Dr. Bradley Conner, Associate Professor and Director of Addiction Counseling at Colorado State University (CSU), talks with the CEO of the Telehealth Certification Institute about his university’s innovative approach to training addiction specialists. As a researcher, Dr. Conner studies the etiology and negative outcomes of sensation seeking, emotion dysregulation, and impulsivity across the lifespan. He looks at how personality types influence the course of disorders and engagement with risky behaviors. In the interview, Dr. Conner uses his expertise to describe the unique addiction training model at CSU.

In this interview, Dr. Kathryn Krase shares her professional advice on mandated reporting with Ray Barrett, the CEO of the Telehealth Certification Institute. Dr. Krase is a lawyer, social worker, and an expert in preparing professionals in the ethical reporting of suspected child maltreatment. She is the co-author of two books: Child Welfare: Preparing Social Workers for Practice in the Field (2021), and, Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect: A Practical Guide for Social Workers (2009). Over the past decade, the main subject of her research and writing has been the disproportionate representation of BIPOC children in reports to child protective services, and the role that bias plays in the making of those reports. As an expert in mandated reporting bias, Dr. Krase examines how bias disproportionately affects families who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). For example, according to Dr. Krase, 25% of the 4 million yearly reports are made against Black children, while only 15% of the U.S. child population is Black.

Dr. Krase’s holistic orientation on reporting stems from her early work experience at the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children—the first child advocacy organization in the world—and her role as a practitioner at the family level. By using current research studies, Dr. Krase presents key topics such as overreporting consequences, mandated reporter requirements, and the legal protections that help clinicians make ethical decisions.

Dr. Krase encourages practitioners of all levels to use self-reflection as they confront their own backgrounds. Since beliefs or assumptions as a reporter can impact who is reported, familiarizing yourself with circumstances that have bias potential can prepare you for tough situations. You can listen now to learn more about this much-needed professional practice area!

You can read more about Dr. Krase on her website here and about her work with mandated reporting here.

Resilience, Self Care, and ‘Battle Buddies’ for Behavioral Health Professionals

A community coming together to rebuild after a devastating tornado; homeless veterans learning to reclaim their lives and dignity; addicts struggling to set aside drugs.

All of these people have something in common: resilience, and a need for self care. 

Dr. Stephanie Felder, PhD, LCSW, has witnessed this resilience over and over again in her multiple roles in social work and public service. She is a Commander (CDR) in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), and recently transitioned to the Office of the Surgeon General where she is the lead licensed clinical social worker for the public health emergency response strike team.

In all of her roles, she has seen resilience among people in all stations in life, and she has watched them learn that self care is key to surviving and thriving.

She also learned that resilience and self care are important for herself - and for all behavioral health professionals.

In a recent interview with Ray Barrett, CEO of the Telehealth Certification Institute (TCI), Dr. Felder shared how her career path led her on a journey of discovery about resilience and self care.

“I started my career in social services in North Carolina and then moved to a state position as a

licensed clinical social worker in a residential treatment program. Shortly after that, I moved to a position as the health care coordinator for homeless veterans in Fayetteville, North Carolina. That position was pretty amazing. I learned a lot about homeless veterans

and their needs.”

Dr. Felder was so inspired by those veterans that she became active duty herself. She took a position with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

“When I became active duty I entered into the public health service - that was the start of all of my deployments - and the start of my understanding of the real importance of self-care.”

“I started to deploy around 2017 and that's when the tempo really picked up for me. Hurricane Harvey - I went out for that. Then in 2018 I went out for Hurricane Florence which was in Clayton, North Carolina.”

Felder recalled the stress of receiving a field promotion - she was sent out to do a job, then get a new assignment when she was in the field. 

“That was pretty intense and scary - anxiety-provoking for me because it was a true leadership position in the field, and it was also in North Carolina. The people I was seeing felt like family because I'm from South Carolina, and I had lived in North Carolina. It was personal and self-care was definitely important during that mission -  trying to manage the job, but also to manage my own emotions.”

“I also saw the resilience in communities when I went out to Oklahoma after some major tornadoes. Just seeing that community come back together and build, and the support that you saw just coming from all other states and all around - that is when I realized the true importance of resilience and self-care.”

Dr. Felder also worked at the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) managing HIV AIDS grants. “I realized the importance of self-care and resilience among these communities. The people work really hard in the Ryan White program. They provide services to people that are underserved and otherwise wouldn't receive that high level of medical care.”

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Dr. Felder was in New York as the behavioral health officer in charge. “Seeing everything that was happening - it was just...it was definitely life-changing.”

During emergencies, social workers, Dr. Felder said, are expected to put the interest of others and the community ahead of their own interests. 

“You serve,” she said. “We're helping people find family members, or we're helping people find a new living place.”

But often, the emergency responders and social workers need help, too.

“It can become overwhelming when you're out there, and you're trying to keep all the balls in the air.”

Dr. Felder had some tips for mental health professionals responding to a crisis:

  • Be aware of your environment - whether it's a disaster environment or a domestic dispute. 
  • Walk in with an open mind and be observant of your surroundings.
  • Build rapport and mutual respect by listening and understanding.
  • Establish with the person or the community that this is a safe space and that you are there to listen. 

Dr. Felder said self-care is vital during a crisis, but she acknowledged it is something she still is working on for herself. “It's easy to say it, but it's hard to practice what you preach.”

At some point, though, you have to realize you must take care of your own needs. “It's hard to help others and give to others when there's nothing left for you,” she said.

What does Dr. Felder do to recharge?

“I do yoga and meditation. I try to make sure that I have regular exercise. All of those help me to ground myself and decompress.”

When she’s deployed, Dr. Felder also has a very important resource - “battle buddies.” A battle buddy is a trusted colleague that will call her out if they see her in distress. That is the person that comes to her to say, “hey, you know you're not headed in the right direction.”

“The idea is that with your battle buddy you don't become defensive. You say, ‘Let me let me take a moment and evaluate this - yes you're right,’” Dr. Felder said.

If she does get angry, the battle buddy knows it’s their job to be the calm one. “The battle buddy - they do not back down. They stand their ground,” she said.

All of us in behavioral health might take a cue from Dr. Felder and find our own battle buddies, and then be a battle buddy for someone else.

 

By Amanda Barnett, LPC, EdS, NCC

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other major public health organizations, have recognized the mental health effects of COVID-19 on youth—consequences that can be seen in virtually every aspect of teenage life.  

Knowing how to help struggling young adults is not always so easy. Luckily, there are proactive steps that you can take to improve student wellbeing as they navigate the pandemic. Encouraging self-expression, providing accurate information, teaching ways to stay healthy, and noticing changes in behavior—such as unhealthy eating habits, poor sleep schedules, or variations in activity levels—are just a few ways to reassure young adults that they’re safe.

Telepsychiatry is now the second-most used form of telemedicine and has helped clinical professionals (as well as students undergoing graduate school training) utilize video conferencing and digital devices for patient visits and their own self-care (Lavergne & Kennedy, 2021). 

In a recent study, Lavergne and Kennedy (2021) explored how willing medical students were to use telepsychiatry during clinical visits—and how well universities supported telepsychiatry learning environments. In their research, Lavergne and Kennedy highlighted the transformative power of telemedicine education. When asked to rate the following statement—that telemedicine and in-person visits were of equal effectiveness—respondents gave this question the lowest confidence score. Students rated this same statement in one of the highest outcome categories after they underwent telemedicine training (Walker et al., 2019; as cited in Lavergne & Kennedy, 2021).

The human spirit and soul are at stake for clients and mental health professionals at the epicenter of the COVID Generation. The surge of medical, physical, and mental health disorders, the stench of death in hospitals and tent cities that are lying on the coronavirus battlefield, reminds us of the frailty of human life. There is no beginning, middle, and end to a viral contagion that can morph into mutant variants and be transmissible within 24 hours. This is because infectious diseases and lethal viruses have been present throughout human history since the beginning of time.

There are endless benefits to becoming a member of Social Work Societies, including access to important training, community within the field, and the opportunity to be involved in advancing the field at a higher level. In an ever-changing, high-demand field, these organizations are greatly needed. Monica Blauner is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychoanalyst with over 40 years experience in mental health treatment. She is the former president of the California Society of Social Work and currently works at a private practice in Los Angeles.

Telehealth Hit its Stride as COVID-19 Raged

Telehealth sprinted from being an underutilized way to deliver healthcare to being a widely used essential service when the COVID-19 hit the U.S. in early 2020. Now that vaccines are available and many pandemic restrictions are being lifted - a big push is underway to keep the expanded telehealth services from slowing to a crawl.

I Graduated Already, Why Do I Have to Take Continuing Education Classes?

You completed your undergraduate program, then your master’s degree. You might even have completed a Ph.D. program. You took a licensure exam. You worked under supervision for a year or two. Finally, you were fully licensed. 

But you’re not done with your education just yet. In fact, you likely won’t ever be done - not as long as you want to keep practicing in your profession.

Counselors, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists - in fact, most healthcare professionals - typically are required to take continuing education classes throughout their careers to maintain licensure. 

You can check your state’s CE requirements here. 

Each state has licensure laws that set minimum continuing education requirements. Why?

Recently, Ray Barrett sat down to interview Laura Groshong about the field of social work and the direction in which the field is headed. Laura is a licensed clinical social worker and has been in clinical practice for the past 43 years. She was a registered lobbyist in Washington for five mental health organizations for 25 years. She has been the director of policy and practice for the Clinical Social Work Association nationally since 2006. Laura’s diverse range of experiences allows her to bring a wealth of knowledge to the field. Her passion for social work developed while she was working in the foster care system. She fell in love with the field but decided to pursue the mental health route. 

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