LMHP Summer Immersion Costa Rica 2014


We are beginning our 2nd week in Costa Rica and have been busy adjusting to our schedules, new host families and life in Costa Rica. During the day we attend classes at UNIBE, spend time at a children’s mental health clinic, and observe clinical sessions and psychological testing conducted by professors at UNIBE.

This weekend we went zip lining and to Baldi hot springs near the Arenal volcano.  It was an incredible day! We had a bunch of laughs with the Zip lining staff, and got to ride on a tarzan swing through an opening in the forest. The last zip line, the highest and the longest was nicknamed “Superman” and provided spectacular views of the forrest canopy through the fog. It took me a couple of seconds to convince myself to open my eyes, but when I did I was greeted with the most incredible experience of my life!

Most students took Sunday to visit Jako, a beach town about 90 minutes from San Jose where they saw crocodiles, an incredible surfing competition and rare birds. Some chilled on the beach while others took on the 9 foot waves all afternoon!

Although we’re having quite an adventure, we’ve taken moments to miss our lives in the United States. I’ve heard from others that while we (of course) miss our families, friends and significant others most, we also really miss our own pillows and our pets. Shout outs to Luna (the cat), Nuki (the dog) and Ernie (the dog) – we miss you bunches.


Posted in Latino Mental Health

Executive coaching training: Expect to be challenged, academically and personally

Studying to become a coach for business leaders did not match what had I expected of graduate study. I hadn’t been to graduate school, but plenty of friends had told stories.

Of course, I expected to study hard, learn theories and techniques, and rely on memory and experience to synthesize ideas and see me through. But good coaches offer much more than smarts and tactics and models. In fact, the first lesson of the GCEC is learning the difference between knowledge and practice. If you’re considering a coaching ceritifcation program, you should expect that in addition to rigorous formal education, you are laying the foundation of a practice rather than simply acquiring skills and knowledge.

Education for practice

Recently a prospective student asked me whether his business and public service background would put him at a disadvantage. “I haven’t studied psychology,” he said, “and MSPP is focused on that, right?” If you haven’t read any psychology since college or before, you will encounter new theories, research, and thought leaders’ names. I was eager for more. I did a little extracurricular reading. Throughout the program, I added to a reading/learning list that I’ve been using since graduation. Most of these discoveries offer clues and answers about why people, and leaders in particular, behave as they do. Learning them has been invigorating and useful.

Learning as a habit of inquiry

Image: improvisedlife.com and imaginaryfoundation.com

But this education is not only about others. Most of the frameworks and theories you’ll encounter will prompt you to reflect on how you behave, think, learn, and present yourself. And this is a critical part of a coaching practice. Though clients buy coaching as a service, it is not only a transaction.

The work requires curiosity about others and ourselves: Who am I? How do I operate? What does that tell me about my assumptions about the world? How do I use myself to have a positive effect on clients and the world? These are the questions that leaders are not often asked in the boardroom. But they motivate most of their decisions. As their coaches, we must be able to ask the questions and be prepared to help them sort among partial answers and clues.

Expect a good coaching program to raise questions for which you uncover partial answers and clues today. This is the foundation of your practice.

Posted in Executive Coaching

Spend the right amount of time on learning to coach

Before I was admitted to the seven-month Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching, I learned from my colleague Ann that she’d completed the program when it was two years in duration. Now, I love a challenge. And I wanted to get a lot out of this program. Ann’s a great coach. Was I missing something?

Before it was over, I did wish the program were longer. Not because it wasn’t rigorous and complete. I came to appreciate my instructors and classmates. Sometimes, the learning and the challenge of putting theory into practice made the assignments intense. And I was stimulated by the satisfaction of learning not just ideas, but ways to use what I learned.

The program proved to be a genuinely graduate-level challenge, but short enough to be achievable by people like me: with a demanding full-time job, a family, and a life. The program didn’t need to be longer, but I wanted the learning community to carry on and stick together. We had committed to learning with each other. We came to rely on learning from each other, too. I had not anticipated how important that would be.

Don’t shortchange practice time

In the GCEC, we spent one weekend-in-residence each month. These were two days full of learning coaching psychology. While encountering and inquiring into what motivates people, practice coaching sessions also uncovered some of my motivations. Listening for what’s not said in others’ communication means that you will learn a good deal about what you think and feel, but are not saying.

A shorter program would have left me with the impression that I’m a clumsy and inarticulate coach. We spent just the right amount of time to have plenty of experience getting it half right and recognizing that we could do better. And I experienced enough success that I completed the program with confidence that I’d acquired skills that could be refined through more practice and experience.

Posted in Executive Coaching, Experiential Education | Tagged ,

How is Massachusetts addressing and treating postpartum depression?

Contributed By Margaret Hannah, Executive Director of the Freedman Center for Child and Family Development

Tom Ashbrook of WBUR’s “On Point” recently discussed the struggle with depression that parents often face. I applaud him for bringing this conversation to the nation’s attention, and I hope we continue this discussion about helping parents and families to cope with the mental health issues they face.

New research shows that maternal mental illness is much more common and wide-reaching than people expect. About a fifth of women had an episode of depression in the year after giving birth, according to a meta-analysis of 30 studies.Unfortunately, we tend to only hear about maternal mental illness, such as postpartum depression, in the wake of a tragedy. What is Massachusetts doing to prevent, identify and treat maternal mental illness and postpartum depression in particular?

I am the Executive Director of the Freedman Center for Child and Family Development at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, as well as a member of Governor Patrick’s Commission on Postpartum Depression. The Freedman Center helps connect children and families with appropriate information, providers, resources, and one another, to serve their mental health and wellness needs.

The Freedman Center is working with the University of Massachusetts Memorial Health Care Medical School and the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project, as well as MotherWoman, a community organization that supports and empowers mothers, to implement MCPAP for Moms. MCPAP for Moms is funded by the State Department of Mental Health and aims to promote maternal and child health by advocating for, and offering the resources to effectively prevent, identify, and manage depression. At its core it provides capacity-building within the medical and provider community to conduct depression screenings, offers real-time psychiatric telephone consultation for providers serving pregnant and postpartum women, and offers community resources to support pregnant and postpartum women.

Postpartum depression impacts entire families, including mothers and fathers. It is important that we educate and train the public and healthcare providers about postpartum depression and other perinatal emotional concerns. I thank the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health for supporting this endeavor.

The Great Expectations Recession

If you’re worried about the future, you’re in good company. But it isn’t company that’s good for you. Not only are we still in a stubborn economic recession, we’re in an expectations recession.Danger expectations

Don’t forget what your broker says: Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. This is usually a warning to prevent inflated expectations. But there is little optimism in the news that’s not countered by skepticism. We’re in a boom that may be a bubble. Consider these few data points.

  • “…young people today expect to work more, achieve less, and have fewer children [compared to a 1992 Wharton study].
  • “For all of that work and sacrifice of family, recent grads don’t expect to rise as high in their careers. Stewart Friedman, a Wharton professor who directed the study, says that it’s part of a general trend toward lower aspirations in work and family lives.”
  • “The majority of college graduates believe that their generation will not do better than the one that came before them.”
  • “Not even half expect to have more financial success than their parents; one in five expect to do less well than their parents and another 31 percent say they expect to do equally well.”

And the Federal Reserve offers,

  • “…the large, unexplained shock to income expectations might suggest a permanent change in households’ views – a phenomenon that would continue to weigh against a recovery in consumer spending.”

Our own worst enemy, or is it ‘best ally?’

Not only are we expecting less, but our expectations may be keeping us from experiencing a more typical recovery. Our inability to envision and make a better future are getting in the way of having a better future.

There’s a body of research that bears this out. Richard Rosenthal could be called the father of expectancy research. He showed that teachers influence their students’ scholastic performance as a direct result of what they expect of them. And he continued to demonstrate the effect in follow on research (pdf). Not only do we get what we expect, we get what those around us expect.

You’re not alone, and you can make a difference

You shouldn’t feel to disappointed if you’ve been influenced by low expectations surrounding you, or even imposed on you where you work. They are numerous and pervasive. And a conservative approach to risk is built into our biology.

But consider how different your day might be if you thought that expectations around you were positive. What if you could change things? Could you aim to invent and innovate instead of aiming to be sure that you don’t fail?

In a time when so much uncertainty prevails in markets and forecasts, it may be smart to hedge against your own optimism. But for most of us, envisioning a future through and beyond the boom or bubble may call for breaking familiar habits of thinking. For new college graduates, they’ve only known recession expectations. They can expect more.

Shaking off the The Great Expectations Recession

To make fundamental change in Great Recession habits and adjust the trajectory they’ve set is not the work of a day. It may call for outside advice – a stronger voice asking, “Now that you’ve answered ‘what if…,’ and you’ve hedged against likely risk, what if things go well?  What if best case is the reality? How does expecting good outcomes influence your thinking? How might it influence others to re-engage and strive, innovate, and hope for the best case themselves?”

Some people will find that voice in a friend, mentor, or other adviser. Some will look to executive coaches for a dose of that alternate, pragmatic, very real possibility that recession thinking has taken over our expectations, and that they’re getting exactly what they expect. We can expect more.

Posted in Executive Coaching

Part-Time Allows for a Good Time

I am a part-time student in MSPP’s Organizational Psychology & Leadership graduate program.  The part-time program works really well for me with my full-time career and mobile, active lifestyle.  I began in the program in August 2013 and anticipate graduating with a Master of Arts Degree in Organizational Psychology in August 2015.

Essentially, I have six weeks on, and six weeks off from class.  Throughout the year I have six weeks to stay nose-to-the-grindstone in coursework, and six weeks to work on long-term projects toward achieving my MA (e.g. my capstone and field projects) at my own pace and as my schedule permits.  During the weeks in which I am not enrolled in a class, I like to travel and find that I appreciate my time much more.  This more relaxed part-time schedule allows me to feel that I am maintaining work-life balance.  And that matters.

I offer the deepest respect to and applaud the many full-time students in my cohort who are nearing graduation after beginning coursework just this past August.  They have worked extremely hard to achieve their Master’s degrees in one year, and this is a monumental accomplishment.  MSPP holds its students to high standards and packs a great deal of rich learning material and experiences into its curriculum.

There are two different types of student status in this program purely (on-line or blended on-line and class) and two different types of scheduling (part-time or full-time).  Whatever a student chooses, we are all  able to connect via group projects, on-line office hours, discussion posts, and e-mail.  I have found that each student has her/his unique perspective on how they make their selected status/schedule work and to what degree they are able to manage personal and family life.

I know me pretty well, and know that I would surely perish if I tried to take on this level of achievement in a one-year time span.  Many students can and successfully have, however, and that is what is great about MSPP’s Organizational Psychology program.  Dr. Gregory and his Org Psych program faculty offer students this opportunity to identify within themselves what they are capable of doing and to then apply to either the full-time or part-time program options.  I believe this reflects a great deal of consideration and adult learning insight on these curriculum developers’ behalf; they create opportunities for anyone in any stage of adult learning to attain a graduate level education.

I would love to answer any questions you may have about completing graduate school while working a full-time job and simultaneously retaining some semblance of [self-diagnosed] sanity.

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” 
― Edgar Allan Poe

Posted in Applying to MSPP, Online Education, Organizational Psychology & Leadership | Tagged

Decisions, decisions

As tax day approached, so, too, did the deadline to respond to invitations graduate programs. I think back to a year ago when I was buried in my own decision-making process; I had spreadsheets, pro-con columns strewn about, and the counsel of friends and family. The factors included in my process were the following:

Program. I looked through the curriculum requirements for each program and thought about which set of classes both seemed more interesting to me and seemed like they would supply me with the information I was seeking. Wiggle room for electives and the opportunity to take classes in departments outside of the designated program were additional pluses.

Degree. Like some others, I had applied to various degree programs with different foci. MSPP’s clinical psych PsyD seemed like the best bet, but having been a teacher for over 6 years, I was also strongly considering School Psych MA/CAGS programs in the Boston area. What helped me differentiate? The possible career trajectories for each program. I knew that I wanted flexibility and didn’t necessarily want to be locked into school psychology or even working with the school-aged population.

Resources. Here I’m specifically referencing time and finances. Going to graduate school, particularly to a full-time program, is a serious undertaking. As this is my second career, I am trying to be efficient rather than to fulfill my quasi-secret dream of being a life-long student. I also realized that moving forward, there was a good chance I’d want to pursue a doctorate, so why not commit to a doctoral program with the opportunity to grab my masters on the way?

Location. This is the domain that boxed me in a bit. I was committed to staying in the Boston area for various reasons. As you may know, MSPP has one of the few APA accredited Clinical Psychology PsyD programs in New England. For me, this was a major determinant.

Experience vs. Research. I knew I wanted as much clinical experience as possible. MSPP’s program offered a clinical practicum from day one. Now nearing the end of the second semester, I can attest to the fact that learning by experience is incredibly powerful. It informs the conversations in the classes, putting the theory in the context of actual client interactions.

If you’re still in the process of making your decision (although by the time of posting, I believe the deadline has passed), I strongly encourage you to post questions or reach out to your potential schools’ communities to pose further queries. Best of luck in your decisions!

Posted in Applying to MSPP, Change of Career, Clinical PsyD, Counseling Psychology, School Psychology


Bubbles. Round, iridescent, and fragile, bopping along in the breeze until a gust dashes them against an unforgiving surface, shattering their short and playful existence. Sometimes our kids have days that remind me of this tumultuous dance. They arrive at school, cheerful, dressed in the rainbow of colors that is the latest in the all the stores. There is a skip in their step, but also a sort of obliviousness that comes with a happy spring day and a lack of executive functioning. Sometime unexpected happens, dashing their delicate sense of self against the unforeseen and shattering their mood.
My “drop ins” all have various forms of this scenario that disrupt their days. You can’t really repair a bubble, but, where there is one bubble there are usually hundreds. So, my job really is to help them identify what burst their bubble and then to identify a new bubble that can carry them through the rest of the day. Eventually I’d like to upgrade them to the more resilient balloon, but as young children I am content to see the carefree bubbles dancing in the breeze.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Alliance for MA (SAM)

sel4mass_logoMSPP has many members that have joined the Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Alliance for Massachusetts (SAM) http://www.SEL4Mass.org. Nicholas Covino, Bob Lichtenstein, Margaret Hannah, Craig Murphy, Erika Johnson and Nadja Reilly have all joined because the mission of SAM is to help all young people succeed socially, emotionally and academically by advancing and supporting effective social and emotional learning programs, policies and practices in all schools and communities in Massachusetts.

SAM takes advocacy seriously as an integral part of moving education toward policy changes that reflect the views of health care providers and educators alike.   Teachers can be trained to be the first responders in what is clearly a mental health crisis in the United States. SAM gives expression to the views of those who believe in educating the whole child in a safe and supportive environment by teaching skills that makes people happier and more successful.

With eight working committees, SAM has assisted in bringing social-emotional learning into the Boston mayoral campaign where both candidates adopted an education policy that includes SEL.   SAM has already met with Mayor Walsh’s education advisor. Representative Ruth Balser (D. Newton) is preparing legislation to file on SAM’s behalf in January 2015 to make SEL training required to obtain a teaching certificate in Massachusetts. Twenty-two people have signed up to become part of the SAM SEL Speakers Bureau to go and speak to the community, wherever they meet, about the benefits of implementing effective SEL in their schools. They will be going to speak this summer, fall and winter. SAM is having its third Annual Spring Conference on May 22, 2014 at Wellesley College addressing the topic, “Leveraging SEL in an Era of Accountability.”

Lastly, a new committee, chaired by school psychologist Carla Volturo of Hudson Public Schools, called the School-Based Mental Health Providers Committee, is being launched.   If you are interested in joining, please contact Carla Volturo at crvolturo@hudson.k12.ma.us. We encourage you to get involved in making change happen.

There are no dues incurred when you join the SEL Alliance because it is a grassroots effort to join together to move policy makers. Everyone has volunteered their time, in whatever capacity they can, to work in this educational policy initiative. So far over 300 people have joined SAM in just the last two years. You can see who the membership is and where they work by clicking on Committee listings here. http://www.sel4mass.org/sel-alliance-for-massachusetts-sam-committees/.

Please join us at the SEL Alliance for Massachusetts because there are great people involved and you can make a difference. You can join quickly by filling out the form here. http://sel4mass.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=eae30f8de1d6dd7ccbdb7ac5d&id=0d96a3198b

For the Adventure Seekers

The other night I went to out to dinner with old friends and we started discussing bucket lists. Although my list is quite lengthy, I have not had the opportunity to cross off a lot of the activities on it. Among the things I want to do, I want to travel the world one day, go scuba diving, play quidditch, and see the Northern Lights. All of these events are adventures, and I think there is no better time to partake in such ventures than in grad school, because they provide such excellent self-care and are an amazing way to take a break from studying.

A couple years ago, during undergrad, as a birthday and graduation present to myself, I decided to go skydiving. It was by far one of the best experiences I’ve ever had!  I crossed this particular item off my bucket list at a local airport and I was terrified beyond belief. My friends bailed on me unfortunately, but luckily, I was going with my school’s skydiving club, so I knew I would find support in others.

Prior to sending you up in the air, they train you on how to jump and how to control your body in the air, in order to maintain proper form. This is important to understand because you do not want to be flailing around as your falling. Afterwards, you get suited up and wait your turn to go up in the air.

Here's proof I really did jump out of a plane!

Here’s proof I really did jump out of a plane!

I got my jump videotaped and had pictures taken as well, and although it is more expensive, I highly recommend others to do it as well. I was visibly nervous my flight up but the jump itself was liberating. I was able to see Springfield and Hartford because it was a clear day, and it really was such an incredible moment. There’s nothing quite like barreling through the air free falling after jumping out of a moving plane. I promise, as daunting as it sounds, it is worth it, and I feel like everyone should at least consider adding skydiving to their own bucket list.

When you’re pounding pavement and stuck in a routine of classes, homework, internship, work, you often find yourself in a slump come this time of the year. Going on an adventure, such as skydiving, can be rejuvenating and can provide you that adrenaline you need to be going until the end of the year.

I hope I didn’t scare you with this post, but I promise skydiving is really a great experience. I’ve seen groupon and livingsocial deals for skydiving in Western MA, so if you’re really up to it, keep an eye out for those! I have also heard it’s absolutely beautiful to do it in Hawaii and I would love to do it over the Swiss Alps one day. Here’s to crazy, but 100% safe, adventures :)

Posted in Around Boston