Mind Matters: Psychology in 2020

COVID-19 has transformed the lives of all of us, whether we are in denial of its lethality and contagion or not. The most recent American Psychological Association bulletin, Monitor on Psychology, also looks at how, not only COVID-19, but other events of 2020 have transformed psychology — and all of us.

Ironic how the year 2020 has been quite the re-envisioning of America. The APA Monitor asked for psychology’s leaders to reflect on the question, “How have the events of 2020 changed psychology …?”

To that question, James Jones, Ph.D., of the University of Delaware responded that on the subject of social inequality, psychology needs to do more. “We need to focus a laser light on systemic racism, exposing its damaging effects on all it touches. … Developing approaches to building coalitions of the willing would be a major contribution to staunching the erosion of our democracy and building a better society.”

Krishna Kumar, Ph.D., a professor at West Chester University, responded to the question by focusing on the need for behavioral change. He states, “The biggest lockdown in our lifetime called for a sea change in our everyday behaviors: wearing masks, physically distancing, and switching to the use of technology…”

Where behavioral changes have been dismissed, the COVID-19 infections have risen, he asserts. He notes how the police killings of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks precipitated protests worldwide. Psychologists, he maintains, should help bring about behavioral changes at the societal level that would promote both physical and mental health, and could also work to “eradicate racism, poverty, and societal violence.” He’d like to see media and technology used “to disseminate authentic information globally to achieve these goals.”

Technology has also played a huge role in how people are accessing psychotherapy. Telehealth has become the norm, it seems. What that means for large segments of the population who don’t have ready access is yet to be determined. For example, COVID-19 has generated a huge economic upheaval which will have both medical and mental health consequences for many unemployed people. In the October issue of Monitor on Psychology, it was noted that “even before the pandemic, work in the United States was increasingly precarious, with more people working in contract or gig positions with few benefits.” As Americans increasingly suffer stress and anxiety, mental health needs, as well as physical health needs, must be addressed.

To add to present-day stressors is the fact that COVID-19 is not simply a “respiratory illness.” Instead, it affects various body systems, such as the heart and brain. Neurological problems most commonly associated with hospitalized COVID-19 patients are stroke and delirium. It is unknown whether the neurological and psychological outcomes are the short term or long term at this time.

As for the brain, let’s end on a good note! Scientists have discovered that the hormone oxytocin, produced in social bonding, may reverse the effects of the amyloid plaques in the brain, thus making oxytocin a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Proper use of science and technology can help the human condition. The corollary to that is: Wear your mask

About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.



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