Dr. Gayle Beck, the Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in the Department of Psychology, has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the for Distinguished Contributions to Clinical Psychology by the Society of Clinical Psychology, Division 12 of the American Psychological Association. The Halpern Award honors psychologists who have made distinguished advances in psychology leading to the understanding or amelioration of important practical problems and honors psychologists who have made outstanding contributions to the general profession of clinical psychology.
Beck’s Athena Project is a research clinic, housed at the University of Memphis, that offers services to traumatized members of the Memphis community, with a special focus on working with women who have experienced domestic violence. The Athena Project’s website describes the process, “We start off with an assessment that is focused on how the woman is coping emotionally. For many people, the assessment suggests that some form of treatment (counseling) might be helpful. We are in the midst of developing a specialized treatment for women who are having trauma-related problems stemming from their experience of domestic violence. We also have a large referral network and can suggest a care provider who has the skills to help if our program is not appropriate. Typically, we ask that the woman complete the assessment first, in order to personalize the treatment recommendation.”
Dr. Terence Keane, a colleague of Beck’s, highlights that “The Athena Project is a uniquely promising effort as it may help change the current environment in agencies responsible for protecting women subjected to domestic and intimate partner violence. The work might contribute to a seismic shift in the field.” Dr. Beck’s work is even more remarkable because all of the Athena Project’s services are offered at no charge. Keane suggests that this work is potentially revolutionary, as she is “developing a rapid, brief screen for mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and related conditions. Heretofore, the shelter systems considered the precise nature of any psychological condition present at the time of custodial care was transient and a direct function of the abuse. Work in the field suggests that the actual situation is more complicated. Assessment, evaluation, and screening for key mental disorders are now viewed as competent and even critical components of care for the individuals involved. Gayle Beck has contributed to the evidence to substantiate this change nationwide.
Dr. Beck will be presenting on the research that led to her receiving this award at the upcoming meeting of the APA in August, Denver, CO.
If you would like to learn more about this award and the past recipients, visit http://www.apa.org/about/awards/div-12-halpern.aspx. To learn more about the Athena Project, please visit http://www.memphis.edu/psychology/research/athena.php.