The Reach of Research - 2016

THEORY TO PRACTICE, ISSUE NO. 8, FALL '16

Developing Counselors' Skills in Shanghai

With the emergence of counseling psychology as a profession in China, Lehigh's Office of Global Online Graduate Degrees has partnered with Nanjia (Shanghai) Culture Communication Ltd. to provide workshops in Shanghai for practicing professionals.

For the second consecutive year, Arnold Spokane, professor of Counseling Psychology at Lehigh, and doctoral student Ge Song '13G teamed up to conduct the workshops, which focus on developing counselors' therapeutic skills in helping people cope with mental health issues.

Three-day workshops held in 2015 focused on basic clinical and therapeutic skills. Workshops in 2016 focused on the treatment of depression/anxiety and trauma. Another program scheduled for January 2017 will focus on the treatment of personality disorders.

In the past decade or so, China has been moving toward certifying professional counselors, Spokane said. Prior to that, mental illness had historically been viewed as "improper thinking." And so, he said, as long as people were "thinking properly," the belief was that they'd be fine.

"That's changed now," he said. "China is coming into the modern economy and culture, and it is much more open to Western approaches, with modification and consideration of Chinese culture. There's been heavy emphasis there now on emotionally focused approaches and cognitive behavioral approaches to therapeutic interaction."

In May and July, 38 practicing counselors participated in the workshops, which are taught in English and Mandarin. Participants were from urban and rural areas of Eastern China, and they included professionals who are working as counselors in community agencies, universities, the military and private practice.

The workshops aim to provide participants with new perspectives on how to be most effective in mental health intervention, Spokane said. Skills of exploration and action come from a model developed by Clara Hill, professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland. The material has been translated into Mandarin.

Participants are responsible for pre-course readings, and they have to construct case examples that are appropriate to their practices. Spokane and Song work together on the assignments, exercises and case reviews. Role playing is part of the instruction.

"It's important to the social sciences to reconsider theory, research and practice outside of strictly Western ideas and theories," said Spokane, addressing the significance of the program.

Equity in Education in the U.S. and Czech Republic

Sometimes it takes a village, and sometimes it takes a tsunami. That's the assessment of Lehigh student Prarthna Johri '18, who joined a team of students in researching ways to advance equity in education, both in the United States and the Czech Republic.

The initiative, known as CADRE3—Calculated Actions to Deliver Racial and Ethnic Equity in Education—was among Lehigh's 2016 Mountaintop initiatives. Christine Novak, professor of practice in School Psychology, mentored the team, which was particularly interested in advancing equitable educational outcomes for those who are socially excluded from a majority culture because of poverty or other birth circumstances. As such, the centerpiece of the 10-week summer initiative was school desegregation.

In the Czech Republic, the focus was on the Romani people who typically live in isolated communities on the outskirts of towns and face an educational system that disproportionately places Romani children in "practical schools" for children with "mild mental handicaps."

In Bethlehem, Pa., part of the team worked with the equity director for the Bethlehem Area School District and focused its energies toward modifying a diversity training for teachers that Floyd Beachum, program director of Educational Leadership, and Chris Liang, associate professor of Counseling Psychology, have conducted for the district's administrators.

The students began their work by examining U.S. schools that had been successful in desegregating their student populations. They provided their analyses to one of Novak's colleagues, an inclusion expert in the Czech government, and used their analyses to guide the rest of their project activities.

Johri was among those who traveled to Prague, where she interned at the NGO news organization ROMEA. In a blog post, she shared insights she gained from a colleague there.

"Yveta mentioned that the problem was no longer the shuttling of students to special schools," which were to be abolished in September. "As much as I thought that was good news, she brought up the point that though the schools will no longer be called that, the student population wouldn't be distributed. So even though the schools would be reformed, the populations would remain in their current segregated states."

Johri concluded: "It is becoming increasingly apparent that we're trying to fight an issue that can only be resolved by completely dismantling the system and rebuilding it, while fighting the attitude barrier." She retained hope that the team's efforts could have an effect. "We can help a few people, help a couple parents or a couple students. And maybe those students motivate a couple of their friends or their children later. Maybe our drop of water contributes to the tsunami."

In a world that has become more connected, Lehigh faculty have become an integral part of the international dialogue.

Haiti

Doctoral candidates Asmita Pendse and Xiaoran Yu traveled to rural Haiti to evaluate a training program for health-care workers that is run by Heart to Heart International, in partnership with Becton, Dickinson and Company. They used focus groups, surveys and field observations to help strengthen efforts to improve water, sanitation and hygiene.

Peru

Graduate students Christine Gravelle and Netta Admoni will travel to Peru in late fall 2016 to work with two NGOs and the BD company to create sustainable monitoring and evaluation plans. As part of the project, they will create metrics in the areas of information technology, business development and administration, marketing and lab services.

Indonesia

Jill Sperandio, associate professor of Educational Leadership, completed fieldwork in Indonesia for a study, funded by Australian Aid to Indonesia, titled Female Education Personnel: A Study of Career Progression. Sperandio is examining the experiences of women aspiring to be principals and those currently serving as principals in both the public school system and the Islamic madrassah.

By: Mary Ellen Alu