Engage Aotearoa

Tag Archives: Apa

New APA public education campaign

The American Psychological Association has launched a new component of its ongoing public education program designed to increase the public’s understanding of psychology as a science and the work of psychologists in research and diverse work settings.

Launched in March with the theme Psychology: Science in Action, the campaign addresses APA’s strategic plan objective to increase the public’s recognition of psychology as a science. Its strategies and content are based on the results of public opinion polling and focus groups APA conducted to better understand the public’s thinking about the discipline. This public awareness research helped determine the messaging and campaign tactics that would be most effective to increase the public’s understanding of psychology as a science.



Government Lobbying Lessons for Suicide Prevention from the States

Suicide Prevention is an important issue across the globe. NZ may have one of the highest per-capita suicide rates in the OECD, but America isn’t far behind, and they may have a few lessons for us when it comes to influencing the people making the decisions.

In  2013, the American Psychological Association (APA) lobbied their senators to reauthorise and improve legislation that ensures prevention programmes can be established and extra funds  made available at university campuses to provide treatment and support to young people who are suicidal. The Campus Suicide Prevention Programme includes survey instruments to enhance identification of those who are suicidal and funds that allow people to be channelled towards effective treatment and support. While the legislation had been introduced in 2004, in 2013, 100 APA members made 150 visits to their congressional representatives to raise awareness of the reauthorisation of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA) and succeeded in obtaining congressional support. Find out more about the APA’s efforts to influence government and the Campus Suicide Prevention Programme.

The NZ Psychological Society (NZPsS) and the NZ College of Clinical Psychologists (NZCCP) are the NZ equivalents to the APA. It is difficult to ascertain whether similar lobbying and advocacy initiatives have been undertaken by these professional bodies. However, in August 2013, the two groups did publish a media release in response to Ministry of Health and medical insurance provider decisions to limit funding and access to talking therapies. Last week, the NZ parliament published a list of all lobbyists with passes to parliament. The list included several lawyers, business people and professional lobbyists-for-hire, but no mental-health or general health professionals.

Service-users have made multiple attempts to be heard by the government in 2013, but they aren’t on the list of lobbyists either and their calls for improved access to therapy have found few tangible results. It is time that our professional bodies got behind them and one way to do that is to lobby parliament for those areas of change that professional and service-user groups agree are necessary.  The Petition for Better Mental Healthcare Choices in NZ was delivered to NZ parliament this year by Annie Chapman on behalf of over one thousand NZers. However, the Health Select Committee has yet to release comment. NZ’s professional bodies did not make any public statements to support the petition, even though their August 2013 media release shows that their aims matched all along. It is unknown whether they were informed or uninformed of the initiative. Perhaps we could also benefit from improved collaboration between service-user groups and national professional bodies: Aims do not always diverge and just occasionally these different groups are all saying the same things: the message will be stronger if we can send it in unison.   


American Psychological Association Releases Report on Preventing Gun Violence

In February 2013 the American Psychological Association commissioned this report by a panel of experts to convey research-based conclusions and recommendations (and to identify gaps in such knowledge) on how to reduce the incidence of gun violence in the USA, whether by homicide, suicide, or mass shootings.

The eventuating report from the APA (released 16 Dec. 2013), “Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention, and Policy,” consolidates psychological research findings on precursors to shootings and highlights prevention strategies. The report identifies the need for both primary and secondary prevention programs.

Direct link to overview and full report here: http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/reports/gun-violence-prevention.aspx

Online Access to Free Psychology Lectures

Thanks to iTunes U, thousands of students, professionals and curious laypeople around the world now have access to free psychology lectures.

Find out more on the APA website

APA give the following sampling of some of the psychology courses available on iTunes U. To access the courses, download the iTunes app or go to the iTunes store.



University of California, Irvine

Instructor: Daniel Stokols, PhD, chancellor’s professor of social ecology in the departments of psychology and social behavior, and planning, policy and design

Why tune in? Environmental psychology is about how we’re influenced by our everyday surroundings, including our offices, dorm rooms, commutes and exposures to nature. Stokols’s course addresses a variety of issues, including how the design of an apartment influences the formation of friendships, why people litter and the consequences of a society suffering from information overload. “Today, there’s so much concern about issues of sustainability, public health, pollution and population growth that viewing the world as a system and in ecological terms … is very timely,” says Stokols.

Fun fact from the course: People are more likely to throw away trash in a garbage can that’s painted decoratively than one that’s plain.


American University

Instructor: Brian Yates, PhD, professor of psychology

Why tune in? Yates originally intended iTunes U to serve as a resource for his own students, who are challenged to evaluate and change their own habits to promote health. They assess their personal risks, identify what they want to change and maintain, and set up a system of “triggers and flags” that will signal when it’s time to seek professional help in the future. The material has caught on — his course is consistently one of the top 10 downloaded from iTunes U and had more than 35,000 enrollees in October. “The field is very exciting. It’s young, dynamic, it affects every one of us,” says Yates. “That’s what psychology is supposed to do.”

Surprising fact from the course: One study of HIV-positive men found that those who tended to blame themselves for negative outside events experienced a significantly faster decline in helper T cells, important for maintaining immune function.


University of California, Berkeley

Instructor: Dacher Keltner, PhD, professor of psychology and director of Berkeley’s Social Interaction Laboratory

Why tune in? Keltner’s course has always been well-attended, so it was Berkeley’s idea to make it available to the public through iTunes U. The course details fascinating research on art and emotional expression, cultural similarities and differences in non-verbal expressions, and emotion’s neurobiological and hormonal underpinnings. “The study of human emotion is new, it’s growing and it’s relevant to people around the world,” says Keltner.

Interesting fact from the course: People can usually accurately convey — and interpret — emotion through nothing more than a brief touch. But in a study conducted by Keltner and his team, there were two instances in which the “touchee” was clueless: When women tried to convey anger to men, and when men tried to communicate sympathy to women. “That fits how emotions are gendered, and how families socialize women into the ways of sympathy and men into the ways of anger that might account for these differences,” he says.


Yale University

Instructor: Fred Volkmar, MD, chief of child psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital

Why tune in? A rotating panel of mental health experts lead this course on the latest autism research, including a lecture by Volkmar’s co-instructor, James McPartland, PhD, that details how brain electrophysiology is informing researchers’ understanding of social perception in autism. “This is a happy story in the sense that outcomes seem to be getting better with early intervention and protection,” says Volkmar, who estimates the course’s first lecture has gotten about 21,000 views on iTunes.

Interesting fact from the course: One of the early theories of autism speculated that intelligent parents were more likely to have autistic children. But the idea was likely a selection bias: The people who knew about what’s now known as autism were predominantly researchers or other academics. “Now,” he says, “you see children with autism everywhere … from all social classes, from every continent on the globe — and it looks remarkably the same. What’s different is how people respond to it.”


Missouri State University

Instructor: Todd Daniel, professor of psychology and director of Missouri State’s RStats (Research, Statistical Training, Analysis and Technical Support) Institute

Why tune in? Daniel is a former radio producer who uses his storytelling skills to bring psychology to life in this introductory course. The course, which is Missouri State’s most downloaded podcast, begins with the “Myth of Psyche” and takes the listener through an engaging overview of psychology including lectures on dreaming and hypnosis, a health course dubbed “Why College Is Bad for You” and the truth about Freud. “After I do a lecture in front of a seated class, when it’s over, it’s gone like a vapor,” says Daniel. “I wanted to create something more permanent.”

Surprising fact from the course: In 1964, a man named Randy Gardner went 264 hours, or about 11 days, without sleep. He was trying to prove that sleep wasn’t all that important, but the changes noted in his cognitive and behavioral functioning proved otherwise — a lesson Daniel tries to impart on his students. “Your best strategy is to get a good night’s sleep,” he says.

Recent Updates from APA

Recorded convention sessions available for use in high school classrooms

APA’s Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) programme has made seven videos available for teachers of psychology to view and/or use in class.

These sessions were recorded at the 2012 APA Convention in Orlando, Fla. Each video is approximately 45 minutes. Topics Include…

      1. “Brain Organization for Language: It’s All in the Network(s),” Christine Chiarello, PhD;
      2. “Why Students Love Evolutionary Psychology… and How to Teach It,” David Buss, PhD;
      3. “A Letter to Teachers: William James, H. B. Alexander, and Me,” Kenneth D. Keith, PhD;
      4. “Connecting the Dots: How Race in America’s Classrooms Affects Achievement,” Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD;
      5. “Meta-studying: Teaching Metacognitive Strategies to Enhance Student Success,” Elizabeth Yost Hammer, PhD;
      6. “The Seven Sins of Memory: An Update,” Daniel L. Schacter, PhD;
      7. “Microaggressions in the Classroom: Manifestation, Dynamics and Impact,” Derald Wing Sue, PhD

Guidance for integrating spiritual interventions in psychotherapy with children and their families

“Spiritual Interventions in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy,” edited by Donald F. Walker, PhD, and William L. Hathaway, PhD

Many children are raised in families where religion and spirituality are key factors in their development, and clinical experience shows that addressing this spirituality can assist the therapeutic process. In psychotherapy, spiritual interventions must be blended effectively with secular evidence-based techniques. Furthermore, when such interventions are applied with children, there are unique ethical, developmental, and family considerations.

Scholars address unresolved issues with authoritative parenting

“Authoritative Parenting: Synthesizing Nurturance and Discipline for Optimal Child Development,” edited by Robert E. Larzelere, PhD; Amanda Sheffield Morris, PhD; and Amanda W. Harrist, PhD

Psychologist Diana Baumrind’s revolutionary prototype of parenting, called authoritative parenting, combines the best of various parenting styles. In contrast to previously advocated styles involving high responsiveness and low demandingness (i.e., permissive parenting) or low responsiveness and high demandingness (i.e., authoritarian parenting), authoritative parenting involves high levels of both responsiveness and demandingness. The result is an appropriate mix of warm nurturance and firm discipline.

APA Interview with International Expert on Bipolar Disorder

Myths and Realities About Bipolar Disorder

Five questions for bipolar disorder expert Eric Youngstrom, PhD

The following feature interview was produced by the American Psychological Association.  

Media coverage of people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder usually does not fully explain this serious mental-health problem, how best to treat it and how it can affect those who have it, as well as their families, friends and coworkers. To explain what bipolar disorder is and psychology’s role in identifying and treating it, APA asked Eric A. Youngstrom, PhD, to share his knowledge about this mental illness.

Dr. Youngstrom is professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and acting director of the Center of Excellence for Research and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder. He earned his doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Delaware and specializes in the relationship of emotions and psychopathology and the clinical assessment of children and families. Dr. Youngstrom has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles on clinical assessment and emotion, he has served as an ad hoc reviewer on more than 60 psychology and psychiatry journals.

APA: What is bipolar disorder and how is it different from the general mood swings that many people experience?

Dr. Youngstrom: Bipolar disorder is a condition that leads to extreme changes in mood, energy and sleep. With all of these things, people will experience ups and downs in everyday life. What sets bipolar disorder apart is that the swings happen with more frequency and intensity than developmentally appropriate and they last much longer. The extremes also start to cause problems at school, home, with friends or other important areas in the person’s life. There is no sharp dividing line that separates bipolar disorder from ordinary changes in energy and mood. It is the combination of extremity and impairment that signals when it has become a problem. Interestingly, although we have long thought of bipolar disorder as a “mood disorder,” we’re learning that focusing on shifts in energy may be a more accurate way of detecting episodes of the illness. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines four different types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, where the person has had a manic episode at least once in their lives; bipolar II, where the person becomes seriously depressed, but also has a history of hypomania (a milder mania); cyclothymic disorder, where the person has years of depressive and hypomanic symptoms without developing a full mania or depression; and bipolar “not otherwise specified,” for situations that do not fit into any of the other three definitions.

APA: Is bipolar disorder on the rise or does it just seem that way because of frequent media coverage?

Dr. Youngstrom: Both may be true, but changes in the actual rate are likely to be in the small to medium range, whereas changes in clinical diagnosis and media attention are huge. Several studies have found that the rate of clinical diagnoses of bipolar disorder has increased markedly over the last 20 years, especially in children and teenagers. The media often present these as percentage increases, which exaggerates the appearance of change because the current generation of practitioners was not trained to look systematically for bipolar disorder in youths. When something is rarely or never diagnosed and then starts to be recognized, the change in the rates can be misleading — 40 times more than something very small is still a small rate. A recent meta-analysis found no sign that the rates were increasing over the last 20 years. However, some of the risk factors associated with bipolar disorder, such as obesity, changes in diet, disruption of sleep and earlier onset of puberty, definitely have been increasing over the last few decades, so we cannot rule out the possibility that there is an increase in bipolar disorder. The increase is just much smaller than the changes in attention by the media and clinicians.

APA: How prevalent is bipolar disorder? Is it more common among certain demographic or geographic groups?

Dr. Youngstrom: The meta-analysis mentioned above found that bipolar disorders in children and teens are about half as common in adults, affecting 2 percent of the general population around the world (compared to 4 percent for bipolar in adults, or 6 to 8 percent for depression in teens). This makes bipolar about a third as common as depression and less than half as common as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in youths, but about twice as common as autistic spectrum disorders. Many longitudinal studies suggest that roughly a third of all depressions have a bipolar course when followed over time. There is no good evidence that it is more common in some demographic groups than others, although ethnic minorities with bipolar disorder are likely to be misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, conduct disorder or antisocial behavior instead. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar II, but there is no evidence of a gender linkage. It is more likely that women seek help more often for depression, so clinicians see more women with bipolar II. Internationally, bipolar disorder appears equally common among youths in the USA as in the rest of the world. In adults, rates of bipolar disorder may be lower in Asia than in the USA, but it is hard to tell whether this is due to protective factors — such as lower rates of obesity or higher fish consumption — versus greater social stigma preventing people from acknowledging problems and seeking help.

APA: What causes bipolar disorder? Are there differences in how the disorder affects children, adolescents and adults?

Dr. Youngstrom: Bipolar disorder is caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors. Genes play a major role, but genes are not enough by themselves to cause bipolar disorder. Identical twins share 100 percent of the same genes, but if one twin has bipolar disorder, the other twin does not develop bipolar 20 percent or more of the time. At this point, research has identified lots of genes that each contribute a little bit of risk for bipolar disorder. Diet may play an important role as well. Stress and trauma increase risk, as do intense emotional conflicts in families. Most of the risk factors for bipolar disorder also increase the odds of developing other conditions, such as anxiety or attention problems, which probably is why we see such high rates of co-occurrence among these disorders. Interestingly, the risk factors appear to be the same for children, adolescents and adults, which gives us more confidence that we are dealing with the same condition. The biggest way that the illness seems to change with age is that older individuals are more likely to experience depression and less likely to have mania, whereas in childhood it is more mania or a mixture of high energy with negative mood. Researchers and clinicians have described that pattern for more than a century.

APA: What are the most effective treatments for the disorder?

Dr. Youngstrom: The best treatments for bipolar disorder focus on smoothing out the highs and lows in mood and energy. There are several different psychotherapies that have promising results. These include cognitive behavioral therapy to pay attention to automatic positive thoughts as potential triggers for hypomania or mania; dialectical behavior therapy for improving emotion regulation; psychoeducational therapy to understand triggers and ways of managing the illness; family-focused therapy to improve communication and reduce intense emotional conflict; and interpersonal social rhythm therapy that emphasizes regular sleep and activity patterns. When the mood and energy become extreme, reaching the severity of a full-blown mania or depression, then medication is important in reducing the symptoms to a level where therapy and everyday functioning become possible. Therapy has a lot of promise as a way of preventing progression of bipolar disorder, delaying relapse and improving functioning in between episodes. Many incredibly talented and productive people have successfully dealt with bipolar disorder, so a goal of treatment should not just be symptom reduction, but helping the person to make the most of their gifts and abilities.

For more information, contact Dr. Youngstrom by email.


The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 137,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.


New Psychotherapy Awareness Initiative from APA

The American Psychological Association has produced some videos to help educate the public that psychotherapy is effective in treating mental health issues – sometimes more so than drugs.

Click here to check them out and share them around.