On Aug. 23, APA introduced a new and improved online help center that gives consumers free information, facts and tips about mental health issues in a magazine-like format.
The new site gives the old one a boost in organization, user-friendliness and helpful information, say its designers. With pictures and inviting colors, it illustrates how psychology positively affects people's everyday lives, says Helen Mitternight, assistant executive director of public relations in APA's Practice Directorate, which coordinated the redesign.
As such, "The new site is a much more positive representation of psychology than the old site," says Mitternight, noting also that the old site "was cutting edge when it was designed, but in Web time, that was eons ago."
The old site got more than a million hits--with 5,000 visitors each day--between January and August 2004. APA hopes the new design will attract even more visitors to learn about psychology's contributions in their lives.
Indeed, the new site features categories of information, such as family, emotional wellness, and work and school, organized to appeal to consumers. For example, many categories have been cross-tabbed so that consumers can arrive at the information they're looking for through varied paths on the site.
To plan the layout and content of the new site, designers used both consumer and psychologist focus groups. They asked consumers what they expected to find under certain categories and asked APA members if they thought additional information should be added.
Topical areas include:
- Mind-body connection.
- Managed care and health insurance.
- Psychological statistics and facts.
Public education materials, such as information about the Warning Signs public education campaign, which attempts to help parents, teachers and kids identify behaviors that may lead to violence, will also be available.
"Online information to the public is an important part of our role in public activity," says Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for professional practice. "We do a lot of public education work--so this site can provide that type of information to as wide an audience as possible."
And psychologists tap the site too: Jana N. Martin, PhD, a private practitioner in Long Beach, Calif., says she uses the APA Help Center "as an on-site resource library to access brochures to download right away to give to clients."
The site will also connect consumers with psychologist-supported referral services, including state psychological associations, though APA cannot legally offer consumers direct referrals to its members.
Meanwhile, the APA Practice Organization is developing a "locator service" to allow consumers online access to the names of licensed APA member psychologists in their area who pay the practice assessment (see page 45, "New time, new messages for consumers").
--J. DAW HOLLOWAY
Visit the APA Help Center Web site.