What’s in a name? For young veterans and others coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, a name could mean the difference between seeking treatment and suffering alone. Psychiatrists and military officers are now considering the implications of a name change for PTSD in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with this diagnosis. The new name under consideration? Post-traumatic stress injury, or PTSI.

“No 19-year-old kid wants to be told he’s got a disorder,” said General Peter Chiarelli, in a May 5 interview with the Washington Post. Until his retirement in February of this year, Chiarelli was the nation’s second-highest ranking Army officer, and he led the effort to reduce the suicide rate among military personnel. He and other supporters of the name change believe that using the word “injury” instead of “disorder” will reduce the stigma that stops soldiers and others from seeking treatment. According to Chiarelli, “disorder” suggests a pre-existing condition that “makes the person seem weak.” “Injury,” on the other hand, is appropriate because the condition is caused by the experience of specific trauma, according to supporters of the change. Injuries, they point out, can often be healed with treatment.

This issue is coming to a head because the American Psychiatric Association is working on a new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), expected in May 2013. Not everyone is in favor of the name change; one of the major concerns, according to psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter, is that “altering a diagnostic label may have far-reaching financial implications for health insurers and disability claims. Specifically, some insurers and government agencies may not be willing to reimburse mental health providers for a condition that isn’t considered a disease or disorder” (Psychology Today blog, May 6).

American Psychiatric Association President Dr. John Oldham has suggested that he would be open to considering the name change. “If it turns out that that [the word ‘injury’] could be a less uncomfortable term and would facilitate people who need help getting it, and it didn’t have unintended consequences that we would have to be sure to try to think about, we would certainly be open to thinking about it,” Oldham told PBS NewsHour in a December interview.

What do you think? Would a name change help reduce the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress and encourage people to seek the help they need? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

 
Researchers at Northwestern University Medical School have suggested that depression in teens could be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Their study, published in the April 17, 2012 issue of Translational Psychiatry, identifies 11 biomarkers for early-onset major depressive disorder—one of the most common yet debilitating mental illnesses among young people. If the results are confirmed in larger populations, diagnosis could become a much simpler process, and one that might help teens avoid some of the stigma currently associated with a depression diagnosis.

Early-onset major depressive disorder is a serious mental illness that affects mainly teenagers and young adults. Although 2 to 4% of cases are diagnosed before adolescence, the numbers increase dramatically to 10-25% with adolescence, according to lead researcher Eva Redei, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Not diagnosed, depression affects how teens relate to others. The No. 1 cause of death among the depressed is suicide,” explained Redei in a recent interview with CNN. “If teens are depressed and not treated, there can be drug abuse, dropping out of school. Their whole lives can depend on these crucial and vulnerable years.”

In the study, researchers tested the blood of 28 teens, ages 15 to 19. Fourteen had been diagnosed as depressed, and the others were healthy. The researchers examined a panel of 28 markers that circulate in the blood; results showed that 11 of these markers could, with a high degree of accuracy, predict major depression in the subjects. Depression is currently diagnosed through psychological evaluations conducted by health care providers.

A blood test to diagnose depression could help reduce the stigma associated with this mental illness and help depressed teens to get the treatment and support they need. For many teens who are too embarrassed to ask for help, this blood test could be a huge step in the right direction. “Once you have a measurable index of an illness, it’s very difficult to say, ‘Just pull yourself together,’ or ‘Get over it,’” Redei explained recently to the Los Angeles Times.

Others are cautious in their response to the study. Dr. Lloyd Sederer, medical director of the New York State Office of Mental Health, suggests that this study could give parents and teens false hope about treatment. “When something like this comes out and gets a lot of attention, it’s a false promise to parents, because it’s nowhere ready for prime time,” he said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “Some of the risks have not been considered yet. And does it really shape, in any way, how effective your treatment is going to be now?”

What do you think? In what ways could a diagnostic blood test for depression affect treatment for your clients? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
Who says psychology is just common sense? Sometimes the truth—as revealed by psychological research—truly is stranger than fiction.

“When you tell someone that you’re taking, teaching, or practicing psychology, you’re likely to get the reaction that ‘it’s all common sense,’” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in a recent article in Psychology Today.   “However, having taught introductory psychology for over 30 years, I’ve accumulated an armamentarium of facts to teach students that challenge this myth about psychology's knowledge base.”

Whitbourne’s “armamentarium” includes some surprising facts:

  • Getting paid for doing something you like can make you less creative.

  • Maslow’s study of 3000 college students found that none met the criteria for self-actualization.

  • Placebos can often offer as much relief as actual treatments.

  • Posting a calorie chart in fast food restaurants leads people to choose less healthy foods.

  • Van Gogh probably developed the symptoms that led to his hospitalization from absinthe poisoning.

  • Rorschach’s nickname as a child was “Inkblot.”


Thinking about these kinds of strange-but-true phenomena may be important for more than just countering the “common sense” charge.  Considering the unusual, the unlikely, and the counterintuitive may be a useful way to stretch the imagination and explore unconventional ideas.  In his book 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology*, Emory University Professor and PAR author Scott Lilienfeld and his coauthors examine common misconceptions about human behavior. A short postscript at the end of the book, however, includes a fascinating group of unexpected findings from psychological research, including:


  • Patients who have experienced strokes resulting in severe language loss are better at detecting lies than people without brain damage.

  • Handshake style is predictive of certain personality traits. Women with firm handshakes tend to show more openness, intellectual curiosity, and willingness to seek out novel experiences.

  • Dogs really do resemble their owners. In one study, judges matched faces of dog owners to their dogs at significantly better than chance levels—although this was true only with purebred, not mixed-breed dogs.


“Many of these findings may strike us as myths because they are counterintuitive, even bizarre,” says Lilienfeld.  “They remind us to doubt our common sense” (p. 247).

What do you think? What research results have been surprising to you? Have unexpected findings changed the way you think or work?  PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

*Lilienfeld, S., Lynn, S.J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B.L. (2010). 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.
National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, an annual event hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will be celebrated on Wednesday, May 9, 2012.  PAR has always been a strong advocate for children’s mental health, and we are delighted to announce our participation as a “Champion Level”

co-sponsor of this year’s program.

On May 9, PAR will be joining SAMHSA for a special evening program at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC.  This program will be a tribute to honor children and youth who have demonstrated resilience after traumatic experiences, as well as their “Heroes of Hope,” people in their lives who have helped and inspired them along the way.  The American Art Therapy Association has put together a unique exhibit featuring artwork from students all across the country, which will be displayed during the event.  Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will present a Special Recognition Award to artist, advocate, and Awareness Day Honorary Chairperson Cyndi Lauper, whose work with her True Colors Fund and the True Colors Residence exemplifies the “Hero of Hope” spirit. Live performances by youth from around the country will also honor the young people and their heroes.



Since its inception more than 30 years ago, PAR has been giving back to our community in the form of volunteer time and financial support. We understand the importance of children’s mental health, and we are proud to work with organizations like SAMHSA to promote awareness of this vital issue.  Children and wellness have always been priorities, and through the years we have supported organizations that help families including the United Way, A Brighter Community, the PACE Center for Girls, the Children’s Home of Tampa, and many others.  To learn more about PAR’s community service work, please visit our Community PARtners page.
PAR is proud to announce the release of the newly revised Parenting Stress Index. Designed to evaluate the magnitude of stress in the parent-child sys­tem, the fourth edition of the popular PSI is a 120-item inventory that focuses on three major domains of stressor source: child characteris­tics, parent characteristics, and situational/demographic life stress.

The PSI-4 is commonly used as a screening and triage measure for evaluating the parenting system and identifying issues that may lead to problems in the child’s or parent’s behavior. This information may be used for designing a treatment plan, for setting priorities for intervention, and/or for follow-up evaluation.

What’s new in the PSI-4

  • Revised to improve the psychometric limitations of individual items and to update item wording to more clearly tap into the target construct or behavioral pattern or to be more understandable. The original structure has been retained.

  • Validation studies conducted within a variety of foreign populations, including Chinese, Portuguese, French Canadian, Finnish, and Dutch, suggest that the PSI is a robust measure that maintains its validity with diverse non-English speaking cultures.

  • Expanded norms are organized by each year of child age. Percentiles— the primary interpretive framework for the PSI-4—and T scores are provided.


For more information about the PSI-4, visit our Web site.
The statistics are sobering.  According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • approximately 695,000 children were victims of maltreatment in 2010;

  • more than 80% of those victims were maltreated by a parent; and

  • children younger than 1 year had the highest rate of victimization.


Adult survivors of child maltreatment are more likely to have a poor quality of life, with higher levels of chronic diseases and mental health issues, than non-abused adults. “Childhood exposure to abuse and neglect has been linked…to a lifetime trajectory of violence perpetration and victimization,” says Dr. Phaedra Corso of the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health (Prevent Child Abuse America, 2012). Child abuse can be a vicious circle, and some families under stress need support to help break the pattern of abuse.

Now in its 30th year, National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time to encourage public awareness of child abuse and neglect, recommit resources to the cause, and promote involvement through national, state, and local activities.

Potential Early Indicators

The prevalence of child abuse and its long-term consequences—not only for the child but also for society as a whole—clearly demonstrates why prevention is so important.  An early indicator that a family may be at risk for child abuse is high levels of parenting stress, and research has clearly demonstrated that parenting stress is positively correlated to child abuse potential (Rodriguez & Green, 1997).

“Parenting stress is a universal phenomenon that all parents experience to one degree or another,” explains Dr. Richard Abidin, emeritus professor of clinical and school psychology at the University of Virginia and author of the newly revised Parenting Stress Index™ (PSI™-4). “What we have learned is that high levels of stress relate to a variety of dysfunctional parenting behaviors and negative child outcomes. Screening for and evaluating the sources of parenting stress allow for the implementation of prevention and early intervention in both primary health care and education systems.”

More Resources on Child Abuse Prevention and Parenting

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway is an excellent starting point for information on preventing child abuse and neglect.

  • Prevent Child Abuse America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building awareness, providing education, and inspiring hope to everyone involved in the effort to prevent the abuse and neglect of children. Information about PCA state chapters, as well as advocacy, research, conferences, and events, can be found on their Web site.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention Web site includes a wealth of information on child maltreatment prevention, including data and statistics, risk and protective factors, and prevention strategies.

  • An excellent source of general parenting information for sharing with families, the Child Development Institute offers strategies and tips on topics such as “Parenting 101,” socialization for kids and teens, parent-child communication, single parenting, divorce, and more.


What special programs or events are happening in your community to recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month? Leave a comment and join the conversation!

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on March 30 announced that 1 in 88 children is now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, by age 8, reflecting a dramatic increase in diagnoses in the past decade.

The CDC Web site includes not only the full report but also a summary page that provides an overview of the findings on prevalence, risk factors and characteristics, diagnosis, and economic costs.  Some highlights:

  • About 1 in 88 children has been identified with an ASD, according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.
  • ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
  • ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).
  • Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with an ASD with an average prevalence of about 1%. A recent study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%.
  • About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. has a developmental disability, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech impairments to serious developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism. 

With this news, more parents, educators, and medical professionals may be wondering whether a growing environmental threat could be the source of the problem. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times by reporter Alan Zarembo, however, gives voice to another perspective. “Autism researchers around the country said the CDC data—including striking geographic and racial variations in the rates and how they have changed—suggest that rising awareness of the disorder, better detection, and improved access to services can explain much of the surge, and perhaps all of it,” according to Zarembo.

One thing is clear: autism spectrum disorders are affecting a growing number of families. Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, sums up the reaction of many in the autism community:  “With the new [CDC] numbers now showing that 1 in 88 children in the United States are being diagnosed with autism—nearly a doubling of the prevalence since the CDC began tracking these numbers—autism can now officially be declared an epidemic in the United States.”

ASDs have touched the lives of many of us at PAR, as well, and we are committed to supporting research and services in our community to help families dealing with autism.  On April 21, PAR staff members will be participating in the 2012 “Walk Now for Autism Speaks: Tampa Bay.” This annual event brings together “Team PAR” with thousands of other local autism supporters to raise funds for autism research.  Last year, PAR was one of the top fundraisers for the Tampa Bay area—a record we hope to top this year!

Imagine this: Twenty years into your career, you decide to move between states. In order to practice in your new state, you simply need to submit documentation from your internship supervisor, previous jobs, and former managers. However, it’s been decades since you saw these people or worked in some of these places – you may not be able to find them, the organizations may not exist anymore, and there is no paper trail to back up your years of experience. Unfortunately, this is happening to many psychologists, making the process of obtaining a license in a new state a daunting task.

Once most psychologists complete the rigorous process of completing internship, passing boards, and applying for state licensure, many never give a second thought to documenting the path they took along the way. Organization like the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology and the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards have created credential banks in order to serve as a reliable clearinghouse for this professional information.

These banks provide a way for psychologists to safely store EPPP scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, internship and postdoctoral hours, continuing education information, state licensure information, and more in a secure place. Information stored throughout one’s career is then conveniently located in one archive. While credential banks charge a nominal fee for storing information, proponents believe that saving the hassle is worth the cost.

Have you run into problems documenting your work experience? Would you encourage psychologists early in their career to begin to bank their credentials? How have you kept track of your professional information throughout the years?
According to an eleven-year-long study by a group of Canadian researchers, it appears that the youngest students in a class are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than peers born at other points in the year.

The study, conducted by University of British Columbia researchers and headed up health research analyst Richard Morrow, finds that children born the month of the school’s cut-off date were more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than those born just a month later. After studying nearly 930,000 children in British Columbia, which has a cut-off date for enrollment of December 31, it was found that boys born in December were 30 percent more likely to be given an ADHD diagnosis than those born in January. Girls with December birthdays were 70 percent more likely to receive this diagnosis than those born in January. Furthermore, boys and girls with December birthdays were 41 percent and  77 percent more likely, respectively, to be treated with prescription medication for ADHD than those born the following month.

While researchers believe their analyses show a relative-age effect in the diagnosis and treatment of children age 6-12 years, they warn that these findings raise concerns about the potential for overdiagnosis and overprescribing in the youngest students because the lack of maturity in younger students may be misinterpreted as symptoms of ADHD. ADHD is currently the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral disorder in children.

For more information on this study, visit the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Meetings are a regular part of working life, an opportunity to collaborate, solve a problem, or accomplish a goal. Many of us assume that meetings, while sometimes tedious or dull, are still the best way to bring good ideas to the table. New research led by scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, however, suggests quite the opposite—meetings may, in fact, make us dumber.

The study’s authors assert that the social dynamic that occurs in meetings can have a detrimental effect on our ability to think clearly. “You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain dead as well,” said co-author Read Montague, in a recent interview with msnbc.com author Linda Carroll.

In the study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brains of college-student volunteers as they took an IQ test. Next, the students were divided into groups with similar IQs and given a second test. Each time they answered a question during the second round of testing, they were given feedback about their performance compared to others in the group. Although the volunteers were well matched in terms of initial IQ scores, scores dropped dramatically when students were receiving constant feedback about their performance relative to others in their group.

According to lead author Kenneth Kishida, constant reminders of status were stimulating parts of the brain involving fear, anxiety, and emotional response—and this was causing the students to perform poorly on the test. In the context of a meeting, such negative feelings can be triggered by a sense that others in the group are smarter or better prepared—even when they aren’t. According to Kishida, the perception alone can stifle our best thinking.

What do you think? Do meetings help or hinder intelligence and creativity? Leave a comment and join the conversation!