Presidential Column

July/August 2021

By Nathan W. Engle, PsyD
President, OPA

Essentials

OPA has created a rich history of enabling the Oregon psychologist community through continuing education and professional networking as well as contributing to state and national policies that influence our practices daily. OPA has adapted to the ever-morphing professional and societal dilemmas that impact our field and our communities. Here we are in 2021, ready to review and renew OPA’s essential contribution to all our lives. 

As a psychologist who works in primary care, I see a never-ending array of patients, diverse behavioral and health issues, and multifaceted human suffering. Countless times during the pandemic and recent sociopolitical chaos, patients have told me variations of “I’ve never felt like this before and I can’t figure out why” or “I have processed all my baggage but still feel overwhelmed and alone” or even “I feel suffocated and disconnected from what I liked about life.” I presume all the clinicians reading this have heard these desperate pleas, perhaps on a daily basis. Sadly, not just individuals are asking these questions. Businesses, organizations, and entire communities are facing similar challenges in adapting to new environments that are now our realities. 

It is essential to acknowledge the impact of these global and local stressors on OPA’s ability to stay relevant and meaningful for our Oregon psychologist community. Emphasized by the pandemic, OPA has been facing many dilemmas in adapting to the rapid changes of how Oregon psychologists practice, network, and care for our communities. At its best, OPA has been an anchor to both professional and personal aspects of our guild, as evidenced by the most recent conference theme of “Reconstructing Healthy Communities.” Even the vibrant listserv communications reflected an astounding camaraderie as people shared ideas and strategies to ensure clients would receive services and we would get paid for those services! At its worst, OPA has been burdened by financial uncertainty and global sociopolitical contention, especially given the change in professional resources psychologists are using to manage their professional practice and reach the communities they serve. The last 2  years has aggressively delivered the message: focus on what is essential and do it well.

Built on the work of those before us and in collaboration with all of you, the OPA Board of Directors is committing to OPA essentials by updating our organization with a vision of sustainability and modernization. We hope to expand and empower the members, especially students. We hope to promote interconnectedness for professionals across the state through continuing education and localized networking opportunities. We hope to enliven the impact of legislature and advocacy staff who advocate for crucial policies that support all our communities and practices. Overall, I hope to empower you readers and the Board of Directors to reestablish OPA as essential to each of you thriving in your practices and in your communities. 

Looking Forward,

Nathan W. Engle, PsyD


 

May 2021

By Carilyn Ellis, PsyD, MSCP
President, OPA

 I came across this meme the other day, and, to quote the scribes of the internet, “I felt seen.” 

These last couple of years have been an exercise in empathically embodying the disorientation, dissociation, and insecurity that many of my patients have expressed. During my time working for the VA, I would often hear the military personnel saying “embrace the suck,” and never has it been so applicable than in the extended unease of natural disaster, global pandemic, political division, and systemic racism that we have all been navigating. 

I don’t know when we will all re-orient, or if we will have to learn a new sense of normal and orientation as the stressors of recent give way to new challenges, but I do know that OPA has served as an anchor during this time. There was a familiar sense of joy in seeing my fellow Oregon psychologists at the American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Leadership Conference (PLC) and at the annual OPA conference. Each time I grasp a tangible stressor in my everyday practice, such as telehealth reimbursement, guidelines for reopening, or pandemic-related stress, I can turn to the OPA listerv, our Director of Professional Affairs (DPA), our Legislative Committee, and my fellow Board members for updates, guidance, and a sense of collegial support in navigating being a psychologist at a time when I also very much feel a patient. 

If a burden shared is a burden halved, then to be a member of OPA and to have all of you contributing to the collective knowledge and future of psychology is to have the burdens of this time greatly diminished. I cannot begin to express how grateful I have been to serve as President to such a body of phenomenal colleagues. 

If you had asked me how I envisioned my time as President would go, I couldn’t have imagined the stressors we have faced as professionals and as a Board this last year. I am proud of the work we have done. From strong legislative efforts to protect access to psychology, to fiscal reform, addressing inequity and systemic racism, long term planning, expanding membership benefits, and digitizing much of our CEU to create better accessibility to our members, we are learning to adapt, and I am excited for the future of OPA. 

I don’t know if anyone had an opportunity to read the article in the Washington Post, “The pandemic has made it harder to find mental health resources, while also deepening the need,” by Joe Davidson, dated May 6, 2021, but I found the author’s words to be a strong endorsement of the importance of psychology: 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey data indicate 11 percent of U.S. adults had symptoms of anxiety or depression from January to June 2019, according to a Government Accountability Office report. That figure soared to a 38 percent average for April 2020 through February 2021. 
CDC also reported drug overdoses jumped 36 percent and suicide attempts rose 26 percent from mid-March through mid-October 2020 over the same period a year earlier. 
Meanwhile, help for those in need is diminishing. A National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH) survey in February of this year found that more than a quarter of its member organizations laid off employees, more than a third cut staffing hours and 45 percent reported closing programs. 
We have a long road of recovery ahead of us, for which our field is the key, and we need each other now, more than ever, as we continue to meet this need. I have phenomenal faith in executive leadership and direction of our Board of Directors, and I look forward to continuing to serve the membership as Past President of the OPA.

 

January 2021

You Asked: We Listened

By Carilyn Ellis, PsyD, MSCP, 
President, OPA


I would like to personally thank everyone who attended the live and digital presidential town halls offered in the last couple of months. Your feedback is immensely important to the future of OPA and its ability to provide relevant and practical benefits to its members.

Here’s what you asked for:

  1. Increased transparency
  2. More communication
  3. More accessible and free continuing education

Our Immediate Actions:

  • In addition to our board meeting minutes, we are now offering our committee reports and associated board meeting materials on the website for members (Sign into your account at opa.org, click on the Members Tab, and then click on Members Only). This will give all members access to our legislative, DPA and committee reports in detail.
  • As you are reading now, our digital bi-monthly newsletter is aimed at providing the information you want in a clickable format, to read now or later as you have time and interest.
  • We are offering a series of FREE, one-hour CEUs to OPA members in addition to our multi-hour and annual conference CEU offerings. Information on these offerings is available at https://www.opa.org/ce-offerings. We have recorded the one-hour CEUs and will make them available in a library to members to obtain CEU credits at their leisure

In the works:

  • Increase board member representation and board access through membership participation on the board of directors and committees.
  • Increase and expand our library of free and for-purchase CEUs accessible to the membership.
  • Enhance the communication and accessibility of our committees to the membership, with specific focus on social issues.

Want to see what we have already done? Go to the opa.org website to see our updated Mission, Values and Diversity Statements, Public Issues StatementsCommittees and more. Need legal, ethical consult, collegiate support, and/or diversity consultation? OPA offers these services for free to members.

Have more recommendations on how OPA can improve its offerings to you as a member? Please email me directly at [email protected].

November 2020

Once More, With Feeling

By Carilyn Ellis, PsyD, MSCP, 
President, OPA

I think a lot about motivational interviewing these days. “People are always more ambivalent than they seem,” I hear repeated in my mind. It’s interesting how I have now applied this level of hesitation to every aspect of daily life. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” I say to what I hear on the news, the election results, returning to practice, COVID numbers changing. I have lost a lot of faith in the predictability of life.
The newest order issued by Governor Brown, in effect from November 18 until, at a minimum, December 2, is yet another example of the ever-changing landscape we, our families, friends, patients, and colleagues are trying to navigate.
My heart strings tug at the sadness in patients who were just returning to in-person appointments, promising to maintain distance, show confirmed negative tests -- anything to maintain that in-person contact everyone is craving -- only to be told that I am fully digital at this time.
I have said many times that, yes, COVID is deadly, especially for those of our population who are older or immunocompromised. Having had it myself at the beginning of the pandemic, I can attest as a healthy person with no pre-existing conditions that the experience was brutal. But isolation and helplessness are also dangerous, and we are very much in this for the foreseeable future.
As we enter the winter months and the holidays, a time of great complexity for many people, I encourage everyone to remember to reach out. Make the call, join the Zoom, send the text. Consider something you want to accomplish and do it. Even the smallest tasks, like organizing the catch-all drawer in the kitchen, or committing to 5 minutes of stretching a day, can give us a sense of purpose, meaning, and control. The burden of productivity our society places on us is the subject for a much longer article, but I also see the value of a sense of self-efficacy and self-agency in difficult times. We need to believe that we can interact with our world in a way that produces an outcome, and that is especially important now.
Please feel free to share your goals, thoughts, humor, grief, and experiences with your OPA colleagues. I have loved the comics, quotes, and articles that members have shared on the listserv and that resonate with all of our experiences. As the author Anna Quindlen said, “Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle.”
I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Holidays!

September 2020

Pandemics and Telehealth and Politics, Oh My!

By Carilyn Ellis, PsyD, MSCP, 
President, OPA

Perhaps there is no greater testament to living in the era of coronavirus than my drafting this article while currently seated in an uncomfortable ER chair awaiting a CT scan for a loved one as their “only allowed visitor” and emergency contact. What a world we are currently living in, where the everyday unexpected events and stressors are superimposed on a global pandemic, economic upheaval, political division, and a collective movement against systemic racism.

Like many of you, I have ridden the waves of personal and patient-experienced strife, including fear of loss of life, isolation, job insecurity, political uncertainty, and loss of childcare. We have all been robbed of a future where we can anchor in something. We don’t know when the pandemic is going to end. We don’t know what the outcome of the election will be. We don’t know.

And truth be told - we never have. That is the great and profound psychological crux of which we as clinicians have always been aware. There are many things we cannot control and few that we can.

As a psychological community, we are navigating practice and living amidst the perfect storm of personal, community, and national stress, alongside variable and often dubious information - having to question the integrity of so much that is brought before us.

I have relied on OPA in the 10 years I have served on its committees, the board, or in other supportive capacities, as a source of direction, insight, and practice leadership. It is my hope as president to cast you a line that you can grasp with assurance that you are not alone and that we will weather the coronavirus era together as a professional community.

Information is important, but we are saturated with it. The OPA is introducing a new newsletter “blast” format to give you quick updates with additional links to more information you can review at your convenience.

OPA In The Know

We have teams of people working day and night to protect practice, reimbursement, access, and to expand and hopefully make permanent telehealth service delivery. We have committees dedicated to bringing you CEUs, both free and fee-based, and keeping you up to date on real world issues affecting psychologists and Oregon communities.

We are in the process of reformatting and expanding our website to be more public and member friendly and allow access to the information you need. We have updated our mission, values and diversity statements, and are including new links to OPA in Action and formal statements from the Board.

We are offering digital meetings, webinars and live, synchronous opportunities to continue to be connected to CEs, the board, and each other via Zoom.

We have developed a new listserv, (email [email protected] to opt in), to allow for more depth of political discussion between members without compromising OPA’s non-profit status or violating the APA-sponsored listserv rules on political discussion.

I encourage you to lean into and on the OPA at this time to aid in providing you a supportive community that will hold fast whatever the future holds.