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Why You Should Join the APAGS Convention Committee

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The 2016 APAGS Convention Committee at this year’s APA Convention in Denver.

If you have ever been to the APA convention, you know how thrilling it is: the famous psychologists, the innovative research ideas, and the free pens (just to name a few exciting things)! I was completely enamored after my first convention and wanted to contribute. Some of you may be thinking the same exact thing now, and with another convention over, it is time to start considering being a part of the APAGS programming and fervor that is convention. Here are some reasons why you may be a good fit for the APAGS convention committee:

  • You live for the excitement of convention– You look forward to the convention every year and are energized by the exchange of ideas. You commonly think, “I’ve finally found my place” or “why can’t this be offered more than once a year?”.
  • You are interested in graduate students’ professional development– Many of the APAGS programs that we guide or create relate to professional development issues such as finishing your dissertation or setting goals and saying no. If you like to pay it forward with the knowledge you have learned in your journey, look no further.
  • You like to be “involved”– The APAGS Convention Committee is in the center of it all and you work throughout the year on planning this massive 4-day event. You will likely be in monthly communication with the convention committee and the APAGS staff.
  • You are organized and detail oriented, and want to use those skills for good– Planning and executing the APAGS programming at convention is no easy feat, so most of the committee members need to be prepared. Get the excel spreadsheets ready!
  • You enjoy connecting with other students– One of the goals of the convention committee is to empower graduate students to be part of the psychology community through convention. As a convention committee member you will interact with graduate students not only at convention, but in the planning stages as well.
  • You seek a way to meet and interact with prominent psychologists– Many advanced psychologists donate their time to APAGS and commit to presenting programs for us. Our most popular is the APAGS Food for Thought, and the past few years have included psychologists such as Dr. Anneliese Singh, Dr. Nadine Kaslow, and Dr. Robert Sternberg. The convention committee organizes this program (along with many others) and seeks connections to these psychologists.
  • You want to experience convention without the cost– while the convention committee’s demands are intense; it also has its benefits. Travel, lodging, and meals are paid for the convention committee since it is a requirement you attend convention. More money for souvenirs?
  • You crave more leadership opportunities– the convention committee is not only a great line on your CV, but also a chance for you to make a lasting impact as a graduate student leader. It may also be a stepping-stone to engage in other leadership opportunities.

Hopefully by this point, I have you convinced. So now that you have decided to apply, here is some basic information as well as some helpful tips in applying.

  • The deadline for applications is September 7 at noon Eastern Standard Time. Be sure to notice the time zone as this may factor into your application process, especially if you are the type of person to work up until the last minute.
  • Eligibility requirements include being a current graduate student in good standing, having at least one year remaining in your graduate program at the time of application, being able to commit to a two-year term, and being available to travel to Washington DC for our winter meeting in December or January.
  • Get more specific information about the application process.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I applied for the APAGS convention committee my second year of graduate school with high hopes… and was turned down. And was turned down again the next year. I was fortunate to gain other leadership experiences and was selected for the committee after my third attempt. If you are passionate about it, keep trying!
  • In your candidate statement, address how you are a good fit for the committee in terms of personal characteristics AND past experience. We want to know that you are excited, committed, and able to do the task at hand.

I hope to see you all at next year’s convention in Washington, DC and, who knows, maybe I will see you there as a fellow convention committee member!

How to Survive Your First Year of College Teaching

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Teaching psychology for the first time can bring up a lot of emotions: excitement, fear, trepidation, eagerness, rage, feelings of inadequacy, and even nervous laughter. When 50 pairs of starving hyenas’ eager undergraduates’ eyes are staring at you for the first time, expecting words to come from your mouth, and more than that, infallibly factual words… it can be a little intimidating. Couple that with a strong imposter syndrome (I’m still learning too, you know!), and it’s a wonder we’re not all incapacitated by bind attacks from a Bulbasaur (ah Pokémon, how I missed you).

No matter your reasons for getting into teaching (having a TA-ship, being forced/encouraged by your advisor, having a martyr complex, or a genuine desire to teach), the first time might feel more like drowning than teaching. However, with some quick tips, compiled and condensed here by yours truly, you’ll be on your way to swimming like Michael Phelps in no time! (marijuana optional).

In the beginning…
1. Prepare! Utilize resources.
Why do more work than you need to? Sign up for an instructor account with the publisher of the textbook you’ll be using, and you can get a FREE desk copy and access to online resources (premade lectures, interactive activities, and even exam questions). Experienced instructors who have taught that class before can be a great resource as well. Many universities also have teaching centers that have an army of people ready and willing to help you out.

I’m ready!
2. Good for you! Now avoid the curse of coverage and focus instead on student learning.
Aim for 3-5 main points per lecture. Feel like you’re leaving a lot out? Of course you do; that’s why you’re the instructor (with a lot more knowledge), and they’re the students. Moving from a teaching to learning focus means moving from “how much information can I throw at students” to “how can I help students construct knowledge and apply it in new ways?”

What’s next?
3. Relax! Students very likely barely think about you outside of class.
Remember the name of your 3rd semester English professor? No? I thought so. As hard as it is to fathom (particularly when the class you’re teaching takes up 96% of your time), remember that for your students, they likely have 4 more classes, and they will only think about you for the minimal amount of time necessary. This means the time you spilled coffee on yourself or let out a Freudian slip? They were too concerned with their lunch plans to notice, care, or remember.

It’s week 12, and I’m a little bored…
4. Mix it up!
Your students will be happier (and importantly, you will be happier) if you throw a little variety in the mix: lectures, small group discussions, debates, mock trials (a fun twist on a traditional debate), and even a field trip or two. Just remember to keep a solid focus, so your activities are still promoting mindful learning, not just mere engagement.

It’s over!
5. Great job! Now take student evals into account… with a grain (or two) of salt.
Yes, they’re important when you get reviewed as an instructor, but don’t tie them to your self-esteem. In all likelihood, you’ll get a mix, some good, some not-so-good. Focus on improving the bad ones that were echoed by several students, but realize that you can’t make everyone happy, and always end with some positive evaluations that can brainwash motivate you to do it all over again next semester!

The tips in this blog were influenced by Janet Kuebli’s Teaching of Psychology course and James Lang’s On Course.

If you want more great resources, check out APA’s very own Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

About me: Ana is a 4th-year graduate student in the Experimental Psychology program with a concentration in Social Psychology at Saint Louis University.

Ian

An introduction from the new APAGS Chair

IanAs the new APAGS Chair, I will have the privilege of representing graduate students within the American Psychological Association beginning August 8th. By way of introduction to those of you who may not know me, I wanted to share a few thoughts and reflections in advance of the beginning of my term.

I am a very political person. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of community organizing, the necessity of labor rights, stronger protections for working people, and the critical importance of creating a more just society that offers opportunity for all, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

For me, becoming a psychologist necessitates being politically minded. Just look at the world we live in: The post-war order that secured peace and stability in Europe is under siege; Iraq and Syria are engulfed in intractable civil wars; and terrorism continues to claim the lives of innocent civilians around the world. At home, women still earn only three-quarters of what equally-qualified men earn; African-Americans disproportionately suffer the injustices of mass incarceration, and others find that a routine traffic stop by a police officer may have life-threatening consequences; rural and impoverished communities have been torn apart by the opioid and methamphetamine crises; many Americans remain unemployed or underemployed in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis; student debt has ensnared millions of Americans in a financial trap from which they find it impossible to escape; Americans continue to lead the Western world in gun deaths, most of them the result of suicide; and, as a result of these and other developments, racism, sexism, and xenophobia have found new political purchase in our social and cultural landscape.

Professional psychology likewise faces enormous challenges. The findings of the APA’s Independent Review (i.e., the Hoffman Report) have undermined the public’s faith in our profession’s most prominent institution. The “replication crisis” has prompted serious challenges to longstanding claims made by many research psychologists. Psychologists remain excluded from the Medicare definition of a physician, barring psychologists access to resources critical for supplying the public with quality mental health care. Despite the proven effectiveness of psychotherapy, too many Americans still lack access to the care they so desperately need.

Psychologists must be involved in finding solutions to all of these problems. Yet, for students, this can be overwhelming. “The world has its problems, but I just need to finish my dissertation.” “I am concerned about the challenges facing our profession, but right now I just need to match for internship.”  I have heard these and other similar statements many times.

Graduate school can be difficult, and many obstacles must be overcome to complete a doctorate in psychology. Believe me, I know just as well as you do. However, I strongly believe that we are living in a significant period in both our nation’s history and that of our profession. Maybe you’ve asked a parent what they did during the Summer of Love or what it felt like to see the Berlin Wall come tumbling down. I believe that great changes are taking place in our lifetimes, right now, that demand our presence and action. More importantly, they demand our skills, knowledge, passion, and talents as psychologists in training. Ask yourself: Years from now, when your family asks you what you did when the world changed in 2017, what do you imagine yourself saying? Where were you standing?

Where are you standing?

Even though there are enormous challenges facing our society and our world, I remain confident that the world of tomorrow will be better than the world of today. I have that hope because I have seen the future. The future is us. The maturity, vision, energy, and character of our generation is unparalleled, and I know that because I have had the privilege of hearing so many of you share your dreams and ideas. Already we have accomplished so much, and we’re just getting started.

As APAGS Chair, I promise to do my very best to show APA and the field of psychology the energy and promise that you bring to the table. I believe that the student voice is critical to the future of our profession and our society, and I will give everything I can to ensure that the student voice is heard. In turn, I ask that you keep bringing your energy, creativity, passion, and vision to your research, your practice, your education, your advocacy, and your activism. The future is counting on us.

I am an open book. You can follow me on Twitter at @IanAGutierrez.

Author Bio:

Ian A. Gutierrez, MA, is a graduate student at the University of Connecticut pursuing his doctorate in Clinical Psychology and the 2016-2017 Chair of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). His research focuses on the development of belief systems over the life span.

Editor’s Note: Interested in becoming a part of APAGS Leadership? There are many ways to get involved!

 

An Account of Invisible Disability in Graduate Psychology Training

“But you look so healthy, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

You would never know that I have a disability from just looking at me. To most people, I appear to be healthy and well-adjusted for my age. Enrolled in a doctoral clinical program, doing well in my coursework, taking on extra curricular activities – from an objective viewpoint, it is easy to assume that I lead a similar life to most people my age in my situation. Yet the very fact that things seem normal is one of the most challenging aspects to an invisible disability. Unless I go out of my way to explain it, you would likely never know that I suffer from severe tinnitus and hyperacusis, or constant ringing in the ears and extreme sensitivity to sound.

“Oh I get tinnitus sometimes, too. You should just ignore it like I do.”

Although increasingly common, issues of tinnitus and hyperacusis are not widely understood, nor is there a clear way of measuring what makes someone’s condition severe (Blasing, Goebel, Flotzinger, Berthold, & Kroner-Herwig, 2010). Unlike hearing impairment, in which the limitations of hearing are objectively measured by a hearing test, the methods for measuring tinnitus are far more subjective. Therefore, people tend to measure tinnitus severity by the amount of stress that people who encounter it experience – tinnitus generally falls into the basic categories of bothersome and non-bothersome. For the bothersome type, there are several remedies with an evidence basis, including various audiological interventions that incorporate psychoeducational counseling (Chan, 2009).

Additionally, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) protocols have all been shown to alleviate tinnitus-related distress to varying degrees (Gans, Cole, & Greenberg, 2015; Hesser, Westin, Hayes, & Andersson, 2009). Yet once all of these have been attempted, and the person experiencing the tinnitus and hyperacusis is still not well, current available interventions have little else to offer. Having founded a support group in Palo Alto that is part of a national network and witnessing the pain and despair tinnitus can cause firsthand, I can personally attest to the widespread need for more effective treatments and interventions.

 “Sorry, but I can’t lower the music volume because the other customers want it turned up loud.”

The challenges I face with tinnitus and hyperacusis have impacted every area of my life. While providing me with a sense of mission to contribute to research and advocacy for individuals with my condition and other invisible disabilities, the path to get there has been thoroughly demanding and challenging. Simple things like riding on public transportation, food shopping, and being in noisy restaurants are all potentially painful situations for me. Urban environments are also dangerous, considering the regularity of emergency vehicle sirens, construction, car horns, loud motorcycles, and other frequent noise. At a more personal level, I have even had to tell people that their voice or laugh is too loud, and ask if they can speak more quietly when I am nearby. Frequently, my conditions become exacerbated if I do not have an opportunity to advocate for myself and explain to people the unusual nature of my sound sensitivity so that it may be accommodated.

“If the class gets too loud for you, you can just leave.”

While I am grateful to be engaged in a course of study that I am passionate about, it is a constant challenge to maintain an effective balance between self-care and productivity. Graduate level training in psychology is thoroughly demanding of a person’s physical and emotional resources, particularly considering clinical placements that may require long commutes on top of endless hours of coursework and research requirements. My condition results in frequent exhaustion and difficulty sleeping, with the symptoms often intensified resulting from stress and demands of graduate school. Excessive fatigue is common when someone experiences a disability (Olkin, 1999); by sheer requirement of rest alone, it takes more time to get the same amount of things done. In my case, many aspects of my training are limited and guided by my condition, starting from choosing a school that has parking access and adequate disability resources. Other aspects of the process are restrictive for me too, as clinical training placements involving families with small children and milieu settings with youth are frequently quite loud and therefore not compatible with my illness. Even socializing can be a challenge, as my condition is worsened from time spent in large groups of people in which many conversations are happening. I must rely on my professors, supervisors, and peers to understand and help when I need accommodations for my disability, and even when I must leave a potentially harmful situation for me.

“Oh come on, this can’t be too loud, we’re just having fun.”

Explaining this is frequently difficult. When it’s people’s lifetime experience that being in social situations is a good thing, and they display the best of intentions by wanting me to be there. It can be very hard to articulate how challenged I am by being in the places where people gather such as restaurants, parties, and bars. As such, I am left out of much social activity that I used to partake in and that used to be a resource for me – having a disability requires constant re-adaptation to life, and often in isolation from others.

Diversity factors among graduate students include all the varied forms in which disability manifests. While mobility issues obviously must be accounted for, greater awareness of other types of disabilities, including less visible, chronic disabilities such as endometriosis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, brain injury, fibromyalgia, and other common conditions such as tinnitus and hyperacusis still require greater awareness among the general public. In this time when diversity is becoming an ever more present dimension of clinical proficiency, it is essential that training programs incorporate greater awareness of the potential impact of disability on people’s lives.

“Well, at least you don’t have a real disability.”

Despite the challenges my disability has put me through, it has been my experience that people truly want to help – even when they aren’t sure how. Yet sadly, often it is the case that when things become too challenging to attend to, it is a culturally consistent reaction to tend to look away. Many of the needs of people who experience limitations due to their disability may be solved by a very simple method – don’t be afraid to ask what it’s like for them, and how you may be able to help. Even just being recognized for dealing with the challenge of an invisible disability can be a huge relief.

About the Author:

Ben Greenberg is a fourth-year doctoral clinical psychology student at the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, San Francisco. A former professional symphony French horn player, he played in the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and Cairo Opera Orchestra before leaving his career due to debilitating tinnitus and hyperacusis. He is currently a grant recipient of the American Tinnitus Association for his research in the impact of sound sensitivity in tinnitus, and lives in Oakland, CA.

 

References:

Blasing, L., Goebel, G., Flotzinger, U., Berthold, A., & Kroner-Herwig, B. (2010). Hypersensitivity to sound in tinnitus patients: An analysis of a construct based on questionnaire and audiological data. International Journal of Audiology, 49(7), 518-526. doi: 10.3109/14992021003724996

Chan, Y. (2009). Tinnitus: Etiology, classification, characteristics, and treatment. Discovery Medicine, 8(42), 133-136. Retrieved from: http://www.discoverymedicine.com/Yvonne-Chan

Gans, J., Cole, M., & Greenberg, B. (2015). Sustained Benefit of Mindfulness-Based Tinnitus Stress Reduction (MBTSR) in Adults with Chronic Tinnitus: a Pilot Study. Mindfulness. doi: 10.1007/s12671-015-0403-x

Hesser, H., Westin, V., Hayes, S. C., & Andersson, G. (2009). Clients’ in-session acceptance and cognitive defusion behaviors in acceptance-based treatment of tinnitus distress. Behavior Research and Therapy, 47(6), 523-528. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.02.002

Olkin, R. (1999). What psychotherapists should know about disability. New York: Guilford Press.

Graduate School in Forensic Psychology

I regularly receive office visits from students who are interested in forensic psychology as a career. Many who realize they want to continue their education in psychology past undergraduate studies quickly realize that it is not as simple as applying for college. Forensic psychology research is conducted in a number of disciplines, including clinical, cognitive, and social psychology, among others. A helpful resource in the application process is the Division 41 Guide to Graduate Programs in Forensic and Legal Psychology.

What does graduate school in clinical forensic psychology involve? I have had the opportunity to be involved in a number of research projects while in graduate school, including:

  • Papers on stigmatizing effects of psychopathy and neuroscience evidence on jury decision-making
  • The creation of an inconsistent responding scale for a psychopathy assessment measure
  • A project on identifying malingering in ADHD assessment

Outside of research, I’ve had a number of valuable experiences within my department’s clinical practica. Some experiences I’ve had include:

  • Working at the county community supervision office, conducting psychological and substance abuse evaluations for adults on probation
  • Co-teaching a weekly anger management class and providing individual therapy services for anger management
  • Conducting pre-employment psychological evaluations for local police department applicants
  • Working for a year in crisis intervention at our county detention center, conducting psychodiagnostic interviews, providing referrals to the doctor to determine the need for psychiatric medication, and providing individual therapy and crisis management

Practica experiences have taught me valuable consultation skills, as I’ve had the opportunity to work with criminal justice and health professionals at a number of community placements. I’ve also been lucky to have a supportive department with faculty who encouraged me to pursue my interests in mental health reform and advocacy. As a result, I was able to attend the SPSSI Legislative Engagement Day on Capitol Hill and advocate for research funding for the social sciences.

I would encourage anyone interested in pursuing forensic psychology to consider what career they would like to pursue and what degree is required for that career. A Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology is not appropriate for everyone interested in the career, and there are a number of opportunities available at the Master’s level. If you are interested in clinical work, be sure to research the clinical practica offered by departments you apply to. I would also encourage students interested in a Ph.D. to pursue research experiences as early as they can. My research was for the most part unrelated to forensic psychology, but these experiences demonstrated to potential graduate programs that I had an interest in research.

However, the most important advice I can provide for individuals interested in this field is to find something you are passionate about and don’t settle for any graduate program. I do not believe that I would be as happy with my graduate school experience if I was conducting research that I was less interested in or if I did not feel as comfortable in the department.

Other Resources

 

Author Bio

I am a third-year Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at Texas A&M University. My research includes interests in layperson perceptions of psychopathy and the implications of psychopathy and other mental health diagnoses in community and legal settings. In particular, I am interested in the possible stigmatizing effects of mental health evidence. Additionally, I am interested in emerging conceptualizations of psychopathy that place emphasis on neurobiological correlates of the disorder and the implications of this research for interventions with psychopathic individuals.

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