From MPA's President Steve Vincent, Ph.D., L.P.: Continuing a Theme: Connection, Protection and Growth for MPA Members

As you may have recognized from previous pieces I have written for the Minnesota Psychologist Online, I have been thinking a lot about “Connection, Protection and Growth.”  This was the theme for MPA’s annual convention this year, taken from our strategic plan as the statement of what MPA offers members.  Most readers will readily see that this statement leads to a next set of important questions about how we bring these terms—connection, protection and growth—to life.  How do we operationalize them?

One Success Story

The annual convention was one large effort to operationalize these terms by giving attendees many opportunities to connect with one another, with keynote speakers advocating for parity (David Wellstone) and for patient and family engagement and empowerment (Sue Bergeson), and with exhibitors and sponsors offering products, services, information and work opportunities.  Growth also occurred through many excellent educational offerings, and attendees learned about protecting and growing their practices while dealing with everything from mandates for electronic health records, to adoption of the DSM-5, to the Board of Psychology’s process for reviewing complaints about licensees—to name just a few of the crucial topics that were covered.  Success of the convention was indicated by an approximate 25% increase in registrations, as well as increased numbers of exhibitors and sponsors, but the most important successes were in facilitating connection, protection and growth.  Comments from participants indicated many successes in these dimensions.

What Now

So, where does my thinking turn for next steps to bring these concepts to life?  I have been struck by many, many articles, white papers, presentations and books on two topics that, in my view, are linked:  the impact of trauma on long term health outcomes, and reform of the healthcare system.  In this linkage I also see opportunities for connection, protection and growth for MPA members.

The data from the ACE study (Adverse Childhood Experiences) from the CDC and Kaiser Permanente, and the impact of war trauma on military members, families and communities, are two current sources of information about how damaging trauma can be to long-term physical and psychological health.  Unfortunately, there are numerous other examples of harmful trauma—think everything from racism to tornadoes to school shootings.  Because psychology has long understood the trauma-health connection, and has been a leader of both improved treatments and system changes, it seems clear that our discipline’s active engagement in studying, treating and healing trauma is an opportunity to connect with the larger healthcare system, and to protect and grow the practice and science of psychology.

With respect to healthcare reform, it is now generally accepted that reform efforts must accomplish the triple aim:  1) improve the patient’s experience in terms of both quality and service; 2) improve the health of the overall population; and 3) reduce the rate of increase in healthcare costs.  To me, it has always been fairly easy to see how psychology can improve the patient experience and reduce the total cost of care by using already well-established practices and treatments.  How to extend this service to impact the overall health of the total population has been harder for me to get my mind around.  This is where I find the link between expertise in trauma and healthcare reform.

Getting Engaged and Leading Change

Psychologists can be leaders, indeed the leaders, of informing and educating the public and policy makers, of educating and training healthcare providers, of training for and leading systems’ change in healthcare, education, social services, corrections, and more.  The evidence of adverse effects of trauma on long-term health is now so well documented, that trauma’s impact on the overall health of the population, as well as the health of unique individuals, is clear.

With these connections in mind, MPA will be offering our annual President’s Conference on November 10.  This conference will provide education on the neurobiology of both trauma and kindness, together with information on Trauma Informed Care (TIC) systems’ change, and how to apply this education in systems of care that integrate physical and psychological health services.  The presenter will be Maggie Bennington-Davis, M.D., who is the chief medical and operating officer of Cascadia Behavioral Health in Portland, Oregon, and who has expertise in treating trauma as well as experience leading systems’ change.  Through this conference, attendees will have a chance to connect with others interested in the intersection of trauma, healthcare and change.  Opportunities for growth in awareness, engagement and empowerment will occur, and the conference will lead to insights and skills for protecting the current and future role of psychologists as leaders of science and practices that improve the health of the entire population.  A panel discussion will reveal what is happening in Minnesota around this intersection of trauma and healthcare, and how psychologists can become more deeply involved.

Stay Tuned—Hope to See You Soon

Please mark your calendars for November 10, and watch for future announcements, including the opening of conference registration.  Participating in this event will undoubtedly bring to life connection, protection and growth for those attending.  I hope to see you there.

Steven M. Vincent, Ph.D., L.P., recently retired as Director of Behavioral Health Services, CentraCare Health System.  Dr. Vincent is the current President of MPA, having served two terms on the Governing Council from 2003 to 2009, and as Legislative Committee Chair from 2004-2012.  Steve was also on the Governing Council of the American Hospital Association Section on Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Services from 2010 through 2012.  He is the founding chair of the Minnesota Hospital Association’s Mental Health Task Force.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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