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The changing landscape of workplaces has drawn heightened attention to the needs and expectations of employees nationwide regarding the issues of work–life balance and mental health support. 

The recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) sheds light on the prevalence of toxic workplaces and their detrimental impact on mental health. Of the data coming out of this survey, most startling was the revelation that 19% of workers reported their workplace as somewhat or very toxic. Even more alarming, those in such environments are three times more likely to suffer mental health harm at work than those individuals who are in nontoxic settings. 

This blog discusses the importance of these findings, what employers can do in light of this data, and the role mental health providers can play in supporting individuals facing toxic work situations.

Understanding the impact of a toxic work environment 

The APA survey brought to light the destructive toll a workplace can have on an individual’s mental well-being. 

According to the survey, more than one in five workers revealed they've suffered mental health harm at work. Even worse, reported cases of harassment have jumped from 14% in 2022 to 22% in 2023. More than two-thirds of employees report experiencing workplace stress in the last month, with 57% reporting negative impacts that are associated with burnout. 

Other notable findings from the survey include:

  • Discrimination is a serious problem, with 22% of respondents saying they witnessed discrimination in their current workplace and 15% saying they have experienced it themselves. 
  • Employees are still concerned about the impact of disclosing a mental health condition to their employer, with 43% responding that they worry about the impact it might have on them in the workplace. And 55% of employees believe that their employer thinks their workplace is mentally healthier than it actually is. 
  • Different job types face different kinds of challenges. Employees working in customer or client-facing roles may deal with verbal abuse whereas 10% of manual laborers reported being subjected to physical violence.

No matter the field, it is clear that employers need customized strategies to combat toxicity in various work environments.

Proactive steps for employers 

To foster a supportive and mentally healthy work environment, employers can take several proactive measures to combat toxicity and promote mental health: 

  • Promote psychological wellbeing. Organizations must prioritize mental wellbeing as part of company culture and offer benefits that support that. Keep your team informed about available mental health resources and openly promote a healthy lifestyle. Among employees who reported being unsatisfied with the mental health support provided by their employer, 57% intend to look for a new job within the next year. 
  • Encourage time off. It's crucial to create a culture that supports breaks and time off. By giving employees a chance to recharge, you can prevent them from burnout and keep the team thriving. Only 40% of respondents report that their time off is respected
  • Foster a positive work culture. Create a positive environment that embraces respect, empathy, diversity, and open communication. Nurture a culture where everyone feels valued and appreciated. Provide objective and subjective resources—both tangible benefits and cultural support. 
  • Avoid micromanaging. More than 40% of workers report feeling micromanaged during their workday. Of those who feel micromanaged, they report increased levels of workplace stress. 
  • Combat discrimination and harassment. Prioritize strict antidiscrimination and antiharassment policies. Training for all staff increases awareness and sensitivity. Make it clear there is zero tolerance for discrimination and set up confidential channels for reporting incidents so anyone who is experiencing this can report it. 
  • Offer work–life harmony. Promote work–life balance by offering flexibility where possible and giving employees a sense of autonomy over their work. Respondents who said they were satisfied with their level of control over how, when, and where they do their work were much more likely to report that their overall mental health level is good or excellent (79%) compared with those who reported being unsatisfied with their level of control (44%). 
  • Establish connection and community. Fostering a sense of belonging among employees is crucial. Employers can organize team-building activities, create employee resource groups, and host social events to strengthen bonds and create a supportive network within the workplace. 
  • Provide opportunities for growth. Offering career development programs, training, and mentorship opportunities is vital. Employees who see growth prospects within the organization are more likely to stay engaged and satisfied, reducing turnover and promoting overall wellbeing.

 

The role of mental health providers 

 

For mental health providers, it's essential to address the challenges faced by individuals who are working in toxic environments. Some notable numbers from the survey: individuals who reported a toxic workplace were more than twice as likely to report that their overall mental health was fair or poor than those who did not report a toxic workplace (58% versus 21%). Of those who reported working in a toxic environment, 76% also conveyed that their work environment has a negative impact on their mental health. 

Here are some strategies you can use with individuals who are experiencing workplace stress that impacts their mental health: 

  • Identify workplace-related stressors. Mental health providers should be vigilant in recognizing signs of workplace-induced stress, anxiety, and depression during therapy sessions. Understanding the work environment helps tailor interventions effectively to address specific challenges. For example, employees working for nonprofit and government organizations were more likely to report a toxic workplace than those in private industry, whereas those in upper management were less likely to report a toxic workplace than individual contributors or front-line workers. 
  • Validate and empathize. Clinicians should validate and empathize with individuals experiencing toxic workplaces, helping them recognize that their experiences are real and valid. 
  • Provide coping strategies. Equipping individuals with coping mechanisms to manage workplace stress and navigate difficult situations is crucial. Techniques such as mindfulness, boundary setting, and self-care can significantly improve wellbeing. 
  • Address trauma. Mental health providers play a vital role in supporting those affected by workplace violence or harassment, aiding in trauma processing and resilience building. Providing a safe space for expression and healing is paramount. 
  • Advocate for self-care. Promote the importance of self-care, whether that means encouraging individuals to find an outlet through exercise, hobbies, or spending quality time with loved ones to offset workplace stress. 
  • Encourage connection. Although most workers are satisfied with their workplace relationships (89%), more than a quarter of employees report feelings of loneliness or isolation. Nearly 94% of workers say it is important that their workplace be a place where they feel they belong. 
  • Explore career alternatives. Dealing with a toxic workplace can be tough. If it's getting to be too much, mental health providers can guide individuals to explore new career options or even help them consider changing career paths. 
  • Collaborate with employers. Providers can consult with employers to develop customized mental health support programs. This collaboration ensures the organization addresses the specific needs of its workforce, creating a more targeted and effective approach.

 

What now? 

 

The results of the APA survey underscore how widespread the problem of workplace stress has become and emphasize what a toll a toxic workplace takes on mental health. Although workplaces tend to be one of the greatest areas of stress, they can also drive change by emphasizing the importance of self-care and wellbeing. Those involved in the mental health field can provide support to individuals who are experiencing workplace stress but also need to be cognizant of their own workplaces, as well. It's time to shape healthier work environments that empower everyone to thrive. 

Need help hiring and developing your team? Let InVista help! 

 

Further resources 

American Psychological Association. (May 2023). 2023 Work in America Survey.

U.S. Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being. (2022).

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The Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales, Second Edition (RIAS-2), assesses intelligence and its major components. In addition to providing a full-scale IQ battery for less time and less cost than similar measures, the RIAS-2 is ideal for use as a stand-alone intellectual assessment or as part of a larger battery to diagnose specific disorders, such as intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities. The RIAS-2 can also be used to determine educational placement for gifted students. 

RIAS-2 Score Report now available! 

The RIAS-2 Score Report is now available as a standalone report via PARiConnect. The score report provides raw scores and T scores for the subtest and index scores, as well as confidence intervals, percentile ranks, and subtest and index profiles. View an example of the new RIAS-2 Score Report

Client Feedback now included with the Interpretive Report! 

In addition to what is included in the RIAS-2 Score Report, the RIAS-2 Interpretive Report offers composite norm-referenced interpretations, subtest interpretations, a discrepancy score summary table, discrepancy interpretations, feedback and recommendations based on composite scores and discrepancy information, as well as recommendations for additional testing. The Client Feedback Report is now automatically included when you run the Interpretive Report. View an example of the RIAS-2 Interpretive Report

Already had interpretive reports in your PARiConnect account? Your inventory has been updated to include the addition of the feedback report. 

Choose the report that suits your needs 

With this update to the RIAS-2 product offerings, you can more easily choose the report that best suits your clinical needs and your budget. 

Why the RIAS-2? 

The RIAS-2 helps you complete more evaluations in less time. School and clinical psychologists seeking to measure intelligence can also rely on the RIAS-2 for: 

  • Accuracy—a low emphasis on motor demand makes the RIAS-2 a more precise measure of general intelligence. 
  • Clarity—the RIAS-2 substantially reduces or eliminates dependence on motor coordination and visual–motor speed to provide a more accurate assessment of intelligence. “The RIAS-2 was constructed carefully to avoid as many such confounds as possible leading to a more direct measure of intelligence that is not clouded by fine motor issues, academic learning disabilities, or attentional and other noncognitive factors,” said coauthor Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD. 
  • Speed—the RIAS-2 is faster to administer than similar measures—all eight subtests take less than an hour to administer and score. 
  • Savings—the RIAS-2 is less than half the cost of some competitors.

Learn more about the RIAS-2 

 
 

 

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PARiConnect, our online assessment platform, can help you expand your reach when doing research! 

Expand your geographic reach 

By using PARiConnect, our digital assessment platform, you can email HIPAA compliant links directly to research participants. This enables you to complete research assessments online, expanding your geographic reach to areas you may not be able to use otherwise. This also allows you easier access to observer and collateral research data without requiring additional individuals to make the trip to your data collection site. 

Reduce unused assessment costs 

If you email an assessment link to a participant who decides not to complete it, PARiConnect allows you to easily revoke the link and reuse that assessment with another participant. You won’t have to pay for an unused assessment like you might with a paper form, saving you money typically lost on unused assessments. 

Improve data integrity 

When participants enter their own data, it reduces the time needed for data entry and reduces the possibility of data entry errors. PARiConnect offers settings to prevent skipping questions, so you can reduce the risk of missing data. Furthermore, you can review completion time to be sure your participants put forth appropriate effort. This can reduce the amount of time and energy needed to enter and check data, freeing up your financial and physical resources for other tasks. 

Integrate efficiently with your work 

The PARiConnect system allows you to download item-level assessment data to a CSV excel spreadsheet that is formatted to integrate with statistics software such as SPSS for ease of data processing and analyzation. 

Let PARiConnect help you increase your geographic reach, expand your subject numbers, reduce attrition, lower assessment and travel costs, and decrease the burden of data collection. 

Learn more about PARiConnect today! 

 

Need assistance selecting assessments for your research? Learn more about all the ways PAR can help! Check out this video on using PAR assessments in research settings. 

Learn more about PAR’s training and research discounts!

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Did you know PAR offers training and research discounts to qualified customers? As we look toward the upcoming school year, we want to remind professors and educators about some of the programs we offer when you use PAR-published products in your courses and research studies.   

Educational Training Discount  

This 40% discount is offered for professors and educators engaged in training in college and university courses that are using PAR products. These courses should be for graduate students who are learning to use assessment products. Instructors must apply for the discount each year using this form.   

University Partnership Program (UPP)  

As an extension of our Educational Training Discount program, we offer additional benefits to our professors who join our UPP program. UPP members can look to PAR for dedicated assistance to help you decide which tests fit best into your syllabus. In addition to concierge service, UPP members are offered benefits such as free test kits when adopting a new PAR product in your training course and free uses of PARiConnect for students. Instructors interested in joining the PAR UPP program can complete the Educational Training Discount Form and email it to upp@parinc.com to inquire about additional benefits.  

Clinical Training Discount   

This 20% discount is reserved for organizations involved in internships, clinical practicum, and post-doctoral programs, usually involving training outside of the university setting. The trainer must submit a form as well as a formal letter on letterhead providing information about their program and the number of students enrolled yearly.   

Graduate Student Research Discount  

This 40% discount is designed for graduate students using PAR products in their master’s thesis or dissertation research. Students would need to send in their completed form with their supervisor’s signature. The student or the university can pay for the materials, but the form must accompany the order.   

Research Support Discount   

This program is available to professors and researchers who use PAR products in their research studies. This 40% discount is available on PAR proprietary products and applies to both digital and print products. Contact Customer Support to inquire about the application guidelines.  Questions about what program works best for you?  Send an email to upp@parinc.com and we can help you find the right program for your needs! 

Questions about which program works best for you? Send an email to upp@parinc.com

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After a traumatic event, it is common for individuals to experience stress reactions. However, when symptoms exist for longer than a few months, a person may be experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to recent research, about 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the U.S. population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.

June 27 has been named PTSD Awareness Day to help more people understand the scope and impact of this disorder and to provide those affected with paths to healing.  

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition that individuals may develop after experiencing or witnessing traumatic events. Although often associated with combat veterans, PTSD can impact any person of any age after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. 

Individuals with PTSD may experience nightmares or unwanted memories of the trauma, avoidance of situations that bring back memories of the trauma, heightened reactions, anxiety, or depressed mood that impact their ability to perform in their social life, work life, or other important activities. 

PTSD is associated with a range of physical and psychological symptoms. In addition to the core symptoms of intrusive memories, avoidance, negative thoughts and mood, and increased arousal, individuals with PTSD may also experience difficulties with sleep, concentration, and interpersonal relationships.

Effective treatments are available for PTSD, with evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) shown to be beneficial in reducing symptoms and improving overall functioning.

Prevalence of PTSD

PTSD can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. It commonly occurs in individuals who have experienced or witnessed events such as military combat, sexual assault, natural disasters, accidents, or serious injuries. PTSD is slightly more common among veterans than civilians. Furthermore, women are more likely to develop PTSD than men—in part due to the types of traumatic events women are more likely to experience.

Why today?

Although PTSD first appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980, PTSD Awareness Day was not established until 2010. June 27 was selected in recognition of the birthday of Staff Sergeant Joe Biel, a National Guard service member who experienced PTSD after two tours in Iraq. Biel died by suicide in 2007. In 2014, the U.S. government decided the entire month of June should be recognized as PTSD Awareness Month.=

PTSD resources 

It is important to share resources and research about PTSD and its treatment. Here are a few places to turn to learn more: 

  • The National Center for PTSD. Part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Center for PTSD offers a wide variety of free resources, including a confidential online screening tool that offers individuals advice and information they can bring to a mental health provider. Veterans Affairs also offers a podcast called PTSD Bytes that offers short bits of practical information that about innovations and research pertaining to PTSD. 
  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The NIMH offers brochures, fact sheets, and other shareable resources you can provide to clients who may be experiencing PTSD.
  • The American Psychological Association (APA). In addition to clinical practice guidelines for treating PTSD, APA also offers highlights from the latest research, news, and information you can share with patients and their families.

Everyone can all help spread the word to raise PTSD awareness. Individuals, families, behavioral and mental health providers, and communities all play a vital role in addressing the needs of trauma survivors and individuals who are living with PTSD.

PAR offers several instruments and tools to help you help people with PTSD, including the TSI-2TSCCTSCYCDAPS, and PSS.

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This week’s blog was contributed by Erika Thompson, PAR’s managing production editor. It is the third part in a series on writing. Catch up on parts one and two. 

As a mental health practitioner, you are required to write throughout your career. One way you can streamline your writing is by using a style guide. At PAR, the house style we use for all our publications is based on American Psychological Association (APA) Style. Via the PAR Blog, we’re providing some useful information about facets of APA Style that will help you tackle research, write better reports, and communicate more effectively with colleagues. 

This week, we’re covering some questions our editors frequently get asked about APA Style. 

I can never remember the rule about numbers! When should they be numerals and when are we supposed to use words? 

The general rule is to use numerals for numbers 10 and above and words for numbers zero through nine. However, there are exceptions. Ages, dates, and time should be expressed in numerals, even if they’re below 10: 3-year period, ages 18–25 years, 3:45 a.m. The same goes for numbers representing mathematical or statistical information: 5%, 0.45 of the sample, the 9th percentile. Any number that starts a sentence should be expressed in words, even if it’s 10 or above: “Seventy-six students took the test.” 

A hyphen and a dash are the same thing, right? 

Nope! The hyphen and the two dashes (en-dash and em-dash) look different from one another and have different uses. 

A hyphen is used to divide or link words and letters to form another word. Writers are sometimes confused about whether to use a hyphen to link prefixes and suffixes to root words—for example, “nonsignificant” versus “non-significant.” In general, APA style dictates that most prefixes and suffixes do not require hyphens, so “nonsignificant” is standard. Hyphens are also used to indicate negative values (with a space before it but not after it; e.g., -4). 

En-dashes are longer than hyphens. They’re used in text and tables to separate ranges of values, including those for age ranges and page numbers (including in reference lists; e.g., “See pages 3–4.”). En-dashes are also used instead of hyphens between words of equal weight in a compound adjective (e.g., “test–retest”). 

Em-dashes are the longest dashes. They’re used to set off an element added to extend or to digress from the main clause (e.g., “I spoke to him at length—at least 45 minutes—about this topic.”). They do not have to be used in pairs (e.g., “It was a chilly day—downright freezing, really.”). 

Here’s a handy hint: You can type an en-dash on a PC by holding down the Alt button and then hitting the numbers 0, 1, 5, and 0 in sequence, and you can type an em-dash by holding down the Alt button and then hitting the numbers 0, 1, 5, and 1 in sequence. (Wondering about the minus sign? It’s actually a special character in Word—it’s not the same as an en-dash, a hyphen, or any other symbol.) 

What’s the best way to report “partial ages”? 

I’ve seen it done a few different ways. In the testing field, it’s standard to present partial ages. Though some publications use commas, at PAR we find them to be confusing. So, we use colons instead—for example, “11:6” means 11 years, 6 months. When presenting a range of partial ages, it’s best to use “to” between them, to avoid any confusion (e.g., “11:6 to 11:11”). 

Can someone explain what a dangling modifier is? I know I learned this in high school… 

Modifiers seem complicated, but they’re actually simple. Modifiers are adjectives or adverbs (in the form of words, phrases, or clauses) that describe or limit nouns and verbs in the sentence. They must be placed directly before or after the word they are modifying—if not, the result is a misplaced modifier. For example, in “Riley only told Jade and Colin about the surprise,” the placement of “only” indicates that the only activity Riley did was tell Jade and Colin about the surprise, but the intention is to express that Jade and Colin were the only people Riley told. The sentence should be recast as: “Riley told only Jade and Colin about the surprise.” 

If the word the modifier is intended to modify doesn’t appear in the sentence at all, the result is a dangling modifier. For example, in “Using a saw, the wood can be cut easily,” the modifier “using a saw” is connected to the subject, “the wood.” However, readers know that wood doesn’t use a saw—people do. The sentence should be recast to include a logical subject: “Using a saw, I can cut the wood easily.” 

What’s the most common error you come across? 

Some of the most common errors we see in writing can be categorized as parallelism errors. “Parallelism—the matching of sentence parts for logical balance, especially by using grammatically coordinate structures—helps satisfy every reader’s innate craving for order and rhythm” (Garner, 2022, p. 801). This comes up frequently in lists—both bulleted and in sentences. 

In a bulleted list, begin each entry with the same part of speech and, as much as possible, retain a similar sentence/phrasing structure. For example, use a verb to begin each entry:

Steps to improve morale 

  • Ask for reactions and questions. 
  • Share your insights. 
  • Create a plan to follow up.

In sentences with lists, each entry should be the same part of speech (e.g., “The test is reliable, comprehensive, and easy to administer” [all adjectives]). One very common mistake is the improper insertion of a sole second verb in a listing sentence: “The test is reliable, comprehensive, and takes only 30 minutes to administer.” The verb must apply to all entries, or each entry should have its own verb. There are many ways to fix this… 

  • The test is reliable and comprehensive and takes only 30 minutes to administer. 
  • The test is reliable, is comprehensive, and takes only 30 minutes to administer. 
  • The test is reliable and comprehensive; it takes only 30 minutes to administer. 
  • The test is reliable, comprehensive, and short, taking only 30 minutes to administer. 

 

Do you have a style or grammar question you’d like us to answer? Email me anytime at ethompson@parinc.com

Interested in partnering with PAR for research or publishing? Visit our Partner with PAR page to learn more. 

 

References 

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000 

Garner, B. A. (2022). Garner’s modern English usage (5th ed.). Oxford. https://www.oxfordreference.com/display/10.1093/acref/9780197599020.001.0001/acref-9780197599020

 

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This week’s blog was contributed by Erika Thompson, PAR’s managing production editor. It is the second in a series on writing. Catch up on the first part here

As a mental health practitioner, you are required to write throughout your career. One way you can streamline your writing is by using a style guide. At PAR, the house style we use for all our publications is based on American Psychological Association (APA) Style. Via the PAR Blog, we’re providing some useful information about facets of APA Style that will help you tackle research, write better reports, and communicate more effectively with colleagues. 

This week, we’re covering how to cite sources properly. According to APA (2020): “Scientific knowledge represents the accomplishments of many researchers over time. A critical part of writing in APA Style is helping readers place your contribution in context by citing the researchers who influenced you” (p. 253). In other words, citing helps readers better understand what led to your conclusions. It also prevents you from accidentally plagiarizing someone else’s work. It’s important to cite both ideas, which may be paraphrased from someone else’s work, and direct quotes. 

Two elements are needed to cite properly: a short mention of the author and date of publication, or in-text citation, which appears within the text at the appropriate and relevant place; and a reference list entry, which expands on the citation by including the title, the source, and sometimes a link to locate the work. 

In-text citations can be narrative or parenthetical. In a narrative citation, the author and date are mentioned as part of the running text: “In 2010, Costa and McCrae published new normative data on the NEO.” In a parenthetical citation, the author and date are mentioned in parentheses: “New normative data on the NEO are also available (Costa & McCrae, 2010).” 

Reference list entries vary in format based on the type of publication, but generally the author is mentioned first, with the date of publication, title, and source following. Use a 0.5-in. hanging indent to format each entry—that is, indent the second and any subsequent lines. 

In some instances, it may be hard to figure out which reference entry format to use. The most recent edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association provided much-needed guidance on how to cite a test and how to cite a variety of different websites: 

Test

Feifer, S. G., & Clark, H. K. (2016). Feifer Assessment of Mathematics (FAM): Professional manual. PAR. 

(Note that the “supporting literature” [i.e., the manual; APA, 2020, p. 340] is cited versus the test itself, the title of the test is capitalized and italicized, and the publisher location is not mentioned.) 

Online magazine or newspaper article 

Bourke, J., & Titus, A. (2019, March 29). Why inclusive leaders are good for organizations, and how to become one. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/03/why-inclusive-leadersare-good-for-organizations-and-how-to-become-one 

Website article 

Gupta, G. (2016, September 4). Empowering leadership. People Matters. https://www.peoplematters.in/blog/leadership/empowering-leadership-14014 

(Note that established newspaper and magazine titles are italicized, whereas for websites that don’t have a publication associated with it, the title of the article is italicized.) 

A recent APA blog post explained how to cite ChatGPT. Because the results of the chat cannot be retrieved by others, communications are considered to be the output of the ChatGPT algorithm, and OpenAI is considered to be the “author” of the algorithm. Thus, each communication should be explained very clearly in text and cited as such: 

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Mar 14 version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com/chat The in-text citation is (OpenAI, 2023). 

 

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association covers many, many more types of sources, including journal articles, books, audiovisual media, and social posts. 

Curious about how we keep track of references to our products? Check out our white paper on Zotero, which includes links to product-specific, continually updated, easy-to-access bibliographies. 

Interested in partnering with PAR for research or publishing? Visit our Partner with PAR page to learn more. 

 

References 

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000 

McAdoo, T. (2023, April 7). How to cite ChatGPT. APA Style. https://apastyle.apa.org/blog/how-to-cite-chatgpt

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This week’s blog was contributed by Erika Thompson, PAR’s managing production editor. It is the first in an ongoing series on writing. 

 

As a mental health practitioner, you are required to write throughout your career. One way you can streamline your writing is by using a style guide. At PAR, the house style we use for all our publications is based on American Psychological Association (APA) Style. Over the next few weeks, we’ll provide some useful information about facets of APA Style that will help you tackle research, write better reports, and communicate more effectively with colleagues.  

This week, we’re covering how to write as respectfully and inclusively as possible. According to APA (2020):  

It is unacceptable to use constructions that might imply prejudicial beliefs or perpetuate biased assumptions against persons on the basis of age, disability, gender, participation in research, racial or ethnic identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or some combination of these or other personal factors (e.g., marital status, immigration status, religion). (p. 131)  

To prevent biased writing, we must focus on two things: specificity and sensitivity.  

When we write with specificity, we eliminate unconscious attitudes that might sneak into overly general language. Being as precise as possible also allows your research or other scholarly work to reflect the most accurate and helpful information for readers. For example, use exact age ranges versus broad categories of ages, use specific names for racial and ethnic groups versus broad categories (e.g., “Chinese American” vs. “Asian American”), and use specific terms for gender identity and sexual orientation (e.g., “cisgender women,” “bisexual people”). Provide definitions of research groups early, and then stick to the same label throughout the manual: “Participants scoring between X and X on the ANX scale made up the low anxiety group.” “The low anxiety group exhibited no change from test to retest.” 

Writing with sensitivity means writing while acknowledging people’s preferences and their humanity. For example, overgeneralizing by using adjectives as nouns to label groups—for example, “the poor” or “schizophrenics”—eliminates the individuality of the people in those groups. Instead, use adjectival forms or nouns with descriptive phrases, like “poor people” or “individuals with schizophrenia.”  

There are many other areas that require writing with sensitivity: 

  • Gender and sex. Gender is a social construct and a social identity. Sex refers to biological sex assignment, or to sexual behavior. Gender identity (a person’s psychological sense of their gender) is distinct from sexual orientation (who a person is emotionally and/or sexually attracted to). APA strongly encourages us “to explicitly designate information about the gender identities of the participants making up our sample (e.g., whether they are transgender, cisgender, or other gender identities) rather than assuming gender identities” (p. 138). Over the past several years, we’ve also adopted use of the singular “they”—both to identify people who prefer that pronoun and to replace the cumbersome “he or she” construction throughout our writing. 
  • Age. For people of any age, “person” and “individual” are appropriate terms. Use “men,” women,” “transgender women,” “individual,” etc. for adults ages 18 years and older; use “child,” “boys,” “girls,” “infant,” etc. for individuals ages 12 years and younger; and use “adolescent,” “male adolescent,” “youth,” etc. for individuals ages 13 to 17 years. For older adults, preferred terms include “older adults,” “older people,” and “older persons”—not “seniors,” “elderly,” or “the aged.” Language should emphasize that aging is a normal part of life versus an obstacle to be overcome. 
  • Disabilities. There are two ways to write respectfully about people with disabilities. In person-first language, the person is emphasized, not the disability: “person with autism,” “individuals with learning disabilities.” In identity-first language, the disability is the focus, allowing the individual to claim ownership and identity over it: “autistic person,” “learning disabled individuals.” Both are acceptable choices, and the approaches can be mixed. If you know the preference of a particular group, use it! 
  • Race and ethnicity. Race and ethnicity are different, and it’s important to clearly delineate the two when writing about people. “Race refers to physical differences that groups and cultures consider socially significant….Ethnicity refers to shared cultural characteristics such as language, ancestry, practices, and beliefs” (APA, 2020, p. 142). Avoid the word “minority” if possible—better options are “people of color” and “underrepresented groups,” or be specific and use a qualifier: “racial minority.” Take care with capitalization and punctuation. “Black,” “White,” “Indigenous,” and “Aboriginal” should be capitalized, and we don’t use hyphens in racial or ethnic modifiers—that is, we write “African American people,” not “African-American people.”  

 

These are just a few tips and examples of how to improve your writing by focusing on specificity and sensitivity. For more information, see the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

Interested in partnering with PAR for research or publishing? Visit our Partner with PAR page to learn more. 

 

 

References 

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000   

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For those who are training the next generation of psychologists, it’s imperative to teach them to use the very best assessment instruments on the market. By providing your students with training on valid, reliable, and fully standardized instruments, you are helping to prepare them to enter the field with the skills they need to provide the highest standard of care to their own clients as well as put them on the path to conduct impactful research.

It’s not an easy job, but PAR is here to help!

Join the University Partnership Program (UPP)

The UPP is a concierge service that offers dedicated assistance to you and your students as they pursue advanced degrees. The entire program was developed to help you save time and energy so you can focus on what’s important—your students. Our UPP staff can provide you with the information you need to help you decide which tests best fit into your syllabus. In addition to offering a single point of contact for all your services, the UPP can provide a variety of training resources that can be integrated into your courses.

Get free materials and discounts

UPP members receive three free PAR test kits of your choice. Plus, you’ll get a 40% discount on products used for training and research. In addition, graduate students using PAR products for their research can take advantage of a 40% discount, too!

Learn more about the University Partnership Program and get started on your 2023–2024 syllabus now!

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health providers play a critical role in promoting awareness and working to improve the lives of others. Yet, compassion fatigue and burnout are very real issues for those in the field. Last week, the PAR blog explored the state of burnout among mental health professionals. This week, we look at the signs of burnout and provide solutions for self-care.

Mental health providers continue to face a workforce shortage and ongoing burnout risks. Organizations and individuals need to prioritize and implement strategies to prevent and reduce burnout.

Mental health professionals were understaffed and facing a mental health crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which only exacerbated the demands on a healthcare system already stretched beyond its breaking point.

According to the 2023 Mental Health America report, nationally, there are 350 patients to every mental health provider. However, the ratio widely varies from state to state; for example, the Massachusetts patient-to-provider ratio is 140:1, and in Alabama, it is 850:1.

The American Psychological Association conducted a survey in 2022 that found that more people required treatment for anxiety or depression than there were mental health professionals available to provide it. According to APA, 6 out of 10 practitioners claimed they had no opening to take on new cases, 46% said they couldn’t handle the demand, and 72% said their patient waitlists had only grown since the onset of the pandemic.

Seeing the demand and shortage of mental health professionals highlights just one pain point of many that mental health professionals contend with daily. Many mental health professionals are so passionate about attempting to meet the needs of their patients that they may sacrifice their own physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. Yet, even with this devotion, they realize that it still isn’t enough to be able to help everyone who needs help. It isn’t difficult to see why 45% psychologists reported feeling burned out in 2022.

Mental health professionals and organizations should not assume that their education, training, and experience make them immune from experiencing compassion fatigue and burnout. In fact, those in the mental health field need to be vigilant and watch for the signs that they themselves or others they work with may be experiencing burnout.

Signs of burnout

Three of the most common signs of burnout include:

Exhaustion: Individuals often feel emotionally exhausted or drained, unable to cope, and have low moods and energy. They may also experience physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems.

Loss of interest in work-related activities: Individuals often feel increasingly frustrated and stressed by their jobs. They may experience growing cynicism about their work environment or colleagues and emotionally withdraw and feel numb regarding their work.

Decreased effectiveness or performance: Burnout affects daily tasks at work or home. Individuals experiencing burnout may be pessimistic, have difficulty concentrating, lack creativity, and lack energy and enthusiasm.

Individuals, organizations, and the media have helped spread the word about burnout in healthcare, but that isn’t enough to prevent it from continuing. Organizations need to work to prevent and reduce burnout among mental healthcare staff.

Strategies to combat burnout

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) argues that organization-level interventions should target burnout using a “whole-organization approach” due to the complex nature of burnout with many root causes and drivers.

According to SAMHSA, there are six areas that organizations need to address through improvement strategies to work towards preventing and reducing burnout among mental health workers. These six areas are:

  • Workload
  • Control
  • Reward
  • Community
  • Fairness
  • Values

SAMHSA outlines several strategies that can aid organizations in combatting and addressing burnout, such as:

  • Building a planning and implementation task force
  • Conducting a needs assessment
  • Identifying available resources and strategies for implementation
  • Sustainability planning

Practicing self-care

Although mental health professionals counsel others on the importance of self-compassion, it doesn’t mean they may not neglect its practice when it comes to themselves.

Self-care can help reduce stress, compassion fatigue, and other factors leading to burnout. Building the practice of self-care doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can gradually add in one or several of the following:

Practice self-compassion: Self-compassion may work as a protective factor against exposure to secondary traumatic stress and burnout. Individuals need to see themselves as more than their job and know they are also due kindness and understanding.

Eat a balanced diet: Workloads may be excessive, and it may be tempting to work through lunch to squeeze in another client, a meeting, or other work, but don’t do it! It is important to take a break to eat nutrient-dense foods to keep your energy levels up and to help combat daily stress.

Get enough sleep: It is important to prioritize getting enough sleep. The CDC reports that adults need at least 7 hours of sleep. Studies have shown that sacrificing sleep can lead to anxiety and stress and how stressful events are perceived.

Exercise: Even taking a brisk walk can help remove you from your work and create a much-needed break, which helps to counter chronic stress and boost mood. Aerobic activity can also contribute to feeling better and increase endorphins in the body.

Reach out: If you are experiencing burnout, contact your supervisor or human resources about your hours or workload. If you are a solo practitioner, take some time to decide what boundaries you may be able to create to allow yourself a break.

Use time off: Vacations and breaks from work help prevent burnout.

Practice stress reduction activities: Yoga, meditation, deep breathing can provide short, much-needed breaks in a busy day.

Socialize with colleagues: Taking time out to connect with peers can help with the feeling of connectedness and reduce emotional exhaustion.

 

Mental health professionals must take steps to prioritize your own health and well-being. This will not only help to prevent burnout, it means you will be your most effective self and equipped to provide your clients and students with the quality care they need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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