President’s Corner

by Cynthia Cotter, Ph.D. Cotter

President, San Diego Psychological Association 

On Saturday, October 27, 2018, the San Diego Psychological Association will present its 2018 Fall Conference entitled Encountering Substance Use in Clinical Practice: Emerging Issues and Divergent Perspectives. Mary Mulvihill, Ph.D. and I co-chaired this event; however, Dr. Mulvihill very much took the lead in the project and is the SDPA member most responsible for its production.  Dr. Mulvihill put in long hours thinking through content and speakers, obtaining sponsors/exhibitors, and assisting the CE Committee in its work accrediting the courses.  She also assisted in acquiring volunteers and designed the musical support for the event.  Dr. Mulvihill and I thank the other members of the Fall Conference Committee, Diane Pendragon, Psy.D., Darlene Townes, Psy.D., and Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. for their very hard work.  We are grateful to the members of the SDPA Addictive Disorders Committee chaired by Tom Horvath, Ph.D. and Charlie Nelson, Ph.D. for their support and assistance with the conference.  The SDPA Addictive Disorders Committee is new as of 2018, and will organize moving forward the efforts of SDPA professionals with focus/interest in this highly needed specialty area.

Our association could not have chosen a more timely topic for its largest yearly continuing education event.  First, there is evidence that addictions to alcohol and drugs have risen over the past twenty years, with increasingly dire consequences.  Drug-related fatalities in the U.S. now exceed deaths due to breast and prostate cancer combined.  A pattern of declining U.S. life expectancies has been documented and linked to what have been called “deaths of despair,” a powerful confluence of rising rates of suicide, drug overdoses, and death linked to alcohol abuse.  There is speculation that something profound has happened since the 1980s to make Americans more susceptible to self-medication and its dangers.

Over 90 percent of psychologists report encountering problematic substance use in their clients.  Yet psychologists often feel inadequately trained to assess, conceptualize, and treat these problems.  The SDPA Fall Conference targets the clinical mental health provider who asks the following questions:  How do problems related to alcohol and drugs interact with other issues/pathologies with which my client is struggling?  As a generalist, can I treat addiction?  When is it important to refer to specialists?  Where do addiction specialists differ in conceptualizing and treating problematic substance use?  Is addiction merely a habit to be behaviorally modified or are more fundamental underlying psychopathology, such as attachment injury, contributing in a meaningful way.  What types of social support are most effective in treatment?  Is abstinence necessary or can there be stability in moderation?  Is substance use “a choice”?  How do issues of pain factor in and are there meaningful treatments for pain beyond medication?  The legal landscape related to marijuana use has changed.  Do I respond to marijuana use in my clients with support or concern?  Are problems of addiction experienced differently in people of color?  How do family members factor into problems and solutions to addiction?  What do I do when clients relapse?  What opportunities exist for my client in use of medication assisted treatments for recovery?

This year’s Fall Conference offers continuing education credits (CMEs) for medical professionals as well as CEs for psychologists and other mental health providers, such as LMFTs, LCSWs, LEP, LPCC and RNs.  CAADAC credit is also offered.  We hope that general medical practitioners, internists, family physicians, psychiatrists, will join us.  There has never been a time when substance use issues have been more prevalent and impactful in our clients and we must know how to best respond to these complex and compelling issues.

Articles in the current issue are a compilation of contributions from Fall Conference speakers (Dr. Writer), the SDPA Addictive Disorders Committee (Dr. Horvath, Dr. House), and significant local community substance use resources (Mr. Silverman, Dr. Barnes, Dr. Mackeogh) recruited/compiled by Dr. Mulvihill to supplement the information/education provided by the 2018 Fall Conference.  We are very grateful to Dr. Mulvihill for her contributions to this issue that included designing, recruiting, following up, and editing the articles in this issue.  There will be a second issue published on this topic as well as we feel that problems associated with substance use are so important and timely for mental health professionals.

SDPA Fall Conf logo Final

It’s not too late to register for the SDPA Fall Conference of 2018!


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