Author: Dhyana Kearly

COVID-19 front line workers vulnerable to mental health problems

COVID Stress Takes a Toll on Mental Health with Health Care Worker

The daily toll of COVID-19, as measured by new cases and the growing number of deaths, overlooks a shadowy set of casualties: the rising risk of mental health problems among health care professionals working on the front lines of the pandemic. A new study, led by University of Utah Health scientists, suggests more than half of doctors, nurses, and emergency responders involved in COVID-19 care could be at risk for one or more mental health problems, including acute traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, problematic alcohol use, and insomnia. The researchers found that the risk of these mental health conditions was comparable to rates observed during natural disasters, such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

"What health care workers are experiencing is akin to domestic combat," says Andrew J. Smith, Ph.D., director of the U of U Health Occupational Trauma Program at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and the study's corresponding author. "Although the majority of health care professionals and emergency responders aren't necessarily going to develop PTSD, they are working under severe duress, day after day, with a lot of unknowns. Some will be susceptible to a host of stress-related mental health consequences. By studying both resilient and pathological trajectories, we can build a scaffold for constructing evidence-based interventions for both individuals and public health systems."

The study appears in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. In addition to U of U Health scientists, contributors include researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; Central Arkansas VA Health Care System; Salt Lake City VA Healthcare System; and the National Institute for Human Resilience. The researchers surveyed 571 health care workers, including 473 emergency responders (firefighters, police, EMTs) and 98 hospital staff (doctors, nurses), in the Mountain West between April 1 and May 7, 2020. Overall, 56% of the respondents screened positive for at least one mental health disorder. The prevalence for each specific disorder ranged from 15% to 30% of the respondents, with problematic alcohol use, insomnia, and depression topping the list.

"Front line providers are exhausted, not only from the impact of the pandemic itself, but also in terms of coping day to day," says Charles C. Benight, Ph.D., co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. "They're trying to make sure that their families are safe [and] they're frustrated over not having the pandemic under control. Those things create the sort of burnout, trauma, and stress that lead to the mental health challenges we're seeing among these caregivers."

In particular, the scientists found that health care workers who were exposed to the virus or who were at greater risk of infection because they were immunocompromised had a significantly increased risk of acute traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression. The researchers suggest that identifying these individuals and offering them alternative roles could reduce anxiety, fear, and the sense of helplessness associated with becoming infected.

Alcohol abuse was another area of concern. About 36% of health care workers reported risky alcohol usage. In comparison, estimates suggest that less than 21% of physicians and 23% of emergency responders abuse alcohol in typical circumstances. Caregivers who provided direct patient care or who were in supervisory positions were at greatest risk, according to the researchers. They say offering these workers preventative education and alcohol abuse treatment is vital. Surprisingly, health care workers in this study felt less anxious as they treated more COVID-19 cases.

"As these health care professionals heard about cases elsewhere before COVID-19 was detected in their communities, their anxiety levels likely rose in anticipation of having to confront the disease," Smith says. "But when the disease started trickling in where they were, perhaps it grounded them back to their mission and purpose. They saw the need and they were in there fighting and working hard to make a difference with their knowledge and skills, even at risk to themselves."

Among the study's limitations are its small sample size. It was also conducted early in the pandemic in a region that wasn't as affected by the disease as other areas with higher infection and death rates. Moving forward, the researchers are in the final stages of a similar but larger study conducted in late 2020 that they hope will build on these findings. "This pandemic, as horrific as it is, offers us the opportunity to better understand the extraordinary mental stress and strains that health care providers are dealing with right now," Smith says. "With that understanding, perhaps we can develop ways to mitigate these problems and help health care workers and emergency responders better cope with these sorts of challenges in the future."

Read this article on Science Daily: Dr. Smith, Hannah M. Wright, Tiffany M. Love, and Scott A. Langenecker of University of Utah Health contributed to this study. The study, "Pandemic-related mental health risk among front line personnel," was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.


Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.

Pandemic Taking a Toll on Mental Health and Addictions

COVID Presents Increased Risk of Addiction for Unusual Groups

The pandemic’s effect on addiction has become a hot topic for researchers and mental health specialists alike. "The COVID-19 pandemic is a particularly grave risk to the millions of Americans with opioid use disorder, who—already vulnerable and marginalized—are heavily dependent on face-to-face health care delivery," researchers stated in "An Epidemic in the Midst of a Pandemic: Opioid Use Disorder and COVID-19," a recent study that examined the effects of the unprecedented situation.

In addition to those wrestling with addiction even before the pandemic created challenges in receiving care, it is now being reported that everyone from retired baby boomers with no preexisting addictions to millennials struggling with job loss and COVID related family challenges are now finding it harder to put a limit on emotion-numbing substances.  According to national surveys alcohol sales are up 250 percent, a trend that is compounding both emerging and preexisting mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression.

“In my practice I have been working with a lot of people during quarantine around addiction,” explains Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD. “The longer COVID restrictions continue, the more potential there is for temporary behaviors based on escaping emotional turmoil to turn into full blown addictions.”

Addiction is not always about drugs, alcohol, or other substances. It can also take on forms including uncontrolled gambling, shopping, gaming, smoking, food, and sex addiction. When these activities become compulsive or unstoppable, they have essentially hijacked the brain’s otherwise 'normal' pleasure functions. At this point, when a behavior becomes a habit or addiction, getting back to ‘normal’ or getting control over compulsions can be a challenge for most anyone.

The Toll of Long-Term Use

Addiction is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) as a brain disease indicated by cravings, an inability to abstain from the behavior or substance, dysfunctional emotional responses, and a loss of behavioral control. Compulsive behaviors are often unconscious and can result in making questionable choices. Although breaking an addiction is tough, it can be done. The sooner it is addressed, the better the chances are for recovery.

With any addiction, the recognition that something that may have started out as a distraction has now become a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. While denial over the loss of control that leads to addiction may be a way of coping with sudden changes in behavior, knowing when to seek help is key to recovery.

Healthy alternatives to addictive behavior

“My job as a mental health professional is to help my patients restore balance by guiding them toward healthier coping mechanisms,” explains Dr. Holland. “The focus of addiction therapy in my practice highlights how attachment and connection is the opposite of addiction.”

Treatment also incorporates behavioral therapies, counseling, and other supportive measures to build new and improved habits and life skills. Through this process stress and anger management as well as communication skills are combined with relapse prevention tools to create new coping mechanisms that support well-being.

As a highly qualified drug and alcohol counselor, Dr. Holland provides the most effective treatments for managing compulsive behaviors and addictions and offers individualized therapy to address the unique behaviors that the client may want to change.

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

It’s no question that these are very trying times for all of us, so I want to let you know that you are not alone. No matter what is coming up for you right now it is important to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. I invite you reach out to me to see how we can start getting you on the path to feeling better now.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.

 

 

Young adults benefit from strong social support systems

New study confirms that social support improves mental health among young adults

A team of McGill University researchers has found that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support reported fewer mental health problems.

In a study published today in JAMA Network Open, the team led by Marie-Claude Geoffroy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology at McGill, reassessed the impact of the presence and awareness of social support, such as family and friends, as a safeguard against mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Their results indicate that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support -- the feeling that there is someone who they can depend on for help should they need it -- at the age of 19, showed lower levels of depression and anxiety symptoms one year later.

"Our study shows that even in cases where people previously experienced mental health problems, social support was beneficial for mental health later on," says Prof. Geoffroy, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Youth Suicide Prevention. "We discovered potential benefits of promoting and leveraging social support as a means to protect the mental health of young adults, even in individuals who experienced mental health problems at an earlier developmental stage in life. That social support is not only beneficial for depression, but for other salient mental health outcomes as well."

The power of perception

The team used data from over 1,000 participants of a representative birth cohort of individuals born in the province of Quebec. Following participants since their birth in 1997 and 1998, the researchers looked at their levels of perceived social support at the onset of adulthood. The researchers found that people who experienced greater levels of social support experienced 47% less severe depression and 22% less anxiety than those with less social support. The team also found that those who reported higher levels of perceived social support were at a 40% decreased risk of experiencing suicidal ideation and attempts.

"Our study was conducted before the current COVID-19 pandemic, so we do not know whether our results will apply in the current context," adds Sara Scardera, a master's student in McGill's School/Applied Child Psychology program under the supervision of Prof. Geoffroy and co-author of the study. "However, in a 'normal' context, youth who perceived that they had someone to rely on reported better mental health outcomes. We believe that is beneficial to offer help to those in need, and to make sure your friends know that they can count on you."

The data collection is ongoing, therefore new mental health data will be available when participants turn 23 years old over the course of the 2021 winter season. The researchers will verify whether the same patterns of association have been present during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future lines of research will examine whether certain types of social support -- for example, parents vs. friends -- is more beneficial to the mental health of young adults.

Read this article on Science Daily: "Strong social support decreases mental health problems in young adults: Awareness and presence of social support may guard against mental health problems." 11 December 2020. sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201211115455.htm.


Therapy for tweens, teens and their parents

Every child responds differently to life changes. Some events that may impact a child or teen’s mental health include:

  • The birth of a sibling
  • The death of a loved one, such as a family member or a pet
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Poverty or homelessness
  • Natural disaster
  • Domestic violence
  • Moving to a new place or attending a new school
  • Being bullied
  • Taking on more responsibility than is age-appropriate
  • Parental divorce or separation

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Therapy is a place for you to connect and process your thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Dr. Holland can help you develop effective tools to cope with what is going on. However bad you think it is right now, we can face it together.  I believe that forming a strong personal identity is an important aspect of your growth and development, leading to a brighter future.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule a teletherapy appointment or call 707-479-2946.

Friends who are interconnected make the best friends

Having a network of people who know one another helps to make social support more beneficial

It's good to have friends and family to back you up when you need it -- but it's even better if your supporters are close with each other too, a new set of studies suggests.Researchers found that people perceived they had more support from a group of friends or family who all knew and liked each other than from an identical number of close relationships who were not linked.The results suggest that having a network of people to lean on is only part of what makes social support so beneficial to us, said David Lee, who led the study as a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at The Ohio State University.

"The more cohesive, the more dense this network you have, the more you feel you can rely on them for support," said Lee, who is now an assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo. "It matters if your friends can depend on each other, just like you depend on them." Lee conducted the study with Joseph Bayer, assistant professor of communication, and Jonathan Stahl, graduate student in psychology, both at Ohio State. Their research was published online recently in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly.

The researchers conducted two online studies. In one study, 339 people were asked to list eight people in their lives that they could go to for support in the last six months. Participants rated on a scale of 1 to 7 how much support they received from each person. (Most were listed as friends or family members, but some people also named co-workers, romantic partners, classmates or roommates). Crucially for this study, participants were also asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 how close each possible pair of their eight supporters were to each other (from "they don't know each other" to "extremely close.") Based on those answers, the researchers calculated the density of each participant's network -- the closer and more interconnected their friends and family were to each other, the denser the network.

Results showed that the denser the networks, the more support that participants said they would be able to receive from them. "We found that our support networks are more than the sum of their parts," said Bayer, who is a core faculty of Ohio State's Translational Data Analytics Institute. "People who feel they have more social support in their lives may be focusing more on the collective support they feel from being part of a strong, cohesive group. It's having a real crew, as opposed to just having a set of friends."

A second study, involving 240 people, examined whether the density of a social network mattered in a specific situation where people needed help. In this case, participants were asked to list two different groups of four people they could go to if they needed support. One group comprised four people who were not close to one another and the other group consisted of four people who were close with each other. Participants were then asked to imagine a scenario in which their house had been broken into and they went to their network for support. Half the people were told to think about going to the four people who were not close to one another, while the other half imagined reaching out to their four connected supporters. Results showed that those who imagined going to their tight-knit group of friends or family perceived that they would receive more support than did participants who thought about going to their unconnected friends. The results also offered preliminary evidence of two psychological mechanisms that could help explain why people feel better supported by a tight-knit group of friends.

In answers to survey questions, participants suggested that they thought of their group of close friends or family as one entity. They also were more likely to see a closer-knit group as part of their own identities. Both of these factors were related to perceiving more support, results showed. The researchers said the results of both studies show it isn't just the number of friends and family you have in your network that is important.

"You can have two friends who are both very supportive of you, but if they are both friends with each other, that makes you feel even more supported," Stahl said. On a practical level, that means it is important which friends we think about when we most need help or when we are feeling lonely in the midst of daily life. "Focus on those friends who are connected to each other," Bayer said. "That's where we really perceive the most support."


Read this article on Science Daily: Ohio State University. "Why some friends make you feel more supported than others: People feel most backed when their network is connected." ScienceDaily, 7 October 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201007085609.htm.


Therapy for Relationship Issues

Relationships require work and over time will inevitably face challenges large and small. Everyday stressors can put strain on any relationship, particularly intimate relationships. When major sources of stress arise, the stability of the relationship can become vulnerable. When each participant in a relationship is willing to address the issue at hand and participate in developing a solution, most relationship problems are manageable. But, when challenges are left unaddressed, tension can increase, poor responses develop and the health and longevity of the relationship are in jeopardy.

Whether you are having difficulty with a partner, business associate, family member, neighbor or acquaintance, Dr. Holland’s comprehensive therapy program will provide you with the tools you need to reshape and redefine your relationship. Over the course of your sessions with Dr. Holland you will learn alternatives to destructive communication patterns that will help you to build a harmonious, thriving rapport of love and respect. 

Individualized Teletherapy Sessions are Available - Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support. Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

Pets improve mental health and reduce loneliness amid COVID stressors

Owning a Pet Shown to Relieve Stresses Caused by COVID Restrictions

Sharing a home with a pet appeared to act as a buffer against psychological stress during lock-down, a new survey shows. Most people who took part in the research perceived their pets to be a source of considerable support during the lock down period. The study (UK) -- found that having a pet was linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness. Around 90 per cent of the 6,000 participants had at least one pet. The strength of the human-animal bond did not differ significantly between species with the most common pets being cats and dogs followed by small mammals and fish.

More than 90 per cent of respondents said their pet helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown and 96 per cent said their pet helped keep them fit and active. However, 68 per cent of pet owners reported having been worried about their animals during lock-down, for example due to restrictions on access to veterinary care and exercise or because they wouldn't know who would look after their pet if they fell ill.

Lead researcher, Dr Elena Ratschen from the Department of Health Sciences University of York said: "Findings from this study also demonstrated potential links between people's mental health and the emotional bonds they form with their pets: measures of the strength of the human-animal bond were higher among people who reported lower scores for mental health-related outcomes at baseline. We also discovered that in this study, the strength of the emotional bond with pets did not statistically differ by animal species, meaning that people in our sample felt on average as emotionally close to, for example, their guinea pig as they felt to their dog. It will be important to ensure that pet owners are appropriately supported in caring for their pet during the pandemic."

Co-author, Professor Daniel Mills said: "This work is particularly important at the current time as it indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lock-down. However, it is important that everyone appreciates their pet's needs too, as our other work shows failing to meet these can have a detrimental effect for both people and their pets."

Dr Ratschen added: "While our study showed that having a pet may mitigate some of the detrimental psychological effects of the Covid-19 lock-down, it is important to understand that this finding is unlikely to be of clinical significance and does not warrant any suggestion that people should acquire pets to protect their mental health during the pandemic."

More than 85 million households are estimated to own at least one pet in the U.S.

The study also showed that the most popular interaction with animals that were not pets was bird watching. Almost 55 per cent of people surveyed reported watching and feeding birds in their garden.

READ this article on Science Daily: "Pets linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness during lock down, new research shows." ScienceDaily, 26 September 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200926145210.htm.


Dr. Holland & Olive

"Pets, especially dogs and cats, have been proven in studies to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and ease loneliness. Pets naturally encourage exercise and renew a sense of playfulness in pet owners. Some studies clearly show that owing a pet can improve your cardiovascular health. Psychological studies show that caring for an animal can help children grow up feeling more secure while increasing their likelihood of staying active. As I well know, pets also provide valuable companionship for adults of all ages. For me, interacting with my new canine companion Olive brings a real sense of joy and unconditional love that goes both ways."

While we individually and collectively continue to navigate social restrictions imposed by COVID , it is important for everyone’s mental health and emotional well-being to find new, healthy ways to maintain social connections. Virtual communication including phones and video chats with friends and family can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. And when people find it too difficult to maintain a positive sense of well-being, reaching out to a mental health professional can help. Dr. Holland offers Teletherapy to fit individual needs including; short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support. Contact Dr. Holland for more information and to help get you on the path to feeling better. Or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

COVID-19 restrictions increased loneliness among adults

New study says loneliness is a real factor during COVID-19 restrictions

Loneliness is a significant public health issue and is associated with worse physical and mental health as well as increased mortality risk. Systematic review findings recommend that interventions addressing loneliness should focus on individuals who are socially isolated. However, researchers have lacked a comprehensive understanding of how vulnerability to loneliness might be different in the context of a pandemic.

In the new study, researchers used an online survey to collect data about adults during the initial phase of COVID-19 lockdown from March 23 to April 24, 2020. 1,964 eligible participants responded to the survey, answering questions about loneliness, sociodemographic factors, health, and their status in relation to COVID-19. Participants were aged 18 to 87 years old (average 37.11), were mostly white (92.7%), female (70.4%), not religious (57.5%) and the majority were employed (71.9%).

The overall prevalence of loneliness, defined as having a high score on the loneliness scale (ie., a score of 7 or higher out of 9), was over a quarter of respondents: 26.6%. In the week prior to completing the survey, 49% to 70% of respondents reported feeling isolated, left out or lacking companionship. Risk factors for loneliness were being in a younger age group (aOR: 4.67 -- 5.31), being separated or divorced (OR: 2.29), meeting clinical criteria for depression (OR: 1.74), greater emotion regulation difficulties (OR: 1.04), and poor-quality sleep due to the COVID-19 crisis (OR: 1.30). Higher levels of social support (OR: 0.92), being married/co-habiting (OR: 0.35) and living with a greater number of adults (OR: 0.87) were protective factors.

The authors hope that these findings can inform support strategies and help to target those most vulnerable to loneliness during the pandemic.

Groarke adds: "We found that rates of loneliness during the early stages of the lockdown were high. Our results suggest that supports and interventions to reduce loneliness should prioritize young people, those with mental health symptoms, and people who are socially isolated. Supports aimed at improving emotion regulation, sleep quality and increasing social support could reduce the impact of physical distancing regulations on mental health outcomes."


Healthcare institutes all over the country say the coronavirus pandemic can be extremely stressful for people. Fear and anxiety generated by the idea of a communicable disease and worry over what might happen can become overwhelming and stimulate strong emotions in both adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing certainly helps keep everyone safer but, social distancing can leave people feeling even more isolated and lonely. Teletherapy is proving to have some surprising benefits for people who are isolated, and for people who have social anxiety.

“It can be quite relieving for a person with anxiety to not have to be face-to-face for a therapy session. In fact, teletherapy actually empowers my patients who might experience anxiety, because it creates a sense of ‘safe distance’ from the therapist. This alone, often makes it easier for them to open up and to feel comfortable with the therapy modality.”

Dr. Holland specializes in working with individuals with depression and/or anxiety, those who have experienced trauma, chronic illnesses or conditions associated with aging as well as identity issues.

Individualized Teletherapy Sessions are Available - Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support.

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

You are entitled to a stress nap!

Napping to relieve stress

Restful sleep helps to boost positive emotions

New research finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day -- and they don't find as much joy in the good things. The study, led by health psychologist Nancy Sin, looks at how sleep affects our reaction to both stressful and positive events in daily life.

"When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day," says Nancy Sin, assistant professor in UBC's department of psychology. "But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don't have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events."

People also reported a number of stressful events in their daily lives, including arguments, social tensions, work and family stress, and being discriminated against. When people slept less than usual, they responded to these stressful events with a greater loss of positive emotions. This has important health implications: previous research by Sin and others shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.

Using daily diary data from a national U.S. sample of almost 2,000 people, Sin analyzed sleep duration and how people responded to negative and positive situations the next day. The participants reported on their experiences and the amount of sleep they had the previous night in daily telephone interviews over eight days.

"The recommended guideline for a good night's sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don't meet this standard," says Sin. "A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives."

Chronic health conditions -- such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer -- are prevalent among adults, especially as we grow older. Past research suggests that people with health conditions are more reactive when faced with stressful situations, possibly due to wear-and-tear of the physiological stress systems.

"We were also interested in whether adults with chronic health conditions might gain an even larger benefit from sleep than healthy adults," says Sin. "For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep -- compared to one's usual sleep duration -- led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day."

Sin hopes that by making sleep a priority, people can have a better quality of life and protect their long-term health.


Story Source: Read this article on Science Daily --> https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200915121310.htm


Dr. Holland specializes in working with individuals with depression and/or anxiety, those who have experienced trauma, chronic illnesses or conditions associated with aging as well as identity issues.

Teletherapy Available - Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support.

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

Researchers seek to change behavior by normalizing diversity

"Promoting inclusion and dismantling systemic racism is one of the most important issues of our times."

Scroll Down for Dr. Holland's Perspective on this article

Showing people how their peers feel about diversity in their community can make their actions more inclusive, make members of marginalized groups feel more like they belong, and even help close racial achievement gaps in education, according to a new study. Drawing on strategies that have worked in anti-smoking, safe-sex and energy-saving campaigns, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers decided to try to change behavior by showing people that positive feelings about diversity are the norm.

"In any other domain of public health -- saving for retirement, sustainability, eating healthy -- it's the key thing to communicate: It's the right thing to do, your peers do it, and your peers would actually approve of you doing it as well," says Markus Brauer, the UW-Madison psychology professor whose lab designed the pro-diversity intervention. It's an effect that's reflected in attitudes about ongoing protests over Black people killed by police officers. Exposed to larger crowds, more frequent news coverage and the opinions of friends and neighbors, more people have expressed support for Black Lives Matter groups and activities.

"People are heavily influenced by finding out what their peers have done," Brauer says. "But in the diversity domain, we haven't been trying this." The researchers, who published their findings today in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, conducted extensive focus groups with UW-Madison students. "We asked them -- students of color and white students, students of the LGBT+ community: What actually is it that decreases your sense of belonging? What are the kinds of behaviors that hurt your feelings, that make you feel excluded?" Brauer says. "And then please tell us, what are the behaviors that would make you feel welcome?"

The non-white students felt like they were kept at a distance from white students -- not included in class groups or projects, not included in activities, not invited to participate in simple interactions. "When we asked about what decreased their sense of belonging, they didn't complain so much about racial slurs or explicit forms of discrimination," says Brauer. "It was the distance, the lack of interest, the lack of caring that affected them."

Brauer, graduate student Mitchell Campbell, and Sohad Murrar, a former graduate student of Brauer's who is now a psychology professor at Governors State University in Illinois, used what they learned to choose their messages. "We used a social marketing approach, where we identify a target audience, we decide what our target behavior is, and then we show people how their peers support that behavior," Brauer says. They designed a relatively simple poster, covered in students' faces and reporting actual survey results -- that 93 percent of students say they "embrace diversity and welcome people from all backgrounds into our UW-Madison community," and that 84 percent of them agreed to be pictured on the poster. They also produced a five-minute video, which described the pro-diversity opinions reported by large majorities in other campus surveys and showed real students answering questions about tolerance and inclusion.

In a series of experiments over several years, hundreds of students were exposed passively to the posters in brief encounters in study waiting rooms or hung day after day on the walls of their classrooms. In other experiments, the video was shown to an entire class during their first meeting. Control groups came and went from waiting rooms and classroom with no posters, or watched videos about cranberry production, or other alternatives to the study materials. Then the researchers surveyed subjects to assess their attitudes about appreciation for diversity, attitudes toward people of color, intergroup anxiety, their peers' behaviors and other measures.

"When we measured 10 or 12 weeks later, the students who were exposed to the interventions report more positive attitudes towards members of other groups and stronger endorsement of diversity," Brauer says. The differences for students from marginalized groups went further. "The students belonging to marginalized groups tell us that they have an enhanced sense of belonging. They are less anxious in interactions with students from other ethnic groups. They tell us that they're less and less the target of discrimination," Brauer says. "They evaluate the classroom climate more positively, and feel that they are treated more respectfully by their classmates."

The researchers tested the effectiveness of their diversity intervention in a series of UW-Madison courses in which white students have historically received better grades than their non-white peers. In course sections that viewed the 5-minute video during their first meeting -- classes including more than 300 students -- the privileged and marginalized students' grades were equal in the end.

"We know the marginalized students experience discrimination; we know their feelings are valid. But we know, too, from the campus climate surveys and our own extensive surveys, that their fellow students report real appreciation for diversity, and tell us that they want to be inclusive," Brauer says. "They stay socially distant, though, because they worry about putting themselves out there. Our experience is that this intervention is changing those perceptions and experiences, and possibly the behavior, of both groups."

It may be the first result of its kind for such a long-running study with so many participants, and the researchers are hopeful that future work will help better reveal whether students actually change the way they treat each other.

"Promoting inclusion and dismantling systemic racism is one of the most important issues of our times. And yet, it turns out that many pro-diversity initiatives are not being evaluated," says Brauer, whose work was supported in part by funding from the office of UW-Madison's vice provost and chief diversity officer. "We really need evidence-based practices, but for a long time we've had no idea whether the things we do in the diversity domain actually have a beneficial effect. We're hoping to change that."


Read this article on Science Daily: University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Showing pro-diversity feelings are the norm makes individuals more tolerant." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125448.htm.


Dr. Holland's Perspective

Researchers are only beginning to delve into the psychology of racial stressors.  As a longtime activist I know that conversations about racism, inclusion and cultural bias are long overdue and something we have neglected to confront in meaningful ways. It will take time to bring racial inclusion to a common ground where we can all flourish and grow.

People experience discrimination in different ways, and struggling with this issue can manifest as anxiety, depression, feelings of emotional vulnerability and a full spectrum of emotional and psychological stresses. The bottom line is we all have a right to be healthy, and that includes mental health.

Teletherapy Available - Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

 

Teletherapy; a good alternative for therapists & clients

The Unexpected Benefits of Tele-Therapy

Santa Rosa Psychologist Dr. Jenny Holland finds that some patients are thriving under social distancing requirements, thanks to teleconferencing’s surprising appeal.

July 6, 2020, Santa Rosa, Ca. -- Back in March when Gov. Gavin ordered California residents to stay at home and businesses to adhere to mandatory closures, it didn’t seem quite real. And for professionals in the mental health field, not being able to meet patients face-to-face presented some very real problems.  “We had to come up with a viable solution and adapt quickly – for our patients and for our own business viability, or our practices would become obsolete and our patients would suffer,” says Dr. Jenny Holland, Santa Rosa Psychologist.

When counseling patients from her office on Cherry Street was no longer possible, Dr. Holland opted to expand on something that had represented only a fraction of her practice up to that point, Teleheath Video Conference Therapy. “Although I have offered Telehealth Therapy as part of my practice for years, most of my patients preferred to meet face-to-face. And, to be honest, the idea of video conferencing with every one of my patients was a little intimating to me at first. It took some weeks for me to adapt to the process and get comfortable with the technology.”

Healthcare institutes all over the country say the coronavirus pandemic can be extremely stressful for people. Fear and anxiety generated by the idea of a communicable disease and worry over what might happen can become overwhelming and stimulate strong emotions in both adults and children.

“I am finding that teletherapy is an amazingly effective means of counseling, particularly for teens and young adults who already have a familiarity for interacting online with friends. I am also finding that video sessions are extremely helpful for people with anxiety – something we’re seeing a significant increase in since COVID-19 became a thing.”

Public health actions, such as social distancing certainly helps keep everyone safer but, social distancing can leave people feeling even more isolated and lonely. Teletherapy is proving to have some surprising benefits for people who are isolated, and for people who have social anxiety.

“It can be quite relieving for a person with anxiety to not have to be face-to-face for a therapy session. In fact, teletherapy actually empowers my patients who might experience anxiety, because it creates a sense of ‘safe distance’ from the therapist. This alone, often makes it easier for them to open up and to feel comfortable with the therapy modality.”

While most of us are dealing with increased social distancing from one degree to another, it is important for everyone’s mental health and emotional well-being to find new, healthy ways to maintain social connections. Virtual communication including phones and video chats with friends and family can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. And when people find it too difficult to maintain a positive sense of wellbeing, reaching out to a mental health professional can help.

Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD“For people with depression, I've noticed teletherapy is particularly effective. Once a patient and therapist are able to create that virtual connection, we actually share a more intimate space. Even though we may not be in-person, sessions are essentially eye-to-eye and there are fewer distractions. I am finding that video conferencing makes it easier to connect with my patients, and it provides an excellent format for exploring deeper into personal issues.”

Clients are reporting that although they were initially very intimidated and even fearful at the prospect of having a video therapy session, once into the process they say they are finding it easier to connect. One of Dr. Holland’s clients recently emphasized this by saying, “… originally I thought that therapy wouldn't work if it wasn't in person. But I am noticing that you are right here with me. And I'm feeling connected."

To learn more about Dr. Holland’s Teletherapy services or to request an appointment call 707-479-2946 or visit drjennyholland.com.

Dr. Holland’s Blog – My Thoughts on Racism

My Personal Thoughts on Racism

As a white person, I must continue to own my racism, and wrestle with it, and challenge my beliefs as they occur in the moment, every day. Racism lives in me. To be actively anti-racist is a choice I must make each moment every day, as well as model loudly and effectively.

I must confront it when I see it in writing, when I hear it in someone’s speech, when I even suspect it is there. Especially when it is in my own heart and mind, and visible in my subtle expressions.

I must continue to examine and refuse to act on my feelings of desperation, embarrassment, shame, privilege, profound white loneliness, my fear of otherness, my assumptions about difference, my hatred, and jealousy.

Even with a solid education, and a leaning towards social justice, I am constantly doing battle with all the subconscious recordings from my family of origin and the generations before them influencing me to believe that I am:

  • better than,
  • entitled to more,
  • have power over.

… because I was lucky enough to be born white.

I wish to continue to strive to override this programming because I want to be close with others. It is also my responsibility to override my own hard-wiring with:

  • conscientious thought,
  • speech and
  • actions.

This is my responsibility as a human being, as a mother and as a psychologist. And I am working to teach my children and clients by my example. And I make a lot of mistakes. And I may be saying this wrong. And I might be misunderstood or misinterpreted, but at least we are talking about it, now.

And thanks for thinking critically and listening, for being willing to consider and ask questions, and for the courage to imagine taking a few risks to create the change we must make.