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This community blog is written by the current OPA Board of Directors' President.


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President's Message: February 2018

Posted By Mary Lewis, PhD, ABPP - OPA President, Tuesday, February 27, 2018

When I was a child, my Mom took me on yearly trips to visit my grandparents. The trip from Phillipsburg to Hoxie, Kansas always felt like it took forever. There were endless twists and turns, and I never saw my Mom consult a map. I never knew how we got there exactly; I just knew that we did get safely to our destination.  As I aged into my teenage years, I wondered how she knew where to go, which direction to turn, and more critically, how many snacks and books to pack to keep us entertained in the pre-cell phone age. It was a mystery of childhood that I learned later. 

Once I became an adult and started traveling to college in Manhattan, KS, I realized how crucial it was to have a road map and proper preparation before heading out on a long trip. While hopping in a car and taking a spontaneous trip could be fun and interesting, planning a destination and knowing the route was more helpful for me. I traveled with a road map in my car, knowing there could be a detour, and I would have to find a new route, but the destination always remained the same. My choice of road was determined by my personality (back roads rather than interstate) and timing (how early did I have to go to class the next day).

It can be easy in this day of Google Maps, Waze, and other smart phone technology to just plug in a designation and let the phone tell you where to go. There is a security in letting technology, or “someone else” point you in the right direction. However, it’s a positive thing to have a backup plan – a road map in the car in case you run out of cell data, go into a limited coverage area, or (like me), just like to be prepared in case of emergency! 

As an organization, OPA has a destination that is outlined by our mission statement:  “To advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and to improve people’s lives in Ohio.” While this sets our goal, it does not tell us how to get there or what specific pathways are available to us. Our route choices should be guided by our vision and values – championing human rights and well-being for all, modeling diversity and inclusiveness, being role models and collaborating with others.

Ultimately, the specific twists and turns that we make from this moment today to get to our destination are outlined by OPA’s strategic plan. The strategic plan goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART goals), and will move us closer to our mission in Ohio. This year, the new OPA board of directors has been charged with revisiting the strategic plan, and re-examining our route. This process started during the OPA board retreat, continued with feedback from each board member and committee chair, and was continued at an intensive meeting on Saturday, January 27th at the OPA offices. 

One of the challenges of such a diverse organization as OPA, is that we will not all agree with the road to take to get to the final mission statement destination. We may not even agree with how our values translate into specific SMART goals. Some members may be content to let the OPA leadership “drive the car” and trust in the process. Others might be more interested in route planning and identifying the best roads to take. 

My hope is that no matter what level of engagement our members want or the differences in our opinions about how to arrive at our destination, the process will be transparent enough; so that, we can arrive as a cohesive and unified organization. The goal of the strategic planning process is to be forthright regarding how the three-to-five-year goals and process to achieve those was chosen. Then, creation of a continuous feedback loop can exist between OPA leadership and members to constantly adjust our route to maintain alliance with the strategic plan. While I know timing may be perceived differently to different members, I hope that we will move at an appropriate pace to be both thoughtful, but timely. 

For the record, the distance between Phillipsburg and Hoxie is only 83 miles, but there are three different routes to get there. All roads are rural, all paved(ish), but also 55 mph – ensuring that it would take at least an hour and a half, and up to two hours to get there. Two hours as a child was an eternity – two hours today feels like nothing. I’m grateful to my Mom for studying the map, memorizing it ahead of time, and finding a way to make both the trip and the destination a pleasant one for all of us. It truly taught me that the time on the road can be as meaningful as the time at the final destination. 


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President's Message: January 2018

Posted By Mary Lewis, PhD, ABPP - OPA President, Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Happy New Year! Are you a person who makes resolutions in the new year? Or do you set new goals at any time during the year? While millions of Americans set resolutions, most of those same individuals do not follow through with goals, most having given up by February of that year. Reasons for non-completion of goals include making vague or too-big goals, not being honest about our abilities or limitations, working towards too many goals, comparing ourselves to others in an unrealistic way, or not tracking progress. 

To achieve success with your goals, APA Help Center and other media sources have some concrete suggestions. These include starting small, focusing on one goal, setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based), chart progress, making yourself accountable, and celebrating successes. Having social support and emotional outlets are also helpful for goal-achievement. Psychologists are well-equipped to help individuals of all ages reach their goals, whether set on the New Year or throughout the year. 

While I personally do not make New Year resolutions, preferring to set goals throughout the year, I would like to set some goals as the OPA President this year that I believe will meet the success criteria outlined above. 

  • Align the strategic plan with the new governance model
  • Update the OPA Policies and Procedures manual
  • Create one new revenue source for OPA
  • Nominate at least three psychologists for OPA awards

Additionally, as OPA goes through this transitional year with a new governance structure, I also think it is helpful for the leadership of OPA, as well as the general membership, to step back and broadly reflect on the goals and purpose of OPA within our changing world. Columnist Courtney Martin has written a blog with insightful questions that can guide this discussion and reframe our goals and strategic plan. While the questions are individual-based, I think we can use these to lead our thinking for 2018. 

  • What was one of the moments that OPA most brought you pride in 2017? (My answer to this is fighting off board consolidation!)
  • Who within OPA enriched your life in a big way? 
  • What did OPA resist most effectively? What did we surrender to?
  • What is one question you found yourself asking regarding OPA’s goals over and over in 2017?
  • How can that question lead us to the next steps for OPA?
  • Finally, what about OPA gives you hope for 2018? 

It is easy for all of us to get mired in the details of daily life – grading, billing, analyzing data, commuting, etc. We know if we take a moment each day to step back, breathe, and be mindful about our presence and purpose, it keeps us healthy. As an organization, I hope that stepping back and being mindful about our guiding principles, strategic plan, and purpose in Ohio can keep us focused and healthy in 2018 and beyond. 

May your 2018 bring joy and hope throughout the year!



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President's Message: December 2017

Posted By Mary Lewis, PhD, ABPP - OPA President, Tuesday, December 19, 2017

One of the requirements of the new OPA governance model is a twice-yearly all member assembly, one to be held virtually and the other to be held in person at the OPA convention. The first virtual assembly was held on Saturday, November 18th from 10 a.m. until noon, and approximately twenty participants were on the virtual call. A broad call for topics was sent out to all OPA members, I am grateful to Elizabeth Harris, PhD, who submitted the topic chosen for the assembly. The topic was “How do psychologists help the public who have been victims of or witnesses to gun violence?” Specifically, the goal was to not discuss the issue of whether civilians should have access to guns but rather, what we can do to help those who have experienced negative outcomes and the scientific evidence that supports our efforts.

Katharine Hahn Oh, PhD, and Michael Ranney, MPA, compiled a list of resources from external sources, and posed these four questions to guide the discussion: 

  • How can we improve mental health care providers’ response to victims and witnesses of gun violence?
  • What systems-level interventions might be helpful (at the community/neighborhood level, in healthcare, in training/continuing education, legal or policy changes)?
  • How does culture influence our interventions, and how can we create culturally-appropriate responses?
  • What action steps does our group suggest for OPA and for our members?

The two-hour assembly generated a rich and deep discussion around these questions, and posed some challenging discussions about how OPA can be a source of information and support for mental health providers and individuals who have been impacted by gun violence. Some notable suggestions included preparing an op-ed piece about the role of language used in the mass media around incidents of gun violence, increasing awareness of alternative and effective practice models, continuing education and trainings on trauma-informed care, training on how to engage with communities impacted by gun violence, especially communities of color, workshops on cultural competence for other healthcare professionals, and expanding our relationships with legislators to educate and become resources on supporting those impacted by gun violence. 

Each time I have the privilege of sitting down with a group of psychologists to work on a broad topic, such as the one presented at the assembly, I am humbled by the vast knowledge and compassion demonstrated by the participants in the group. The diversity of ideas represented in the assembly was inspiring! I truly feel that OPA can be guided by the group’s recommendations, and that the nature of the “next steps” given were supportive of collaboration – not only among the OPA committees and leadership teams, but also among other healthcare professionals and community stakeholders. 

The next OPA Assembly will be held Thursday, April 26th and Friday, April 27th of the 2018 convention, at 8 a.m. both mornings. It is likely the assembly topic will be a spin-off of this fall topic, although the assembly planning team is open to other suggestions. When you register for the convention this fall, please plan on coming to one of the morning assemblies! I look forward to your feedback and suggestions, especially as OPA moves forward with our new governance model and updating our strategic plan. 

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President's Message: November 2017

Posted By Mary Lewis, PhD, ABPP - OPA President, Saturday, November 18, 2017

Psychology has traditionally been seen an individual endeavor, fashioned by an individualistic society and cultural traditions. With a few exceptions, from the time we start in school in the U.S., we are told “do your own work,” with collaboration sometimes seen as “cheating.” In some cases, our education is not just individualistic, but fiercely competitive and cut-throat. Even when practicing, we primarily work one-on-one with clients, and private practice continues to be a career goal for new psychologists. I remember how isolated I felt at my first full-time clinical job, surrounded by people yet working alone. It was a struggle to build relationships and find ways to collaborate within the privacy guidelines and maintain the confidentiality of my clients.

We live in an increasingly collective world, fueled by technology and with a growing acknowledgement of the critical role of multicultural psychology and diverse perspectives in our work. Clients and student’s ever-changing physical environments, political climates, globalization, and the rapidly changing social world require us to keep up with these rapid changes. Further, research demonstrates that working in collaborative groups at all academic and practice levels is efficacious and helps with problem-solving, empathy development, psychological adjustment to college, and higher self-esteem, to name a few (e.g., Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 2013). Psychologists have embraced collaborative work with others, whether via integrated healthcare, active and collaborative teaching models in academics, or cooperative research teams.

Collaborative leadership, similar to collaborative learning, should consist of five factors: Positive interdependence, individual and group accountability, positive interaction (preferably face-to-face), learning interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing (Johnson & Johnson, 2017). Dr. McDaniel, when President of APA, promoted an idea of “collaborative habits,” wherein she challenged all of us to be mindful and intentional about our interactions and learning from others, while being flexible and fluid in those experiences (McDaniel, 2016). 

OPA is a model of collaborative leadership in numerous ways. We are active members of the Coalition for Health Communities, thanks to the efforts of Michael Ranney, our ED. The new OPA governance structure is another model of collaborative leadership, working across silos and fostering engagement and interdependence. Further, our first OPA General Assembly (a virtual meeting held Saturday, November 18th) engaged members in a discussion about critical issues facing Ohio psychologists to inform the strategic plan of OPA. 

I’d like to also note that one of our mutually beneficial collaborations has been a long-term relationship with the Ohio School Psychologists Association (OSPA). Dr. Erich Merkle, our current OSPA liaison to the OPA board, frequently attends OPA board meetings, shares information from OPSA with OPA (and vice versa), and had a well-attended workshop at the OPA Convention in the spring. I appreciate Dr. Merkle’s collaborative spirit, and willingness to be flexible as we navigate this new governance structure, as well as his expertise and understanding about how our two organizations can work together. 

As I mentioned in my first e-newsletter article, collaboration is critical in this current climate! Initiating strong relationships with other organizations that support mental health is just one step of collaborative leadership. The next step is facilitating a mutually-beneficial interdependence, as well as being mindful about actively maintaining and improving the relationship. Our connections may be with medical professionals, religious organizations, school systems, non-profit agencies, and legislators, all of whom have different cultures of engagement. The OPA staff and board has a commitment to building and working with our healthy networks, and we would love to hear about your experiences with collaborative connections with others, if you are willing to share.

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President's Message: October 2017

Posted By Mary Lewis, PhD, ABPP - OPA President, Friday, October 20, 2017

Navigating Traumatic Events as Psychologists – And a Human Being

As I sit down to write this e-newsletter article, I am reeling from the largest mass shooting in U.S. history and wondering how to talk to my clients, children, and friends about this event. My friends have reached out to me, wanting to know why psychologists cannot predict violence, or prevent harm, or ways to navigate the helpless feelings that may arise when national disasters and traumatic events occur, seemingly in a constant cycle these days. I do not have perfect answers, but there are a number of resources that I can direct them towards as a way to manage emotional and cognitive distress.

Violence has plagued our society as long as we have been documenting history, yet it seems more visible, visceral, and “in your face” due to the 24/7 nature of news sources and social media. Raw video from disasters, man-made or otherwise, can be viewed with no filters, no warning notices, and tap into our fears. This triggers the availability bias, which can heighten the fears that we are vulnerable to shootings or hurricanes. This is despite the data that demonstrates our odds of being killed in a mass shooting is much lower than that of dying of suicide, car accident, or heart disease (National Safety Council; http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/injury-facts-chart.aspx). Additionally, research is demonstrating that repeated exposure to media coverage can trigger higher acute stress (Holman, Garfin, & Silver, 2013; http://www.pnas.org/content/111/1/93.abstract). For those with already-existing trauma or stress-related disorders, this can trigger a re-occurrence of their symptoms. 

While psychologists are experts at helping others manage their emotions and cope with stressful times, I think it is a good reminder to consider reflect on how we are taking care of ourselves during this time. We are also human, and vulnerable to fears, worries, anxiety, sadness, anger, and other emotions related to daily stressors. The recommendations that APA and other national health groups offer are good reminders of ways to perform self-care in stressful times, and I want to remind all of us of a few of those suggestions.

Create a safe space. Our offices can be safe and brave spaces for our clients or students, but is there a space that you have where you can create peace and healing for yourself? Do you mindfully choose to retreat to this space when you need to sit and breathe, or restore your energy? My safe space is often outside, in nature, so that I can ground myself and reconnect with green space and fresh air. 

Turn off media and electronics. Some of us may feel compelled to keep checking news for more information, or using social media to share information to help others. I am quite guilty of this (see my Twitter or FB accounts)! However, research shows that disconnecting from media sources, even for short periods of times, can be psychologically healthy. This also helps re-set our mental outlook to one that may be more realistic. 

Use your support network. No matter whether you are introverted or extroverted, have a large or small network, this is a good time to reach out to those who support and love you, and remind yourself that there is still kindness and love in the world. It may just be a simple phone call or an offer to meet for coffee. Maybe it is snuggling with your pet, or a movie night with your family. Caregivers benefit from caregiving also.

Find balance. I continue to find that no matter what part of the career life-span that I am in currently, finding a balance in work/life as well as exposure to positive/negative news is one key to remaining healthy myself. We can seek out positive news stories and focus on the good things that are occurring in our daily lives, which may help buffer the effect of constant negative news.

Help others. While we do help our clients, students, and organizations on a daily basis, sometimes it is nice to move outside of those circles to do a kind act and spread positivity. Personally, I have started a Sunday afternoon tradition of writing one “card of gratitude” to a friend of mine. While this seems like a small act, it may be incredibly helpful to the recipient. 

Take our own advice. We help others find ways to practice self-care, whether it be through mindfulness, relaxation breathing, cognitive restructuring, honoring emotions, exercise, healthy eating, etc. I am constantly reminded of the old adage that “we cannot help others if we do not help ourselves.” It is easy to focus on helping others and forget to take care of ourselves. 

What other ways do you find are helpful in maintaining a focus on self-care in your daily life, especially in difficult times? Are there particular activities that seem to be calming, or invigorating? Please remember that part of OPA’s mission is to “support the personal and professional lives of psychologists throughout their lifespan, from student status through retirement.” If you are willing, I would love to hear the strategies that you are using care of yourself as well as additional ways OPA can support your self-care endeavors. 

In closing, I want to share with you a brief list of resources that may be useful to both you and your clients and students. If you have additional resources, please feel free to email them to me. 

Managing your Distress in the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting

OPA Colleague Assistance Program

Tips for Survivors: Coping with Grief after a Disaster or Traumatic Event https://store.samhsa.gov/product/SMA17-5035

Coping with Traumatic Events: Resources for Children, Parents, Educators and Other Professionals:

Trauma-Informed Approach 

Impact of Mass Shootings on Survivors, Families and Communities

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