VII Programming at APA Convention
Providers of Emergency Services for Children in Violence Prevention
from the American Association of Suicidology Conference
Critical Need for Valid and Reliable Assessment
Opportunities at the APA Convention
VII Election Results
Offer for Section VII Members
K. Nock (Yale University) & Jason Spiegelman (University of Akron)
Alan (Lanny) Berman is currently the Executive Director of the American
Association of Suicidology. He is an internationally recognized author
and suicidologist, and has collaborated on a number of works with the
world's leading scholars in the arena of suicide studies. I (JS) had
the opportunity to see Dr. Berman at the recent convention of AAS in
Los Angeles, and he graciously agreed to take some time to discuss the
links between AAS and Section VII.
JS: The newest
Section of Division 12 dealing with Clinical Emergencies and Crises
(Section VII) has been active for approximately one year. Many of
the officers and members are also members of AAS. As executive director
of AAS, have you noticed any overlap between the functions of AAS
and Section VII? If so, has this been a good thing?
and suicide prevention, are not issues for proprietary ownership.
We all have a stake in helping people find meaning in life and living
life well. I see a great deal of overlap between the mission and goals
of AAS and the APA's Division 12, Section VII and welcome our collaborative
efforts. I hope the Section will attract many more APA members over
time, so we can increase the strength of our joint efforts. Overlap
between the Section and AAS is not a good thing; it is great!
JS: Dr. Phil Kleespies,
AAS member and Section VII president, recently presented Dr. Edwin
Shneidman with the first ever Section VII Lifetime Achievement Award.
What was it like for you to witness that presentation, given your
long association with the association that Dr. Shneidman founded?
LB: Ed Shneidman
is an icon, mentor, role model, and friend. He has served as a beacon
for many of us drawn, as a tropism, to his intellectual leadership
and stimulation. I speak to Ed with some frequency during the year
and saw him on my last trip to Los Angeles a few months ago, so I
have not been that starved by lack of contact. But, for the Association's
members, many of whom have never seen or heard him, seeing him at
the AAS Annual Meeting was a momentous opportunity. To have Dr. Kleespies
present him with the Section's Lifetime Achievement Award was a crowning
experience to a keynote event that will long be remembered by all
of us who were there to witness it.
JS: AAS has recently
redoubled its efforts to focus on the needs of its student membership.
What do you see as the benefits of student participation in both AAS
and Section VII, given that the two serve some diverging functions
(AAS focusing on suicide and survivors' issues, and Section VII looking
at the immediacy of clinical emergencies and crises)?
First and foremost, the AAS is a membership organization of those sharing
common interests. Second, we have a mission to accomplish and that mission
requires us to stimulate and replenish the field with a new generation
of researchers and caregivers with an investment in understanding suicide
in order to intervene effectively. Thus, we must nurture our younger
suicidologists, better link them to mentors, and reinforce their long-term
investment in this field.
are a number of clinical researchers (translate this to mean psychologists)
in the field, there are painfully few suicidologists in academic positions
able to sire that new generation. I can count on one hand the number
of psychologist-suicidologists in academic institutions who teach
more than a lecture on suicide, e.g., a seminar or a course. Therefore,
I do not believe that psychologists are being well-enough trained
in basic suicidology, nor in what needs to be known about clinical
interventions (emergency and long-term) with, and assessment of, at-risk
patients. Too often, this function is being performed by clinicians
in clinical settings who pass on clinical lore without appeal to empirical
support for what they do (figuratively these are the blind leading
the blind). I see changing this state of affairs as a joint AAS-Section
VII goal and am eager to accompany Dr. Kleespies to meetings with
the powers that be at the APA to urge their long-term commitment to
strategies to change this. This is where we overlap and collaborate,
rather than diverge.
JS: If you could
give one piece of advice to current students focusing on the wide
field of crisis intervention, whether they specialize in client suicidality
or incidences of violence, what would it be? How would you like today's
students to learn from your long career in this area?
LB: I can think
of no more significant and rewarding a specialty to spend one's career
in than that of understanding the suicidal and self-destructive mind
well-enough to be able to successfully intervene, under conditions
of high drama, and move an at-risk person off the figurative ledge
and on to stable ground. The rewards of this work have been as much
for me as, I trust, for those I have helped. My work has never been
motivated by pure altruism, although I have a public interest gene
somewhere in my DNA; rather, my work has been my passion because it
has so many moments of curiosity satisfied, of questions yet-to-be
answered, and of excitement beyond measure. I simply need to impart
to any student the thrill I get each day that I go to my work, and
trust that student to do what comes naturally, in order to feel fulfilled
as a teacher.
JS: Dr. Berman,
thank you for taking the time to acquaint our members who are not
already affiliated with AAS with some of your thoughts.
LB: You're welcome.