Letters

Substance abuse

IN THE JUNE issue on substance abuse, the Monitor missed an opportunity to describe one of the most successful programs of prevention and early intervention that has been in existence for almost 30 years. Employee Assistance Programs, originally created and funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), were designed to intervene with substance abusers in the workplace. It is based on monitoring job performance, constructive confrontation and referral to treatment while the job is protected. This innovative and creative program spawned a new occupation and a procedure that was expanded to cover myriad personal problems that affect performance on the job. It created a common ground for management and labor to work together for the well-being of the employee and the organization. The model that was created by the pioneers of NIAAA is often overlooked by psychologists as an opportunity for practice and for research.

WALTER REICHMAN, EDD
Baruch College, CUNY, N.Y.

 

AS A PSYCHOLOGIST WITH expertise in the area of domestic violence, I was alarmed with the article advocating behavioral couples therapy with couples experiencing substance abuse and domestic violence, "Lean on me," in the June issue. Concern for the safety of the victim of domestic violence is always a priority in my work. The victim (usually a she) should be able to express herself freely without fear of further victimization.

Only if a year has passed since the last incidence of domestic violence will I ever talk to a couple together in my counseling practice.

MIKI PAUL, PHD
Tucson, Ariz.

 

I WAS PLEASED TO READ about the "Talking with kids about big issues" intervention conducted jointly by Nickelodeon, the Kaiser Foundation, and Children Now in the June Monitor. The purpose of the intervention is to encourage parents to talk to their kids earlier about significant issues such as alcohol, HIV/AIDS, etc.

As a university counseling center psychologist, we're working to encourage parents to communicate with their kids later as well. Parents of first-year students are asked to formally agree to speak with their students monthly about the topic of alcohol, and we offer a brochure, "Now that your child is an adult...you can still talk about alcohol use."

We've found that facilitated communication during late adolescence, the high-risk developmental period, is effective. Since implementation, there have been significant decreases in freshman-class consumption rates and positive attitudes. It's never too late.

DEBRA MOONEY, PHD
Xavier University

 

THE MONITOR DID AN IMPORTANT service for the profession and the public by highlighting addictions in the June issue. As chair of the Colleague Assistance Program of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, I have become aware of the substantial impact that addiction to alcohol and other drugs has had on psychologists themselves. Epidemiological studies, some of which have been published in APA journals, confirm that psychologists have rates of alcoholism similar to those found in the population at large. In addition, evidence gathered over the years by impaired professional programs suggests that those professions with access to drugs and medications tend to have higher rates of drug abuse than professions that do not have such access. If psychologists achieve prescription privileges, then impaired psychologist programs will become even more important than they are now.

We need to be reminded that psychologists are not immune to the pressures and reinforcement contingencies that affect all people. Awareness of our vulnerability is the first step on the road to healthy self-care.

PAUL E. DELFIN, PHD
Wyomissing, Pa.

 

On rediscovering lost data

WHAT A GOOD TALE professor Lawrence Whalley spins ("Rediscovered data confirms link between early intellect and dementia," February Monitor) regarding the rediscovery of the 'lost' data on the Scottish school children tested in 1932. Unfortunately, it owes more to imagination than to fact. Yes, the Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE) did organize the original tests of every 11-year-old child in Scotland in June 1932 and again in 1947; and yes, we do have a basement. We also have a detailed floor plan recording where data are stored in bays, shelves and boxes and are, as Scotland's national educational research center, mindful of our responsibility to maintain records for future researchers. The simple fact is that just because Whalley was unaware of the existence of the Scottish Mental Survey data set, does not mean that it was lost. Whalley would be well advised to stick to psychiatry and leave fairy tales where they rightfully belong--in the children's section, but not on the pages of the Monitor.

VALERIE WILSON, EDD
Scottish Council for Research in Education

 

RESPONSE FROM DR. WHALLEY: The article was a fair and accurate report of three papers published in 2000 by our group with some additional material obtained from me by phone by Siri Carpenter. The presumption "lost" was largely my own but was shared by others who, like me, could not believe that data collected 65 years earlier would have been preserved largely intact. Long-serving staff had never seen the data; nobody referred to a floor plan, but one person knew approximately where we should begin to look if the data had been retained. At the outset, we were all pretty pessimistic.

Unfortunately, Dr. Wilson was unaware of the excitement in the building the day the records were rediscovered as she did not join SCRE until two years later. Carpenter conveyed precisely the emotions felt by each of as we realized the huge importance of what we had found. Since her appointment Dr. Wilson has become an earnest collaborator in our research. We remain most grateful to her and her predecessor (Professor Wynne Harlen) for their assistance with the application of these data to our studies in cognitive aging.

 

LAWRENCE WHALLEY, MD
University of Aberdeen, Scotland

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