Autism Awareness

In 2007 the United Nations designated April 2 as annual World Autism Awareness Day. This year’s event kicks off National Autism Awareness Month in the United States. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) commands a great deal of public attention, is the source of considerable controversy, and is the subject of copious scientific research. The American Psychological Association and its individual members have long been involved in researching, explaining, and treating ASD, and APA Books has played an important role in that endeavor. Here is just a partial sampling of our relevant titles.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Clinical Guide for General PractitionersAutism Spectrum Disorder: A Clinical Guide for General Practitioners

In 2013 we released V. Mark Durand’s Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Clinical Guide for General Practitioners. Durand, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, provides background on ASD and outlines decision points that help clarify when a clinician has the requisite skills to help and when a referral is needed to someone with more specialized training. He then examines the types of specialized assistance available.

 

 

 

 

Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and AdolescentsAutism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools

In 2014 APA Books released Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools, edited by Lee Wilkinson. Part of our “Applying Psychology in the Schools” Series, this timely book presents up-to-date research and evidence-based tools for accurate assessment and intervention. It also features a primer on ASD-related litigation issues and discusses relationships between special education law, provision of services, and placement decisions. The New England Psychologist said: “Wilkinson has fashioned a very good book for ASD school practitioners, with commendable interdisciplinary appeal and a much needed dose of empiricism.”

 

Russell's World: A Story for Kids About AutismRussell’s World: A Story for Kids About Autism

In 2011 Magination Press, our publishing line for young people, produced Russell’s World: A Story for Kids About Autism. It tells how a real-life boy and his family experience ASD and how they handle the challenges it presents. It presents concrete information about ASD and provides parents with guidance on supporting children with autism and their siblings, getting services, and taking time for self-care.

 

 

“Supportive without sugarcoating, this realistic account of a disorder that affects so many contains at its core a raw emotional heart.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Extensive back matter offers suggestions for parents with autistic children and provides an update on Russell (now an adult) and his family. An accessible introduction to the outward behaviors often associated with autism.”—Publishers Weekly

The Psychology of Black Lives

February is Black History Month in the United States. This important celebration commemorates the history, culture, and evolving status of African Americans.  Struggles for justice continue to define that world.  Tragic events in Ferguson, Cleveland, and elsewhere have shown that equal treatment under the law is far from guaranteed.   The daily stresses—and dangers—of growing up Black in America have become part of the national conversation, as we look for solutions to bridge the growing racial divide in our country.

This spring, APA Books publishes two books that contribute to the dialogue.
 

Helen A. Neville, Miguel E. Gallardo, and Derald Wing Sue question the assertion that we truly live in a “post-racial” society in The Myth of Racial Color Blindness: Manifestations, Dynamics, and Impact.

color blindness

Some might point to the election and re-election of a Black president as conclusive evidence of the progress made in race relations, but others are not so sanguine.

In this volume, top scholars in psychology, education, sociology, and related fields dissect the concept of color-blind racial ideology (CBRI), the widely-held belief that skin color does not affect interpersonal interactions, and that interpersonal and institutional racism therefore no longer exists in American society.

Alvin N. Alvarez, Christopher T.H. Liang, and Helen A. Neville look closely at what it means to experience racism in The Cost of Racism for People of Color: Contextualizing Experiences of Discrimination.

cost of racism

(forthcoming Spring 2016)

Social psychologists have long been interested in the perpetrators — historical, ideological, and individual — of racist beliefs and behaviors. But researchers have spent far less time investigating the experiences of the targets of racism.

In this book, leading scholars examine the felt experience of being the target of racism, with a focus on mental and physical health — as the result of particular racist encounters as well as across the lifespan — in addition to group contexts such as education and the workforce.

Being Your Own Valentine: On Self-Satisfaction and Well-Being

me4by Katie ten Hagen

This time of year tends to be a time of conflicting messages. Just last week, the Washington Post ran an article about how loneliness is a health hazard that puts people at “greater risk for heart attacks, metastatic cancer, Alzheimer’s and other ills” (Nutt, 2016). A great lead-in to Valentine’s Day, that. But also this year, several surveys have shown that most single people are not dreading Valentine’s Day—in fact, some are even looking forward to it. One survey, conducted by OpenTable (a restaurant reservation service), found that 42% of singles are not only not dreading Valentine’s Day but plan to dine out, either on their own or with platonic friends or family, on the big day.

To me, the idea that this news is so surprising that it merited a study is almost more depressing than the thought of spending Valentine’s Day alone.  But I shouldn’t be surprised. Our culture, for better or worse, stresses social relationships to an extreme. For those not celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic partner, society has coined terms like Galentine’s Day, to celebrate platonic love between friends, and to emphasize that we are not, in fact, alone.

Humans are, by and large, social creatures. But being alone does not have to mean being lonely, as the singles from these studies seem to know and the Washington Post makes sure to point out. They focus instead on the idea of self-satisfaction, and creating well-being within oneself.

It’s no secret that if we can feel fulfilled on our own, without needing the approval of others, we will almost certainly be more at peace with ourselves and our lives. What’s a little more mysterious is how to get there. A currently popular approach to this is mindfulness.

well-beingIn her book Creating Well-Being: Four Steps to a Healthier, Happier Life (2013), Dr. Pamela Hays identifies the components of well-being as “positive emotions, mental and physical health, healthy relationships, and a sense of purpose,” and the “well-being path as one that involves healthy, helpful ways of thinking and behaving” (p. 77). Of course, that’s easier said than done; we are all prone to “thinking traps,” and Valentine’s Day can be an especial trigger for these. “I’ll never find someone,” “No one will ever love me,” “I should be skinnier/healthier/better-looking,” etc.  Mindfulness would call this your “inner critic,” and of course it gets in the way of all of those components to well-being, because it’s not a healthy, helpful way of thinking.

There is of course more to creating well-being than simply recognizing your thinking traps. And mindfulness does not necessitate being alone—you can be mindful in and about a relationship, as well. But it is about being attuned to yourself and your emotions, and accepting them without judgment. It’s about communication, with a partner or with yourself and your own emotions. It attempts to allow us to make peace with our feelings rather than let them overwhelm us. It can be about noticing and taking joy from the small things; it is stopping to smell the roses. It is about creating well-being and satisfaction within yourself, despite whatever outside circumstances you can’t control—like whether you have a date for Valentine’s Day.

Perhaps a greater sense of personal well-being is part of why single people are not dreading Valentine’s Day this year. Or perhaps they’re just sick of pink hearts and commercialization.

Resources

Nutt, A. E. (2016). Loneliness grows from individual ache to public health hazard. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/loneliness-grows-from-individual-ache-to-public-health-hazard/2016/01/31/cf246c56-ba20-11e5-99f3-184bc379b12d_story.html

OpenTable. (2016). OpenTable Survey Finds Singles Aren’t Dreading Valentine’s Day [Press Release]. Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/opentable-survey-finds-singles-arent-dreading-valentines-day-300216160.html

Hays, P. (2013). Creating Well-Being: Four Steps to a Happier, Healthier Life. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

New Year, New You? The Nature of Exercise Psychology

by Trish Mathis

Welcome to 2016! Made your New Year’s resolutions yet? I have, and this year I’ll keep them.  No, really. I’m committed to the New Me in the New Year.

Treadmills-in-the-gym-1200Like many people, I once committed to going to a gym for regular exercise. I’d never been to a gym before and felt like an intruder the minute I stepped inside the door. But I gamely persisted, and amidst all the sweating, wheezing, cursing, and grumbling, I somehow improved my cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, and stamina.

Many people quickly give up on their New Year’s exercise goals. Why? Psychologist James Prochaska offers an explanation. His transtheoretical model of change is a five-stage theory that suggests that people need time to alter their health-related behaviors, that different interventions are effective at different periods in their lives, and that outcomes may vary across these different life periods. One month you might be confident and able to make several significant adjustments to your daily routine, and 6 months later you might be pessimistic and out of sorts, unable to maintain the changes you easily implemented previously. In other words, different times bring different opportunities and reactions, so the key to long-term success is persistence and flexibility.

At the gym, never is this phenomenon more apparent than in January, when eager new exercisers edge out the regulars in their excitement to reach the machines. They keep it up for a week or two, but by the end of the month only a handful of the newbies remain.

Fortunately, the field of exercise psychology exists to help prevent this disappearing act. Practitioners focus on helping everyday people achieve their physical activity goals—not elite athletes training for the Olympics. But people like me who train just for ourselves—for our health and our satisfaction, and maybe a little enjoyment and fulfillment along the way.  When we experience setbacks and need help overcoming obstacles, including our own inertia, pessimistic thoughts, and fear of failure, exercise psychologists have tools and techniques to help.

 

exploring sport & excercise psych        performance psych

References

Hays, K. F. (2009). Performance psychology in action. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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

Van Raalte, J. L., & Brewer, B. W. (2014). Exploring sport and exercise psychology (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Darth Vader and Humanity’s Dark Side

David BeckerBy David Becker

Lord Voldemort, Hannibal Lecter, The Joker. Movies are filled with memorable villains who captivate us with their depictions of humanity’s most evil tendencies. Perhaps one of the most iconic villains of all is Darth Vader—more machine than man, twisted and evil, according to Obi Wan Kenobi. No doubt, Vader’s legacy will be seen in The Force Awakens, the newest addition to the Star Wars franchise that premiered in Los Angeles on December 14 and will appear in theatres nationwide on December 18.

Despite Darth Vader’s legacy as an icon of evil, his son, Luke Skywalker, believed there was still some good in him. In “Darth Vader, Carl Rogers, and Self-Organizing Wisdom,” Arthur Bohart’s chapter from Humanity’s Dark Side: Evil, Destructive Experience, and Psychotherapy, this recognition on Luke’s part is highlighted as a great example of the person-centered perspective in psychotherapy. Largely derived from the seminal work of Carl Rogers, the person-centered perspective acknowledges that no one is fundamentally good or evil. Rather, everyone has the capacity for both morally positive and negative actions. Whether an individual tends to be more or less moral overall can depend on one key motive: actualizing tendency.

Actualizing tendency, according to Bohart (2013), “is the tendency of the organism to maintain and enhance itself” (p. 59) and is influenced by that organism’s environment. Think of biological evolution and how a species will adapt genetic traits that are most favorable to its surroundings, thus increasing its likelihood to survive. Humans also adapt their thoughts and behaviors to their surroundings as a survival mechanism, but they can do so in morally positive or negative directions.

darth-327Carl Rogers saw the actualizing tendency as key component of person-centered therapy. He and the psychologists who have continued his work believe that everyone is capable of self-organizing wisdom, which is the ability to “adapt to life problems creatively and productively in a manner that takes into account the wishes and needs of others” (p. 63). In other words, people can create positive, prosocial change for themselves and adapt to their environment in a wise manner. Person-centered therapists capitalize on this inherent ability by empathizing with their clients, acknowledging their feelings and potential for good, holding them in positive regard, and helping them along a path towards self-healing.

In his chapter, Bohart wonders what it would be like if the Rebel Alliance was able to plant a person-centered therapist on the Death Star to speak with Darth Vader. After presenting a hypothetical dialogue between the two, Bohart says:

We could imagine Darth Vader beginning to open up to implicit and long-forsaken aspects of his personality, to begin to see the broader picture, to begin to incorporate new aspects of his experience into his ideas. He might begin to question his constructs, such as those imposed by the Emperor, he might begin to balance his desires for power and revenge with a more deeply human side. He might actually begin to move toward discovering the “good” in him. (p. 66)

If Anakin Skywalker had gone into therapy with Carl Rogers before joining the Dark Side, Darth Vader may have never come into existence. Anakin could have been a symbol of good, having resisted the rise of the Empire a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

 

Reference

Bohart, A. C. (2013). Darth Vader, Carl Rogers, and self-organizing wisdom. In A. C. Bohart, B. S. Held, E. Mendelowitz, & K. J. Schneider (Eds.), Humanity’s dark side: Evil, destructive experience, and psychotherapy (pp. 57–76). http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/13941-003