Tag: dr. jenny holland

Study examines benefits of social connectedness

New study seeks to understand how much we feel connected to others we have never met and how that predicts people’s sense of selfless concern for the well-being of others.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people who recognize the connections they share with others are more likely to wear a mask, follow health guidelines and help people, even at a potential cost to themselves, a new University of Washington study shows. Indeed, an identification with all humanity, as opposed to identification with a geographic area like a country or town, predicts whether someone will engage in “prosocial” behaviors particular to the pandemic, such as donating their own masks to a hospital or coming to the aid of a sick person.

The study, published March 10 in PLOS ONE, is drawn from about 2,500 responses, from more than 80 countries, to an online, international study launched last April. Researchers say the findings could have implications for public health messaging during the pandemic: Appealing to individuals’ deep sense of connectedness to others could, for example, encourage some people to get vaccinated, wear masks or follow other public health guidelines.

“We want to understand to what extent people feel connected with and identify with all humanity, and how that can be used to explain the individual differences in how people respond during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said author Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, or I-LABS, who co-led the study with postdoctoral researcher Nigini Oliveira at the Paul G. Allen School for Computer Science and Engineering.

In psychology, “identification with all humanity” is a belief that can be measured and utilized in predicting behavior or informing policy or decision-making. Last spring, as governments around the world were imposing pandemic restrictions, a multidisciplinary team of UW researchers came together to study the implications of how people would respond to pandemic-related ethical dilemmas, and how those responses might be associated with various psychological beliefs.

Researchers designed an online study, providing different scenarios based in social psychology and game theory, for participants to consider. The team then made the study available in English and five other languages on the virtual lab LabintheWild, which co-author Katharina Reinecke, an associate professor in the Allen School, created for conducting behavioral studies with people around the world.

The scenarios presented participants with situations that could arise during the pandemic and asked people to what extent they would:

  • Follow the list of World Health Organization health guidelines (which mostly focused on social distancing and hygiene when the study was run between mid-April to mid-June)
  • Donate masks of their family’s to a hospital short on masks
  • Drive a person exhibiting obvious symptoms of COVID-19 to the hospital
  • Go to a grocery store to buy food for a neighboring family
  • Call an ambulance and wait with a sick person for it to arrive

In addition to demographic details and information about their local pandemic restrictions, such as stay-at-home orders, participants were asked questions to get at the psychology behind their responses: about their own felt identification with their local community, their nation and humanity, in general. For instance, participants were asked, “How much would you say you care (feel upset, want to help) when bad things happen to people all over the world?”

Researchers found that an identification with “all humanity” significantly predicted answers to the five scenarios, well above identifying with country or community, and after controlling for other variables such as gender, age or education level. Its effect was stronger than any other factor, said Barragan, and popped out as a highly significant predictor of people’s tendency to want to help others.

The authors noted that identifying with one’s country, in fact, came in a distant third, behind identification with humanity in general and one’s local community. Strong feelings toward one’s nation, nationalism, can lead to behavior and policies that favor some groups of people over others.

“There is variability in how people respond to the social aspects of the pandemic. Our research reveals that a crucial aspect of one’s world view — how much people feel connected to others they have never met — predicts people’s cooperation with public health measures and the altruism they feel toward others during the pandemic,” said co-author Andrew Meltzoff, who is co-director of I-LABS and holds the Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair in psychology.

Since last spring, of course, much has changed. More than 2.5 million people worldwide have died of COVID-19, vaccines are being administered, and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially regarding masks, has evolved. If a new survey was launched today, Barragan said, the research group would like to include scenarios tuned to the current demands of the pandemic and the way it challenges us to care for others even while we maintain physical distancing.

For COVID-19 and future humanitarian crises, the ethical dilemmas presented in the study can offer insight into what propels people to help, which can, in turn, inform policy and outreach.

“While it is true that many people don’t seem to be exhibiting helpful behaviors during this pandemic, what our study shows is that there are specific characteristics that predict who is especially likely to engage in such behavior,” Barragan said. “Future work could help people to feel a stronger connection to others, and this could promote more helpful behavior during pandemics.”


Read this article on Science Daily: University of Washington. “Helpful behavior during pandemic tied to recognizing common humanity.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210310204202.htm.


Cognitive behavioral therapy shown to improve job opportunities

If depression is making it more difficult for some unemployed people to land a job, one type of therapy may help, research suggests. In a new study, 41% of unemployed or underemployed people undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) found a new job or went from part- to full-time work by the end of the 16-week treatment for depression.Those who had a job but found it difficult to focus on and accomplish work tasks because of depression said the treatment helped to significantly reduce these problems.

“For the most part, researchers have focused on showing that therapy relieves symptoms of depression,” said Daniel Strunk, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University. “But reducing symptoms isn’t the only goal people have when they start CBT. Many are hoping to find a job or improve their productivity at their current job. Here we found that therapy can help people achieve these goals, as well.”

This study involved 126 people who participated in a 16-week course of CBT at the Ohio State Depression Treatment and Research Clinic. CBT teaches coping skills that help patients counteract and modify their negative beliefs, Strunk said. “It works on the idea that people with depression invariably hold these overly negative views of themselves and their futures,” he said. “For example, if an unemployed patient doesn’t get one job they interviewed for, they may think ‘no one is ever going to hire me.'”

In this study, 27 patients were seeking to improve their employment status (land a job or go from part- to full-time) at the beginning of treatment. Eleven of them (41%) had succeeded by the end of the 16 weeks.

“It is hard to say exactly how good this success rate is since we don’t know how many would have gotten jobs without the treatment,” Strunk said. “But the findings were encouraging and suggest that the CBT is having an impact.”

CBT had a clear impact for those who had jobs and reported at the beginning of the treatment that depression was hurting their effectiveness.

“Working patients reported at the end of treatment that they were much more successful at concentrating and accomplishing tasks at their jobs,” he said. Findings showed that one way CBT had this effect was by reducing patients’ “negative cognitive style,” or the extent to which patients view negative events in overly pessimistic ways, according to Strunk.

“CBT helps patients overcome these views by teaching them that the experience of depression is not their fault and that they can take steps to improve their concentration and accomplish work more successfully even when experiencing depressive symptoms,” Strunk said.

Read this article on Science Daily: Ohio State University. “Depressed and out of work? Therapy may help you find a job: Treatment also helps workers be more effective, study finds.” ScienceDaily www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210222164224.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland PsyD

Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist practicing in Santa Rosa California, providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline.

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services — Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

Young adults benefit from strong social support systems

New study confirms that social support improves mental health among young adults

A team of McGill University researchers has found that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support reported fewer mental health problems.

In a study published today in JAMA Network Open, the team led by Marie-Claude Geoffroy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology at McGill, reassessed the impact of the presence and awareness of social support, such as family and friends, as a safeguard against mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Their results indicate that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support -- the feeling that there is someone who they can depend on for help should they need it -- at the age of 19, showed lower levels of depression and anxiety symptoms one year later.

"Our study shows that even in cases where people previously experienced mental health problems, social support was beneficial for mental health later on," says Prof. Geoffroy, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Youth Suicide Prevention. "We discovered potential benefits of promoting and leveraging social support as a means to protect the mental health of young adults, even in individuals who experienced mental health problems at an earlier developmental stage in life. That social support is not only beneficial for depression, but for other salient mental health outcomes as well."

The power of perception

The team used data from over 1,000 participants of a representative birth cohort of individuals born in the province of Quebec. Following participants since their birth in 1997 and 1998, the researchers looked at their levels of perceived social support at the onset of adulthood. The researchers found that people who experienced greater levels of social support experienced 47% less severe depression and 22% less anxiety than those with less social support. The team also found that those who reported higher levels of perceived social support were at a 40% decreased risk of experiencing suicidal ideation and attempts.

"Our study was conducted before the current COVID-19 pandemic, so we do not know whether our results will apply in the current context," adds Sara Scardera, a master's student in McGill's School/Applied Child Psychology program under the supervision of Prof. Geoffroy and co-author of the study. "However, in a 'normal' context, youth who perceived that they had someone to rely on reported better mental health outcomes. We believe that is beneficial to offer help to those in need, and to make sure your friends know that they can count on you."

The data collection is ongoing, therefore new mental health data will be available when participants turn 23 years old over the course of the 2021 winter season. The researchers will verify whether the same patterns of association have been present during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future lines of research will examine whether certain types of social support -- for example, parents vs. friends -- is more beneficial to the mental health of young adults.

Read this article on Science Daily: "Strong social support decreases mental health problems in young adults: Awareness and presence of social support may guard against mental health problems." 11 December 2020. sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201211115455.htm.


Therapy for tweens, teens and their parents

Every child responds differently to life changes. Some events that may impact a child or teen’s mental health include:

  • The birth of a sibling
  • The death of a loved one, such as a family member or a pet
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Poverty or homelessness
  • Natural disaster
  • Domestic violence
  • Moving to a new place or attending a new school
  • Being bullied
  • Taking on more responsibility than is age-appropriate
  • Parental divorce or separation

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Therapy is a place for you to connect and process your thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Dr. Holland can help you develop effective tools to cope with what is going on. However bad you think it is right now, we can face it together.  I believe that forming a strong personal identity is an important aspect of your growth and development, leading to a brighter future.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule a teletherapy appointment or call 707-479-2946.