APA Division 42 Conference: By Psychologists, For Psychologists

By Pauline Wallin, Ph.D.
November 5, 2013

Philadelphia – “It’s an exciting time to be a psychologist, and the future is very promising,” declared Jana Martin, Ph.D., to about 200 practitioners at the Division 42 Fast Forward Conference held here Oct. 11-13.

That’s an ambitious statement in the face of declining reimbursements and the uncertain impact of the Affordable Care Act. Martin, CEO of the APA Insurance Trust and former president of Division 42, is nevertheless optimistic. With new scientific knowledge and less stigma about psychological problems “there’s an explosion of opportunities to develop and grow, to expand the way in which our profession touches lives directly and indirectly,” she said.

The second annual Fast Forward conference was designed to help psychologists in private practice learn about some of these opportunities, including treatment of ADHD, OCD and hoarding and working with specific populations such as children, teens and athletes.

In addition to clinical skills the program’s other main focus was the business of practice – how to set up a practice, how to position a practice for the future, setting and collecting fees and ways to market a practice ethically.

Money: Why we don’t talk about it

One of the most thought-provoking sessions was “The Emerging Field of Financial Therapy,” presented by Mary Gresham, Ph.D., of Atlanta, who specializes in psychological issues related to money and finance. She has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Money Magazine and other major publications.
Gresham began her workshop with “The last money course you will ever need:”

  • Spend less than you make
  • Track and plan spending
  • Avoid unsecured consumer debt
  • Save
  • Have an emergency fund
  • Put away enough for retirement
  • Invest
  • Have a will

“That’s it,” she quipped. “That’s all you have to do.”
Simple, but not easy because, according to Gresham, everyone has money issues that get in the way. Our clients don’t typically talk about finances with a psychologist, and we don’t typically ask them. Therefore, she strongly recommends that as part of every intake, clinicians should ask, “How are your finances?”
But many psychologists are uncomfortable doing so. For this reason Gresham helped us explore our values, feelings and deep-rooted assumptions about money. Before we can help others with their money issues, we need to address our own.
We also need to understand what constitutes a healthy relationship with money, which she describes as a complex array, spanning four levels:

Rational/Mathematical/Financial Literacy: How to earn money, plan and track spending, save, invest, manage taxation, cover risks, estimate retirement and create a good estate plan.

Values: How we allocate our money reflects what’s important to us, what we value.

Emotional/Symbolic/Relational: Non-rational forces that drive behaviors such as avoidance of money issues, money-centered lifestyles or relationship interactions around money.
Process: Self-observation of how we react to financially related issues and challenges.
Gresham is developing a formal Financial Therapy training program for mental health professionals and has also started a petition for a new division of Financial Therapy within APA

Built-in networking

Although the Fast Forward learning schedule was packed, there was plenty of time for socializing during breakfasts, refreshment breaks and the social hour. For dinner, we had the option of signing up for “dine-arounds” with group reservations at one of several local restaurants.

These informal interactions helped colleagues network and get acquainted… and at least in one case, get reacquainted. During the course of conversation, two men at the conference realized that they had attended rival high schools and both had had a crush on the same girl!

Drs. Elizabeth Ventura-Cook, Ph.D., of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Caroline Danda, Ph.D., of Kansas City; Kimberly Lanni, Ph.D., of Sacramento, Kelly Romirowsky, Psy.D., of Philadelphia and many others described the overall atmosphere as warm, welcoming and energizing. The credit for that goes to the attendees, most of whom are Division 42 members.

Next year’s Fast Forward conference is already in the planning. For more information visit Division42.org.

Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Camp Hill, Pa., and co-founder of The Practice Institute, LLC (ThePracticeInstitute.com.). She has served in many leadership positions within APA and Pennsylvania Psychological Association. She may be reached at drwallin@drwallin.com.
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