can you imagine living in a world where everything is a cut-throat competition; where the only person you could depend on was yourself?  If you can imagine this, I am sure you can also imagine how short-lived the human race would be in such an environment.
But this is what we expect from each other and ourselves. We expect others to be tough and able, and if others are not tough and able, then that means they are not “good enough.” Further, since we expect ourselves to also be tough and able, we experience shame in asking for help, because we fear appearing weak.

What sickness and stigma this fosters.


Nobody can be tough and able all of the time. We all have our moments of need. Yes, some require more support than others, but this is rarely their fault. People do not give themselves depression on purpose. Or bipolar disorder. Or autism. Or homelessness. People do not make a decision to acquire these struggles and differences. People do not choose to be born into poor families, grow up in foster care, or to be the child of a parent who used drugs during pregnancy. People do not elect to get cancer, traumatic brain injury, or multiple sclerosis. It happens and it can happen to any of us. In fact, it is likely that we will experience severe illness – whether mental or physical – at some point in our lives.

What is amazing about the people of this world is that we are all different. Every single person has had an accumulation of different experiences and perceptions that make them who they are. In recognizing this, we can then realize the uselessness and underlying ignorance in passing judgments.

Judging another’s situation is not going to serve anyone well. Contrary to a competitive mindset, another’s misfortune does not make you a better human.

What we all should be aware of is that tomorrow we can be the person sleeping on the street. We can have a psychotic break. We can get into a car accident, hit our head, and experience a change in personality. These things can happen tomorrow. My objective is not to instill fear, but to engender gentleness in our interactions with the world, our thoughts of people and their labels, and our perceptions of our true independence and dependencies.

We need to end the stigma of mental illness and difference. It is the stigma that keeps people from reaching out for help. Mental illness needs to be normalized and accepted. This needs to happen at all levels of society. We need to educate people about mental illness without dichotomizing the “ill” from the “sick.” Creating otherness does not help. Otherness perpetuates stigma. Further, perhaps there would be decreased rates of anxiety and depression if there was not so much pressure to be tough and able. We are not naturally built to operate in this way. It is not healthy.

It is my hope that we can all learn to be gentler with ourselves and with each other. We have all been born into different situations and have had different experiences. While it is great to have pride in one’s merit, our worth should not be dictated by our accomplishments and ability.


* * *
This post is in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 6-12, 2013). It's time to speak out. 
* * * 

Morgan is currently a senior at Kent State University, majoring in psychology. Prior to college, she served in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, where she traveled the country working for various non-profits and government agencies. During her service, she interacted with the homeless population on a regular basis, and saw our system’s failure in the lives of these individuals. Once she started college, she began working as a Research Assistant in the Clinical Neuropsychology Laboratory, under Dr. Mary Beth Spitznagel, and the Emotion, Stress, and Relationships Laboratory under Dr. Karin Coifman. She has numerous research presentations under her belt, as well as several manuscripts in the works. This past summer, Morgan was awarded a research fellowship by the National Science Foundation to study under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. While there, she was exposed to research projects that focused on cultivating compassion and empathy. Currently, Morgan is applying for a Fulbright scholarship, to study at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada. If awarded the Fulbright, her project will focus on investigating how the occupational culture of staff workers within acute psychiatric facilities influences the staff-patient relationship. She will collect perspectives from both staff and patients, and hopes to elucidate the enormous value of patient-perspectives. Morgan plans to continue her education and research at the PhD level in a program where she can focus on studying mental health care and stigma.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Reminder: Suicide Prevention Walks


Columbus
October 13, 2013
Join the OPA/COPA team!

Cleveland
October 19, 2013

Cincinnati
October 20, 2013



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Guest Blog: Mental Illness and Quality of Care

by Guest Blogger Morgan Shields

Mental illness impacts all sectors and populations across the globe, and exacts heavy costs with regard to both economic and human suffering. However, our mental health care systems do not effectively treat individuals; this is especially true at the acute level. During the 1970s, there was a global deinstitutionalization of long-term-stay mental health care hospitals. With increased effectiveness of psychotropic medication, patients were better able to function independently through the support of outpatient community services. What remains are acute psychiatric wards of hospitals, which largely serve as a stabilization hub for patients who pose a threat to themselves or the community, with the typical stay lasting between three to seven days. Additionally, social workers and providers sometimes work to connect these patients with community services upon discharge, to ensure they receive appropriate long-term treatment. 

However, the experience one has within these wards, and upon discharge, varies drastically depending on insurance, location, and even the occupational culture of the ward. Furthermore, whether patients seek out community services upon discharge is largely dependent upon their ability to pay for these services and their trust of the system.   

While there are many contributing factors to the quality of care within acute psychiatric facilities such as funding mechanisms, policy, and location, it has been suggested that the staff-patient relationship is potentially one of the most important moderators of patients’ perceptions of quality of care and treatment outcome. This makes intuitive sense, as patients interact with the staff workers more than they do anyone else; meetings with a psychiatrist last only two to fifteen minutes a day. The occupational culture of staff workers, or their shared beliefs and norms, shape the way the staff interact and view patients. 

This, of course, is also influenced by the overarching culture of the administration and hospital at large, and also by the patients’ behavior. Additionally, there are no standardized credential-requirements to work within these wards; therefore, some places have workers who lack necessary training, and often carry a good deal of stress due to being underpaid and overworked.

Currently, investigation of psychiatric wards is sparse, with very little integration of patients’ perspectives.  Such lack of input from patients is disconcerting, as these individuals are the sole consumers of this care. Therefore, their insight into the treatment experience should be of unique value. However, it is the unfortunate case that patient-perspectives are not valued at the research level as much as provider and nurse feedback; this is largely due to the stigmatic belief that patients lack insight. This outdated and extreme view only works to oppress individuals who find themselves in need of such services, as it prevents them from having an active voice in the treatment process and to be taken seriously when possible mistreatment is at-hand. Furthermore, it sends the message that society views these individuals as problems to be taken of, rather than humans in need of help and sensitivity, and creates a divide of “us vs. them.”  

I am currently working on a project where I collect personal testimonials from former patients. There are common themes of invalidation throughout the experiences I have listened to and received. One woman stated that she felt like she was treated like a prisoner during her stay on an acute psychiatric ward, and eventually started to view herself as a bad person being punished, instead of a sick person receiving treatment. She explained that she did not have insurance at the time, and was therefore transported to a state–ran facility.  When she arrived, she immediately felt like a prisoner; there were many rules, she could only use the phone for a few minutes a day, and most of the staff workers ignored her concerns. She was never told what type of medication she was on, and when she tried to refuse medication, she was threatened to be restrained and put into a locked room alone. 

Without much choice, she ended up taking the medication, even though it made her ill and eventually paralyzed her neck. It was only when her neck was paralyzed that the staff listened to her complaints by adding a countering medication to her cocktail. After she was discharged, she struggled to rebuild her sense of self and trust of the mental health care system. This story exemplifies disconnected, demoralizing, and dehumanizing aspects of a mental health care system intended to heal. This is not the affect these places are supposed to have on people; it is counterproductive and has serious ethical concerns.


Of course, there are many staff workers and nurses who work their hardest to maintain compassionate interactions with patients, and I don’t mean to insult their efforts. This is not meant to serve as a blanket generalization of the entire system. There are effective and humane wards that serve the community well, but there are also units that have the potential to do more damage than good, and these should not be overlooked. It seems clear that there needs to be more attention given to acute psychiatric care, with an emphasis on increasing its quality and humanity. There needs to be more research of not only patients’ lived-experiences, but also further investigation of staff workers perceptions of their responsibilities and role within the hospital system, in order to better understand the complex interplay between the hospital, administration, staff, and patients. 

I personally believe that stigma underlies most of the disconnect we see within these wards. It is not only the staff workers who can sometimes view patients through stigmatic lenses, but it is also the providers and the community at large. As a society, we have been conditioned to view suffers of mental illness to exist on the periphery of what we consider worthy of acceptance, respect and love. Therefore, not only can a change in policy improve conditions, but so can a change in culture. The latter may be the hardest part to change, but it can be done with time, persistence, and openness. 
* * * 
Morgan is currently a senior at Kent State University, majoring in psychology. Prior to college, she served in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, where she traveled the country working for various non-profits and government agencies. During her service, she interacted with the homeless population on a regular basis, and saw our system’s failure in the lives of these individuals. Once she started college, she began working as a Research Assistant in the Clinical Neuropsychology Laboratory, under Dr. Mary Beth Spitznagel, and the Emotion, Stress, and Relationships Laboratory under Dr. Karin Coifman. She has numerous research presentations under her belt, as well as several manuscripts in the works. This past summer, Morgan was awarded a research fellowship by the National Science Foundation to study under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. While there, she was exposed to research projects that focused on cultivating compassion and empathy. Currently, Morgan is applying for a Fulbright scholarship, to study at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada. If awarded the Fulbright, her project will focus on investigating how the occupational culture of staff workers within acute psychiatric facilities influences the staff-patient relationship. She will collect perspectives from both staff and patients, and hopes to elucidate the enormous value of patient-perspectives. Morgan plans to continue her education and research at the PhD level in a program where she can focus on studying mental health care and stigma.