CEHD News Psychology, Counseling & Social Work

CEHD News Psychology, Counseling & Social Work

Serving as a peer study group facilitator: Catalyst for vocation exploration of a teaching career.

David Arendale, associate professor in PsTL, and Amanada Hane, his former graduate assistant, had another manuscript published from their qualitative study of UMN peer study group facilitators. It will be featured in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Developmental Education published by the National Center for Developmental Education. While there have been previous reports that some former study group leaders considered careers in education as a result of their experience, this is the first article that linked the behavior with vocational choice theory to help explain this outcome. Ms. Hane has an MS in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA in Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She currently works at Wilder Research in Saint Paul, Minnesota and conducts community-based research and evaluation in the human services field.

Social Work graduate’s innovative partnership helps better serve state’s children, families

Katy Armendariz
Katy Armendariz

When she made a last-minute decision to abandon a scholarship from a sociology Ph.D. program and enroll instead in the University of Minnesota’s master’s of social work (M.S.W.) program, Katy Armendariz had no idea that would be her first step toward fulfilling a lifelong dream of serving children and families.

Katy is an international adoptee and former foster child who knows the child welfare system from personal experience. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Minnesota in 2009. In 2013, she started MN CarePartner, a mental health agency to bring psychotherapy services into the homes of people who could not make it to a clinic due to physical, mental, financial or transportation barriers.

The agency started out small, with just two part-time therapists. By August of 2015, it had six therapists and a certificate from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to provide Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS). CTSS is an in-home rehabilitative service that teaches children and families the necessary skills to manage the symptoms of a child’s mental health condition and bring the child back to a normal developmental trajectory.

Then, last spring, Katy and Laura Skoglund, owner of Families in Transition Services (FiTS), had a conversation over coffee. Laura has a degree in social work and paralegal studies, with a strong advocacy background in domestic violence and sexual assault. When she took over Families in Transition in January of 2012, she found a niche serving families through supervised visitation and parenting skills.

Laura, who grew up in a home where domestic violence and chemical dependency were prevalent, saw FiTS as an opportunity to help families in similar situations. FiTS provides supervised visitation for child protection families requiring oversight throughout the process of permanency and reunification, as well as family law cases. Laura saw that children’s acting-out behaviors often increased before and/or after visits with their parents, and she saw a need for in-home skills and therapy to smooth the transitions. Katy wanted the services her agency provided to help disadvantaged families who have a hard time parenting due to psychosocial barriers, such as the homelessness and mental illness that prevented her own birth mother from being able to parent.

It was a perfect match and happened to coincide with the release of 93 recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children, which had examined the Minnesota child welfare system. It concluded that the system could not improve without additional resources, training and workforce. Katy and Laura quickly realized that their partnership could help child welfare providers meet several of the task force recommendations about providing more seamless services to children and families.

Together, FiTS and MN CarePartner offers supervised visitation in the home, CTSS services and in-home psychotherapy. In order to reduce the number of providers coming into a family’s home, the two agencies work together to hire people who can provide more than one kind of service. The person supervising the visit is often the same person who teaches CTSS and parenting skills between visits. The CTSS skills worker is supervised by the in-home therapist, ensuring complementary treatment plans and a quality coordinated-care team for each family.

FiTS and MN CarePartner reached out to several child protection units in several counties, and had 16 partnerships set up in 10 counties by the end of August. The response to the partnership has been extremely positive, and child protection workers have reported that they feel at ease knowing that a committed team is in the home working for the empowerment and self-determination of children and families. Additionally, MN CarePartner and FiTS actively recruit staff of color, as well as bilingual staff, to address the cultural disparities that have made it difficult for far too many families to connect with their service providers and have a fair shot at reunification.

In November, Katy will receive an Outstanding Service Award from the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health for showing extraordinary leadership in the field.

Educational Psychology CSPP student presents at ACES conference

Sarah Cronin, Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology (CSPP) Doctoral Student presented at the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision National Conference in Philadelphia, on October 7-11, 2015. The conference theme was ACES Leadership for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Practice. Cronin presented Dr. Marguerite Ohrtman and her research entitled, What makes a good supervisor?: Supervision Activities and the Supervisory Working Alliance. The conference was attended by counselor educators from across the country as well as international educators.

Wolff’s research on autism featured in SFARI

WolffJason-2014Jason Wolff, assistant professor in the special education program in the Department of Educational Psychology, was recently featured in an article by Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). The article, “Thick bridge of nerves may signal autism in infancy,” highlights Wolff’s study published in Brain in May. His research findings suggest that the bundle of nerves that bridges the brain’s two hemispheres is abnormally thick in infants later diagnosed with autism.

“I think it drives home to us how important it is to think about how much the brain changes throughout life,” Wolff told SFARI.

Read the full article in SFARI.

Read Wolff’s study in Brain.

“Three Good Things” gratitude exercise is beneficial in substance abuse treatment, study finds

Professor Amy Krentzman, University of Minnesota School of Social WorkUniversity of Minnesota School of Social Work Assistant Professor Amy Krentzman recently published a study on gratitude and its positive impact on helping people recover from alcohol use disorders. The study was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology and was also featured on the website of the Harvard-affiliated Recovery Research Institute.

It is the first formal study of the use of gratitude in alcoholism treatment. Krentzman said she conducted the study after discovering that positive psychology interventions had not been tested among individuals with substance use disorders, even though they are commonly used in recovery programs.

“I thought a gratitude practice would be perfect as the first positive psychology intervention to test among individuals with addictions because gratitude is a naturally occurring theme in addiction recovery. For example, it is a regularly occurring theme in Alcoholics Anonymous literature,” Krentzman said.

The gratitude exercise, “Three Good Things,” asks participants to write about three positive things that happened in a day and why they happened. Krentzman said that her study will serve as a pilot program for further study about the impact of using “Three Good Things” in substance use disorder treatment programs and in post-treatment recovery organizations, such as sober living houses.

“I study addiction recovery and the factors that make the experience of recovery positive and reinforcing, which is a hedge against relapse,” Krentzman said. “Positive psychology is an excellent framework for my research.”

Read more on her research.

SSW alum named U.S. Ashoka Fellow

Amelia Frank MeyerAmelia Franck Meyer (M.S.W. ’01), CEO of Anu Family Services, was named an Ashoka Fellow, joining a network of over 3,000 of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

Ashoka Fellows are chosen for having innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change.

Franck Meyer has been CEO of Anu Family Services since 2001 and has built an award winning organization that is achieving nationally leading outcomes in finding permanence for children in out-of-home care.  Last year, she shared her message and expertise with system leaders, legislators, front line staff, educators, and students across Minnesota, Wisconsin and 15 other states. Being an Ashoka Fellow will give her an opportunity to build on this growing momentum and desire for much needed systems change across the country.

Anu Family Services has offices in St, Paul Minnesota and Hudson, Madison and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Learn more about  Anu on their website.

Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. For more information, see the Ashoka website.

Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology students attend MSCA Annual Conference

Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology students joined Dr. Marguerite Ohrtman, Director of School Counseling, to attend the Minnesota School Counselors Association Annual Conference at Madden’s Resort in Brainerd May 3 – 5.

Students participated in presentations and professional development and listened to several keynote speakers. The students and their advisor, Dr. Marguerite Ohrtman, gave five presentations on a number of topics, including: technology, school counselor and parent engagement with technology, immigrant students, aromatherapy, and students in the military.

Presenters were: Sarah Cronin (doctoral student), Jessica Depuydt, Emily Colton, Rachel Fournier, Megan Rinn, Brita Crouse, Camille Merwin, Erica Tealey, Bianka Pineda, Erik Torgerson, Rebecca Zabinski, Marin Thuen, Lara Woyno, Tracy Buettner, Amanda Kapusniak, and Amy Gerster.

Students enjoyed meeting other counselors and alumni from across the state.

Educational Psychology alumna honored at national Hmong conference

Courtesy of the Wilder Foundation
Courtesy of the Wilder Foundation

Pahoua Yang, licensed psychologist based at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul, was one of five leaders honored at the Hmong National Development Conference.

The conference brings hundreds of Hmong students and working professionals from across the country together and hosted annually in different states. Now in its 17th year, the 3-day weekend is held to “build capacity, educate attendees on Hmong issues, and discuss pressing issues in the Hmong community.”

Yang holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology (CSPP) from the University of Minnesota and is licensed as an independent clinical social worker. Her work at Wilder focuses on creating equal access to mental health services in the communities that she serves and teaching clinicians of color how to work with ethnic communities who are unaccustomed to mental health services.

Read more about this outstanding alumna from a recent interview by the Pioneer Press.

Doherty comments on bill to take courts out of divorce proceedings

Professor Bill Doherty Department of Family Social Science professor Bill Doherty spoke in support of  legislation that would make it possible to get divorced without going through the court system, in a Star Tribune article.

Read the article here.

Symons awarded Distinguished McKnight University Professorship

SymonsF-2005Frank Symons, educational psychology professor and associate dean for research and policy in the college, has been awarded the Distinguished McKnight University Professorship, which honors the University’s highest-achieving mid-career faculty. His research on the severe behavior problems of children and adults with special needs, especially those with developmental disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders, is ground-breaking.

As a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, he will receive a $100,000 grant for research and scholarly activities, and carry the title throughout his University career. Symons is one of five University professors receiving the award in 2015. CEHD’s Megan Gunnar and Ann Masten, both in the Institute of Child Development, earned the award previously.

Through this award, Symons is being recognized not only for his individual research but also for his leadership in interdisciplinary efforts. His work connects across many disciplines, including geriatrics, degenerative diseases, pain neuroscience, and the study of infants.

“Frank Symons is the quintessential faculty member,” said CEHD dean Jean Quam, “an outstanding researcher who is passionate about the value of his work, a talented teacher, an engaged mentor to his students, and a strategic and creative thinker. And he is an enormous asset to have in the Dean’s Office.”

Symons was recently named fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for his contributions to the field of intellectual disability. He also received the 2012 Council of Graduate Students Outstanding Faculty Award.

Symons, along with other winners of this year’s Distinguished McKnight University Professorships, will be recognized at the May Board of Regents meeting and will be honored at a celebratory dinner.

Pauline Boss and Ambiguous Loss Theory featured on the anniversary of missing flight MH370

Pauline BossDepartment of Family Social Science professor emeritus Pauline Boss coined the term Ambiguous Loss Theory for her pioneering research into what we feel when a loved one disappears.

On the anniversary of the week Malaysian Airline Flight 370 went missing, Boss was interviewed in articles reflecting on the past year for loved ones of the missing, some of whom are looking for “some measure of meaning in the meaninglessness of ambiguous loss,” Boss said.

Read more in the following articles:

Salon: Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, one year later: “Nothing is certain, as everything is possible”

ABC News: As world Moves on, MH370 families find solace in each other

International Business Times: MH370 one year later: no closure for families as search effort continues to flounder

New York Daily News: ‘We cling on to the hope’: One year after MH370 disappeared, loved ones of 239 people on board haunted by unsolved mystery

Wall Street Journal features Doherty’s Marital First Responders project

Professor Bill Doherty Department of Family Social Science professor Bill Doherty is utilizing couples therapy research to create a new workshop for individuals he calls “Marital First Responders.”

“The goal of a marital first responder is to be a good friend, not a therapist,” says Doherty in a Wall Street Journal article featuring his work.

Read the article at wsj.com

Learn more about Doherty and his research interests on his profile page.

FSoS grads visit Capitol Hill to highlight the importance of the AAMFT Minority Fellowship Program

Noah Gagner and Ashley LandersDepartment of Family Social Science graduate students Noah Gagner and Ashley Landers each received AAMFT Minority Doctoral Fellowships this fall, which provide financial support as well as professional training, leadership development, and guidance for “Marriage and Family therapists committed to advancing the mental health interests of ethnic minority communities and under-served populations.”

On February 6, they traveled to Capitol Hill to participate in the Winter Training Institutes, where they worked with presenters in the areas of cultural sensitive interventions, as well as the integration of advanced quantitative research modalities.

Ashley Landers and Noah Gagner

Gagner and Landers met with congressional representatives, including the Legislative Director of Congresswoman Betty McCollum, to highlight the importance of the Minority Fellowship Program.

Learn more about Gagner and Landers, and their research interests and accomplishments on their profile pages:

Noah Gagner

Ashley Landers


Recent FSoS alumnus and Running Therapy

Matthew Miller The Southwest Journal featured Matthew Miller, family social science Ph.D. 2014, in an article highlighting his recently launched practice, Running Therapy, which combines year-round outdoor activities with therapy.

For more information on Running Therapy, visit the website or read the Southwest Journal article.

Miller was also interviewed about his practice by WTIP Radio.

Learn more about Miller on his profile page.

August: Personalized Mental Health Prevention and Intervention

Professor Gerald August Department of Family Social Science professor Gerald August‘s research has shifted towards the prevention of antisocial behavior and drug abuse in children and adolescents.

“It’s often been said that no disease has ever been cured by treating someone who already has it,” August notes in a CEHD Vision 2020 post, “Reading that statement was somewhat of an epiphany for me and led to a refocusing of my career goals to the study of prevention aimed at young people who were at risk for serious mental health and chemical dependency disorders.”

He developed a prevention program that’s become recognized as an exemplary program by several institutions including the National Institute on Drug Abuse .

Read more from Professor August’s article about metal health prevention and warning signs.

Learn more about August on his profile page.

Piehler awarded Grant-in-Aid

Professor Timothy Piehler

Department of Family Social Science assistant professor Timothy Piehler received a Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The $25,000 award will support pilot data collection for a project of Piehler’s.

The goal of the project is to develop measures of adolescent susceptibility to peer contagion (i.e. negative peer influence processes) in group-based interventions for youth with conduct problems.

Piehler joined CEHD/FSoS this fall after several years in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Read more about his research on his profile page.

Wieling: Improving mental health for families affected by war trauma

Professor Liz WielingI have been working with vivo (Victim’s Voice) for more than 12 years. Our mission is to overcome and prevent traumatic stress and its consequences within the individual and the family, as well as the community, safeguarding the rights and dignity of people affected by violence and conflict.

Visit CEHD Vision 2020 to read more about Department of Family Social Science professor Liz Wieling’s work.

Visit Wieling’s profile page to read more about her research.

Mehus chosen for MAMFT Outstanding Student Award

Christopher Mehus

Department of Family Social Science graduate student Christopher Mehus received the 2014 Minnesota Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT) Outstanding Student Award at the MAMFT fall conference.

The award is presented to an outstanding Minnesota student in marriage/couple and family studies. Students are nominated by a member of their school’s faculty, who can attest to their academic and clinical body of work.

Mehus is a Ph.D. student in the Couple and Family Therapy specialization in Family Social Science.

$2.8 million grant supports research to bridge cultural divides for underrepresented college students

To help colleges learn how best to support access and success for underrepresented and low-income college students, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $2.8 million to the College of Education and Human Development and its partners on Sept. 30.

Part of the 2014 First in the World Program, the four-year grant will fund an effort to engage underrepresented and low-income students and bridge campus-community cultural divides by developing deeper partnerships with diverse communities. This project targets underrepresented students at five research universities, developing and implementing enhanced community-based learning experiences within their academic programs to enhance student academic engagement, sense of belonging, and college persistence.

The other university partners are City University of New York, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Georgia, University of Illinois Chicago, and University of Memphis.

1MaruyamaGeoff-2013“This is an exciting partnership that brings together leaders from universities doing creative and exemplary work engaging their communities in meaningful ways. We at the University of Minnesota will be convening and coordinating the efforts, and are also responsible for evaluating the work for impact across all these universities,” said Geoffrey Maruyama, project director, and professor and chair in the Department of Educational Psychology. “Most exciting will be the opportunities at each institution to refine programming for students and for us collectively to build a guide for additional institutions across the country to use to build programs appropriate for their circumstances.”

As part of the project, programs will share what they have learned through their work to implement new and refined programming that will serve about 9,000 college students, focusing on underrepresented students across the five institutions. Elements of community-based learning initiatives will be evaluated in the project to determine those that enhance student educational attainments across a variety of learning initiatives operating at each of the five participating campuses.

The Minnesota components of the project will work across the Twin Cities campus, coordinated by project co-director Andrew Furco, associate vice president for public engagement. The project also draws from the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, which will be serving as the project evaluator, and from the Office of Institutional Research.

Nearly 500 applications were received by the U.S. Department of Education for this first year of the First in the World Program. Approximately $75 million was awarded to 24 colleges and universities.

“Each grantee demonstrated a high-quality, creative, and sound approach to expand college access and improve student outcomes,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We are confident these projects will have a positive impact on increasing access and completion and help us reach President Obama’s 2020 goal to once again have the highest share of college graduates in the world.”

Read more in this announcement from the U.S. Department of Education.

FSoS Alumnus Kirsten Lind Seal tackles WCCO’s “Good Question”: Why Are Fewer People Getting Married?

Kirsten Lind SealRecent Department of Family Social Science graduate, Kirsten Lind Seal, Ph.D. spoke with Heather Brown of WCCO News about why fewer people chose to get married.

Seal, an adjunct program instructor in the Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate and Certificate Program at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, is conducting research on confidants for American marriages and long-term committed relationships as part of the Marital First Responders project under Professor Bill Doherty.

View the “Good Question” video on WCCO’s website.