Disaster Psychology

Weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and East Texas. Today, Hurricane Irma marches up the Florida coast after wreaking havoc in the Caribbean.  When the storm passes, media attention will soon shift to recovery efforts.  First responders will undertake search and rescue operations.  More slowly, infrastructure—including housing, transportation needs, and communications—will be rebuilt.  But for many people, recovery requires more than just material needs.  Rebuilding is not possible without attending to the psychosocial needs of disaster-affected individuals, families, and communities.

Hurricane Irma; NASA

Disasters have an enormous impact on mental health and psychosocial well-being. Velasquez et al, writing in the APA Handbook of Community Psychology, explain how the alteration of life plans, weakening of social networks, loss of social support, and fragmentation of relationships between individuals and larger institutions combine with the fear and anxiety produced by the disaster itself to cause significant strain on mental health.  The toll can be especially heavy for those already living in poverty.  Patricia Watson and Jessica Hamblen, in the APA Handbook of Trauma Psychology, emphasize that disasters and disaster recovery cannot be understood in isolation from preexisting living conditions such as absence of information, lack of adequate risk management, inequality, and weak institutions and social organization.  As a prominent NIH study showed, the impact and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused the incidence of serious mental illness to double, and nearly half of the subjects—all of whom were low-income parents of young children—exhibited symptoms of probable PTSD.

Although vulnerable people have a wide range of cognitive, emotional, and social capacities to cope with and recover from disaster, mental health remains a critically important but widely under-recognized aspect of disaster recovery. Fortunately, attention is increasing, thanks in part to the emergence of the field of disaster psychology.  According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, disaster psychology is a specialized domain of training, research, and service provision applied to individuals, communities, and nations exposed to a disaster. A key aim of practitioners in this area is to reduce initial distress, and foster short and long-term adaptive functioning following a disaster.  Public awareness is growing, too, thanks to the efforts of journalists, as well as organizations like Kaiser Permanente, which recently donated $500,000 to Mental Health America of Greater Houston, which helps provide mental health and emotional support to victims of Hurricane Harvey in east Texas.

Individuals can help as well. Mental health professionals can volunteer now with the Red Cross to help individuals in affected areas.  To donate to MHA of Greater Houston, click here.  Florida mental health organizations will be very active post-Irma; local MHA chapters and many other relief organizations will need resources in the weeks and months ahead, as the millions affected by these disasters begin the long road to recovery.

 

REFERENCES

Vandenbos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Velasquez, T., Rivera-Holguin, M., and Morote, R. In M.A. Bond, I. Serrano-Garcia, & C.B. Keys (Eds-in-Chief), Shinn, M. (Assoc. Ed.). (2017). APA handbook of community psychology (Vol. 2). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Watson, P. & Hamblen, J. (2017). Assisting individuals and communities after natural disasters and community traumas. In S.N. Gold (Ed.-in-Chief). (2017). APA handbook of trauma psychology (Vol. 1).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

 

 

Transgender Ban and Minority Stress: Resources from APA Books

On July 26th, the president of the United States announced—via tweet—that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

On Friday, August 25th, the president directed the Pentagon to implement the ban on new transgender recruits.  Transgender people currently serving in the military would either remain or be removed “at the discretion of the Secretary of Defense,” according to the Wall St. Journal.

After the president’s initial tweet, APA President Antonio Puente, PhD, issued a statement that read, in part:

The American Psychological Association questions the reasoning behind President Trump’s call to bar transgender people from the military. We’ve seen no scientific evidence that allowing transgender people to serve in the armed forces has had an adverse impact on our military readiness or unit cohesion. Therefore, we ask that transgender individuals continue to be allowed to serve their country.

Last August, APA Books published Affirmative Counseling and Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients, part of our Perspectives on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity Series.  This book, which draws upon the APA’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People and is edited by Annalise Singh and lore dickey, aims to provide mental health practitioners with an affirmative approach to treatment with TGNC clients.  Readers can learn how to address the impact of the myriad injustices TGNC people face in everyday life, work with clients’ strengths to enhance their resilience and coping skills, and advocate for their rights as mental health clients, and as people.

You can read an interview with Drs. Sigh and dickey here.

In February, 2017, Sharon Rostosky and Ellen Riggle, professors at the University of Kentucky, sat down for an interview with APA Books’ Development Editor Susan Herman.  In the interview, they discussed the unique stressors that LGBTQ couples face, including the minority stress that results from public debates surrounding anti-LGBTQ laws and public policy.  In their book, Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community, they explore ways LGBTQ individuals and couples can work constructively to manage these and other stressors, and lead full, psychologically-healthy lives.

We hope that these books, and resources like them, can serve as some help—however small—to any who may need it in these difficult times.

 

On Woman’s Embodied Self

Body studies is a growing area of interest to scholars in sociology, women’s studies, and other disciplines in the humanities. But although many psychological theories are relevant to this field, psychology has not yet contributed to it in a substantive way. Joan C. Chrisler and Ingrid Johnston-Robledo hope to bridge the gap with their new book, Woman’s Embodied Self: Feminist Perspectives on Identity and Image. This book discusses women’s complex relations with their bodies and how attitudes toward the body affect women’s sense of self.


The authors write:

Our goal is to define problems in embodiment, examine them through the lenses of various psychological theories (e.g., objectification theory, stigma theory, terror management theory, stereotype embodiment theory), review the research to date on these problems, and suggest ways to help women and girls to achieve a healthy embodiment.

The authors argue that the body is a text on which women’s social location is written. Many different factors limit, constrain, or undermine women’s healthy embodiment. These include sexism, stigma, gender stereotypes, consumerism, medicalization, and the pressure to have a sanitized, sexualized, youthful, thin, healthy, and attractive body. By challenging and resisting negative sociocultural messages that promote body dissatisfaction and unhealthy beauty practices, mental health professionals and lay readers alike can help women and girls achieve a positive embodied self.

 

 

Mindfulness Resources

Over the last few decades, the concept of mindfulness has quickly become a hot topic in mainstream Western culture. Workshops in schools and the workplace are popping up more and more to teach exercises to cultivate general wellbeing and provide stress relief.

Broadly, the APA Dictionary of Psychology, Second Edition defines mindfulness as the “awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings,” cultivated is through meditation “in which a person focuses attention on his or her breathing and thoughts, feelings, and sensations are experienced freely as they arise.”

These practices can be incorporated into clinical psychotherapy, regardless of therapeutic approach, and modified as the psychologist sees fit. Here is a selection of products from APA Books that incorporate mindfulness-based principles:

 

APA Books® 

The Art and Science of Mindfulness, Second Edition

Intention is fundamental to any project, endeavor, or journey. Related to intention is the concept of mindfulness—the awareness that arises through intentionally attending to oneself and others in an open, caring, and nonjudgmental way. Authors Shapiro and Carlson draw from Eastern wisdom and practices as well as Western psychological science to explore why mindful awareness is integral to the therapeutic healing process. This new edition integrates the latest theory and research on mindfulness, with new sections describing the neuroscience of mindfulness and mechanisms of change.

 

Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Insomnia

This clinical guide presents mindfulness based therapy for insomnia (MBTI)—an innovative group intervention that can reduce insomnia symptoms. Combining principles from mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy, MBTI helps participants create meaningful, long-term changes in their thoughts and behaviors about sleep. This book reviews new research on MBTI and teaches mental health professionals how to integrate it into their own practices.

 

Therapeutic Presence

Therapeutic presence is the state of having one’s whole self in the encounter with a client by being completely in the moment on a multiplicity of levels—physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. The therapeutic relationship is essential to positive outcomes of psychotherapy. In this book, Shari M. Geller and Leslie S. Greenberg argue that therapeutic presence is the fundamental underlying quality of the therapeutic relationship and, hence, effective therapy.

 

Coming Soon—August 2017!

Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement 

This book serves as a comprehensive resource on the history, theory, and practice of mindfulness in sport.  The authors present mindful sport performance enhancement (MSPE), an empirically-supported, six-session program that can be adapted for specific athletic populations.  Each MSPE session includes educational, experiential, and discussion components, as well as instructions for home practice.

 

 

APA LifeTools®

25 Lessons in Mindfulness

This book presents a practical, step-by-step approach for establishing your own mindfulness practice. Brief introductory chapters explain the scientifically proven effects on health, as well as the philosophy behind this ancient practice. The remainder of the book consists of 25 experiential lessons that guide you through various meditative practices. You will learn to be mindful of your breath, sounds, sights, tastes, movements, physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings as you maintain a compassionate attitude toward yourself and others.

 

APA Videos® 

Mindfulness for Anxiety

Ronald D. Siegel works with a young man who presents with stress-related chronic neck pain. First he helps the client to see that the mind plays a critical role in his presenting problem. Next, using the therapeutic understanding that resistance to mental and physical discomfort exacerbates suffering, Dr. Siegel works to identify the physical sensations and emotions that the client is struggling to avoid. Through practicing acceptance of pain sensations, anxiety, and other emotions, the client is able to become more comfortable with these experiences as they arise, placing him on a path toward freedom from his disorder.

 

Mindfulness for Well-Being

For most people, even the ordinary demands of life can cause some feelings of unease and stress, and these stressful thoughts and feelings may result in chronic mental and physical fatigue or anxiety. Yet, the seemingly simple act of mindfulness may help reduce the impact of stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. In this video, Rezvan Ameli demonstrates three mindfulness exercises within a group therapy setting and also discusses the science and practice of mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness for Insomnia

In this video, Jason C. Ong works with a group of young male clients who are all suffering from various sleep issues. In this demonstration, Ong teaches behavioral strategies within a mindfulness framework to help the group learn how to cope with periods of wakefulness at night.

 

 

 

Coming Soon—August 2017!

Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement in Practice

For many athletes, engaging competitively in a physical activity while staying in the moment can be quite difficult. Mindful sport performance enhancement (MSPE) is a mental training program designed to help athletes, coaches, and other performers develop a set of core skills that can facilitate peak performance and optimal experience. This approach is rooted in the practice of mindfulness and typically administered in a group format, but it can also be used with individuals.  In this video program, Dr. Keith A. Kaufman works closely with a group of university golfers who wish to improve their performance.

 

References 

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

What are Microaggressions?

While the term has been around since 1970, Merriam-Webster only recently added “microaggressions” to its dictionary. It’s defined as, “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.”  Merriam-Webster uses racial minorities as one example; however any marginalized group is vulnerable to microaggressions.

This January, APA Books released the paperback edition of That’s So Gay! Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community. In this book, Dr. Kevin Nadal explains how microaggressions affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Nadal describes microaggressions as the “New Face of Discrimination.” It has become unacceptable in the present day and age to openly voice and act on discrimination. Because of this, it can be commonplace for Americans in the majority to determine that they are not prejudiced, because they associate prejudice with the more outright forms of discrimination, such as hate crimes. However, they may not realize the ways in which their seemingly innocuous statements and behaviors can subtly harass or insult minorities.

Unlike blatant acts of discrimination, the motivations behind microaggressions are often ambiguous. Nadal uses the example of a White woman alone on an elevator who moves to the side and grabs her bag when joined by an African-American man. Nadal notes that there are several possible explanations for the woman’s action, but regardless of her intention, the man may suffer psychological stress as a result.

What can we do about microaggressions? Nadal gives several recommendations.  One location where microaggressions occur most often is in the workplace. It may be more difficult to confront microaggressions in this environment because of power dynamics and concerns over one’s employment status. It also raises the concern that one won’t be able to prove a microaggression to human resources representatives—or to convince them that such subtle interactions are worth investigating. Therefore, Nadal recommends that workplaces remain open to discussing microaggressions, and incorporating education about them in training and hiring opportunities.

 

References

Nadal, K. L. (2013). That’s so gay! http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/14093-000