Psychology Month Profile: Dr. Justin Presseau

Justin Presseau
Psychology Month has been extended two days, so we can bring you the work of Dr. Justin Presseau, who is co-Chairing a working group of behavioural scientists advising Ontario healthcare executives and government representatives on best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Justin Presseau

Justin Presseau

Dr. Justin Presseau is going to welcome a new baby in about a month. His wife Leigh is eight months pregnant, which means this new child will be born in the middle of a global pandemic.

This adds one more job to Dr. Presseau’s portfolio, which also includes Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Associate Professor in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health and in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa, and the Chair of the Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine Section of the CPA.

As with many researchers, much of Dr. Presseau’s work had to pivot because of the pandemic. He leads a team co-developing new ways to support new Canadians with diabetes to be comfortable taking an eye test. Retinopathy is a manageable issue for people with diabetes when identified through regular screening but attendance rates could be improved, and so Dr. Presseau and his team are building relationships with different communities and community health centres virtually.

Another thing that’s difficult to do from a distance is blood donation. Dr. Presseau and his team are working with Canadian Blood Services and local communities to develop approaches to support men who have sex with men who may want to donate blood plasma, as screening and deferral policies continue to change to allow more MSM to donate if they want. Part of that work involves addressing the historic inequities that led to the exclusion of these men in the first place. But then – there was a pandemic, and his team like so many others have pivoted to continuing to develop key community relationships and campaigns virtually.

In addition, Dr. Presseau is tackling a lot of COVID-related projects, like for example a national survey of to understand what factors are associated with touching eyes, nose and mouth. The research is changing as we continue to develop an understanding of how COVID-19 is transmitted.

Maybe the most important of these COVID-related projects is the  , a group of behavioural science experts and public health leaders who summarize behavioural science evidence in the context of COVID-19 and identify actionable guidance for Ontario’s pandemic response. Dr. Presseau is the co-Chair of this working group, which also involves CPA President Dr. Kim Corace.

“We sit within the larger Ontario Science Advisory Table. We’ve brought together expertise in behavioural science and particularly psychologists across Ontario, based both in academia and within government, to work alongside public health experts and ministry representatives.”

Dr. Presseau says that because the working group contains representatives from all these different areas and the team can communicate directly in this setting with decision makers and policy creators, it is the most direct form of knowledge transfer and knowledge mobilization of behavioural science in which he has been involved in his career.

“From an impact perspective, we get to translate our science to people who can make use of it right away, and they can also provide feedback to us – what are they looking for? What’s helpful to them? Of all the things I’ve done in my career this feels among the most impactful. One of the hats I also wear in the hospital where I’m based is Scientific Lead for Knowledge Translation [in the Ottawa Methods Centre], so I think about knowledge translation a lot. The ability to connect directly with those in the field that are making a difference is excellent. It’s also such a validating experience for me, as a behavioural scientist and a psychologist, to see that there’s recognition of our science and a need for an understanding of how we can draw from the behavioural sciences to support Ontarians and Canadians.”

The Behavioural Science Working Group is currently focused on vaccine confidence and uptake among health care professionals. Over 80% of Ontario health care workers say overwhelmingly that they intend to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to them. The working group is looking to communicate behavioural science approaches to support healthcare organisations across the province to optimise their vaccine promotion programs – for instance, by clarifying that despite having been created at record speed, these vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective and it’s important that those in the healthcare field get one.

Part of this is modeling good behaviour for the rest of the population. And within the healthcare field, modeling good behaviour is one way the working group is hoping to reach those who may be undecided. It’s one thing to have politicians and celebrities get vaccinated publicly, it’s another far more effective thing for your peer group, and hospital CEOs, and team leaders, to do so in front of your team.

Much of this work involves drawing on the literature from around the world to inform hospital policy or public policy. But some of it happens directly, and goes in two directions. For example,

“Our co-chair Dr. Laura Desveaux and her team did surveys with healthcare workers that not only ask if they intend to get the COVID vaccine, but also ask questions that are drawing from behavioural science and psychological principles around the specific constructs or factors might be associated with greater or lesser intention. So they were able to identify key predictors in healthcare workers in January of 2021, the most current data we have. So it’s kind of exciting to be able to quickly draw from on-the-ground data, iterate principles, and push that out to the field to support those who are doing this.”

We have asked most of our Psychology Month participants if they see a ‘silver lining’ in the pandemic. Something that is good, but that would not otherwise have happened absent the pandemic. Dr. Presseau says one silver lining is that it has highlighted just how important and relevant health psychology and behavioural medicine are to understanding and supporting health behaviour change and health and well-being during pandemics.

“After all, behaviour underpins most if not all the public health measures and vaccination activities that are key to seeing the other side of this pandemic.”

When Leigh and Justin’s baby is born, the pandemic will still be ongoing. But that baby will be born into a world that has a much greater understanding of pandemic science, of the behavioural science that accompanies it, and with more and more diverse teams of interdisciplinary experts working together to solve problems – locally, provincially, nationally, and globally.

One day, this baby will grow into a person who can take pride that Dad had a lot to do with that.

Black History Month: Charles Henry Turner

Charles Henry Turner photo from biography.com
Charles Henry Turner was a zoologist, one of the first 3 Black men to earn a PhD from Chicago University. Despite being denied access to laboratories, research libraries, and more, his extensive research was part of a movement that became the field of comparative psychology.

Dr. Turner was a civil rights advocate in St. Louis, publishing papers on the subject beginning in 1897. He suggested education as the best means of combatting racism, and believed in what would now be called a ‘comparative psychology’ approach.

About Charles Henry Turner

Charles Henry Turner was a zoologist, one of the first 3 Black men to earn a PhD from Chicago University. He became the first person to determine insects can distinguish pitch. He also determined that social insects, like cockroaches, can learn by trial and error.

Despite an impressive academic record, Dr. Turner was unable to find work at major American universities. He published dozens of papers, including three in the journal 'Science', while working as a high school science teacher in St. Louis.

Despite being denied access to laboratories, research libraries, and more, his extensive research was part of a movement that became the field of comparative psychology.

Dr. Turner was a civil rights advocate in St. Louis, publishing papers on the subject beginning in 1897. He suggested education as the best means of combatting racism, and believed in what would now be called a 'comparative psychology' approach. He retired from teaching in 1922, and died at the age of 56 on Valentine's Day in 1923.

Photo: biography.com

Psychology Month Profile: Natalie Rosen

Natalie RosenNatalie Rosen
At Dalhousie University, Dr. Natalie Rosen studies sexual health in the context of couples. Many people thought there would be a baby boom during the pandemic – Dr. Rosen explains why this hasn’t happened.

About Natalie Rosen

Natalie Rosen

Where are all the babies? When the COVID-19 pandemic started creating lockdowns in March of 2020, the memes were everywhere. The generation that was sure to come from the pandemic baby boom was being given all kinds of names – Coronials! Baby Zoomers! We were all looking forward to making lame jokes in 2033 about these children entering their Quaranteens.

It made some sense that we would think that way – hey, we’re stuck at home with nothing else to do, we’ll probably all bake more cheesecake, learn a new instrument, and make a bunch of babies. But the boom never came. In fact, Canada’s birth rate in 2020 declined by 0.73% from 2019 – continuing a steady trend downward that continues into 2021 (we are projected to decline by 0.74% this year). So what gives?

Dr. Natalie Rosen specializes in couples and sex. Dr. Rosen is a clinical psychologist and an associate professor in the departments of Psychology and Neuroscience, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Dalhousie University. She and her team are currently in the middle of several longitudinal studies with couples, some of which began before the pandemic. They’re hoping that they get some good data at the end of the studies that can shed light on the impacts of pandemic-related stress on sexual health, particularly for vulnerable groups like new parents. In the meantime, she’s looking at other studies that are just now starting to release data.

“A study published last Spring in the States looked at the impact of COVID on people’s sex lives. What they found was that just over 40% of people said their sex lives had taken a hit and were declining. Just over 40% said it was about the same, and then there was a minority of about 13% who reported that their sex lives had actually improved during the pandemic. I think it’s fair to extrapolate to some extent to Canadians, which means a big chunk of us are experiencing a declines in their sex lives.”

So what happened? Why aren’t people having sex more than ever? Where are all the babies we were promised in the memes? Dr. Rosen says we probably should have known this would be the case.

“I think that was wishful thinking. We actually know that for many people, stress and uncertainty puts quite a damper on mood and desire for sex. Of course, there are lots of individual differences, so not everyone is the same, but for many people stress and uncertainty negatively impact sexuality. Also, when you think about all the young families who have had these extended periods of time with their kids at home – not only is that a stressor, but it’s also interfering with opportunities for sex.”

Dr. Rosen’s research focuses on sexual dysfunction from a couples’ perspective. In the past, much of the research has focused on the person with the problem – but of course many sexual problems exist within the context of the couple, and she says that very often the other person in the relationship really wants to be involved and to do something differently in order to help their partner and improve their sex lives. Dr. Rosen’s team is hoping to expand the availability of couple-based, empirically supported, treatments available for sexual dysfunction. They have an upcoming publication reporting on a randomized clinical trial for the results of a novel couple therapy vs. a medical intervention for pain experienced during sex, and they are hoping to do the same with low desire. They’ve just launched a CIHR-funded study into couple therapy when women have low sexual desire.

Dr. Rosen’s clinical work is small. She works with a few couples each week who have sexual problems, such as pain during sex and low desire, and with couples who are going through major life transitions, like becoming new parents. In the beginning of the pandemic she paused her practice because it was impossible to meet in-person, but Halifax is doing well enough that she was able to start seeing couples in person again last Fall. She says that some of the couples she sees have adapted to virtual sessions and now prefer that, so going forward it looks like her clinical practice will be the kind of hybrid model we might expect to see in most clinical settings post-pandemic.

The biggest disruption for Dr. Rosen is likely the lack of travel – in a typical year she’s on a plane every six weeks or so, going to an academic conference, or visiting her family in Ottawa or Toronto. She says that now, she hasn’t seen most of her family in over year outside her husband and two children – but that this slowing down of the pace of life has had its benefits.

“For us it’s been a kind of investment in the nuclear family, spending lots of time just the four of us. And we’ve also had the chance to really explore a lot of the nooks and crannies of Nova Scotia! I also find that it’s forced me to take a step back and evaluate what’s important to me. I can get caught up in the minutia of my work, and particularly early in the pandemic I felt the frustration of trying to find work-life balance with two young kids at home. But you take a deep breath, and you figure out your values - health, family, happiness. I care about my work a lot, but there’s a pandemic, and there are many times when it just can’t be the number one priority!”

People across Canada are re-evaluating their priorities and have been for almost a year now. Like Dr. Rosen and her family, they are finding ways to support one another, to balance work and home life, and to stay as healthy and happy as they can throughout. Dr. Rosen emphasizes that finding ways to prioritize and connect sexually with your partner has many benefits for health and well- being. And that’s a valuable thing to do – just don’t feel like you have to live up to the memes of March!

Psychology Month Profile: Vina Goghari

Vina GoghariVina Goghari
Dr. Vina Goghari is the Editor of the Canadian Psychology journal. The amount of pandemic-related research and article submissions has been overwhelming in the past few months. The upcoming COVID special edition of the journal will present papers that cover a very broad range of topics related to the pandemic.

About Vina Goghari

Vina Goghari

Dr. Vina Goghari had big plans for 2020. There were going to be conferences that would synergize with her vacations – including one in Banff where she was planning to rent a cottage and hang out with some of her friends. A couple of talks in Vienna were going to allow her to explore the nearby areas and experience Austria for the first time. Instead her breaks disappeared, her workload increased threefold, and she ended up stuck at home with a kidney stone for five months. 2020, right?

Dr. Goghari is a professor at the University of Toronto where she is the Graduate Chair of the Clinical Psychology program. What interests us here at the moment is Dr. Goghari’s position as the editor of Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, the flagship journal of the Canadian Psychological Association. The bulk of a journal editor’s work is remote already, so very little has changed in that respect, but the pandemic has created a bit of a slowdown in the review process.

“The ability of academics to spend their time on peer review has been impacted. I find they’ve still been gracious, and people are still volunteering to review these papers, but sometimes we find that people need more leeway in terms of time to actually get us the review back. We’ve been lucky that both the authors and the reviewers are having a little bit more patience with each other, and the editor, and the associate editors. It allows us to make sure this process is still equitable and fair and we still get enough reviews.”

Another thing that has, predictably, changed is the number of submissions Canadian Psychology is receiving concerning COVID itself. So many, that they have prepared a special issue just for the pandemic. Dr. Goghari says the volume of articles has been overwhelming.

“We did a call for COVID papers in May dealing with psychological perspectives on the pandemic – we feel a psychological, as well as a Canadian/International, lens is very important to helping people deal with the pandemic in terms of work and life balance and mental health. The Special Issue will be coming out in the next few weeks. We saw a record number of papers for that call. This was especially so (true) for the two of us who are the English-speaking editors ̶ we were fielding a tremendous number of papers! It was positive in the sense that the psychological perspective on the pandemic is resonating with people, but also really increased our workload, as we always want to ensure we do a professional job with all submissions. Luckily we were able to get through all of them, and I really think we have a fantastic special issue

Canadian Psychology is a generalist journal, which allowed Dr. Goghari and her team to design the COVID special issue with intention. They wanted the articles to cover a wide range of topics related to Canadians, and to reflect different parts of our society and our population. There are articles about work, sleep, mental health, adults, children, training, and much more. There are also two articles in French, and Dr. Goghari hopes that there is something for everybody in this journal issue.

Not only have they seen an increase in COVID papers, but papers regarding race-related issues that have become increasingly front and centre over the past year. More papers addressing topics such as mental health and racial disparities have been submitted. Dr. Goghari says she wishes this has also been the case for journal in the past given the importance of these societal issues, but is heartened to see that this is more of a focus now.

“One of the things COVID highlighted was that the pandemic doesn’t affect everyone equally. There are certain groups that are more affected by the pandemic like the elderly, we know that there were racial disparities in both outcome and incidence of the virus. And so the two things came together – the societal tensions on race, but also highlighted and made worse by the COVID pandemic interacting with these factors.”

Dr. Goghari says that she is encouraged by the rise in awareness created by the new focus on inequities and dismantling the systemic causes of racism. She is also encouraged by the number of papers she and her team are receiving surrounding COVID and expects that the studies launched later in the pandemic that focus on longer term impact, challenges, opportunities, and resilience, will produce some new, useful, and fascinating results. Dr. Goghari is above all an optimist. Even when it comes to missing out on some great trips, and a kidney stone!

“I find I don’t really miss the things like travel – they were just perks. I miss seeing my friends and my family. I also had some interaction with the health care system because I had a kidney stone for five months. I was very grateful for all the people who are still doing ultrasounds and CT scans and keeping the hospitals clean for us. They were just so kind! Even though they themselves were dealing with all these things, I was touched by their professionalism and their help even while I could see the burden on the health care system. When the kidney stone clinic had to close, there was an onslaught of people and we all have to get in…it was a very eye opening experience. Given what the health care workers go through, they were tremendous even though they must be in a difficult situation. I think COVID plus a kidney stone made me grateful for all the smaller things!”

Psychology Month Profile: Judy Moench

Judy MoenchJudy Moench
Dr. Judy Moench has helped create protocols to help her Alberta community and others during the pandemic. Prepped 4 Learning helps teachers, parents, and kids cope with disruption. The Self-care Traumatic Episode Protocol (STEP) is helping mental health clinicians, hospital staff, and others decrease stress and increase coping.

About Judy Moench

Judy Moench

“I feel like a budding musician who started out in the basement! During COVID we weren’t able to get into a studio or anything like that so I literally developed these videos in my basement using audio on my phone.”

The Self-care Traumatic Episode Protocol fits into a neat little acronym – STEP! Was this one of those programs that worked backward, to shoehorn its description into an easily-remembered four-letter word? Dr. Judy Moench says no.

“It was named that on purpose because it’s a modified version of a protocol that was developed called EMDRGTEP – which is the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Group Traumatic Episode Protocol.”

Nobody worked backward, I think we can assume, to make EMDRGTEP a neat little acronym!

Dr. Moench is a registered psychologist in Alberta with a private practice, and also an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta. During COVID, she’s been working on a number of protocols that might be helpful in the community. One is a school-based program, focused on the universal promotion of emotional health with an emphasis on the well-being of students. Prepped 4 Learning is a self-regulation program that starts with teachers and parents helping kids regulate to learn, all the way up to what to do if there is a crisis in school. Dr. Moench thinks STEP might be helpful in this setting as well, for teachers in particular, and they are beginning research with school staff soon.

STEP was launched during the pandemic to assist mental health clinicians, medical staff, and other front line workers to decrease stress and increase coping. The idea was that because people were unable to meet in person a computer-delivered protocol was necessary. This was not intended to be a substitute for psychological treatment or medical diagnoses, but that a 90-minute session with STEP videos could develop containment strategies that would allow them to continue working on the front lines through this time of overwhelming stress. Eye movement is part of the process.

“Eye movement is part of EMDR Therapy, an approach that has an eight-phase model, and you go through all the phases with a client to help them resolve unprocessed material and recover from distressing life experiences. STEP is an adapted protocol but it still uses eye movements and goes through modified phases of treatment – you print out a worksheet, and the person taps from one side of the protocol sheet to the other side and follows with their eyes as they’re doing that. The eye movements help to add distance and give calmness around the event that is being processed.  It helps to consolidate the memory in a more cohesive way.”

Normally Dr. Moench and her team would do this kind of activity in groups in the office. You know, in the before-times. Now, this program has to be modified for online delivery, which means a few steps have been adapted. Typically, EMDR treatment would involve an extensive history with the client – with STEP, this has been modified to a few specific questions up front that ensure the person is ready and eligible to use the protocol. For example, someone who was thinking about suicide, or had a complex trauma history, may be better served with one-to-one EMDR Therapy.

Another thing that sets STEP apart is that it is designed to deal with only one very specific trauma episode at a time – right now, the trauma brought on most recently by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Moench calls this ‘titration’, and it narrows the focus to that one episode and excludes the larger history that might otherwise be part of treatment.

“With STEP, the research study we did focused exclusively on COVID. Since then, I’ve used it with other things that aren’t specifically COVID-related…even though right now everything is kinda COVID-related! But there are other events that are happening along with the pandemic.”

The STEP protocol has been used in Alberta with mental health clinicians, with a small group of staff from the United Nations, and with other national and international groups in which Dr. Moench is a member. Right now, she and her team are making a more professional version of the current STEP videos – after all, the originals were shot in her basement with audio from her phone! Only time will tell if this psychology-as-garage-rock-band will be a pandemic-specific flash in the pan (like the Strokes) or a longer lasting international sensation (like U2).

Hey…that’s got us thinking now. How come there hasn’t been a Live Aid / Live 8 pandemic relief show yet? Those were always super-distanced!

Psychology Month Profile: Chloe Hamza

Chloe HamzaChloe Hamza
Dr. Chloe Hamza has an article in the upcoming Canadian Psychology journal COVID-19 special edition entitled ‘When Social Isolation Is Nothing New’. It’s part of an ongoing study of post-secondary students, some of whom had pre-existing mental health concerns before the pandemic, and some of whom didn’t.

About Chloe Hamza

Dr Chloe Hamza

Dr. Chloe Hamza is an assistant professor in the department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She’s the lab director of the CARE lab (Coping, Affect, and Resilience in Education), and her research has been broadly about stress and coping among postsecondary students. It was with this focus that she and her team ran a study looking at the psychological impacts of COVID-19 among postsecondary students.

Like so many other studies at this time, Dr. Hamza and her team were lucky to have already done a similar survey, that one in May of 2019. This meant that repeating many of the same questions with many of the same participants could give a good indication of where they were now, with the pandemic, compared to where they were before.

“We had some pre-COVID assessment data, and then we went back in May 2020 and surveyed students again. We were looking at stress, coping, and mental health before and during the pandemic. What we had originally hypothesized was that students with pre-existing mental health concerns would be those who would be most adversely impacted by the pandemic. But what we found was that students who had pre-existing mental health concerns fared similarly or were actually improving during the pandemic. Whereas students without pre-existing mental health concerns showed the greatest decline in mental health.”

This study, and these results, have resulted in an article that will be published in this month’s COVID-19 special issue of the journal Canadian Psychology. (See our upcoming profile of Dr. Vina Goghari for more on the journal the day the special edition comes out.) The article is called ‘When Social Isolation is Nothing New’, and it details these findings from Dr. Hamza and her team.

“When we looked at why those students without pre-existing concerns were declining, we found that increasing social isolation seemed to be associated with deteriorating mental health. What that seems to suggest is that if you were feeling socially disconnected before the pandemic, which in our case was among students with pre-existing mental health concerns, the start of the pandemic and distancing guidelines may have been less impactful. In contrast, if you weren’t used to experiencing social isolation, and this was a real change for you, your mental health was more likely to decline.”

It looks, for now, as though students with pre-existing concerns were already experiencing some kind of isolation socially pre-pandemic, and that has made the adjustment easier and less impactful for them than it has for others. There are of course other possibilities that might account for the findings of Dr. Hamza and her team, and they plan to explore those in a follow-up study that is beginning right now.

“For many students some stressors actually decreased. For example, having multiple competing demands, or academic pressures, lessened. Which sort of makes sense if you think about how universities initially responded to the pandemic. Students weren’t going to class any more, they may not be going to work, and so the demands on their time – both academic and vocational – may have decreased.”

The follow-up study is currently under way, where Dr. Hamza and her team are asking those same students how they’re coping now during the pandemic. Some of it will involve the results of the previous study, where they will ask the participants about the results. “Here are some of our findings – how does this resonate with you? Do you think it’s accurate? What are some of the reasons you think we might have seen this result back in May?”

While that study is ongoing, Dr. Hamza is also focused on her own students – trying her best to ensure that they remain engaged, well, and healthy through what has been a very difficult school year. Her department does a ‘wellness challenge’ which challenges people to get outside and walk, or pick up and learn a new instrument, or try a new recipe. All things we can do to maintain better mental health during this time of isolation. Things that are good both for those of us who are still new to distancing and socializing remotely, and for those of us for whom social isolation is nothing new.

Psychology Month Profile: Laurie Ford

Laurie FordLaurie FordLaurie Ford
Dr. Laurie Ford at UBC has school psychologists to train, students adjusting to online learning, and innovations to replace hands-on experiences. She also has a community garden and two great dogs!

About Laurie Ford

Laurie Ford

“Every night we talk on FaceMail”.

Two things are getting Dr. Laurie Ford through this pandemic in a positive way. One is her nightly ‘FaceMail’ chats with her dad in Oklahoma. Not sure if this means FaceTime, or FaceBook, or Zoom or some other video chat platform, but dad calls it FaceMail and so FaceMail it is. The other is a community garden where Dr. Ford is the President. The garden has become a meeting-place and something of a pandemic oasis throughout the past year. Sometimes up to six or seven people, Laurie and her friends, will head to the garden after work, sit well-distanced on the various plots, and share a laugh and a glass of wine. Maybe pull some weeds. It’s a nice break from long days at work.

“I’m getting a lot of work done – when all I have to do is go to the front of my house and come back. The bad thing is I think many of us are working too much, as the lines between work and home are blurring.”

Even Dr. Ford’s beloved community garden has become part of that blurring of work-home-life, her meetings with friends inspired her to do the same with her grad students. A few months into the pandemic, she suddenly realized that most of her students lived in Vancouver but had never actually met one another in person! With the exception of one student stuck in Australia and one stuck in Alaska, she invited them all to meet, in person, at the garden. (The two stranded students were able to join virtually, by Zoom.)

Dr. Ford is at UBC. She is the Director of Training for the School and Applied Child Psychology program and has been involved in training school psychologists for a long time. She is also a board member at the CPA. As the pandemic has gone on, she has become more and more accustomed to Zoom calls, as has her dogs Gracie Belle and Cooper come to say hi and investigate the goings-on before wandering off to find more interesting ‘dog stuff’ as Dr. Ford goes back to teaching her now presumably more interested class.

“One of the big things, from a training perspective, is to figure out ways that students can get some of that hands-on training, in schools and in clinical settings, when everything’s restricted. The other part that’s related to training is – how do you move to train people to do service delivery in less traditional ways?”

Right now, Dr. Ford’s training is primarily preparing Masters and Doctoral-level school psychologists. Training that would ordinarily involve a lot of hands-on experience. Before 2020, Dr. Ford would take her students to a local homeless shelter for some classes. Others would take place in a rehab clinic, or a xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (People of the River Grass) longhouse located within walking distance of the UBC campus. Dr. Ford says, just being in these physical locations was a huge part of the experience. That, of course, has not been possible in the past year. So they are finding some workarounds.

Members of community join Dr. Ford’s Communities Systems class some weeks as they try alternate ways to immerse students in a variety of settings. In this class and others, she’s also experimenting with videos, podcasts, and other methods of delivering information that are different that simple Zoom lectures. She says she has been surprisingly impressed by how many of her students are doing the extra work and taking advantage of the extra content she makes available to them.

“I think I was just so determined to make this be awesome, even though it sucked being on line, that it’s made me become more familiar with the technology of teaching online, but it has also in some ways made me work harder to find diverse sources of information. I actually think I’m better teaching this course than I have been in the past. I’ve had to work harder to be more creative to find new and better ways to engage my students. It’s made me think like the kids a little bit – I’m doing less lecturing and I’m using podcasts and videos. They’re good teaching pedagogies that we talk about but then we kind of get lazy, you know? So I really think I’m doing a little bit of a better job this year!”

Dr. Ford has a big personality, the kind that can fill a lecture hall in person better than a Zoom screen. She says she misses that part of teaching, addressing a large room full of people, and it’s clear that will be the first thing on the docket, whenever this pandemic ends and she can get back to the front of a class. But while it goes on, she hopes that the innovations she and her students have come up with have made her a better teacher, and they have certainly made her more tech-savvy. When the spring arrives, her students will be able to meet one another again, in a safely distanced fashion. They still have the community garden.

And Laurie’s dad will still have his FaceMail.

Psychology Month Profile: Mélanie Joanisse

Mélanie Joanisse
When the pandemic began, Dr. Mélanie Joanisse created a simple, easy, and funny Guide to Wellness for her frontline co-workers at the Montfort hospital. It immediately took off and has been shared and translated around the world to help healthcare workers everywhere.
About Mélanie Joanisse

Mélanie Joanisse

“I wrote this in what I would call a hypomanic phase…as psychologists, we always have to pathologize any kind of creativity.”

Dr. Mélanie Joanisse was still processing the fact that she was not going to be able to attend a Pearl Jam concert when she had something of a viral moment in the early days of the pandemic. Can we still say ‘going viral’? Or has that phrase now passed out of the lexicon like so many others before it that conjure unwelcome memories? Anyway, a lot of people suddenly found Dr. Joanisse’s work. Like, a LOT of people. Her ‘Guide To Wellness’ was being discovered.

“I got a call from the communications director at the Montfort hospital, who said ‘what was your marketing and communication strategy for this? [Mélanie laughs heartily] I was like…none? She said we were being bombarded with messages from people who said they like it, and I was starting to receive a lot of emails – even from people in Europe – saying ‘we like this, can we translate it?’ And so I said sure, go for it! So the communications team at the Montfort helped me to create a creative commune so people would understand that they could just take it.”

Dr. Joanisse’s has a private practice in Ottawa, but does a lot of work at the Montfort Hospital, Ontario’s only francophone hospital. When the pandemic first hit, she saw at the Montfort the stress that the staff was experiencing. The sudden worry among doctors and nurses. The occupational therapists and social workers who were wearing masks and gowns, something they would never have done before. It was all hands on deckand changed how everyone was working. She wanted to do whatever she could in her capacity as a psychologist to help.

“As a psychologist I’m not trained in acute care – no one would want me in the ER! So I figured maybe doing a guide would be helpful. I was reading a lot online, and there are a lot of good resources, but I was just picturing a physician or a nurse or an RT sitting down with a list of 25 papers that they could read on wellness. I just pictured them shutting down their computers and saying ‘I don’t have time or the capacity for this’.”

So Dr. Joanisse set about writing something that encompassed as much as possible about the evidence-based ways to wellness, but to package it in a more engaging way. Visually attractive, a little bit funny, and representative of what frontline healthcare workers were experiencing. An easily-digestible light read, rather than another arduous undertaking.

“The only mask you should be wearing is a medical mask; please discard the infallible mask, as research has shown it suffocates its users.”

  • From the Guide To Wellness

The humour in the guide comes from Dr. Joanisse herself. She’s extremely funny, in a very natural way, and that good humour has helped her get through this pandemic and all the setbacks. Like the Pearl Jam concert she missed – her first realization of how big COVID-19 was going to be was that cancelation. Or, more recently, the Chiefs loss in the Super Bowl – her husband is a huge Chiefs fan and just after they were married they flew to Kansas City to take in a game at Arrowhead. In 2019, moments before the pandemic really took hold, the Chiefs finally overcame decades of ineptitude to deliver a Super Bowl victory to fans like Mélanie’s husband.

“Last year when they won, it was pre-pandemic so we were at a friend’s house for the Super Bowl. He got up and spontaneously screamed ‘this is the best day of my life!’ There was a silence, and everyone looked at me. I was like, sorry daughter…birth…wedding…I’m just putting that in my pocket. The next time I spend I don’t know what on what, I’m bringing that card out!”

Now, after watching her husband celebrate the greatest day of his life, Dr. Joanisse is something of a Chiefs fan too. This is perhaps more because of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the French-Canadian starting right guard with a doctorate in medicine who left the Chiefs in the offseason to join the front lines of the pandemic back in Montreal. Just the kind of person who might benefit from the Guide to Wellness.

Dr. Joanisse still sees stress in her co-workers at the Montfort. Now, it’s not the stress of uncertainty that existed at the beginning of the pandemic, but rather a stress borne of long hours, fluctuating numbers, a desire for the pandemic to be over, and sheer exhaustion. She’s heartened, however, that many have taken her Guide To Wellness to heart – not only at her own hospital, but at institutions around the world.

“Now I know people in Hawaii, BC, all over the world. All types of different healthcare workers have reached out to me. It has been quite the experience, I have to say. And very moving, to know that this has touched people in that way.”

 

Psychology Month Profile: Helen Ofosu

Helen Ofosu
Dr. Helen Ofosu runs IO Advisory in Ottawa where she helps organizations and businesses tackle structural racism and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. During the pandemic, more and more groups are looking for this kind of assistance and her business is growing.
About Helen Ofosu

Dr. Helen Ofosu

“There are certain people who, pre-pandemic, were super-productive and making amazing contributions at work. But because they weren’t bragging, buttering up the boss, or charismatic, they were overlooked. But now, when everyone’s at home, it’s easier to track who is contributing – who is sending in work product. So, all the “doers” are kind of getting their chance to shine.”

Dr. Helen Ofosu is writing a book. The working title is The Resilient Career, and will impart lessons she has learned over a 20 year career in Work and Business (Industrial/Organizational) Psychology. It will be a resource for people dealing with underemployment, harassment, workplace scapegoating, or being a newcomer to Canada trying to adapt to a new culture in the workplace. A lot of the book will be about employees’ identities, and how those tie into career progression, as well as some insights around the “glass cliff” phenomenon (i.e., women and racialized people being more likely than men to achieve leadership roles in an organization in times of crisis, when the chance of failure is much greater).

It may seem like writing a book during the COVID-19 lockdown is something a person with a lot of time on their hands would decide to do. That does not seem to be the case for Dr. Ofosu, who is an HR Consultant, Executive Coach, and Career Coach who runs I/O Advisory Services in Ottawa. Much like the employees she sees getting more recognition for the work they do during the pandemic, Dr. Ofosu is getting more recognition as well. The bulk of her clients were once in Ottawa, but now that Zoom is the de facto way to connect she is working with companies all over Canada, and sometimes the US and Saudi Arabia.

An additional reason for that branching out is the newfound focus companies are placing on systemic discrimination, anti-racist workplaces and restructuring their policies around equity, diversity, and inclusion. That happens to be Dr. Ofosu’s specialty – what she refers to as a ‘passion project’ turned full-fledged business line. This process is taking something of a different turn now as well, with the pandemic forcing this kind of coaching to be done at a distance. At the moment, this is mainly taking the form of mentorship and sponsorship programs for employees.

“My favourite model is one that I’ve been experimenting with and tweaking – it’s blending mentorship with allyship. At the same time that we train mentors to be more effective working with racialized people with whom they may not have a lot of experience, we’re also going to train a second group of people called ‘allies.’ These are people who may be senior and well-intentioned in the organization, but who don’t have the time to dedicate to either a one-on-one protégé or a small group of protégés. But they can still benefit from some training around systemic discrimination and what it means to be a good ally and mentor. They can then be out there in their organization as resources and influencers on more of an ad hoc basis.”

The mentors and the allies both receive the same kind of training – but while the allies tend to have giant workloads and full calendars and therefore less time to dedicate to this sort of thing, the mentors commit to six month or year-long programs where they check in with Dr. Ofosu regularly.

Mentors are ideally people in leadership positions in the organization. They are people with good ‘soft skills’ (e.g., communication, empathy, judgement, strategic thinking, etc.) and a genuine interest in supporting the career development of more junior employees. This way they will be more effective at imparting the lessons learned to the rest of their teams.

It was shortly after the death of George Floyd that a group in Toronto reached out to Dr. Ofosu, and it’s with this group that she has been developing the mentorship program as it stands today to support communication, marketing, and PR professionals in Canada. Now the federal government has caught wind, and she’s working with them to get this program launched there as well.

That likely means more work, which might also mean less time working on her book. But Dr. Ofosu will find the time, while still taking the occasional break. One of the perks of living in Ottawa is all that free time outdoors taking long walks and shoveling snow, where she puts on her headphones and listens to R&B, gospel, and hiphop music. Then she’ll come back in refreshed, ready to work on that book (with support from her American editor) and to get busy supporting leaders and dismantling structural racism at organizations across Canada.

Psychology Month Profile: Maya Yampolsky

Maya Yampolsky
The COVID-19 pandemic has made racism worse around the world for marginalized communities. Racism has made the pandemic worse for those communities as well. Dr. Maya Yampolsky specializes in social and cultural psychology, with a particular focus in her research on systemic racism and how racism enters into our personal lives.
About Maya Yampolsky

Maya Yampolsky

In the spring of 2020, there was a COVID outbreak at a homeless shelter in Ottawa. The outbreak was traced back to two immigrant women who were both working at multiple long-term care homes in the city, and who lived at the homeless shelter. As new Canadians with few job prospects, personal support worker positions were some of the only jobs the two women could get. Those jobs paid so little that they were forced to work in more than one location in order to make enough money to live. Even then, they did not make enough to afford rent and so they had to live at the homeless shelter. It was a perfect storm of transmission as vulnerable people in one population brought the virus to vulnerable people in another. As many pointed out at the time, this was eminently predictable.

COVID-19 has had a disproportionately devastating effect on Black people, Indigenous people, immigrants and refugees. Pretty much anyone that has been disadvantaged by institutions and societies over generations are now even more vulnerable because of health inequities. Dr. Maya Yampolsky is an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Université Laval. She specializes in social and cultural psychology, with a particular focus in her research on the experience of managing multicultural and intersectional identities, and how those identities are related to our broader social relationships and broader social issues – especially systemic racism and how racism enters into our personal lives.

We’re speaking on Zoom, Dr. Yampolsky in her apartment in Quebec City, in front of a blank wall that I notice looks a lot like the hallway outside my high school gym. It turns out this is by design – an avid yoga practitioner, Dr. Yampolsky has been with a group call the Art of Living Foundation for about 20 years. They are an organization that promotes individual and community development through yoga and yogic philosophy. When teaching a course, Dr. Yampolsky prefers a neutral, blank background. That said, I get the sense that a yoga class with Maya would be an awful lot of fun. She is exuberant, cheerful, friendly and animated in a way that comes through even a Zoom screen. Even when the subjects we’re discussing are rather sombre and depressing compared to yoga. Subjects like COVID, and racism.

“A lot of research showed that Black Canadians of Caribbean origin or African origin, populations that are descendants of enslaved peoples from previous centuries, these groups have continuously been targeted. As a result there’s stress, and there’s illness that builds up in the body. So a lot more of these members of our population have chronic illness, which makes them more vulnerable to COVID, and to having a more intense experience with it. This means they have worse cases and a higher mortality.”

Around the world, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Southeast Asian people have felt the greatest impact from the pandemic. This is in part because of the stress that comes along with the continuous targeting Dr. Yampolsky speaks about, but also because those groups are the most likely to be essential workers. Frontline healthcare employees, people who work in long-term care facilities, areas that are more susceptible to exposure. Worse health outcomes, increased exposure, and more long-term neglect of marginalized communities have combined to create a storm during the pandemic.

“This isn’t overt racism, like hatred. But it is something that manifests from the existence of structural racism that creates inequalities that then come to the surface when a pandemic hits.”

Dr. Yampolsky, along with her colleagues Andrew Ryder, John Berry, and Saba Safdar, created the fact sheet ‘Why Does Culture Matter to COVID-19’ for the CPA. That fact sheet inspired a review article she is currently working on with Rebecca Bayeh (1st author) and Andrew Ryder (last and corresponding author). Every time culture and COVID is discussed, it takes Dr. Yampolsky and her colleagues in new directions. Racism is a big part of that. With the pandemic, one thing leapt out very early.

“The World Health Organization has said that we don’t name diseases after places. And yet, people kept insisting on calling this the China Virus or worse. From there we saw a lot of hate speech emerging, and there’s been a lot of hate crime. Here in cities like Toronto and Montreal, there were a lot of defacements of businesses and sacred spaces like Buddhist temples. Asian-Canadians and Asian people abroad, in the global diaspora, and people who looked phenotypically Asian (like Northeastern states in India) were being targeted as the source of the virus and being associated with disease.”

This is sadly not a new thing. We’ve seen this before many times, with virtually every epidemic and pandemic in human history (the 1918 influenza pandemic is still called the ‘Spanish flu’ today, even though the first reports of the outbreak were in Kansas, and no evidence suggests that Spain was particularly hard-hit or that outbreaks occurred there earlier than anywhere else).

Dr. Yampolsky explains that part of the reason for this is that the human brain has shortcuts wired into it to be able to avoid danger – we see disease and immediately try to determine the source of the danger, leading us to associate a virus with a whole group. But of course, it’s more complicated than just this. It wasn’t as though everything was great, and then suddenly the pandemic created more racism – there had been a steady rise in overt racism and hate groups leading up to the onset of COVID-19, a trend that was merely accelerated by the pandemic.

Racism has always existed, and it is always there among the public – the rise has been in overt, or as Dr. Yampolsky put it, “audacious” racism. Hate groups and far-right terror groups in North America and Europe have been more bold in sharing their vitriol publicly. Even some political actions have acted to exacerbate racial tensions. Dr. Yampolsky points to Bill-21 in Quebec, the law that bans people working in public services from wearing ‘religious symbols’ of any kind.

“Anything that essentially targets a minority group will also condone hate toward that group. By its very nature, it singles them out for discrimination. And we were seeing a lot of that already.”

Discrimination against virtually all minority groups has been amped up as a result of COVID-19, in large part because that discrimination was on the rise already. The advent of the pandemic became an excuse to further scapegoat those marginalized groups among those who were already trafficking in hate. These populations already tended to be more vulnerable than others because a history of systemic racism has set them up that way.

In the middle of this perfect storm, Dr. Yampolsky sees a silver lining, maybe a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Hopefully the fact that COVID happened, and then this latest big anti-racism movement – as far as I can tell, the biggest since the civil rights movement – in a way COVID facilitated drawing our attention to what was an existing situation. We weren’t going out, we weren’t being distracted, and so our attention was drawn towards anti-racism. This, positively, has yielded a lot more awareness about racism, and institutional valuing and awareness about racism as well. So that also gives me hope – in the sense that COVID showed us that we’re all connected, it also drew our attention to these things that needed repair, and needed work. I hope that it does end up building more responsible, more healthy, and happier connections with one another.”

There’s still a huge amount of work to do building those connections. To avoid another scenario like the one that happened in Ottawa in the spring, immigrants and refugees require greater supports. Personal support workers, and others we consider essential, require higher salaries. We also need to build ethical and cooperative interactions with Black and Indigenous peoples. There must be equitable and affordable housing for all. And the structural systems that create these conditions must be dismantled.

Dr. Maya Yampolsky is one of the people that will move us closer, as a society, to creating those connections. After an hour with her on Zoom, it’s almost impossible not to be inspired to get out there and start working on dismantling racist structures and historic disenfranchisement. And also, maybe even to sign up for her yoga class.

 

Psychology Month Profile: Courtney Gosselin

Courtney Gosselin
Courtney Gosselin was one of 25 students from Canada and the UK who worked on the COVID-19 Coping Study between March and August. Part of the study was letters people wrote to their past selves (pre-pandemic) and future selves (what they thought at the time would be post-pandemic).
About Courtney Gosselin

Courtney Gosselin

“Find time for yourself, life will slow down, and that’s okay. Take time to learn lessons, take time to really appreciate everything. You are strong, creative and independent, which will all come in handy.”

  • Anonymous, writing a note to their past self during the pandemic

Courtney Gosselin is a graduate student in clinical psychology at Acadia University. She’s doing her Masters-level research with Dr. Karen Blair and Dr. Diane Holmberg, and as COVID-19 has overwhelmed most of our lives, their research has moved in that direction as well. Dr. Blair and her colleagues embarked on a large-scale COVID-19 coping study. At the end of the survey, there were two questions – one was a message to a past self, before the pandemic began. The other, a message to a future self several weeks later.

The questions were inspired by a video made by Italian filmmaker Olmo Parenti called 10 Days Later. In the earliest part of the pandemic, when Italy was being hit harder than nearly any country in the world, Parenti asked Italians to record messages to themselves just ten days earlier – what did they wish they had known just ten days ago?

“What you might think is coming is not nearly what is coming. What is happening is much, much worse than what you thought it could be.”

  • Anonymous Italian citizen, 10 Days Later video

The Italian 10 Days Later video was filmed in early March. At the time, it was intended to be a warning to the rest of the world. It was estimated that at the time, France and the United States were about 10 days behind where Italy was in the progression of COVID-19, and the hope was that people in those, and other countries, would see this and take the virus seriously.

When Courtney and her group began asking the two questions developed by Dr. Blair, it was much further into the pandemic. Like, a few weeks further into it, which in March and April was a fairly large passage of time in which an awful lot happened here in Canada. She and fellow Acadia student Abbey Miller developed a coding scheme to look at the more than 500 responses.

There was at least one person who advised their earlier self to “Buy Zoom shares, sell Air Canada, don't worry about toilet paper.”, but very few were so self-serving. What Courtney and her team were struck by was the overall tone of hope, the positivity, and the more optimistic and encouraging series of messages. Advice to take time for self-care, to slow down and enjoy the little things in life. The encouraging messages were ten times more common than the discouraging ones.

“This is a chance for you to connect with the part of yourself that thrives on solitude, thinking, listening to nature, watching the sun rise and set.”

While the messages to past selves were largely optimistic, the messages to future selves were a little different. A lot of them would fall into the category of “hey, self – is it over yet?” Says Dr. Blair, “none of us thought it would go on this long either. Now that we think about it, instead of asking them to write to themselves six weeks from now, we should also have asked them to write for six months, or a year, from now.” Some participants stayed in the study for four weeks, and often their future messages would be the same week in and week out – how are things NOW?

“As the world opens up, how do we cope with physical distance, the funerals that have been postponed and loss in general (not due to COVID sickness but impacted by its limitations)?”

Courtney and Dr. Blair say they would like to do another survey of this kind with a different set of questions to see if the optimism and hope that they saw back in March and April has remained. They would do it a little bit differently though, as logistically this one was a bit of a nightmare for their lab. Software, time zones, and other factors came into play and resulted in a group of students going into the lab almost every night to send out the surveys manually, from 6 pm in Newfoundland to 6 pm in BC.

It was, as a result, a very labour-intensive study to run. Especially for the students, like Courtney and the 24 others from Canada and the UK who worked on it between late March and early August. At the beginning, as the pandemic was just hitting Canada and the study was just beginning, they were running on adrenaline. The need to get something done, the need to find a way to help during the COVID-19 crisis, drove them to work longer hours and search for answers.

If they were to do it again now, would they have the same motivation? Would they feel the same urgency, almost a year into the pandemic? It’s tough to say – just as it’s tough to say whether the responses would have a similar tone today as they did back in April. As one participant said,

“Am I still being a positive person?”

Psychology Month Profile: Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor
We kick off Psychology Month 2021, Psychology And COVID, with a profile of Dr. Steven Taylor. Dr. Taylor’s book ‘The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease’ was published in October of 2019
About Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor

“I knew a pandemic was coming, we all did. But I didn’t think it would be quite so soon.”

When Dr. Steven Taylor says “we all” knew a pandemic was coming, he means infectious disease experts, world health authorities, epidemiologists and mathematical modelers - and psychologists like him, who work in this space. He does not mean the rest of us – the general public who were, for the most part, blissfully unaware that such a global disaster was looming. Those of us who thought of pandemics and epidemics as something that devastated one part of the world while staying mostly contained to that region. Ebola, SARS, H1N1 – we’ve lived through those and, as regular Canadians, they haven’t changed our lives a whole lot.
Cockerell nudibranch

This time, the pandemic has changed our lives. And although he saw it coming, Dr. Taylor was not exempt from the disruption. Of course clinical work, teaching, research, and interviews have all been moved online. This is something for which Dr. Taylor’s unit was better prepared than some others – but it is his leisure time passion that may have taken the biggest hit. He loves scuba diving and super-macro photography. In December, when news of the pandemic first broke in Wuhan, he was in the Galapagos taking extreme close-up portrait photos of colourful sea slugs and other marine life. Thankfully, there is some interesting marine life to photograph off the coast of BC, but those opportunities are understandably fewer and farther between than they once were.
Amphipods
Dr. Taylor’s initial publisher was one of us regular people in the sense that they thought of a global pandemic as an ethereal, far-off concept. When he wrote his book The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease, his American publisher rejected it. Who wants to hear about some unlikely hypothetical catastrophe anyway? Thankfully, a second publisher thought there was some value there and agreed to publish the book. It came out in October. Of 2019.

It is the first comprehensive look at the psychology behind every aspect of a pandemic. The initial public response. Panic buying. Conspiracy theories and xenophobia. Adherence to, or refusal to follow, public health guidelines.

“What really surprised me was that all the phenomena that had been described previously unfolded almost like clockwork throughout 2020. It’s one thing to synthesize the historical literature and say X, Y, and Z are what happens – it’s a completely different thing to see those things happening in real time. That’s the astonishing thing for me – that everything that has happened before is happening during this pandemic, except on a grander scale and faster.”

Dr. Taylor points to the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and the fact that we are all digitally interconnected as the reasons for the acceleration in behaviours humanity has seen before. There was a major backlash against a public mandate to wear masks back in 1918 during the so-called ‘Spanish Flu’ outbreak. There were conspiracy theories during a Zika virus epidemic a few years ago that never really went away, and are being recycled today as the conspiracy theories we see pop up on our Facebook timelines related to COVID. All that was old is new again.

“There’s a very interesting article from the New York Times in 1918 where they cited one of the health authorities. He thought there was some credence to the theory that the ‘Spanish Flu’ was being caused by German U-Boat submariners coming to shore in Manhattan, getting out of their U-Boats, and going into cinemas to spread germs.”

It is stories like this, and interviews with epidemiologists and disease modelers, that convinced Dr. Taylor that The Psychology of Pandemics was an important endeavour. Those interviews, and those stories, resurfaced in 2018 with the centenary of the 1918 flu pandemic. As he absorbed those stories he realized that a plurality of infectious disease experts believed that there would be a global pandemic within the decade. And that it would be a flu, likely caused by a corona virus. Dr. Taylor also recognized that there was a surprising lack of psychological literature on the subject.

“It’s all psychological. Psychology is essential to the spread of these diseases – that is, people choosing to travel – and also essential to containment, because all containment measures require people to do agree to do stuff. Agree to wash your hands, to cover your cough, to get vaccinated, to wear a mask, to maintain physical distancing.”

Dr. Taylor and his team have, of course, been staggeringly busy since the first mention of the virus in Wuhan, and have been studying the psychology of COVID-19, specifically, since December. They have published 6 or 8 papers, and have another 5 or 6 under review (it’s tough to remember exact numbers when you’re doing so many!)

“There has been more research conducted on pandemics in the past 12 months than has been conducted for all other pandemics in the history of human existence.”

There is now enough material for a second Psychology of Pandemics book, describing how all the phenomena we see are interconnected. From vaccination non-adherence, to mask rebellion, to disregard for distancing, to COVID-related emotional distress, excess alcohol consumption, and general coping during lockdown. None of which is particularly new, but all of which has a new context and better data and can build on the historical findings laid out in the first volume.

Dr. Taylor believes that people are resilient, and that we are not going to be wearing masks for the rest of our lives or becoming germophobes. We will one day get back to doing the things we love to do, even though that is likely to come too late for him to take his scheduled scuba diving trip in South Africa in June.

There will, however, be another global pandemic. Hopefully it is decades away, and not two months after the release of Volume 2 of The Psychology of Pandemics. But when it does arrive, we will be better equipped, as global citizens, to handle it. We’ll be more prepared thanks to the work Dr. Taylor did putting together the historical information last year, and the work he and his team are doing to learn everything they can this year.

Will the follow-up book be called The Psychology of Pandemics Volume Two: I Told You So? Almost certainly not. But it could be.

Spotlight: CPA Campus Representative Kaytlin Constantin

Kaytlin Constantin photo
photo credit Bianca Sabatini Photography

Emily and Lucy

One of these days, and hopefully sooner rather than later, Kaytlin Constantin is going to kick someone in the ribs. She was scheduled to compete at a kickboxing tournament in May, but it got postponed. And postponed again. And postponed once more. She’s looking forward to the day it actually takes place, but is hoping she will not be competing in the 55-and-older division by the time it does. Rib-kicking is much worse for you when you are 55 and older. In the meantime, kickboxing helps with confidence, and with determination. Kaytlin says,

“A trainer I once had told me ‘What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you.’ So when I’m going through a tough time I tell myself this, that maybe it’s an opportunity for growth. To me it means, some goals can be hard, but that it also means you’re growing toward something or achieving something.”

Despite the ups and downs of 2020, Kaytlin is still growing toward something. She is, like the rest of us, kicking it at home. She is a CPA Campus Rep at the University of Guelph, which means she’s involved in all aspects of the campus rep program. She describes it as being the middle person for all the other reps. That means organizing and helping the other student reps to fulfil their duties, being a liaison between students and the university, and also between students and the CPA.

The Campus Rep job is primarily about making connections and helping navigate processes. Students who want to become CPA Student Reps, who want to present at the CPA Convention, or who are looking to submit articles to Mindpad, the newsletter publication written, edited, and published by the CPA Section for students.

Kaytlin did her undergrad degree at Lakehead, where she was a CPA Undergrad Rep. That means she’s been repping the CPA for about five years now, and seems to have no intention of stopping here.

“When I was an undergrad rep, I led a workshop for other students to help them create posters for the CPA convention. It was the first experience I had in more of a leadership role. Learning what the CPA convention is all about, and becoming familiar with the guidelines and expectations, was a big step in my journey to take on more leadership roles and duties.”

Perhaps Kaytlin’s lengthy involvement with CPA helped paved the way for her success. As a fourth year PhD Candidate in clinical child psychology, Kaytlin holds a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards available for Canadian graduate students. With this funding, she has been working on her dissertation, supervised by Dr. Meghan McMurtry in the Pediatric Pain, Health and Communication (PPHC) lab, which focuses on better understanding the way parents respond when their child is in acute pain, like during a needle procedure. Related to this, she and a team of clinicians and researchers have been working on a virtual intervention for parents and children, to help kids manage their fear of needles. Which, it turns out, is an even more timely research project than anyone could have imagined nine months ago.

TAKE FIVE WITH KAYTLIN CONSTANTIN

What is the psychological concept that blew you away when you first heard it?
The idea of self-compassion, recently, has been huge for me. The notion of responding to your own pain and suffering with the same warmth and kindness that you would to a friend. What’s amazing is how strong an effect that can have on someone’s overall well-being. I used to think being critical of myself made me a better student, researcher, clinician. But I’ve come to realize through my work in this program, and through my research, that self-compassion is an empowering and beneficial psychological skill to practice.

Favourite book
I have a favourite type of book. I like memoirs and autobiographies. I like learning about peoples’ life experiences, and I think that when someone has had a very different life experience from your own, to learn about that person’s life and to develop more perspective. Recently I’ve read Educated by Tara Westover, and Born A Crime by Trevor Noah.

Favourite word
Right now, I think I’d have to say ‘certainly’. I’ve always struggled with my confidence, and appearing confident in my work. And I feel like sometimes adding the word ‘certainly’ can help me feel more confident.

If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes who would it be and why?
I’m going to say AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). I think she’s just phenomenal, and her advocacy around racial, economic, social justice, environmental issues is so inspiring. I would love to be able to pick her brain one day, or just shadow her for a day to see what her days are like and what her strategies and approaches are for the work she does.

If you could become an expert at something outside psychology, what would it be?
Probably something related to politics or policy works. I feel really passionate about making psychological services more accessible. Often in my day-to-day work, I feel that a systems-level change is needed, and we can’t separate health, including mental health, from socio-economic and demographic factors. And so, I think that it’s important for those of us in a position where we have a voice to be able to advocate and work toward making services more accessible and inclusive.

Kaytlin always knew she wanted to work with children, and is well on her way to doing so. Growing up in the small Northern Ontario mining town of Marathon, she never thought the path to working with children would have been psychology – her only exposure and knowledge of the discipline was through movies and television. Like the therapist who shows up in some episodes of Law & Order: SVU. But a particularly inspirational high school English teacher began to speak about the human condition, and the human mind, in the context of Shakespeare and other classic works. That teacher told Kaytlin about all the various paths psychology could provide, and she determined she was going to learn about the mind, and why people do what they do. Now here she is, just a few years later, preparing a five-week therapeutic intervention to help kids manage their fears.

Growing up in such a remote community, Kaytlin has been keenly aware of some of the impediments to receiving psychological services. She knows first-hand how geographic location can be one of the biggest barriers to receiving needed care and attention. With the intervention she’s planning, she sees the benefit of tele-psychology, especially for people in more remote locations. She also sees the more rapid embrace of technology, accelerated by the pandemic, that has allowed some of those barriers to be lessened.

Ah yes, the pandemic. It’s sort of impossible to talk to anyone now without discussing it in some way. It’s keeping us cooped up inside, preventing us from meeting at large conventions, and canceling kickboxing tournaments indefinitely. Kaytlin is taking it all in stride, and says she has been lucky enough to be able to work from home, continue with her dissertation and clinical activities, and carry on with her duties as a CPA Campus Rep, like organizing workshops – it’s just that now, they’re over Zoom. She’s especially interested in getting other students involved, whether they be collaborating with another psychology student association or signing up to be a CPA Undergrad Rep.

“It’s a great opportunity for networking, as well as a chance to develop some more leadership skills. Getting connected with other psychology student associations, becoming informed about what kind of psychology initiatives they’re involved in, and helping support and promote a community in psychology has been a wonderful experience.”

And the kickboxing? It seems like one of those sports that would be difficult to do while maintaining physical distancing. To keep up with training, does Kaytlin have anyone in her bubble who could be a willing (or unwilling) sparring partner?

“I have had to get creative…I think maybe some friends from my gym would be willing to mask up and hold pads to train, we’ll have to see! Life does go on!”

Life does, indeed, go on. Kaytlin will get her PhD. More people will connect to psychologists through remote internet platforms. Children will overcome their fear of needles. And some day, hopefully sooner rather than later, Kaytlin will earn points in competition for kicking someone right in the ribs.

Spotlight: CPA Student Mentor Emily Cruikshank and Mentee Lucy Muir

Emily Cruikshank photo

Emily and Lucy

In 1958 a woman named Sue immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong. She faced a language barrier, culture shock, and a brand-new community into which she was entering. It must have been quite difficult, but also quite fascinating, to experience everything that was new and different about our country. Emily Cruikshank thinks about Sue, her grandmother, a lot. What frightened her? What amused her? What did she find overwhelming, and what did she take to right away? And how did she manage to make connections with other people despite all the obstacles?

Emily thinks about Sue because her experience has been very different. Emily makes connections quite easily, sometimes in ways that come as a surprise.
Lucy Muir photo
When students sign up for the CPA’s Student Mentorship program, they fill out a questionnaire that, much like a dating site, pairs them with a mentor or mentee that shares common traits. Are they looking to follow a similar career path? Is their reason for choosing psychology aligned with that of the other person? What are they looking to get out of their school, their courses, and their affiliation with the CPA?

Every now and then, the partnership that is formed goes well beyond the commonalities identified by that questionnaire. Such is the case with Lucy Muir, an undergrad psychology student at Ryerson, and her mentor Emily Cruikshank, a PhD student at the University of Alberta.

Emily is really into popular music – the way pop songs affect people, the way they influence culture, and the music of history that shapes the music of today. Before going to Ryerson for psychology, Lucy spent six years working across Canada in the radio industry.

TAKE FIVE WITH EMILY CRUIKSHANK AND LUCY MUIR

What is the psychological concept (bystander apathy, confirmation bias, that sort of thing) that blew you away when you first heard it?
Emily: So many! Psychology is such a rich and interesting field. But one that really shook me has to do with situational attribution or the idea that the role you are given can impact your behaviour so much. When I first learned about the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Shock Experiment I could not believe that people could do such awful things based on suggestions. But once I understood the motivation behind these actions I realized that none of us are that far off from “shocking” an innocent person!
Lucy: The rubber hand illusion! That’s and experiment where the participant has one hand out on the table, and their other hand is hidden behind an object. Then the researcher puts a rubber hand where that hidden hand would ordinarily be, beside the real hand. Then the researcher strokes your hidden hand and the rubber hand at the same time. Eventually, the participant feels the sensation IN the rubber hand. They feel as if that rubber hand is part of their body!

Do you have a sport? What is it and do you watch, play, follow it?
Emily: I am slowly getting better at long-distance running, and I love following some of the big long-distance runners in Canada and all over the world. But my all-time favourite sport is Rhythmic Gymnastics. I was on a provincial-level team when I was a young girl and I fell in love with the strength and beauty of the sport. I think it is such an amazing combination of athleticism, dance and art. My mom and I always watch the world championships and the Olympics together.
Lucy: Both of us are long distance runners. When I’d go for a long run, weird stuff was happening in my brain, and that’s one of the things that got me into psychology – I thought, ‘I want to know more about what is going on!’

If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes who would it be and why
Lucy: As I’m answering all these questions, I’m thinking maybe I want to be a Broadway star! I’m always thinking about Broadway. So I’d love to spend a day in the mind and shoes of any of the cast members of Hamilton!
Emily: Oh my gosh, right!? I totally agree. Anyone from Hamilton. But I still think I would choose my grandma when she first came to Canada. I have always been so amazed at her strength in coming to Canada from Hong Kong and wondered what it must have been like for her.

If you could become an expert at something outside psychology, what would it be?
Emily: I would love to be an expert in popular music. It’s an area I love, I took one class in my undergraduate degree on the topic, and I think it is so cool that you could become an academic on something that impacts and changes our culture so heavily and at such a quick pace!
Lucy: There’s so much! But I would probably say physics, like quantum physics or something. I was really into math in high school and I didn’t go anywhere with it, but I’ve always found it fascinating.

Favourite word
Emily: Empower
Lucy: Burrito

Lucy is a passionate long-distance runner, and gets out to run every day as she finds it helps her mental health, especially during this pandemic where she is stuck inside so much of the time. Emily is also a distance runner, and has done 10k races and half marathons.

And, of course, they share a passion for psychology. When Lucy describes being blown away by the rubber hand illusion, Emily chimes in right away – that WAS amazing, wasn’t it? She expands on the concept, describing how that particular phenomenon has led to some interesting therapies for people with amputated limbs.

Theirs is a symbiotic mentor-mentee relationship. They meet about once a month, and Lucy tells Emily all about what she’s doing, and where she might need help. Recently, she needed some clarification on the very broad concept of ‘consciousness’.

“I just talked to Emily about it. I wasn’t quite getting what consciousness actually was, and we basically talked it out. Emily wasn’t giving me a quick nice definition for what it is – because that might not even exist – but we just talked it out. And now I get it a lot better. We also talk about just general school things, like doing classes over Zoom, and that’s pretty great.”

It’s pretty great for Emily as well. When the opportunity came up to become a mentor, she realized she wished she had had one herself as a young undergrad. So she signed up, was paired with Lucy, and they entered the program together. But that was only the beginning for Emily, who became quite inspired with the process – enough to extend her mentorship far beyond just the CPA program.

“I got really excited about [being a mentor] because I’m a big advocate of mentoring, especially for people who are looking to move forward in their studies in psychology. When I got into grad school, I wanted to participate in bridging the gap between people in undergraduate work who were interested but maybe didn’t know what options were out there. I’m really happy that the CPA is doing this kind of program because I think it’s so helpful. My program at the University of Alberta has their own internal mentoring program, so I’m also mentoring a student in the first year of their Masters program. I even do some work at my undergrad alma mater [MacEwan University] where I go into one of the 400-level classes each semester and do a Q&A about graduate school with them.”

Imagine how Sue’s life would have been different had she had a mentor when she arrived in Canada. Someone to show her who the Chinese-speaking community was, where to find the groceries she wanted, how to navigate finding employment, housing, and education for her family. Even without a mentor Sue managed to overcome all the hurdles she faced, with a strength that impresses Emily to this day.

Sue passed down some of that strength to Emily, who now shares some of it with Lucy. Lucy brings a strength of her own to Ryerson, to her studies, and to this partnership with Emily. Together, they are better off than they would be alone – and the fact that they enjoy speaking with one another is a nice bonus.

Perhaps one day they can meet in person, maybe at a race weekend half-marathon event somewhere in Canada. In the meantime, Emily will complete her PhD and go into the clinical work toward which she’s been working. Lucy will make her way through psychology studies, her future and a variety of career paths wide open to her. She says her initial attraction to the discipline came from sport psychology. Emily jumps in.

“My husband was telling me how these e-sport teams even have their own sport psychologists now, who work with them on their training for video game competitions. They do it in Korea and China, and I just thought wow – that’s a whole other level of sports psychology!”

So how about that for a career path, Lucy? Sports psychologist for a Korean team of Super Smash Brothers experts?

“Yep, done. Decision made. This is now what I’m working toward, officially.”

Spotlight: Alejandra Botia, Chair-Elect of the Student Section of the CPA, and the Student Representative on the CPA Board of Directors

Alejandra Botia

“To know how to persevere
when the way grows long
and does not end
To find in the roots the answer to
this undeciphered story”

– Fonseca, ‘Vida sagrada’

Alright, these are not the actual lyrics to the Fonseca song ‘Vida sagrada’, they’re a weak English translation to the Spanish lyrics. Fonseca is a Colombian singer, and ‘Vida sagrada’ is a song about war, conflict, income inequality, and environmentalism. And, despite such heavy subject matter, it will make you want to get up and dance, just as Alejandra Botia said it would. If there’s one thing Alejandra knows (besides psychology) it’s salsa dancing.

Alejandra has only recently begun to reconnect with her Colombian roots (like salsa dancing, and Fonseca). She and her family moved to Canada when she was 12 years old, and she began quickly to detach from her country’s culture. She stopped listening to Spanish music, she started focusing entirely on the English language, and becoming integrated into Canadian culture. She became a competitive swimmer, and started the journey of lifelong learning that led her to psychology.

Alejandra is currently pursuing her PhD in Counselling Psychology at UBC. She is the Chair-Elect of the Student Section of the CPA, and she is the Student Representative on the CPA Board of Directors and will be for the duration of her term as Chair-Elect, Chair, and then Past Chair of the section. As is the custom. The way of a student in psychology is long, and does not necessarily have an end to it – but Alejandra says the experiences along the way are invaluable.

“The main reason that I wanted to become chair-elect, and be on the board, is that throughout my experiences as a student I’ve become really passionate about student engagement and professional development. It’s all about the opportunities that come up along the way that make our educational experience that much more rewarding than if you’re just going through courses and doing what you have to do.”

TAKE FIVE WITH ALEJANDRA BOTIA

What is the psychological concept that blew you away when you first heard it?
The concept of bystander apathy blew my mind in a way. It was a simple way to understand something that always seemed complex in my mind. It always seemed odd that people could see others in need of help, and yet their actions were not helpful. I was trying to understand what happened in those situations, where people just kind of froze. A better understanding of this allows me to act differently in a situation where someone needs help.
I was at a restaurant at my sister’s birthday dinner, and there was a car that crashed straight into the store across the street. Thankfully it was late at night and it was closed, so no one was inside. I remember the sound was so loud, everybody came out of the restaurant and they were standing, assessing what had happened and I think assessing whether someone needed help. But I noticed that it wasn’t everyone who got closer to see if that person needed help, and not everybody was picking up their phones to call 911. It was only a few people who were doing that, while everyone else was kind of standing still. That was a situation where I thought about bystander apathy, and how it affects our ability to help someone who might be in need.

Favourite book?
One of my favourites I’ve read recently is Untamed, by Glennon Doyle. It just speaks to so many issues that I feel passionate about. It touches on body image and eating disorders, and also on the idea of gender – becoming a woman. How much of that process in the world we think is natural, but really a lot of it is learned.

Favourite quote?
“Breathe, let go, and remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure” – Oprah Winfrey
I think COVID has some influence over why that’s my favourite quote right now, and also going through this PhD process where there are so many moving parts that demand my attention. I need to remember that if I don’t find ways to stay present and mindful, that time just goes by. And it goes by quite quickly.

If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes who would it be and why?
I’ve been following Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for a while now. I would love to be in her brain for a day. I find her so confident, and eloquent, and strong. I think what I admire the most about her is how she doesn’t allow what others think of her to stop her from taking a stand on what she believes.

If you could become an expert at something outside psychology, what would it be?
I’d have to say the ocean. When I was little I wanted to be a marine biologist. I think that’s because when I was five, I thought that meant you would just get to play with dolphins all the time. But I’m still fascinated by it now, and I think if I could be an expert in ocean matters, that would be amazing.

Alejandra chose psychology because she wanted to learn how to help people by facilitating their work toward accomplishing their goals and experience higher levels of wellbeing. Over many years of study, she has become passionate about the intersection of psychology and areas of social justice. She’s extremely interested in how psychology can influence change at the societal level. Being a CPA board member has helped in this pursuit, not only as an inspiration but as an affirmation of those passions.

“One of the ways being part of these initiatives, and being on the board, has really helped me is that I can take that passion and learn how to transform it in a practical way. I’m learning how to take action, how to communicate with the rest of my team, brainstorming ideas so we can best benefit the Student Section. But also it’s teaching me to speak up, and learning that it’s okay to speak up. Bringing forward new initiatives and new ideas where there are people who will hear you, and who will support you. That’s what has made this a really wonderful experience already.”

Alejandra is not simply content with making the most of the opportunities afforded her as the Chair-Elect of the Student Section or the Student Representative on the CPA Board. She is also keenly invested in breaking new ground. For example, she and her cohort recently created the Counseling Psychology Student Association. She is proud of what her team, including Katie McCloskey , Syler Hayes, Sarah Woolgar, and Christopher Cook has accomplished in a short time. As Chair-Elect, she coordinates the mentorship program and contributes to newsletters, the adjudication of student grants, and to the annual conference by helping with the organization of the student section events.

Along with some teammates, she will soon be leading a workshop on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Alejandra’s main job, of course, is to work in collaboration with the Executive Team, continuously reflecting on how they can better serve our student community. All this while pursuing her other passions in the field of psychology – women’s leadership, vocational growth, and factors related to resilience in eating disorders. So what inspired her to take on even more on top of all this, to become as involved as she has in the future of Canadian psychology?

“I think one thing that drew me to it is that I’m becoming more and more involved in understanding matters relating to the intersection of psychology and social justice. So learning how to come prepared, how to be ready to speak about it, and stand by it without fear of what might happen, was a major part of what I hoped to gain by getting involved. And I have!”

Some time ago, Alejandra gave up competitive swimming and started to focus on salsa dancing. Despite the pandemic, she’s able to keep up with her lessons – she met her partner salsa dancing, and so the two of them can get some dancing in at home, in those fleeting downtimes where there is no school, and there are no executive duties, to which she must attend.

Re-connecting with her Colombian roots has been transformational for Alejandra. As Fonseca sings, she is finding in her roots the answer to an undeciphered story. It’s a story she’s currently writing, in a project she has tentatively called ‘Letters to Stella’. Stella was Alejandra’s grandmother, with whom she was very close. Stella would sometimes visit from Colombia, and Alejandra would sometimes go there to visit Stella. Sometimes, when she’s feeling down or overwhelmed, she thinks about Stella and what she would say to her in those moments. So she had this book idea where she’d be writing letters to Stella.

“She was always cheering me on and just so curious about my life.”

Were Stella alive today, there is no doubt she would be fascinated, and proud, of Alejandra’s life. She is pursuing her dream, she is re-connecting with Colombia, she’s dancing away in her apartment, confined by COVID with her partner. But of course, this is just the beginning of Alejandra’s life, and her journey. As Fonseca says;

“The way grows long, and does not end.”

Except that Fonseca, like Alejandra, says it in Spanish.

Alejandra Botia salsa dance team.

Spotlight: Ece Aydin, CPA Undergrad Representative for the UBC-Okanagan campus

Ece Aydin.
Ece Aydin has lived in the same place now for three whole years. This is unusual for her, as she has previously moved around all over the world for her entire life. Ece came straight out of high school into psychology at UBC Okanagan – but high school was in Dubai. Born in Turkey, Ece moved to Europe when she was five. There was a time where her family moved back to Turkey, and since then she has gone to an international high school in countries all over the world. Her three years at UBCO are maybe the first time in a long time she has spent three years in just once place.

Ece decided she wanted to study psychology when she was fifteen. She was fascinated by human behaviour – how our thoughts influence our behaviour, and vice versa. She was comfortable with hearing problems and anxieties from her friends, and she was good at helping them out. Now, a few years later, Ece is a third-year psychology student at UBC Okanagan, and this year became an Undergrad Representative for the CPA. A straight line academically, if not geographically.

“The things I’m learning blow my mind every single day.”

After Ece finishes her undergrad, she hopes to go to grad school – and stay in the same area. She hopes to be able to do her grad school in Vancouver, and after that a PhD in counselling psychology. Her passion is child and developmental psychology, with an eye toward adolescent psychology and addiction one day.

“I really believe in early interventions. As a child we can be molded into any type of person. Especially with disorders as children, like ADHD or autism, I feel like diagnosis in early years is really important for children to be able to navigate their lives in the future.”

When it comes to addiction, Ece really feels that early intervention is key, but also that the stigma society places on those who suffer can be overcome. That people who have substance use difficulties can be accepted, and integrated into society, in a more accepting way than they currently are. The destigmatization of addiction is something that comes up often in our conversation.

TAKE FIVE WITH ECE AYDIN

What is the psychological concept that blew you away when you first heard it?
I think it was something I learned in one of my psych classes in grade 11. It was the first time I heard about the fundamental attribution error. Which basically means that when we make a mistake, we tend to blame external factors, like our environment. But when someone else makes the same mistake as we did, we tend to blame it on their personal flaws. I never knew that I was actually doing this, until it was defined and had a name associated with it.

You can listen to only one musical artist/group for the rest of your life. Who is it?
It’s probably Amy Winehouse, as depressing as that may sound. But it’s very peaceful for me, and it has a lot of sentimental meaning for me as her album was one of the first birthday presents I remember receiving.

Top three websites or apps you could not live without and why
My messaging app, because I have to keep in contact with people, especially right now. There are people I haven’t seen in many months with whom I like to be in constant contact. Also the CNN international news, because I kind of get anxious when I don’t know what’s going on around the world. And for the third one…I guess Pinterest. I like the whole ‘organizing’ aspect of it.

If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes who would it be and why?
That’s a very hard question. I remember when I was a kid seeing Doctors Without Borders on TV, and I think I would really like to see what that’s like. To see how it is that they’re so selfless that they go into situations that we couldn’t even imagine.

If you could become an expert at something outside psychology, what would it be?
Definitely art. It’s something I do in my personal time, and I would want to be an amazing artist, or an art critic. I want to be able to see a piece of art and define right away what it is, what the story behind it is, and what emotion they’re trying to convey.

“Whoever you are, and whatever addiction you might be going through, that doesn’t define you as a person. That’s just something you went through. And I hope to get out there and help others understand exactly what addiction is.”

As she began her second year at UBCO, Ece was looking for ways to become more involved. Student life had to be more than just attending and passing classes, right? She found the CPA website, and saw that they had Student Members and Student Affiliates. She found the Student Representative on the campus, and discovered that they were looking for an Undergraduate Rep. It was, as Ece describes, the lucky break she had not even been aware she was seeking.

“It’s really nice to be part of a psychology network where there are so many researchers and students like me. I find that I learn so many interesting things all at once when I get newsletters from the CPA.”

Of course, with COVID, the life of a CPA Undergrad Rep is not exactly like it has been for previous students in the same position.

“I haven’t been able to do anything yet this semester…I wanted to host workshops, and events, and things like that to introduce myself to other psych students – explain to them what the CPA is and the benefits of membership. But as you know, the pandemic has changed a lot of plans. We’re going to send out social media posts so anyone who is on our campus can join, and get to know us. But of course everything is going to be virtual.”

This also means that not only has Ece been living in the same place for three years, she has now been confined to the same place for eight months. Maybe this is a welcome rest, although being an undergrad psychology student, coupled with being a CPA Student Rep, does not make for the most restful of lives. What it does mean, however, is that Ece has been able to focus on her environment, and her studies, for as much time as it takes to know what she wants, and where she wants to go.

“I am going to help people in my life. This is what it’s all for, in the end.”

Spotlight: Chris Schiafone, CPA Campus Rep at the University of Guelph-Humber.

Chris Schiafone examining corpus callosum from underside of a brain model.

“Chris is awesome. He’s an awesome person to work with, and he’s taught me a lot. And even just in terms of accessibility I’ve learned so much. He’s implemented a lot of things at Guelph-Humber that other people just didn’t think of because they didn’t have an accessibility problem. I’ve been really thankful to work with Chris.”
– Angelisa Hatfield

Chris Schiafone is totally blind, but he wasn’t always. He had a little bit of vision when he was younger, and says he’s fortunate to be able to remember what things look like. It means that if you were to describe the spokes on a wheel or the shape of a pear, that he can visualize that pattern or shape. For people who are congenitally blind (since birth), however, these are more difficult concepts, and they will require a different kind of description of something. It makes things more difficult, in different ways, for a myriad of visually impaired people. And Chris advocates for all of them. Everything he has been doing in his four years of psychology has centred around trying to make the field of psychology more accessible for students with vision loss. All this with the hope that one day, there is a correction to the under-representation of visually impaired STEM students.

Chris is the CPA Campus Rep at the University of Guelph-Humber. He was formerly the Student Rep, a role now filled by his protégé Angelisa. Student Rep is just one of several roles Chris plays on the Guelph-Humber campus. He is also a committee member at Humber College for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. He was a presenter in Halifax at the 2019 CPA Convention where he and his brother were facilitators of a forum called “Understanding the Needs of Disabled Students”. And in September he presented, with his research team, a CPA-hosted workshop called “Making Science Accessible: A Co-Design of Non-visual Representations for Visually Impaired Students”.

All of this is, of course, challenging. But it was the challenge that drew Chris to psychology in the first place. He had just completed a diploma in social service work at Seneca College, and was looking for something that would test him in a myriad of ways. While he knew psychology would be difficult, he says he had no idea what he’d be walking into on his first day.

“Scientific content can be very challenging for somebody who is visually impaired. There’s an average of about 11 images for every 1,000 words in a scientific textbook, like a psychology textbook. It’s very difficult for someone who’s blind to scale through that kind of material.”

While his passion for confronting and overcoming challenges was what drew Chris to Guelph-Humber and psychology, it was his Social Service work background at Seneca that he credits for imbuing him with the spirit of advocacy.

Chris’ very first advocacy project outside of psychology at university began almost the moment he got to Guelph-Humber. When Chris first started there, four years ago, there was no Braille in the building at all. So in his first semester, he spent the whole summer working with the CNIB orientation and mobility instructor trying to learn the building and the campus. Chris is a guide dog user, and what that means is that he has to learn the building himself, and then try to teach the dog. And once he got his schedule for school, he had to train the dog to know where his lectures would take place.

Even once all those things were done, it was still very difficult. Every hallway had dozens of doors. Some lecture halls have two doors. Chris was still not completely sure he was walking into the correct classroom, despite the hours upon hours of orientation and dog training. So he advocated. Through the first semester. Into part of the second semester. Have Braille signs put up in the university building. He wrote up a document explaining it all, things like Braille signs are best suited to be on the side of the door near the handle so a person with vision loss can read the sign and find the handle at the same time.

TAKE FIVE WITH CHRIS SCHIAFONE

What is the psychological concept that blew you away when you first heard it?
The bystander effect, for sure. I’d say that because we talk about humans helping humans, and about people doing things in society, organizations that are reaching out to help for every cause under the sun. But then there’s this whole concept of the bystander effect, and it’s like “well, I’m not going to help, because somebody else will”. And it’s like, why would you wait for somebody else to do that if you can? I’ve witnessed this personally, and that’s why it’s one of the most fascinating things. After I learned about it in school, I started to be more mindful when I was doing things, to see where  this actually occurs. And unfortunately, it probably occurs more often than we’d like it to.

Do you have a sport that you like to watch or play, and what is it?
Not an avid follower, but I do follow hockey a little bit. I find it to be one of the best sports being commentated. There’s a lot of talking, and I find it much easier to follow. I watched football before I lost my vision, but now I find following football too challenging.

If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it and why
Possibly…a journey through experience. I’d call it that because I don’t want to write it as ‘look at me I’m totally blind’, but rather as a journey of someone who starts as a low-vision person, and ends up totally blind. What that journey looks like in terms of education, in terms of finding work, and finally in studying neuroscience. Finding out that I had a big interest in neuroscience, and what that meant – what I had to do – to make that happen. And the supports as well – you can’t always do everything yourself. And we need help more often than we think we do.

Top three websites or apps you could not live without and why
I use a few apps that are made for the visually impaired. One I just started using again is called BlindSquare. It’s a GPS navigation app for people who are visually impaired. We can punch in addresses and it’s almost like using a Garmin or a TomTom or another regular GPS device. Google Maps actually works quite well too, so I do use both, depending on which one gives me better data! Also, I’ve always used Zoom, but since the pandemic started I’ve had to get to know Slack and Microsoft Teams, sometimes at rapid speeds which included accessibility testing to make sure I am able to use them with Screen Readers.

Favourite quote
No. I kind of have my own, that I live by. I actually closed my presentation at CPA last year with this one. “Know your goals and the pathway to get there. Don’t let any barriers stand in your way. Persistence and a positive attitude will get you where you need to go.”

At the time, Chris believes he was the only blind student at Guelph-Humber. He says his younger brother had studied there previously, but he just managed and didn’t worry about Braille. But for Chris, it comes down to different ways of learning things. Something that he takes into the rest of his schooling as well.

“If you do not have any vision, you start to lose out on some of the content that your peers have. That can even come down to learning styles, like if you’re somebody who learns better by seeing a diagram, or a 3-dimensional model. The 3D model is fine, but the images are not there for somebody like us unless they’re made into something tactile like a raised-line graphic. That’s not something that traditionally just happens in the classroom, unless the professor has prior knowledge around accessible content creation and is really, really on the ball with inclusivity.”

Now that Guelph-Humber has Braille throughout the building, Chris is confident and content in the knowledge that the next blind student who attends will have an easier time navigating the campus as a result, and that was reason enough to make sure it got done.

When we spoke for this interview, Chris expressed his love for music, and especially the work of Van Halen. He chose David Lee Roth over Sammy Hagar as his favourite lead singer, but that was a marginal call – it was the music he loved most. Sadly, Eddie Van Halen passed away from lung cancer shortly after we spoke. Just another thing to make 2020 a little bit more difficult.

Another difficulty is that COVID has forced Chris to do his 2020 schooling online, he’s a little apprehensive. Mostly about how the online content will be structured by his professors. Chris is not the kind of person who tackles an issue when it arises. Rather, he’s the kind of person who anticipates the issue ahead of time, and works out a way to ensure that the issue never comes up. Before starting any course, he reviews the entire syllabus and identifies the potential stumbling blocks along the way. He then meets with his professor to outline those potential challenges in order to have a plan in place. This may not be possible in the current school year, which presents a whole new set of tests for both Chris and his professors. He says he has a couple of particularly engaged profs; Deena and Amanda were extremely instrumental in ensuring access to their courses, even if it meant one-to-one time explaining challenges related to content specific to their Quantification and Neuroscience courses.

“I’m a big fan of neuroscience, which is where my recent Thesis research and CPA Workshop came from and a lot of my research stems from neuroscience. And in that class the professor, Dr. Mandy Wintink, did some things that were very simple, but very helpful. For example, the professor was giving a lecture on the neuron, and I was sitting there trying to visualize what it could possibly look like. How is it structured, where are the dendrites, all these different components of a neuron. Unless it’s explained in very specific terms, it’s challenging to picture what a neuron might look like if you’ve never seen it or felt it. So Dr. Winktink went out and bought candy. And she put us in groups where we made a neuron graphic on a piece of paper using candy. 3D models can be very expensive, sometimes into the thousands of dollars. So it’s not the expectation that we’d have a 3D model of a neuron just sitting there. But she found a way to include me 100% in the class through a simple activity that is likely MUCH more cost-effective.”

If there’s one thing to know about Chris it’s that not only overcoming challenges but also anticipating those challenges, is his thing. It’s what he does regularly, and what he does best. We can be certain that he will continue his schooling, his advocacy work, and his exemplary work as a CPA Student Rep through 2020 and beyond.

Postscript: RIP, Eddie Van Halen.

Spotlight: Mentorship Program creator Zarina Giannone

Zarina in the House of Commons

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
– unknown

Zarina Giannone lives by the principle of creating, grasping, and making the most of every opportunity she can. When I spoke with her, we attributed this quote to Winston Churchill – almost everyone does. On further investigation, however, there is no evidence that Churchill ever said this. The earliest known utterance of a similar sentiment was by the Mayor of Carlisle, Bertram Carr, in 1919, as he addressed the Fifty-First Annual Cooperative Congress in the middle of a global pandemic.

The provenance of the quote is, of course, immaterial. It is quite likely that this was a saying that circulated England for many years before being transcribed from Bertram’s speech. I just happen to be the person who has the time to look up such things as the provenance of quotes. Zarina Giannone is not that person – she is too busy seizing real opportunities.

One of those opportunities was her election to the CPA Board of Directors as the Student Representative. Zarina had been a student rep, and from there took on role after role until finally making this step in the first year of her Master’s. She says of her three year term on the CPA Board,

“Seriously, it goes down in the books as the most important part of my training to date. Even counting my seven years of graduate school, the experience [of sitting on the Board] was the most valuable to me. Because of the people I met and learned from, but also just to see the system, how it works across the country. After my term ended on the board, I was elected to the BC Psychological Association Board, where I’ve just now come to the end of my three-year term. I’m now a senior student, and with the experience I had with the CPA Board, I have a lot more to contribute.”

There are many important parts of Zarina’s training, not all of them academic. For many years, she was an elite-level soccer player, going to UBC on an athletic scholarship and playing for the Thunderbirds for the duration of that scholarship. In fact, she focused so much on soccer at that time that she neglected her studies a little bit – it was her boyfriend at the time (now fiancé – more on that later) who encouraged her to dive more heavily into her studies, and her love for the field of psychology took off from there.

Zarina’s experiences as a high-performance athlete come in to play all the time for her now, as she works with sports teams as a mental performance consultant. In her job at the Vancouver Psychology Centre, she provides two different services, broadly speaking. One is performance related – how do you achieve peak performance, how do you get around barriers like choking or performance anxiety. The other is on the clinical side, where she deals with clinical psychological issues in sports. These might be anxiety-related, depressive symptoms, trauma-related challenges, disordered eating, and that kind of thing.

All these things – soccer, scholarships, the CPA Student Rep Program, the Student Section, the Boards, the job at Vancouver Psychology Centre, are opportunities Zarina has seized when they presented themselves. But she is also, by nature, a creator of opportunity as well. In 2015, she was learning about the systems-level approach to education and psychology from her position on the CPA Board of Directors, and also representing students on the section level as the Chair of the Student Executive.

TAKE FIVE WITH ZARINA GIANNONE

What is the psychological concept (bystander apathy, confirmation bias, that sort of thing) that blew you away when you first heard it?
There are so many… psychology is so rich with little tidbits that are mind-boggling, and I’m always impressed with something new. One specific thing might be attribution error. It’s peoples’ tendency to underemphasize situational factors when explaining other peoples’ behaviour, and to over-emphasize personality-based factors or dispositional factors to explain behaviour. The more I work with clients, the more I see that error happening. People attribute the behaviour of other people to being a bad person, or a mean person, versus something that was happening for or to that person in their own context.

Do you have a sport that you like to watch or play, and what is it?
I got into soccer very early, before I was 5. I played with an older age group, went into the provincial program and then into the youth National program. I got recruited to UBC on scholarship in Grade 12, and played out my scholarship at UBC. I also got a chance to play one season at Cardiff University in the UK. After I came back, I took up boxing and suffered a back strain, and so that changed things a lot – I play just for fun at this point, I like the co-ed leagues where I can push the guys around. Soccer still holds a huge place in my heart, and I love watching international tournaments whenever they happen. Go Italia!

You can listen to only one musical artist/group for the rest of your life. Who is it?
This one’s a bit embarrassing… one of my favourites is Sean Paul. He was really big when I was back in high school. I don’t care where I am, when I hear a Sean Paul song it puts me in a good mood and takes me back. If I could have anyone perform at my wedding, it would be Sean Paul.

If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes who would it be and why
One of my role models, and a person that’s so interesting to me, is Michael Jordan. I’ve always been a huge fan, and I think he is a textbook case study of drive and competitiveness, and obviously his track record of being the best player of all time. I’d love to spend a day in his brain to see how he does it. And I think if we could take a little of that and spread it throughout sports, then sports might change a lot.

If you could become an expert at something outside psychology, what would it be?
I attribute this to my experiences being on the boards I’ve served on. I think it’s in politics. We want so badly to effect change within our field of psychology and we do – at the individual, group, and sometimes organizational level. But to be able to have that kind of impact on a systems level, on a larger scale, I would love to be able to effect change in that way. To really represent and advocate and be involved in changes that I see as important.

She noted issues and challenges that she had experienced as a student – having to be really resourceful throughout the various steps of her training, and not having enough information available and accessible to her. Out of this need, the Student Mentorship Program was born. Zarina realized that connecting students with one another across the country could alleviate some of these stresses for students just starting out, by pairing them with older students who had gone through the same process and could direct them in constructive ways.

Mentors are graduate-level students, while mentees are undergrads or early graduate level students. Most psychology students, by virtue of the fact that they are taking similar courses in similar subjects and following similar career paths, have a lot in common. They share a career passion and a course load, for example. But Zarina thought there could be more to the mentor-mentee relationship than simply subject matter.

When students signed up to be on either side of this partnership, they would fill out forms. What area are you hoping to go into? What are some of your interests? What would you like to get out of the mentoring relationship? Once those questions had been answered, Zarina and her colleagues from the Student Section Executive would match mentors and mentees based on shared goals, interests, and other commonalities. Kind of like a matchmaking service, in a non-romantic sense. And one that proved to be a little bit COVID-proof, since students were connecting virtually with mentors from universities all across Canada for the program.

Not all things, however, are COVID-proof, and not all things are non-romantic. Though Zarina says she hasn’t had too many problems with school, or work, since the pandemic began, one big thing remains undone. Remember that boyfriend, now fiancé, who encouraged her to get more into psychology? She was scheduled to marry him in Mexico, in November.

Even the most prepared among us, those accustomed to turning every difficulty into an opportunity, are sometimes confronted by a disappointment beyond our control. It is in this case that Zarina sees that one opportunity that exists in all circumstances – the opportunity to learn something.

“We’re going to postpone it, and hopefully have it in November of next year. Or…whenever it’s possible. We’ll figure it out, we’ll work through it, we’ll learn. I think it’s such a privilege that our whole lives we can be learning. I’m always reminded of the things I don’t know. On his death bed Michelangelo was in the middle of painting a fresco, and he told someone near him ‘ancora imparo’. ‘I’m still learning’. That’s kind of my attitude too.”

Zarina is far from the end of her days, as she is just starting her career in psychology, has just finished her PhD, and is about to start life as a married person. That leaves a lot of life, and a lot of learning, to do. And Zarina is on her way to experiencing it all.

Postscript: Michelangelo really did say ‘ancora imparo’ on his death bed, that quote checks out.

Konrad Czechowski

Konrad Czechowski
Konrad Czechowski was the recipient of the Jean Pettifor and Dick Pettifor award in 2019 for his work to include transgender and non-binary people in scientific studies.
About Konrad Czechowski

Konrad Czechowski

Too often, trans and non-binary people are left out of scientific studies. Large data sets get collected, then split into the two largest (and therefore easiest-to-work-with) cohorts – men and women. So what to do with the trans or non-binary people who answered the survey, or participated in the study? Unfortunately, their data is often jettisoned in the process of simplification. Konrad Czechowski is on a mission to fix that. And it was this project that earned him 2018’s Jean and Dick Pettifor Award from the Psychology Foundation of Canada.

The estate of Jean Pettifor established a scholarship fund for graduate student research.  The award supports graduate student research projects in the area of professional ethics with respect to the practice of psychology. It is designed with a special focus toward diversity – as examples they cite ethnicity, gender, and disability.

Konrad hopes to figure out a good method to ensure that trans and non-binary people are included in psychological research, and the right way to go about doing it. What kind of terminology and questions might offend them? How can researchers design their studies to make this population feel included? How can we create experiments that are specifically designed in a way that this oft-marginalized group has a voice as strong as that of their cis-gendered peers? Konrad is on his way to figuring that out. Figuring things out is something he does well.

There are a few canards in psychology, and maybe the most common one is that psychologists know an awful lot about undergrad psychology students. This stands to reason – the most available group to any university student is their peer group and classmates. The bulk of the studies done by that cohort are done ON that cohort – and so is born a canard.

This is one of the data-collection issues psychologists must overcome once they start doing larger and more involved studies outside of a classroom. But while they’re in school, what to do? Konrad Czechowski had a pretty clever solution. Of course, he’ll tell you it was luck and happenstance. I happen to think it was good planning.

Konrad did a study on non-consensual condom removal. He became interested in the subject when media reports started mentioning “stealthing” – the secretive removal of a condom during sex without informing your partner. Those reports appeared to indicate that this practice was on the rise, that it was becoming a pervasive problem among young people and on college campuses.

That was good news for Konrad – he was already ON a college campus! The University of Ottawa campus, to be exact, where he had access to all those university students about whom these stories were being written. If you can’t get another group to participate in a study, create a study for the group you have!

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0219297

Konrad says his study was about “non-consensual condom removal” or, NCCR as the kids call it. It is NOT about “stealthing”, as the media calls it. The “non-consensual” part of the phrase is clearly the most important part.

A genial PhD student with a wide smile, Konrad is generally reserved and affable, with a quick laugh and a quick wit. His eyes twinkle when he talks about his childhood dream of becoming a professional volleyball player, doing the circuit somewhere in Eastern Europe. He’s charmingly self-deprecating when he talks about how he lied about his height to play his position, and how he realized that he would never grow the other foot he needed to fulfill that ambition. And his passion for the sport comes through in his eyes when he talks about his previous volleyball coaching experiences.

It’s in emphasizing the “non-consensual” part of NCCR that Konrad’s eyes harden. While his study on NCCR was designed for journal publication, he has become invested in seeing a change. He recalls the truly reprehensible message boards he encountered while researching this phenomenon, boards that insisted that men have a right to women’s bodies to be treated as they please. And sometimes much worse. While Konrad makes a point to say that this is not the only reason someone might engage in NCCR, or the most common reason, it’s clear he has been affected a fair amount by going down that particular internet rabbit hole. Given the high prevalence of NCCR he observed in his sample, he speculates that most perpetrators of NCCR may have a range of other motivations for perpetrating it, something he hopes to investigate in future research.

He even enlisted the help of a law scholar to write about the potential Canadian legal implications around NCCR, in the hope that it one day gets written more specifically into Canadian law. Given the high prevalence of NCCR he observed in his sample, he speculates that most perpetrators may have a range of motivations for perpetrating it, something he hopes to investigate in future research.

It was while studying NCCR that Konrad got his next idea for a study that can hopefully close some of the gaps in psychological research. The NCCR study surveyed 592 undergrad students, then split them into two groups – male and female. What did the men think of NCCR? Was it a different assessment than that of the women? How many gay men had NCCR perpetrated against them vs. straight women? All of this was available in the data set. They surveyed 153 men and 435 women, giving them a substantial set of data for both.

But what of the other 4 undergrads? The ones who, by virtue of being transgender or non-binary, did not identify as either a man or a woman? What do you do with their answers? There are a few options, none of them great. You can take the biological sex of their birth and lump them in with that group. You can leave those who identify as binary-trans with the current gender with which they identify. You can ask them to pick one or the other. Or you can, as so many studies do right now, just exclude them entirely from your data sample. The more often this happens, however, the less heard trans and non-binary voices will become. To Konrad, it didn’t seem right to exclude them from the study but it also didn’t seem right to force them into another group without telling them that’s what he’d be doing.

And so Konrad has embarked on his new project – how best to include trans and non-binary people in psychological research. His study on trans and non-binary data inclusion is just getting under way, partly funded by the Jean and Dick Pettifor Award he received last year. For the time being there are no results to show, but he hopes that when he’s done he will have created a more inclusive, leave-no-person-behind process for future studies of a similar nature.

In the meantime, he and two colleagues are putting the finishing touches on a three-pronged study that overlaps a fair amount. One is studying “ghosting” – the practice of, rather than breaking up, simply ignoring the other person and blocking them so they go away. Another is looking at the sharing of nude photographs, without the receiver’s consent.

Konrad’s portion is ‘disproportionate reactions to online rejection’. Much like his initial look into NCCR, this project stemmed from the truly startling things he heard from female friends. Rejection that leads to death threats, rape threats, stalking and escalating demands. (Send me more nude pictures or the ones I already have will be sent to your family and your employer and pasted all over school.) And his research has, once again, involved some disturbing and misogynist messages his participants shared with him, reporting on the threats they received after rejecting people online.

The three of them are hoping for acceptance to present their findings on this study at the CPA 2020 convention, and have submitted their symposium proposal. So you might see Konrad there, talking about the project he did while he was doing that other project and starting this third project. All of which had the perfect research subjects right there in the building – undergrad students! Konrad’s friends and his peers. And, one day, the students who will be sitting in his chair. Making the world a better place through studies of their own.

Spotlight: CPA Undergraduate Student Rep Angelisa Hatfield

Angelisa Hatfield Vancouver gardenAngelisa Hatfield has been sitting still for an entire hour. She’s on a Zoom call, and stuck outside on her boyfriend’s porch – the result of having a hole in her own room repaired while she temporarily resides five minutes away. I get the sense that sitting in one place for something like a Zoom call is atypical for Angelisa, who is always on the move.

We’re talking about psychology, and the CPA student rep program. Angelisa is just starting her second year as the undergrad student rep at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto. Guelph-Humber does only undergrad programs, so that makes Angelisa one of only two student reps on the campus (the other, Chris Schiafone, is the campus rep).

“It’s a small school, so you get to connect with students a lot more. I’m so involved on campus that everything is kind of intertwined for me now. I did research with the assistant program head in facial recognition, and then working at the front desk at school under the main office’s supervision, working in student services – everything connects so quickly that it kind of blurs the lines between my roles.

For example, I’m now doing CPA events with Career Services, because my career coordinator is so good at planning events, and she has so many ideas, that we thought ‘why not just collaborate – no reason to be doing this separately when we could be doing it together’. So now we’ll do something like a big psychology dinner, bringing the CPA’s connections in with the school’s connections. We’re talking about bringing Addiction Rehab Toronto (more on them later) in for coffee time chats.

Guelph-Humber is one of those communities where there’s a lot of community connection and involvement, and I’ve found myself being the networking tool, especially remotely!”

Before she started her university career in psychology, she considered other fields – she thought about nursing, social work, radiology, cardiology…the list goes on. Basically, she knew she wanted to be in what she calls the ‘helping fields’ – somewhere where she could impact the lives of other people. Psychology seemed like a field where you could learn a LOT of different things, and the inclusion of a co-op program at Guelph-Humber meant she could get hands-on experience helping people. That sealed the deal.

Even now, in the summer months away from school and in the middle of a pandemic, Angelisa is helping people every day. She is a volunteer at Addiction Rehab Toronto (A.R.T.) a private rehab centre in Toronto, and she shows up randomly even when she doesn’t have a volunteer shift. ART is a lot like Angelisa herself, in that it has a wide variety of interests and specialties. It offers a nutrition program, group therapy, CBT and DBT, mindfulness activities, psychotherapists and addiction counselors…the list goes on.

TAKE FIVE with Angelisa Hatfield

What is the psychological concept that blew you away when you first heard it?
For me, it’s the self-fulfilling prophecy. It was a huge realization that our thoughts have more power than we thought they did. And also how when we impose our thoughts on other people sometimes it can influence them too. I’ve thought a lot about how self-fulfilling prophecy interacts with racism. For example if a teacher has an idea about a certain student of a certain race, and thinks they’re going to behave a certain way, then they treat them that way, and that student begins behaving that way. It becomes this cycle that fulfills itself. But you can also use it on the positive side and if you think positively you can bring about positive things in your life and that of others.

Top three websites or apps you could not live without and why
Definitely news apps. I need news. Not knowing what’s going on makes me scared. Also Twitter, that’s the social media I’m on all the time. It’s a place where people can dump their ideas and feelings and people can relate to each other. And it’s funny sometimes to watch people argue while you sit with popcorn. And the last one is Google – I use it all the time, any time I don’t know something we’re Googling it. And it’s something where if you spent two minutes on Google you can spare a lot of time arguing with someone, or saying something ignorant.

Favourite book
It sounds really cliché, but it’s Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It’s a good book and I could really relate to it at the time. It kind of introduced me to mental health in my pre-teen years. And another is It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. Both of these were books that were about mental health that were adapted into movies that I didn’t hate. And they were books that needed to become coming-of-age movies.

If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes who would it be and why?
I’ve always wanted to be an eagle, or a hummingbird. Just having the ability to fly, and go wherever you want whenever you want and make a home wherever it is you land. I also feel like birds have a sense of community – you hear one bird chirp, and then three others come, and they’re never alone. For me it was always birds. My next tattoo is a bird. The hummingbird reminds me of myself, always zooming around from one thing to another, always with others and arguing and moving. And the eagle reminds me of my heritage. I’m from the Azores, an island off Portugal, and there’s an eagle in our flag.

If you could become an expert at something outside psychology, what would it be?
Everything, ideally. But if I had to pick just one thing, it would probably be architecture. Or home design. Or environmentalism, animals, biology, and how the ecosystem works.

“Addiction is a [field] where you don’t have to choose a specialty. You can learn a little bit of everything. There are people who have all sorts of mental health problems, and all sorts of backgrounds. I was struggling with ‘what do I focus on – just schizophrenia, just PTSD, just eating disorders’ but at an addiction centre you deal with everything because everyone has something. It’s a very diverse place, so it’s a great way to get a lot of perspectives and world views from a wide variety of people.”

Angelisa collects diverse perspectives and world views, and has about as open a mind as anyone I’ve ever met. She recognizes in herself the desire to learn everything she can about every subject she can, and she will move on quickly after learning something to whatever is next. She can’t listen to the same artist twice in a row on her phone’s playlist, and will skip and move on. She identifies with hummingbirds, who aren’t content with sampling just one flower, but who flit from one to the other so they can take in the absolute most that the field has to offer. The only thing consistent in this constant movement is that the learning she does is geared toward just one thing – helping others.

She says that one thing learning psychology has meant for her is that she can no longer get annoyed with other people. Even if they’re behaving in a way that’s injurious to her, or doing something she knows to be wrong, she understands at a base level why they’re behaving that way, and for that reason interpersonal anger is not an option.

In fact, she has a tattoo of a bee – because, she says, ‘even though life stings, bees are necessary’. With that logic, you can’t even be mad at a bee that stings you!

Even COVID is not making Angelisa angry, it’s something that gives her an opportunity to maintain her connections and forge new ones remotely as she plans for the upcoming school year. Where she will continue to volunteer with ART, work in student services, be involved in every aspect of campus life, and get on with being a CPA undergrad student rep. Much like everything else she does, Angelisa thinks of her nomination to be a student rep as a sort of happenstance.

“I got really close with my program head and with Chris (Schiafone, the Campus Rep), and they said I’d be a good fit. [Being an undergrad CPA rep] was something that I just fell into randomly, but I’m glad that I did. It opened up a lot of doors and it let me use my background and skills the way I wanted to. Chris has given me a lot of freedom with it, and let me take it where I want it to go. So it’s been nice.”

For this, her last year at Guelph-Humber, Angelisa will serve as CPA undergraduate rep and complete her bachelor’s degree. After that it’s on to more learning and more schooling. And then? Maybe she’ll continue working in the addiction field, where the variety of the job is appealing. Maybe as a researcher, or a clinician, or something else entirely. Maybe all of it at once.

Along the way she will find time, every now and then, to sit in one place and do one thing for an hour. Even if it’s to get a hummingbird tattoo that matches the bee.

Spotlight: CPA Graduate Student Affairs Officer Melissa Mueller

“You’ll never be more than a 70s student.”
Some Grade 12 math teacher in Calgary, one time

Melissa Mueller boxingMelissa Mueller is a fighter. Figuratively speaking, that is, in that she’s determined and focused. In Grade 10, a friend mentioned in passing that she was able to talk to Melissa about her problems without fear of everyone else finding out. She decided at that moment, in Grade TEN, she would become a psychologist. Two years later, her Grade 12 math teacher told her she’d never get better marks than 70s. She determined then and there that her goal would be to obtain a PhD. She’s currently a few steps away from obtaining a PhD in psychology.

Melissa is also a fighter – literally. She is a boxer, and trains at a local gym in Calgary (Rumble) when she’s not at school. “It’s a way to blow off some steam”, she says – and as busy as Melissa is, it’s important to make time for self-care and relieve the pressures of school, practicums, COVID, and everything else.

As it has for almost all of us, COVID has created some stress for Melissa. As she returns to the University of Calgary in the fall, all her classes are now online. But as a TA, she does have to go to the campus to teach a lab. As a school and applied child psychology student, any practicum that she does will likely be in a school setting as schools re-open with a lot of uncertainty. And as the CPA Graduate Student Affairs Officer, the process of recruitment, retention, and communication with Graduate Student Representatives across Canada has changed a good deal as well.

TAKE FIVE with Melissa Mueller

What is the psychological concept that blew you away when you first heard it?
Something I found out while learning about CBT – which is the way we can separate thought from emotion… that you can change the way you think about things which can change the way you feel about them which can in turn change your behaviour.

You can listen to only one musical artist/group for the rest of your life. Who is it?
Noah Schnacky, a country singer I discovered on TikTok. He’s quite young, so he’ll be building a catalogue for many years and I can hear all the new stuff that way!

Favourite book
Anything by Nicholas Sparks. I think my current favourite is Safe Haven.

Favourite word
“Gregarious”. I had to learn it while studying for the GRE, and I think it sounds amazing.

If you could become an expert at something outside psychology, what would it be?
Interior design. Right now I go to Pinterest for all my ideas, but it would be pretty cool to be able to create spaces with the knowledge and intention to facilitate a certain atmosphere or “feel.”

She always struggled with math in high school. Trying to keep numbers in her head while doing a calculation was not her strong suit, and she would get confused and mess up even relatively easy equations. What turned things around for her was a pretty simple accommodation. At some point in math class, as you start to do more advanced things like algebra, calculus, and trigonometry – they let you have a calculator. Now Melissa no longer had to keep all those numbers in her head, and she could focus on the important stuff – the actual math problems.

It was struggles (and solutions) like these in school that led Melissa down her current path. She is in the School and Child Psychology program, because she knows that all children learn things a little differently. She can empathize with them and wants nothing more than to help them overcome similar struggles to those she herself had when she was younger.

Melissa’s last practicum was at a school for kids with severe disabilities. There were many specialists who worked there, in a holistic environment that took into account the idea than few disabilities exist in a vacuum, and there is often correlation between difficulties. For this reason, the school employed psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists among others.

This is one of two dream scenarios for Melissa post-graduation. She wants to work in a school with an interdisciplinary team – and also run a private practice where she has more direct personal control over direction, treatment, and outcomes. It seems very likely she will end up doing both, and few people are likely to dissuade her. Or maybe somebody will tell her she can’t do both – which will all but guarantee that she will.

Spotlight: CPA Undergraduate Student Affairs Officer Nicole Boles

“If you could walk in someone else’s shoes for just one day, who would it be?”

“It would have to be a famous and brilliant mathematician like Nicolas Copernicus, because my brain seems to shut down whenever I’m given a task involving any sort of math. So I feel like being able to switch brains with a mathematician and seeing what happens in their head would be quite interesting.”

It’s not random that Nicole Boles chose Nicolas Copernicus, of all the famous mathematicians. Copernicus was the mathematician and astronomer who, in the Renaissance era, proposed a model of the universe that had the sun at the centre of it, rather than the Earth. He had, one can assume, a very interesting head in which a psychologist could spend a day. He was also Polish.

Nicole Boles dancingNicole is very much connected to her Polish heritage. She still speaks Polish, although she says it’s getting a little rusty and she needs to keep it up so as not to lose it. She has deep connections with the Polish community in Calgary, and at the University of Calgary where she studies. And she’s actually been to Poland, traveling there with friends as part of a Polish folk dancing group. She was part of that group until her third year of university, when she found her specific passion, and quit to focus on her studies.

Now a fifth-year student at the University of Calgary, Nicole is going to apply to graduate schools throughout the year, with an eye toward studying speech and language pathology. She is also working as a literacy instructor by following a one on one literacy program aiming at strengthening children’s oral and written language skills. This was the passion she discovered in third year, and she is heading in a straight line toward the ultimate goal – working with children to help them with speech, language, and communication.

Nicole is also the Undergraduate Student Affairs Officer for the Canadian Psychological Association. That means she manages the student representative program. Recruiting members and prospective applicants, ensuring constant communication with those members, applicants, and current representatives. Nicole also collects and distributes reports from each campus.

TAKE FIVE with Nicole Boles

What is the psychological concept that blew you away when you first heard it?
A recent one is the Whorfian hypothesis. This is, basically, the idea that language influences thought in a certain way. People who speak different languages will construe reality in different ways. For example, Russian speakers divide light and dark blues. That is, they have a term for light blue and another term for dark blue. And research has shown that they can distinguish between these two colours at a faster rate than English speakers. The difference is not that English speakers are unable to distinguish between light blue and dark blue, but that Russian speakers are unable to avoid making that distinction.

You can listen to only one musical artist/group for the rest of your life. Who is it?
I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac, and that would have to be it. And the catalogue would be a lot wider if I can throw in the spinoffs – Steve Nicks solo, the Buckingham-McVie stuff. I actually attended Fleetwood Mac’s final concert, which was very special.

Top three websites or apps you could not live without and why
My camera app. Also Apple Notes, because I always need to write down everything and I need it to be in once place or else I’ll inevitably forget or lose it. And…does the phone app itself count as an app on a phone? Like making phone calls? I need that one too.

Favourite book
My favourite book, hands down, is Kids These Days. It’s a game-changing book by a clinical psychologist named Dr. Jody Carrington. She offers strategies to educators, teachers, bus drivers, etcetera to re-connect with “kids these days”. I work with children, so I could really empathize with certain aspects of this book, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who works with kids or has worked with kids in the past.

Favourite quote
“If you want something done right, ask a busy person.” I feel like there’s nothing truer than that.

“I wasn’t really aware that CPA even existed until [that] third year as a university student. At that point I was now involved in research, and I had found my specialization, and I got a job related to it. At that time I became a little more involved with the psychology association on my campus, and they brought up CPA. It was super-cool to see that there’s this higher-level association working to promote psychology. I knew I was going to want to be more involved.”

Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has not affected her duties as the Undergrad Officer very much – a lot of the job is sending and receiving emails from all over Canada, and very little of the job in the past has been done in person. It’s the school year itself that might be a little more tumultuous, as Nicole will be taking her fifth year entirely online. She realizes that she’ll have to adapt her learning style a little bit, to become more of a self-directed learner than she has been up to this point.

That includes the more difficult assignments and research projects – the ones involving math. Though she may struggle with math, Nicole is driven and ambitious and has a goal in mind. I get the sense that could she actually live for a day in the head of Copernicus, she would emerge a competent, if not a brilliant, mathematician herself.

For the time being though, Nicole is going to struggle through math, adjust to full-time online learning, and complete her fifth year at the University of Calgary. She’s also going to spend the next two years as the Undergraduate Student Affairs Officer at the CPA, helping undergrads navigate this brand new world in which they find themselves.

“I really like working for an organization that allows you to work closely with professionals in the field, and I really want to reach out to undergrads, so I’m looking forward to that. I know that for me personally it was a bit of a struggle transitioning from high school to university, and I’m sure that’s a hurdle that many students face. So I feel pretty proud to be part of CPA, because they strive to make students feel more at ease, more confident, and more supported.”

Nicole is certainly at ease when we speak, and she is confident in her abilities and in her chosen career path. It’s a straight line toward the future, helping children with speech and language difficulties. And it’s also a straight line from the past, a past which Nicole is intentionally bringing along with her. One day, she will be helping with communication in both English and French. And who knows? Perhaps in Polish as well.

Psychology Month Profile: Meghan Norris – The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science

Meghan Norris: The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science

We’re closing out Psychology Month by connecting you with a resource that could help you with one of the career paths you may have read about in February. Dr. Meghan Norris’ open-source book The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science
About Meghan Norris: The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science

Meghan Norris – The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science

Throughout Psychology Month (February) we have been highlighting people who have completed advanced psychology degrees and gone on to work in a field outside clinical practice and academia. Some work in the aviation industry, like Marais Bester or Gregory Craig. Others are business owners, like Susan Underhill and Lauren Florko. And still more are government scientists, like Natalie Jones and Chrissy Chubala.

Part of this campaign has been designed to show people in general what psychology is, and what people trained in the discipline do all around us. Another goal has been to show students what a wealth of possibilities await at the end of a psychology degree. It is in this pursuit that our campaign has intersected with that of Dr. Meghan Norris, a social psychologist and the undergraduate chair in psychology at Queens University.

Meghan has created an open-source (FREE online) book, The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science. It is a guide for psychology students featuring all the things she wishes she had known as a psychology student herself. This begins with obvious practical advice for the job-seeking student. The best way to construct an email, leave a voicemail, or ask for a letter of reference. It moves on to things that might not be top-of-mind. How to dress at a conference. Where to wear your nametag. Which plate is which at a formal dinner setting. And how to practice holding food in your left hand at a reception so your right is free for shaking hands.

The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science contains a lot of information about the possible career paths open to those with a background in psychology. There is a list in the first chapter of all the skills upon which employers are currently placing a premium. They include skills related to leadership, teamwork, communication (written and oral), problem-solving, work ethic, initiative, adaptability, and analytic and technical skills. All areas where Meghan realized psychology students tend to tick all the boxes.

There are some practical and specific job possibilities included in the book, the way we’ve included them in our Psychology Month campaign. Community mental health worker (like Evangeline Danseco), grassroots organizer (like Amanda Parriag), community development (like Troy Forcier), program or project director (like Alexandra Thompson), policy analyst (like Natalie Jones), the list goes on and on. But it does more than that. The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science is designed a little more like a roadmap.

As Meghan says, the earlier students start thinking about this stuff, the more opportunities they’re going to have. The work of career development is incredibly important, but it doesn’t tend to feel urgent for people. You can’t start networking a week before submitting a job application. Chipping away at small healthy behaviours when it comes to a career is a good thing to do as early as you can. And once you have started down the path to an education in psychology, a world of possibilities awaits.

Psychology Month Profile: Leanna Verrucci

Leanna Verrucci
The Director of Marketing and Membership at the Canadian Psychological Association, Leanna Verrucci’s background in psychology has led her to jobs in TV, newspapers, travel, entrepreneurship, and now the CPA.
About Leanna Verrucci

Leanna Verrucci

Leanna has a Master’s in Child Development from Carleton University, and that degree has carried her all over the world, from Toronto to Ottawa and then back to Toronto and then Ottawa. With quite a bit of time in Tuscany tucked in the middle. Leanna is the Director of Marketing and Membership at the Canadian Psychological Association, but her journey to get here has taken many turns.

She has worked in television, as a field producer and reporter for CBC TV and other stations. She started Food & Leisure newspaper here in Ottawa back in the 90s before selling it. She has been a hiking and biking guide, a communications professor, and the Director of Bespoke Travel. There were also stints as a Marketing Manager, a Senior Brand Manager, a Communications Director and, more recently, the Managing Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Algonquin College.

It’s a lengthy resume, and it’s probably longer but I couldn’t be bothered clicking ‘next page’ on LinkedIn. I had just one question for Leanna – how does all this tie together, and how did psychology play a role?

“The one through-line in all my work has been communications. In television, newspapers, travel, and marketing it all really is about communication. In addition to learning how to do research and gather and analyze data, the main thing psychology taught me was how to speak to people, how to listen to them, and the right questions to ask. It’s important as a manager to know what motivates each individual, and how to play to their strengths.”

In the time she has been at the CPA, Leanna has built a cohesive and complimentary team. Yussra, with her sharp analytic mind and quiet persona. Kathryn, who has terrific people skills and a gregarious demeanour. I’m probably good at some stuff too. And, of course, Leanna - who holds it all together with spreadsheets, forward thinking, and strategic plans that make our lives easier and create an environment in which we enjoy coming to work every day.

Psychology Month Profile: Leigh Greiner

Leigh Greiner
As the Director of Research and Strategic Planning for BC Corrections, Dr. Leigh Greiner leads a multi-disciplinary staff on a huge variety of evaluations, assessments, and projects.
About Leigh Greiner

Leigh Greiner

When she was in school, completing her PhD in Forensic Psychology at Carleton University, Dr. Leigh Greiner learned from experts in psychopathy, risk assessment, female offenders, sex offenders, youthful offenders, and more. All were areas of interest then, and all remain relevant to Leigh now as the Director of Research and Strategic Planning for BC Corrections. She leads a talented and diverse multi-disciplinary staff with backgrounds in mathematics, criminology, education, and many other disciplines.

“My education gave me a solid understanding of so many areas of forensic psychology, including where the field has been and where it’s going, and evidence-based practice more broadly in Corrections. As my role touches so many aspects of our business, this breadth of knowledge has been so useful, as have the relationships I built while completing my degrees—many of these relationships I have maintained in my current role and are people with whom I continue to work collaboratively today!”

Day to day, Leigh and her team are responsible for examining the effectiveness of correctional programs, assessing the need for new jails, providing data to inform policy or practice decisions,  working to improve the quality and usefulness of the organization’s data, providing research expertise when developing new correctional programs…and the list goes on. Their portfolio is extremely large, and they are rarely left twiddling their thumbs.

It’s the variety that Leigh enjoys most.

“Every day is different, and each day brings new problems to dissect and analyze… and hopefully solve! I’ll admit that at times it can be challenging to juggle all the various demands placed on our unit, as we support the research and data needs of the entire branch. However, being part of an organization that values evidence and wants to make decisions based on data really makes my job easy.  Being able to see the impact our work has on the organization and, though less directly, on the individuals in custody and those under community supervision makes the job very fulfilling.”

A wide scope of knowledge is great preparation for a wide scope of responsibilities. And in BC, from evaluating programs designed to help offenders to change their behaviour, to determining how effective body scanners are at detecting contraband, Leigh and her team are right in the thick of it.

Psychology Month Profile: Marais Bester

Marais Bester
In the growing field of Aviation Psychology, PhD psychologists are increasingly being hired to help keep air travel safe. One of them is Dr. Marais Bester, a Manager of Assessments and Psychology at Qatar Airways.
About Marais Bester

Marais Bester

Despite some tragic news stories in the past few years, air travel remains the safest mode of mass transportation. It can seem otherwise, as plane crashes make the news far more often than motorcycle accidents and sinking boats. But a lot goes into putting planes in the air, and just as much effort goes into keeping people safe while they’re up there.

A lot of those safety protocols are the purview of a rapidly-growing discipline, that of aviation psychology. Dr. Marais Bester has been in that field for more than five years, since graduating with a PhD in Industrial Psychology from the University of South Africa. Seven months ago, he moved from Dubai to Qatar to become a Manager of Assessments and Psychology at Qatar Airways.

Working with a team of two other Industrial/Organizational Psychology PhDs, Marais is responsible for ensuring that the personnel operating Qatar Airways aircraft are healthy, supported, and working well with their teams. This begins with psychometrics for talent acquisition (the job interview process) and continues through talent development (workshops, trust, resilience and team building).

Pilots must be resilient and cope well with pressure. They also must be one of those rare individuals who are both meticulous rule followers and are able to think on their feet and act very quickly. The cabin crew must be open to diversity and embrace new experiences, and have a high aptitude for teamwork and cooperation.

Like the employees with whom he works, Marais is always learning and changing at his own job. He is implementing best practices and creating new standards all the time. He maintains membership in the British Psychological Society and the European Association for Aviation Psychology (EAAP), to connect with like-minded people in this quickly growing field.

After a tragic incident in 2015 when a German co-pilot took his own life, and the lives of his passengers with him, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has required airlines to have psychologists on staff. This is one of the reasons the field is growing so quickly around the world, which Marais thinks is wonderful – after all, it will make air travel even safer than it already is. He quotes Richard Branson:

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

So Marais and his team take care of their employees, through career facilitation and coaching, career guidance, psychometrics and team building. And in doing so they are not only helping those pilots and crew members in their lives, they are helping to make the skies safer for all of us.

Psychology Month Profile: Natalie Jones

Natalie Jones
A Senior Program Evaluation Officer with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Dr. Natalie Jones says her colleagues and fellow researchers are the highlight of her job.
About Natalie Jones

Natalie Jones

Dr. Natalie Jennifer Jones wears many hats. Singer-songwriter, perpetual learner, yoga enthusiast, cat person. Today though, we’re going to talk about just one of those hats. The one she wears as a Senior Program Evaluation Officer with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

What this means is that she is part of a team that examines the effectiveness and the efficiency of federal granting programs. They determine whether these funding programs are achieving the goals they were designed to achieve. They go into the field to interview the recipients of those grants, they do data analysis, and a vast range of other things on any given day.

(A note for those who are looking to obtain SSHRC grants – Natalie has nothing to do with that process. So buttering her up will not help you achieve this goal. That said, if you want to ingratiate yourself to Natalie for any other reason, volunteer at a cat rescue.)

Natalie completed her PhD in Forensic Psychology at Carleton, and SSHRC was not on her radar as a career option. And while she acknowledges that the job she’s currently doing is outside her area of study from a content perspective, she says,

“All of the research skills, and core analytical skills, that I developed in grad school are highly transferable to my current work environment. Everything from research design to quantitative methods, those are skills that I use every day. So there’s actually a lot of overlap – it’s really interesting, and I love working there.”

Many of us can attest that our co-workers make all the difference in whether we like our job or dread going to work. And so it is with Natalie, whose favourite thing about SSHRC is her colleagues. Half of them work with Natural Science and Engineering Research Canada (NSERC), as theirs is a joint evaluation division with SSHRC. Many have psychology backgrounds just like she does, and many have a background in a wide variety of other scientific fields. They all work together toward a common goal.

“It’s really important to have a group of colleagues that you get along with and that you respect. They’re all very good at what they do – a lot of attention to detail and they care about quality. We’re very like-minded in that way. I’m proud to call them my friends. We help each other out professionally, but I know they always have my back in my personal life as well.”

That personal life is as busy for Natalie as her professional life. Her hobbies include: enrolling in a 16-month graduate diploma program in Public Policy and Program Evaluation, which she completed this past December. She suspects that she will still be enrolling in classes and continuing to learn well into her 80s. She’s involved with cat rescue charities, and planning to get back on stage at her local cafés as a singer-songwriter. It’s a safe bet that when she does, the first three or four tables will be packed with scientists and researchers from SSHRC and NSERC.  Natalie’s co-workers and friends, both in the lab and out.

Psychology Month Profile: Jen Welter

Jen Welter
Dr. Jen Welter is many things – the first woman to coach in the NFL, and the first to play running back in professional football. An author, speaker, TV producer and fashion designer. And also a PhD psychologist.
About Jen Welter

Jen Welter

For much of Psychology Month, we have been putting the spotlight on one job at a time, showcasing the variety of careers populated by people who have advanced degrees in psychology. But what if you didn’t have to pick just one thing? What if you could use your psychology PhD to do everything? Dr. Jen Welter is doing as many things with her psychology PhD (from Capella University) as she possibly can.

She runs girls-only football camps, as well as football-and-tech camps called KickGlass with her partner Mike Brown (former NFL player turned tech entrepreneur). She’s just coming back from being the keynote speaker at VISA’s pitch competition for female founders doing great things in technology and commerce during New York Fashion Week. She’s working on a project with Ryerson University’s Experiential Sports Lab to reach for gender equality in sports media. She’s the executive producer of a TV show called Fangirl, set to debut soon about two superfans who get a chance to run their favourite college football team. She’s even talking about collaborating on a project with high-fashion designer Vivienne Hu, something more street-savvy than high-end.

Before getting to this point, Jen did a whole lot more. Things no one else had ever done, and that most would never consider doing. She was the first female professional football player in a contact position (running back for the Texas Revolution of the Champions Indoor Football League). The first female head football coach in international competition (Team Australia for the 2017 World Championships). And the first female coach in the NFL (2015 with the Arizona Cardinals). She also played on Team USA twice at the world championships, winning gold medals in both 2010 and 2013 (both times defeating Canada).

She tells us that her psychology training and background has come into play throughout all of this. As a football player and coach, she says

“Even as I was learning things in school I would try them out in my own games. Something as simple as sitting on the bench and looking up at people. Your body posture says a lot, and you would never find me with my head down. That was something I learned in psychology – the way we interpret the behaviour of other people, and realizing that the impact you have on your competition is just as relevant between the plays as it is during the plays you make. I still work with athletes on a lot of that to this day, in both big and small ways.”

Jen, in addition to producing TV, breaking barriers for women in sport, collaborating on fashion projects and encouraging young girls to break through preconceptions, is currently working on a follow-up to her book Play Big: Lessons in Being Limitless from the First Woman to Coach in the NFL. The follow-up will focus a lot more on the lowlights of her career than the highlights. She says it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t get spoken about very often, since we all tend to talk about the highs without truly examining disappointments and struggles. For example,

“My first book got turned down by everyone because they said ‘women in football doesn’t sell’. I mean…I’m pretty sure I was the first – how many times have you tried? I’ve done it on the field, and now I have to do it in literature?”

Then, she sums up her entire post-psychology-PhD career in one sentence.

“It’s constantly answering questions that other people have not even known should be, or could be, asked.”

Psychology Month Profile: Eva Best

Eva Best
Last year, Eva Best earned a CPA award for her thesis on the ‘positivity effect’. This year, she scored a terrific research job at Gameloft, one of the biggest mobile gaming companies in Canada.
About Eva Best

Eva Best

When Eva Best stays up way too late, it’s because she’s gone down a rabbit hole on Wikipedia, researching marine animals and getting more and more engrossed in the nesting habits of the leatherback sea turtle. That, or she’s strumming the ukulele, shredding on her Fender Stratocaster, and making music until the wee hours.

Many of the rest of us stay up way too late playing Overdrive City or Disney Magic Kingdoms on our iPad. And we are the people who are of particular interest to companies like Gameloft. Eva is the manager of the qualitative research department in user experience at Gameloft Montreal, one of the biggest mobile gaming companies in Canada. Psychology graduates, and researchers like Eva, are becoming more and more a part of gaming companies as their particular sets of skills are ideally suited to the job. They allow gaming companies, and really any company that has a service or an interface used by human beings, to make decisions based on reports and data that is accurate, correct, complete, and relevant.

Qualitative research in a gaming company is currently more geared toward usability and functionality. Whether an app works, how easy it is to navigate, and so on. Moreso than in the past, the approach to user experience is a ‘holistic’ one, and people with backgrounds in research – especially those whose research experience is in a multidisciplinary environment – are increasingly in demand.

Eva graduated with her Master of Science in psychology from the University of Montreal, then obtained a PMP (Project Management Professional) certification from the Project Management Institute, precisely so she could get a job like this one.

Last year, Eva’s Master’s thesis on the “positivity effect” earned her a Certificate of Academic Excellence from the CPA. The positivity effect is a phenomenon where elderly adults tend to rate negative stimuli as less negative and positive stimuli as more positive than do younger people. Eva’s research provided a ‘proof of concept’ that this trend appears to be almost a straight line from birth, as children rate their responses to stimuli more negatively than do young adults, who in turn report more negative feelings than older adults, and so on.

Her project proposed a new theory on “lifespan emotional development”. One that put the positivity effect at the peak of development by showing that it can be produced in younger people as well. When they are desensitized by exposure to a negative stimulus, even younger people are likely to rate all other stimuli in a more positive way. Even the most neutral (boring) stimulus can feel more positive under these circumstances.

Gaming makes life less boring while in the waiting room or on the bus, for example. Figuring out how to improve your gaming experience is the goal of the qualitative research department. Who better to help create and ensure a positive experience than Eva? If she can make you as interested and invested in a mobile game as she is in gaming, sea turtles and the ukulele, then mission accomplished!

Psychology Month Profile: Lauren Florko

Lauren Florko
Dr. Lauren Florko is the founder of Triple Threat Consulting, providing managerial consulting for corporate social responsibility, change management, and organizational development.
About Lauren Florko

Dr. Lauren Florko

“Consultant” is such a nondescript term, isn’t it? Virtually everyone can style themselves a “consultant” when writing a CV or a LinkedIn profile. Which is why it’s good that Lauren Florko can get a little more specific than simply saying she’s “self-employed” as a “consultant”.

Lauren created Triple Threat Consulting, a firm which provides managerial consulting for a variety of projects - from corporate social responsibility to change management to organizational development. With a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology specializing in workplace stress, Lauren’s statistics training gave her a competitive advantage over similar consultants who come from a HR background.

Triple Threat Consulting plays on the film industry’s play on ‘triple threats’ as she specializes in Talent Management. The “Triple” also plays on the concept of triple bottom lines (planet and people outcomes on top of profits).

Triple Threat Consulting also fills a unique market need with psychological assessments, thanks to Lauren’s training. This means empirically-based strategies with practical implementations. Statistical analysis and reporting to produce key business insights. And the ability to engage a variety of audiences through keynotes and workshops.

The founder of a Multi-disciplined Research Lab, one of Triple Threat’s clients, says:

“She's doing advanced research methodologies...doing hierarchical linear modeling and item response analysis...She is highly motivated, particularly with high end analysis – she gets excited about that. She is very punctual with delivery."

What Lauren likes most about her job, she says, is the work-life balance it affords her. Well that, and of course the excitement she derives from high-end analysis to drive better business decisions.

Psychology Month Profile: Heather Orpana

Heather Orpana
Heather has a long career in public service, working in three different federal departments. She recently moved into Substance-Related Harms, to help tackle the opioid crisis.
About Heather Orpana

Heather Orpana

This is an excerpt from a larger article written by Dr. Heather Orpana in this month’s issue of Psynopsis. Click this link to read the whole article.

My path to a career in psychology was in no way a straight one. I started an undergraduate degree in science with a specialization in physics before completing two years of a baccalaureate in nursing and then finally switching to, and graduating with, an honours degree in psychology. After spending a summer as an intern at a non-profit organization writing plain language summaries of research studies that would impact patients, I decided to pursue a career in research and applied for my doctorate. I wanted to be part of the system that creates the evidence used to promote the health of the population.

I completed my doctorate in experimental psychology at the University of Ottawa, at the same time that the university was establishing a multidisciplinary program in Population Health. I was very fortunate to be funded by Health Canada’s National Health Research and Development Program, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research during my doctorate and was hired by Health Canada to conduct policy-relevant data analysis before I had finished my program.

It has been sixteen years since I started my career in public service. During that time, I have worked in three federal departments: Health Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Every single position I have held has benefited tremendously from my training in psychological science. My first analysis project demonstrated the relationship between mental health and healthy living behaviours, in 2003, using Canada’s first national mental health survey. After working for several years at Health Canada, conducting analysis, and contributing to data policy and coordination, I moved to Statistics Canada to focus on research and analysis. There, I engaged in research in the areas of healthy weights, healthy aging, and mental health, all informed by my education in psychology.

Most recently, I have been appointed as a Senior Research Scientist and am working in the Substance-related Harms Division, supporting surveillance and applied research contributions to addressing the opioid overdose crisis. In this role, I advise on research methods and conduct research studies to inform our understanding of how the crisis is evolving.

Public health cannot address the complex problems we are faced with in the 21st century without the knowledge and skills of psychological science researchers. I have yet to find a single public health issue that is not informed by our discipline. Even public health issues that may seem like they belong more in a wet lab, such as anti-microbial resistance, can be addressed only with the incorporation of a behavioural perspective. I hope that other psychological science researchers see their value in contributing to improving the health of all Canadians.

Psychology Month Profile: Gregory Craig

Gregory Craig
Dr. Gregory Craig is part of a team of “human factors researchers” at the National Research Council. His work might one day lead to a new frontier in aviation – pilotless airplanes.
About Gregory Craig

Gregory Craig

One day, you might take a flight from Saskatoon to Dublin. There will be in-flight movies, tiny difficult-to-open bags of peanuts, flight attendants distributing cheap headphones and tiny pillows, and free tiny cans of wine once you’re over international waters. There will, however, be one major difference. On this flight, there will be no pilot.

At least, such a thing is possible. But not until a whole lot more studying is done on the subject. Some of those studies are currently being conducted by Dr. Gregory Craig and a team of human factors researchers at the National Research Council of Canada.

Gregory has been involved in a wide variety of research projects. He’s done research on night vision goggles, displays for infrared cameras for search and rescue, and the design of symbolic information displays for pilots. Currently, he’s involved in examining ‘trust in automation’ to assess pilots’ trust in automatic flight systems.  This ranges from basic elements like an off-the-shelf autopilot to looking at fully autonomous (no pilots) flight.

Gregory spent his formative years at Carleton University, earning a PhD in Cognitive Psychology in 1997. While his current role is mostly unrelated to his studies, he credits the people he met along the way for getting him to where he is today.

“There is a wide gulf between what I studied in university and the type of research that I do now.  The main elements of my university studies that helped were basic experimental design, document editing and data analysis. Much of my training in applied research came from one of my supervisors who was employed at the Communications Research Centre and an adjunct at Carleton. He encouraged me to participate in several of the applied research projects that he worked on for CRC. The other source of applied research thinking came from a course for which I was a teaching assistant at Carleton. The course was a basic introduction to sensation and perception, but the prof teaching the course had a large number of industrial design students in the class. For those students, the prof took the time to explain how basic elements of sensation and perception could be applied to the design of systems and products intended for use by the general population.”

One might expect a psychologist to lead project teams, analyze data, submit research proposals, prepare reports and presentations, and manage projects. But maybe not to design and conduct flight tests, evaluate advanced cockpit technologies, and explore human factors issues for pilots, crew and passengers.

So think about Gregory Craig the next time you’re on a plane – it might be his work that enhanced the technology in the cockpit, or designed the display used to navigate. And while you’re doing that, you might want to check to see if, up front in the cockpit, there’s still a pilot.

Psychology Month Profile: Alexandra Thompson

Alexandra Thompson
Dr. Alexandra Thompson is a Program Leader with the NRC working on ‘High Performance Buildings’. Her team aims to reduce energy emissions by identifying industry, scientific, technological & societal issues that can stall the adoption of new technologies.
About Alexandra Thompson

Alexandra Thompson

Alexandra Thompson is helping to devise a vision for future scientific exploration, as a Program Leader with the National Research Council of Canada. She manages a large team and a portfolio of science and engineering projects focused on a strategic goal. Specifically, that goal is focused on the ‘High Performance Buildings’ program.

This program, established in 2013, aims to reduce energy emissions in buildings by identifying the industry, scientific, technological and societal issues that could stall the adoption of new technologies. Alexandra is working at knowledge mobilization (the translation of science to action) to ensure the science is used for environmental change. She also has the chance to encourage younger researchers to develop their careers, scientific interests and to have confidence in their abilities.

In 2007, Alexandra obtained her PhD in environmental psychology and human factors from the University of Southampton in the UK. She says her training has aided greatly with, among other things, knowledge mobilization.

“My psychology training has enabled me to ensure good scientific methodologies and statistical analysis are used and the ethics of a project are considered. Also, working in an engineering multi-disciplinary environment understanding the human and societal implications of an engineering project has helped with the applicability of projects to real world conditions or expectations.”

As climate change becomes more and more devastating, and as environmental concerns become the number one national priority, programs like ‘High Performance Buildings’ will be at the forefront of the effort to curb emissions. Knowledge mobilization to that effect is becoming more critical than ever. We’re glad that Alexandra Thompson, and others like her, are working on those exact things. Bringing about the change that is needed to tackle the most serious issue of our time.

Psychology Month Profile: Robin Langerak

Robin Langerak
Working as a Design Researcher on a suite of business intelligence software tools at IBM’s Ottawa studio, Robin Langerak says “I get to do a little bit of everything I loved about running my own research studies as a psychology graduate student!”
About Robin Langerak

Robin Langerak

It’s convenient when you can find a career in the city where you are completing your PhD. Such was the case for Robin Langerak, who began working at IBM in their Ottawa Studio while completing her doctorate in Cognitive Psychology at Carleton University. She has now been there more than a year, working as a Design Researcher on a suite of business intelligence software tools designed and developed by the Ottawa product team.

Robin provides design recommendations that will help improve the user experience for this software. That involves everything from problem definition to study design and data collection to synthesis and communication of research findings. Psychology has prepared her for all of this in a big way. She says,

“Data collection, storage, and analysis methods that I learned in training are invaluable at my job. I also rely on the understanding of human thought and motivation that I studied in school as well as the techniques I learned to check my bias and measure constructs as accurately as possible.“

The best thing about her job?

“I get to do a little bit of everything I loved about running my own research studies as a psychology graduate student in a fast-paced, high impact environment.“

Psychology Month Profile: Suzanne Simpson

Suzanne Simpson
Dr. Suzanne Simpson founded the talent management firm Human Resource Systems Group Ltd. more than 30 years ago. Now the CEO, HRSG is a global company, hiring people and taking on clients from all over the world
About Suzanne Simpson

Suzanne Simpson

For much of this month, we have been focusing on jobs and careers available to psychology majors once they graduate from school. Suzanne Simpson not only found one of those careers, she helps others find theirs. Suzanne is the founder and CEO of Human Resource Systems Group Ltd. (HRSG), a software-as-a-service talent management firm.

What that means is that her company creates software for human resources departments to simplify their work. Need to build the perfect job description, so you can attract the perfect employee? HRSG has the software for that. Then they have an interview guide built for you, so you can make the correct decision. Now you have a new employee with a job description that puts them and their management on the exact same page. From there, that employee might use one of HRSG’s career pathing programs, complete with assessments and learning resources to help them in their current job today, and to reach their dream jobs tomorrow.

All of this is built based on Suzanne’s training in psychology. She earned her PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Ottawa, and says the training she received there supports the main focus of HRSG’s service and software offering to their clients.

HRSG celebrated 30 years in business in 2019 and offers its services and products to organizations worldwide. HRSG employs professionals trained in Industrial / Organizational and other related disciplines from across Canada and around the world.

It is challenging to build a business, and very rewarding when it comes to fruition. Suzanne takes satisfaction in offering a service that is highly valued by her clients, and embraces the continuous learning and innovation that comes with her role as CEO.

 

Psychology Month Profile: Chrissy Chubala

Chrissy Chubala
Dr. Chrissy Chubala helps naval personnel make better decisions during mission planning and execution. She is a Defence Scientist in Maritime Decision Support at Defence Research & Development Canada’s Atlantic Research Centre.
About Chrissy Chubala

Chrissy Chubala

My name is Chrissy Chubala, and I am a Defence Scientist in Maritime Decision Support at Defence Research & Development Canada’s Atlantic Research Centre. My job is to guide and assist in the development of tools that will help naval personnel make better decisions during mission planning and execution, from the perspective of cognitive psychology. This involves a consideration of human factors, human-computer interactions, team dynamics, and basic cognition.

My training in psychology (PhD, Cognitive Psychology, University of Manitoba 2017) has provided me with both concrete and abstract forms of knowledge that help me in my current role. The concrete skill sets of experimental design and statistical inference are directly applicable to my work, although the constraints and goals of applied research are different enough from those of academia that some relearning and rethinking has had to occur.

Thankfully, the more abstract forms of knowledge provided by my training have positioned me well for this transition. My training in psychology taught me versatility, creativity, and lateral thinking. I have the ability to learn about a new topic very quickly, to creatively apply my existing knowledge and skill sets to new scenarios, and to find connections between seemingly disparate ideas or fields of study. With these abstract skills in hand, I have been able to adapt my more concrete areas of expertise to the requirements of the job.

What I enjoy most about my current position is the level of structure it provides, the direct sense of impact that comes from conducting applied research, and the ability to collaborate and exchange ideas with a very diverse group of scientists.

I receive specific problems to solve but I am free to explore them in any manner I see fit; this provides me with some structure around which to focus my efforts, but enough flexibility to follow my interests. Moreover, the ability to see the direct effects of my research on the lives and work of others is rewarding in a way that my academic career in experimental psychology was not. Finally, I get to work with interesting and brilliant researchers from all areas of study, from physics to chemistry to computer science. Not only do I get to learn new things I would otherwise know nothing about, but my own unique perspective and expertise are a valued part of the whole and I get to teach as much as I learn.

Psychology Month Profile: Amy Bucher

Amy Bucher
Amy Bucher graduated with a PhD from a psychology program that no longer exists, and that made her skill set unique in the post-grad world. She puts those skills to use at Mad*Pow, a design agency that improves peoples’ experiences with technology, services, organizations and each other.
About Amy Bucher

Amy Bucher

“Mad*Pow leverages strategic design and the psychology of motivation to create innovative experiences and compelling digital solutions that are good for people and good for business.”

That is Mad*Pow’s mission statement, ripped right from their webpage. Mad*Pow employs medical doctors and all kinds of behaviour change design experts. But perhaps you would be surprised to learn that Mad*Pow’s behavior change experts come from a variety of training backgrounds. Currently, there is only one person on the team with a PhD in psychology!

That one person is Dr. Amy Bucher, the vice president of behaviour change design at Mad*Pow. Amy brings a unique skill set to her position, and took a rather unique path to get there. She started school at Harvard, doing an undergrad focused on social psychology. From there, she moved on to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbour for her Master’s and PhD in Psychology. Although that is the official title of her degree, it was achieved a little over a decade ago in a program that no longer exists.

It was called Organizational Psychology. It was not an Industrial/Organizational program of the type we see offered now, it was more as Amy describes it a “contextualized social psychology program”. That means that when she graduated she was more of a social psychologist, albeit one with a deep knowledge of workplaces and organizations.

Amy realized as she was nearing the end of her schooling that she did not want to go into academia. That track meant specialization, and she wanted to broaden her horizons rather than narrow her focus. She began to work with other researchers and learned many different research methods before graduation. She learned how to dive into information and deal in the “grey areas”. After all, research is always in progress.

That comfort with the “grey areas” has served her well at Mad*Pow, as often clients will ask Amy for definitive answers on how to tackle a problem. She is adept at explaining that while formative research can provide a direction, it can’t often come up with a concrete and foolproof series of steps to take to achieve an aim. It’s important to experiment with different approaches that are specific to the clients’ customers and their needs to figure out the best solution.

Her desire to broaden her scope is also an asset, as Amy thrives on having a variety of projects and problems to work through. She likes being exposed to new things. She says,

“Right now, I’m leading a project to understand what people with a rare genetic condition might be looking for from an online portal to support their condition management. So we’ve designed moderator guides, recruited people with this condition, and recruited people who serve those with this condition to conduct interviews. We’ll be creating output reports with insights from that research, doing a workshop with the client that we will also design, then translating all the insights from the research into designs for this portal.”

Amy says that before starting this project, she had never heard of this particular genetic condition before (it is very rare). Now she’s had the opportunity to learn quite a bit about it and understand more about the day-to-day lives of the people who live with it.

“I feel excited by this type of new knowledge that I don’t think I’d encounter in any other way.”

She’s also excited at the prospect of some new colleagues. There are many different types of researchers at Mad*Pow (which further helps Amy broaden her horizons as she learns from them), but soon there will likely be a few more psychology grads joining the fold. As Amy says, there are now many great opportunities outside academia for graduating researchers. And working alongside Amy seems like a pretty great opportunity.

Psychology Month Profile: Liane Davey

Liane Davey
A writer, blogger, public speaker, and volunteer board member at the Psychology Foundation of Canada, Liane Davey has made her mark on corporate culture with her consultancy group 3COze.
About Liane Davey

Liane Davey

“You need to have more conflict.”

This is Dr. Liane Davey’s advice to almost every organization with which she works. These include enormous companies like TD Bank, Amazon, and smaller companies like Shoretel. Chris Burgy, former VP of Strategy at Shoretel, says of Liane and her company 3COze,

“Liane supported us in rolling out a methodology for productive communication and conflict to our top 100 leaders in the company. Without a doubt, I fervently recommend Liane to any company seeking to improve their organization’s accountability, communication methods and for those seeking a fantastic facilitator for strategic level planning.”

3COze is named in conjunction with their mission statement. They seek to transform the way people “communicate, connect, and contribute” in their organizations. Liane is the co-founder and principal of 3COze, and brings her “more conflict” approach to CEOs and senior leadership teams around the country and across the world.

She says the number one thing that’s getting in the way of productivity is that people are avoiding conflict and being passive-aggressive. That means conflict sits unresolved causing a lack of productivity, eroding trust and engagement, and causing stress for individuals.

Liane says the things she learned in obtaining her PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Waterloo are the same ideas she puts into practice today.

“It’s very much applied social psychology. So, issues of motivation, team dynamics, conflict, culture, all the sorts of things that are the bread and butter of organizational psychology have been my whole career.”

And what a career it has been! Not only does Liane work with some of the biggest CEOs and companies around the world, she is also an author (her book The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Organization Back on Track is available at online book sellers everywhere), a blogger (at www.lianedavey.com) and a public speaker, bringing her message of productive conflict to corporate crowds everywhere.

She is also a volunteer member of the board of trustees at the Psychology Foundation of Canada (PFC), a charity that brands itself a “child-based (birth-18) mental health promotion organization” thanks in part to Liane’s strategic skills in directing the board and the group. And also her ability to create productive conflict, and not to shy away from uncomfortable conversations.

She first encountered the PFC at a fundraising breakfast twelve years ago, and was impressed by what they were able to do with so few resources. With just a handful of staff members and an army of volunteer facilitators, they were able to create resilience, attachment, and stress management skills in what are now hundreds of thousands of Canadian children every year.

When not writing, blogging, speaking, volunteering, or whipping a group of executives into shape, what does someone like Liane do? Well, she says it’s often important to do things at which you are terrible. With that in mind she just had a Bob Ross paint night with her kids, and the painting now rests proudly in her house. A Bob Ross paint night sounds like just the kind of soothing, mellow thing that might be as far from “conflict” as possible. And even the expert on the subject likely needs a break from conflict now and then, if only for a little while.

Psychology Month Profile: Angela Febbraro

Angela Febbraro
A defence scientist with Defence Research and Development Canada, Angela Febbraro works to create messaging that counters the recruitment propaganda put out by extremist groups like ISIS.
About Angela Febbraro

Angela Febbraro

What messaging does an extremist group, like ISIS, use to recruit young people to join? Is their messaging different for young men than it is for young women? And how can we create a counter-messaging strategy to dissuade those people from a life of extremism? These are the questions currently being tackled by Angela Febbraro and her team of (mostly social psychologists) at Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC).

Angela is a Defence Scientist, and has studied all kinds of issues pertaining to national defence, most of them around gender. Early on, she studied the leadership styles of women in leadership positions in the military. Did they feel the need to conform to a more stereotypically “masculine” leadership style, or were they comfortable forging their own? It turns out that women in those leadership positions did not feel the pressure to behave in a more “masculine” fashion, but at the same time women in more subordinate positions felt this pressure quite acutely.

In discussing the studies in which she’s involved, Angela speaks a lot about context. Early on in her school journey, she was struck by the notion that human behaviour depends in such an enormous way on the context in which that behaviour occurs. Now, after all that school and a PhD in Applied Social Psychology from the University of Guelph, context still matters a great deal.

Yes, the messaging from extremist groups target men and women differently. But counter-messaging must take into account much more than just gender. Angela and her team look at the local landscape in the areas that are being targeted. The culture in that part of the world, the method through which they receive the extremist messaging. A counter-messaging campaign to prevent the radicalization of a young woman in the Idlib Governorate in Syria might be vastly different than one targeting a young man in Maple Ridge BC. Or even one targeting a similar young woman in a neighbouring province of Syria.

There are many highlights in Angela’s job, but she says this, specifically, is the best part:

“The opportunity to apply my expertise (e.g., on gender and diversity, developed during my graduate training in psychology) to current defence and security challenges (to work on interesting/exciting challenges, such as gender and counter-radicalization!); the opportunity to communicate my research findings/analyses through written reports and articles; and the opportunity to mentor junior scientists.”

Angela’s scientific training in psychology, both content-related and methodological, has helped her carry out her responsibilities as a defence scientist. At DRDC her focus is on conducting applied, defence-related research, and broadening her expertise to address current and future defence and security challenges. Her responsibilities include planning, organizing, conducting, analyzing, and reporting basic and applied social- and organizational-psychological research; interacting with the Canadian Armed Forces and other national/international security partners; and building the scientific capabilities of the entire organization.

And currently, of course, using psychology to counter the propaganda of extremist groups all over the world.

Psychology Month Profile: Amanda Parriag

Amanda Parriag
Amanda owns her own consulting business, the ParriagGroup, and spends much of her spare time working in her Ottawa community to end violence against women.
About Amanda Parriag

Amanda Parriag

“Amanda is a star! She has leveraged her MUN education to provide stellar research and evaluation services.  She has become a trusted advisor to her clients and is a leader of Women's issues in Ottawa. She was the president of MediaAction for 8 years, has run Ask Womxn Anything for more than 5 years, and sits on the board of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCEVAW). She has owned and operated her own business for 20 years and for me, she is a friend, a supporter and a role model.”

Susan Underhill is effusive in her praise for Dr. Amanda Parriag, her current colleague and collaborator and long-time friend since university (MUN is the Memorial University of Newfoundland, where they studied psychology together years ago). Amanda obtained her PhD from MUN, but not a lot of her clients know this. She doesn’t refer to herself as “Dr.” and rarely tells people she has a PhD in psychology. That’s because when she does, she finds people behaving a little differently, choosing their words more carefully, and thinking that Amanda is psychoanalyzing them at every turn.

Not exactly her thing – Amanda is a researcher – but on occasion this response can come in handy! Amanda runs the ParriagGroup, a consultancy that specializes in research, evaluation and performance measurement. Her small business has been running for 20 years, and while Amanda is the lead on everything, she works with a team. She has six research assistants and six consultants that she pulls in at different times to complete bigger projects.

The ParriagGroup works mostly with governments and not-for-profits. Recently, she and her team worked with an Ottawa not-for-profit on a program they were doing jointly with another not-for-profit. It was a program to work with women who were potentially victims of gender-based violence, and were intersecting with the child welfare sector. The program was designed to provide an intersectional lens  in supporting the women and their families. It had been running for a few years, but the group wasn’t sure they were helping the women in the way the program was designed. Amanda and her team looked at the location of the program, the governance, how it was resourced, the skill sets of the people working within the program. The ParriagGroup also did a document review to determine what had been written about how these types of programs were supposed to function.

The group took Amanda’s recommendations to heart (always gratifying!) and ran with them. They made some immediate changes, started to implement others, and looked to outsource a few more. Amanda says,

“Hopefully, because of my work, women in the community who are in this frustrating space, intersecting with the child welfare system and potentially experiencing gender-based violence, can get better support. This can help them make better decisions and move forward in a more sustainable and human way.”

This is where Amanda’s real passion comes out. She feels lucky to be living the dream – she works out of a home-based office with the rest of her team spread across Canada. She can carve her day out as she pleases.  And on a beautiful sunny day, she can post an out-of-office and spent time in the pool.

And she also loves the time she can take to work in the community. The focus of her studies at MUN and Carleton was gender-based violence, and she is still doing everything she can in that field.

Susan mentioned Amanda’s work with OCEVAW, and Ask Womxn Anything. AWA gathers together amazing women from the Ottawa community to talk about their expertise on a particular topic. People from across the city are invited to come and have a discussion in a warm and inviting environment. Amanda says,

“Women are not often heralded as experts and so this is an opportunity for these women to be recognized as such, especially among our peers. And it’s an opportunity for women and men in the Ottawa community to see these experts. You can’t be what you cannot see.”

The next Ask Womxn Anything event is called ‘Black Womxn Making the World A Better Place’. They are focusing on black women because February is Black History Month, and the AWA panels are designed to be intersectional without tokenizing the participants. ‘Black Womxn Making The World A Better Place’ is coming up February 18th – at the Pressed Café, if you’re in the Ottawa area. The speakers include Deborah Owusu-Akyeeah, a feminist activist and Campaigns Officer at OXFAM. Meghan Wills, President at Parents for Diversity and current project coordinator at the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. And Maya McDonald who is an educator, facilitator, and storyteller – among many other things!

AWA is a great way for people in Ottawa to get to know experts and remarkable women. Much like Amanda herself, and Susan, and the splendid teams with which they surround themselves.

Psychology Month Profile: Anne-Marie Côté

Anne-Marie Côté
Anne-Marie coordinates virtual field trips, among many other things, for students in remote northern indigenous communities with a program called Connected North.
About Anne-Marie Côté

Anne-Marie Côté

Anne-Marie Côté became passionate about the field of education after accepting a three-month replacement contract in a school in Guyana, South America, where she ended up spending the next two years. She was able to experience and understand the crucial impact teachers have on shaping how kind, resilient, adaptable, and confident students become regardless of curriculum taught, and therefore how important it is for students to be surrounded by positive role models at school. Back in Canada, she now teaches an online English as a Second Language course to children in China, and she also works with TakingITGlobal, a non-profit whose mission is to empower youth to understand and act on local and global challenges. She mainly works on a program called Connected North.

Connected North delivers immersive and interactive education services to remote indigenous communities in Northern Canada through Cisco’s TelePresence video technology. Anne-Marie coordinates virtual field trips and guest experts for schools in Nunavut. She also works on developing Francophone content for the program.

Anne-Marie says her Master’s in Organizational Psychology from Carleton University has served her very well in her professional career:

“My psychology training has helped me in my work with children and Indigenous communities. It's helped me approach everything I do from a standpoint of compassion and understanding. Every behaviour has a reason. People don't just ‘’do things for nothing’’. It's helped me appreciate that anyone "in trouble'' (or not, everyone in general) has their own story and if you're trying to make change you need to invest and really care about people.

My organizational psychology training has also helped me understand the dynamics of the workplaces I have been a part of. It's helped me understand good and bad leadership, and how to recognize these. Although I’m not currently consulting, it's also helped me guide some of my workplaces through change and development as well as understand program evaluations and other organizational development processes.

It’s also made me become a better employee in general. I know from the research what makes happy employees and organizations and it has made me brave enough to ask for certain things or just share some of this knowledge with employers in hopes to make a better workplace for everyone. This training has also made me more compassionate. Just understanding some of the processes behind human behaviour makes you really care about people and where they’re coming from.”

Anne-Marie is thrilled that she is able to positively impact children in so many different ways.

“Children spend most of their time growing up at school and I think it's so important for them to be surrounded by supportive adults and be in an environment where they feel safe to be who they are and to learn. Equally, it’s important that they have access to engaging and culturally relevant educational resources, regardless of where they are. That's really my main goal working in education; build empowering and innovative classrooms and be a positive role model children feel like they can come to easily.”

She loves being part of this incredible program that creates opportunities for Indigenous communities in the area of education – an area that's so important, and where a lot of trauma still lies. Her hope is to begin to focus on programs that promote mental health and teach emotional regulation early on in those schools where she makes such a large impact.

Psychology Month Profile: Susan Underhill

Susan Underhill
President of the Connor Claire Group, a consulting firm that works with both the government and non-profit sectors, Susan is a specialist in doing more with less.
About Susan Underhill

Susan Underhill

For people who work in the non-profit sector, doing more with less is a massively important key to being successful. When it comes to the public sector, we Canadians are all invested in efficiency and innovative practice. Thankfully, there are people out there who specialize in helping such organizations become the best they can be. Susan Underhill is one of them.

Susan is a management consultant for both government and the non-profit sector, as President of the Connor Claire Group. She does policy research, organizational design and development, coaching, business process improvement, and much more to help improve the performance of organizations of all shapes and sizes. Her colleague and collaborator, Amanda Parriag of the ParriagGroup, says of Susan,

“We went to university together and have stayed friends through the years. In the last few years we’ve had the opportunity to work together. It’s really a joy for me. We don’t agree on everything, but she can present things where she needs to change my mind in such a way that I can hear it. I implicitly trust her, she’s extremely smart and gets things very quickly. I really love working with her.”

We asked Susan how her training in psychology (she has a Masters in Experimental Psychology from the University of Newfoundland) has helped her in her current role.

“I am a good researcher - both qualitative and quantitative. I know what questions to ask, where to find information, and how to interpret that information to provide sound, evidence-based policy advice. Psychology has also helped me to consider organizational dynamics and the impact of these dynamics on implementing changes.”

One of the highlights of a job like Susan’s is that there are a never-ending set of policy questions that require new research. Susan says she loves the variability of her job and supporting government and not-for-profits to better serve individuals who need important services.

Psychology Month Profile: Sophie Kenny

Sophie Kenny
A staff scientist for VPixx Technologies, Sophie helps bring eye capture technology, among other devices, to scientists and labs around Canada and the rest of the world.
About Sophie Kenny

Sophie Kenny

Somewhere in the world, right now, there are researchers using a specialized device manufactured by VPixx Technologies. These researchers might be working in a behavioural laboratory, an MRI or MEG space, or even working with non-human primates. That device might be an eye tracker, a video projector, a sound system or a calibrated visual display.

Whichever device they are using, there is a strong possibility that Sophie Kenny helped to bring their work to fruition. As a staff scientist for VPixx Technologies, Sophie works directly with the academic community. Her role is not only to understand the current needs of researchers, but also to identify research trends and opportunities for growth of the company.

More precisely, Sophie provides consultation services for lab setups. She writes work orders for custom software and hardware development, designs and presents product or technology-oriented workshops, and gives seminar lectures and invited talks. She also visits conferences (Society for Neuroscience, the Vision Sciences Society, the Psychonomics Society) to interact with academic clients and partners. It is there that she sets up independent and collaborative research projects, such as conducting literature reviews, methods papers, and perceptual/cognitive experimental research.

Sophie obtained her PhD in Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Sciences from Queen’s in 2017, and says that her academic studies have prepared her admirably for her current career:

“During my research training, I have worked on research spanning attention, reading, memory and movement perception research. Through this broad experience, I used advanced methodologies which have included eye tracking, whole body motion capture, virtual reality headsets, fMRI recordings, and scripting for high-level research experiments software and game engines. This knowledge and skill base has been invaluable, because in most aspects of my work, I am called to comment and advise clients and colleagues on a eclectic variety of research designs and applications.”

Now working for a company doing those exact things, Sophie has found her niche.

“VPixx Technologies is an incredibly dynamic and collaborative environment. I feel that as a staff scientist, my work has a positive influence on the quality of the work that happens in our industry,  and ultimately, in the laboratories of the researchers who use our devices.”

Psychology Month Profile: Troy Forcier

Troy Forcier
Troy has worked in Child and Youth Mental Health for years, since graduating with an M.Ed. in Education Counselling Psychology. He is the Director of Operations for the Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) in Williams Lake, B.C.
About Troy Forcier

Troy Forcier

You might expect someone with an M.Ed. in Education Counselling Psychology to work as a Child and Youth Mental Health clinician, or some such thing. And Troy Forcier did, for several years after graduating from UNBC. From there, he moved on to a job as a clinical supervisor, before taking on his current endeavour.

Troy is the Director of Operations for the Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) in Williams Lake, British Columbia. The MCFD is, among other things, the main child protection service for the province. They also do a lot of preventative work (family support, parent psychoeducation groups, Child and Youth with Special Needs support). Troy manages contracts, HR, resources and guardianship, facilities, child and youth mental health for the region, and community relations.

After spending many years dealing one-on-one with children and families, Troy embraces the more bureaucratic nature of his new position. There are two things, above all others, that make this job pleasurable for Troy. One is working with people – something he has always done, but it is now in a different context. The other is making change – specifically, changes he can help create at his own specific bureaucratic level.

Psychology Month Profile: Natalie Therrien Normand

Natalie Therrien Normand
Natalie is a Program Manager at the provincial team that oversees grants made by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Her current work is informed enormously by her studies in psychology and experience as a TA.
About Natalie Therrien Normand

Natalie Therrien Normand

My name is Natalie Therrien Normand, and I'm a Program Manager at the provincial team that oversees grants made by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), an agency of the government of Ontario. I have my MA in Experimental and Applied Psychology from the University of Regina. I received it in 2013, but so much of what I did at university I am still doing today.

I help people apply for grants by delivering presentations (like the courses I used to guest lecture in as a TA) and doing one-on-one coaching (like office hours), I assess grant applications when they come in (like scoring papers and exams as a TA), and monitor grants that are funded (which works a lot like monitoring all the work happening in my old labs). I also work on OTF's volunteer education initiatives to train our volunteers to meet corporate goals. This means a lot of juggling, like in my academia days.

Studying psychology has helped me in a myriad of ways. First are the obvious project management skills I learned in my graduate level studies, which apply to managing grants. Juggling multiple projects and deadlines is essential to my work, and indeed my career. But beyond that, learnings about human behaviour and the mind keep popping up, whether it's communication skills, the team-forming framework I learned in, literally, one sports psychology class that comes up over and over again. People think you have crazy ninja human behaviour skills, but it's things anyone can learn in basic psychology courses (which is what I tell them!). What may be most important are my critical thinking skills, and being adaptable in a field where feedback and constructive criticism are constant. We all know from our training that the constant cycle of producing work, receiving feedback, and working to improve that work is how you grow, or how a project/paper gets better.

I love that I get to work with people. I love that I get to apply my skills in an unexpected way. I work with people with super varied educational and professional backgrounds but I don't think anyone expects to have someone with an advanced degree in Psychology among them. The assumption is that this would mean I'd be a clinician or a counsellor. And as I mentioned above, even the basic principles of an education in psychology come up in the every day working world.

Psychology Month Profile: Sandra Meeres

Sandra Meeres
Sandra works for the provincial government in Saskatchewan. She is the Manager of Planning, Evaluation and Improvement in the aptly-titled Office of Corporate Planning Evaluation and Improvement.
About Sandra Meeres

Sandra Meeres

In 1994, Sandra Meeres graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Masters in Applied Social Psychology. Sandra is also a Credentialed Evaluator through the Canadian Evaluation Society. She achieved the designation in 2017. Today, she remains in Saskatchewan working for the provincial government. Sandra is the Manager of Planning, Evaluation and Improvement in the aptly titled office of Corporate Planning Evaluation and Improvement. She conducts needs assessments, program development and design, program review, and evaluations in human services. Her current work focuses on justice, corrections, and policing. Sandra says,

“All aspects of my formal psychology training have helped in my current role - especially the internship and practicum placements that were part of my graduate program. I have also relied on ongoing professional development to ensure I stay up to date with current practices and trends. I have been working in my field since I graduated – more than 25 years - and I have enjoyed every minute of it.  I get to work with a variety of people in many different roles throughout the organization, and also with stakeholders from other ministries and external service providers.

It's very fulfilling working with key stakeholders - gaining insights by interacting with everyone from clients and participants to program managers and leaders. My work is very satisfying because I know it is helping to provide decision makers with the essential information they need. It guides them to see what aspects of programs and services are working well, and where there are gaps or areas that could be strengthened or improved.”

Psychology Month Profile: Jenn Richler

Jenn Richler
Dr. Jenn Richler has always been deeply passionate about championing the work of others. Jenn has a PhD in Cognitive Psychology and is putting it to use as a senior editor at two scientific journals – Nature Climate Change and Nature Energy.
About Jenn Richler

Jenn Richler

The January issue of Nature Climate Change has papers on changing bird migrations, projections of lemur habitats in the Malagasy rainforest, climate change detection in daily weather, and the risk of breadbasket failures. It’s a publication that brings together a number of disparate disciplines from every corner of the world in a common cause – tackling climate change. One of the people responsible for this publication is Jenn Richler, PhD Cognitive Psychology, Vanderbilt 2010.

Jenn works at Nature Research, where she is a Senior Editor at Nature Climate Change and also another research journal, Nature Energy. She evaluates, selects, and oversees peer review of scientific manuscripts from across the behavioral and social sciences, including psychology, sociology, behavioral economics, political science, human geography, and communications. In addition, she commissions, edits, and writes non-primary research content like Reviews, Comments, Research Highlights and Editorials. It’s a job perfectly suited to a psychologist, and Jenn says,

“A key part of my job is evaluating scientific manuscripts from across social science disciplines. Although I handle manuscripts outside of psychology, training in scientific thinking and research design applies broadly across the fields I cover. We also get very ‘hands on’ with papers that are ultimately published, and so the experience I have writing manuscripts and presenting data is very valuable. Finally, being in academic publishing means that I rely a lot on what I learned about publishing and peer-review when I published my own papers in graduate school and during my post-doc. Those experiences were critical to shaping my ideas about what makes peer-review work well, what the problems are, and how we might develop innovative solutions.”

One of the highlights for Jenn is the intellectual side of the job –justifying editorial decisions requires balancing a lot of different factors, as few decisions are easy. It’s intellectually stimulating to craft arguments about each manuscript, and then discuss them with colleagues. This is the part of Jenn’s work that takes place behind the scenes, but is of crucial importance to the final product. Jenn says that, and highlighting the work of others, give her the deepest satisfaction.

"I always liked research, but I was never deeply passionate about any one research topic - I never wanted to have to convince anyone that my research was interesting. I get much more satisfaction from getting a bird’s eye view of a lot of different fields, inviting experts to write about important topics, championing the work of others, and helping authors make their work as strong and impactful as it can be. I feel that I am truly providing a service to my authors, and take a lot of pride in that.”

Psychology Month Profile: Christina Bilczuk

Christina Bilczuk
Christina has achieved a remarkable work-life balance thanks to her background in psychology. She works from all over Canada, from home and from the office on her own schedule, as an Account Executive for McCabe Promotional Advertising.
About Christina Bilczuk

Christina Bilczuk

One of the things a person might learn in university, if they’re lucky, is the ever-elusive work-life balance. In Louisiana, while pursuing her undergraduate degree, Christina Bilczuk managed to balance her studies with the rigour of playing Division I NCAA soccer. After completing her Masters in Social Psychology at Carleton University, Christina moved on to a job as an Account Executive with McCabe Promotional Advertising, but of course had to maintain her soccer bona fides with her beer league team the Goaldiggers.

Work-life balance is easier when you’re not stuck behind a computer all day. Working from home when you want, traveling as often as you like, in a relaxed atmosphere in an ever-challenging career. Such is the case for Christina at McCabe.

At the moment her work is taking place largely in and around Ottawa, where she is working with the Air Cadets (specifically the 51 Air Cadet Squadron, based out of the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum) on some fun apparel items. She’s doing the same with Camp Fortune, a ski hill located just across the Ontario-Quebec border in Chelsea. Ottawa kids planning to become fighter pilots, or those training to one day compete in the Olympic giant slalom, might soon do so in clothes provided by McCabe.

Christina works directly with clients who need promotional products (anything with their branding on it). Her role requires a lot of person-to-person contact. Some interactions are great, others not so good, but all her interactions are informed and assisted by her training in psychology. Christina says:

“My experience within psychology allows me to take a step back and think about things from [the client’s] point of view (but that also comes from my own struggles while in school, and being able to relate to others experiencing a difficult time). Of course, time management, being able to respond positively to constructive criticism, research skills - there are endless ways in which my education has aided in pretty much every aspect of my life.”

Christina showcases artwork, provides product suggestions and pricing, and she pushes sales through to completion & delivery. She can do all of this from home, while traveling, or in person all over Canada. It’s a role that suits her well, and her background in psychology is what made it such a good fit.

Psychology Month Profile: Marc-André Lafrenière

Marc-André Lafrenière
Director of People Analytics for the National Bank of Canada, Marc-André coaches a team of data scientists, combining scientific rigor and creativity with practical considerations. His team, he says, is “at the forefront of innovation”.
About Marc-André Lafrenière

Marc-André Lafrenière

One could make the case that every psychologist specializes in “Advanced People Analytics”, depending on how one defines such a term. For Marc-André Larfrenière, “Advanced People Analytics” is exactly what he does. That’s his job title with the National Bank of Canada. People analytics helps business leaders unlock the power of data to improve the way organizations identify, attract, develop and retain employees

As Director of Advanced People Analytics, Marc-André develops a people analytics vision and a roadmap that are aligned to business priorities. He leads, motivates, and coaches a team of data scientists as they implement methodologies and governance processes to address business needs. Marc-André and his team combine scientific rigor and creativity with practical considerations. In his role, Marc-André is able to provide leadership, subject matter expertise and business insight on all sorts of people analytics projects, including turnover prediction, pay equity analysis, psychometric testing, natural language understanding, and employee engagement analysis.

Marc-André says his PhD in Social Psychology from UQAM has served him very well in his professional career:

“Knowledge of social and IO psychology helps me bridge the gap between business needs and data science. It allows me to ensure that analytics projects are aligned to clearly address business issues. Also, my background in social psychology aided me play a key role as an analytics translator across multiple projects.  Furthermore, scientific knowledge that I acquired during my studies and maintained afterward allows me to play a role as a subject matter expert on several subjects (e.g., employee engagement, compensation programs, psychometrics assessment, etc.). Finally, both my expertise in research methods and statistics eased my transition toward data science and allowed me to champion the scientific method and ethical principles inside the organization.”

Marc-André works in a multidisciplinary team, and his particular discipline is well-suited to people analytics. He likes that his team has a direct and clear impact on the business, and helps with HR transformation through technology and data. His is more than just a data translator role, he and his team are, as he says, “at the forefront of innovation”.

Psychology Month Profile: Evangeline Danseco

Evangeline Danseco
Dr. Evangeline Danseco loves that her job has an impact on improving mental health services and addressing system-level issues. Evangeline is the Performance Measurement Coach at the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.
About Evangeline Danseco

Evangeline Danseco

A position that gives you the opportunity to have an impact on improving mental health services and addressing system-level issues would be desirable for many PhD graduates in Applied Developmental Psychology. Evangeline Danseco earned that degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1997, and now does just that.

Her psychological training has prepared her with a knowledge of research and evaluation methods (both qualitative and quantitative) as well as of child, youth and adult development, and with skills in critical thinking and writing. These body of knowledge and skills plus a thirst for ongoing learning and a desire to bridge the gap between research and practice, have served her, and Ontario, well.

Evangeline is the Performance Measurement Coach at the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health. There, she leads the development and implementation of various initiatives taking place in Ontario’s child and youth mental health sector focusing on performance measurement and/or system planning. The province of Ontario recently developed new quality standards in regard to youth and family engagement, and it is Evangeline who has led the evaluation of those standards.

Evangeline consults with and advises key stakeholders such as Ministry partners, expert panels, advisory groups, and lead agencies. She also collaborates with youth and family members on provincial initiatives. Her position has an impact, addresses important issues, and is a terrific example of knowledge mobilization in action.